Last month, I had the great pleasure to attend the 25th annual Arts Advocacy Day. And I wasn’t alone. In addition to friends and colleagues from the American Music Therapy Association, Jamie George, an Atlanta-based music therapist, flew up from Georgia to participate. I invited Jamie to share her thoughts on the experience…and I think you are in for a treat!
Hello, my name is Jamie George and I am an advocacy addict. There. I said it. The first step is admitting that you have a problem. My addiction wouldn’t be so bad if I had unlimited time to run around my state (or the country…or the world) and advocate for music therapy.
However, my days are filled working a job I love. That means that I end up feeding my addiction late at night, on weekends, and even on vacation. Sometimes I even sneak away and advocate at social events. I prefer to advocate with others, but sometimes my addiction is so strong I have to advocate alone.
The problem is I can’t stop…and I don’t want to.
My advocacy addiction started many years ago when I started my Master’s program at the University of Georgia. When people asked me what I was studying, I couldn’t help myself. I was gluttonous in my addiction and took every opportunity to sell my profession to whoever would listen.
When I joined our state task force in 2008 I started advocating more often. It got worse from there. I went on an advocacy bender at the 2011 AMTA national conference in Atlanta. Between working in the conference committee and running the state task force recognition breakfast, I almost overdosed.
I experienced my highest high on March 29, 2012 when Georgia SB 414 for music therapy licensure passed in both the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives. By then, I had been partaking in advocacy every day for several months. I thought that maybe I could stop after that, but I quickly realized then that that I had to have more.
As luck would have it, I found out at the southeastern regional music therapy conference (the same weekend that GA SB 414 passed) that AMTA and CBMT were going to represent music therapy at the 25th annual Arts Advocacy Day 2012 in Washington DC on April 16-17, 2012. Although I did not have any experience advocating at the national level, I could not pass up this opportunity to try my hand, sell my profession, and feed my addiction. But how was I going to fit in? How could I help?
Arts Advocacy Day is not just about music therapy. This event brought together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 500 grassroots advocates from 40 states across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.
As part of a team of strong music therapy advocates lead by Judy Simpson, Director of Government Relations at AMTA, and Kimberly Sena Moore, Regulatory Affairs Associate for CBMT, it was my job to advocate for the inclusion of arts in healthcare and for music therapy.
The event started with a day of legislative updates, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, given by Alec Baldwin at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture included remarks by Bob Lynch (president and CEO of Americans for the Arts), Hill Harper (actor), Maureen Dowd (columnist for the New York Times), and a performance by the one and only MR. BEN FOLDS (insert cheesy songs of love and admiration here)!
We started day two with a Congressional Arts Kick-off where several prominent celebrities and members of congress spoke about the importance of the arts in education, cultural centers, and healthcare facilities. And even though we, as music therapists already know these benefits, it is still surprising to me that we have to “sell” it. I am dumbfounded by the fact that we still have to advocate for something that has been a part of the human condition for all time.
If you followed the #AAD12 hashtag on Twitter, you might have seen us tweeting things like:
- “In tough times it’s more important than ever that Congress keep arts funding strong! #AAD12″
- “The #arts provide skills sought by employers of the 21st century #AAD12”
- “Research shows that participation in the arts improves problem solving skills! #AAD12”
- “How do you lower the cost of healthcare? More arts in health! #musictherapy #AAD12”
- “People don’t lie on their deathbed being thankful for low interest rates. A song, and poem, a painting… That’s what is important. #AAD12”
We spent the rest of the day meeting with members of Congress. In our meetings we asked them to:
- Direct federal agencies involved in the Arts and Human Development Interagency Task Force to support research focused on how the arts affect the health and well-being of individuals across the lifespan.
- Designate funding through the Department of Defense, TRICARE, and Veteran’s Affairs for Demonstration Projects for veterans and active military to access cost-effective creative arts in healthcare treatment and programming.
- Support Dear Colleague Letter seeking clarification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the inclusion of creative arts therapies interventions within existing Prospective Payment Systems (PPS).
In addition to the congressional meetings, I was able to sit in on the Arts in Healthcare briefing at the Capitol led by Judy Simpson. The briefing included speeches by leaders representing art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, and our own Kimberly Sena Moore was poised and articulate as she spoke about music therapy. Actor Hill Harper and musician Ben Folds also spoke at the briefing supporting arts in health, even sharing personal experiences.
Needless to say, I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of the team of music therapists at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. I learned so much from so many and I look forward to using what I learned to continue to advocate for music therapy as often as I can. I am so thankful for the amazing leaders in our profession and for the continued support for music therapy community from Ben Folds.
Representation of music therapy during this national event is a great example of how AMTA and CBMT work to increase awareness of the profession with Congress and with related organizations.
In closing, I urge any of you trail blazing, passionate, advocating music therapists to consider attending Arts Advocacy Day 2013. It was a great way to network with like-minded professionals and present a united and visible front regarding music therapy in healthcare.
SHAMELESS PLUG: if you have not checked out the Pledge Music profile for the BRAND NEW Ben Folds Five album, DO IT NOW!!!! Ben Folds Five is attempting to change the way that music is released and is depending on the fans to help promote the album. They will also be raising awareness to promote music education and music therapy! With all of the advocating that Ben Folds has done and continues to do for our profession, the least we can do is continue to support and promote his music!
P.S. Ben Folds Five ROCKS!!!
About the Author: Jamie George, MM, MT-BC is the Owner and Director for The George Center for Music Therapy, Inc. in the Atlanta metro area, serving clients of all ages and abilities. She also has a contract in the Fulton County School System in Atlanta. She serves on the Georgia State Task Force and she is Treasurer and Reimbursement Chair for the Music Therapy Association of Georgia.