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Music Empowers: Our Path Forward

Tom Baggott HeadshotHello everybody!

I'm honored to address you directly, for the first time, as the new Executive Director of SpreadMusicNow. I’m not going to take up your time telling you about me or the last 25 years I spent in the music industry (the last blog announcing my hire did that). Instead, I’m going to tell you about where we’re headed as an organization, with the hope that you’ll feel not only inspired to continue your support, but to perhaps even double down and help spread the word.

About three months ago I was out in the woods of Maine interviewing for this job. Greg Young and Richard Wenning (the co-founders of SpreadMusicNow) and I were sharing ideas on the future direction of the organization. When Richard mentioned that SpreadMusicNow owns the registered trademark for "Music Empowers," I was immediately inspired. The power and simplicity of that two word statement captures a real truth, a truth that resonates with me on a personal, biographical level. At that moment, I knew exactly where I wanted to take this organization. I made the commitment then and there to make a radical change in my professional life and fully immerse myself in this mission to support music education for underserved youth.

Music empowers.
Education empowers.
Music empowers with such strong mojo that it empowers education!

Music Empowers! This is where we’re heading as an organization.

To be clear, we’re not changing our mission: SpreadMusicNow funds high-quality music programs in and out of the classroom that put students on a clear path to college, career, and life success. We are, however, going to expand our audience by enlisting the direct participation of artists and the music industry to inspire their fans to support this mission. As I’ve told many of my former clients, “I may have left the biz, but I am bringing the biz with me.”

To date, you, the supporters of SpreadMusicNow, have had a transformative impact on countless kids. You’ve made this a powerful organization with a big reach. We (and when I say “we” it includes you) have one of the largest digital footprints in the music education and philanthropy space, which we’ve used to raise money for and increase awareness of the importance of music education. Through our support for organizations doing great work in schools, and our focus on community-based initiatives that reach kids outside of the classroom, we have provided more than $1.4 million in funding for innovative music education since 2014.

Thanks to the efforts and dedication of our co-founder, Richard Wenning, whose academic and policy-oriented bona fides are significant and impressive, we have garnered a strong following in the academic and policy community, with folks like you who are passionate advocates for music education. Your support is crucial to our continued success as a charity, and with that understanding front and center in my thoughts, I invite you to help me expand the SpreadMusicNow mission, strengthening what we do currently, and bringing it beyond the board room and out onto the dance floor!

So, this is where we’re headed as an organization. Now I want to dig into the “why." This is not about 'why music education is important' or the ongoing discussion of STEAM vs. STEM. It is not about the need to have more well-rounded additions to the workforce who can address contemporary issues in science, technology, economics and society, in general. It is not about the fact that a music education provides people with the creativity and confidence they need to think outside of the box— to be those well-rounded individuals— and tackle these issues. No, all of this is covered handily elsewhere, and I think most of you are already part of that conversation.

So, why "Music Empowers”? Because music is personal. We have all been moved by music and empowered by music in ways we may not have considered. I’ll be asking this simple question— "how has music empowered you?"— of professional artists and others in the music industry, and inviting them to think deeply about how they can pay it forward. We, you and I— thinkers, academics, teachers, parents, students, musicians and community organizers— can have a great conversation amongst ourselves and work to spread music now, play music and support music education, but the artists… the artists inspire the fans, they inspire us, they are the end result of so much music education. The artists are the key to mobilizing their fans in support of this mission, because they engage the fans where and how they experience music, talk about music, share music and fall in love with, to and through music.

Think for a minute about the importance of music in your own story, and tell me it isn’t worth supporting a music education for those in need of our support. Music, and those who supported my love of music, literally made me who I am today, for what that’s worth, and when I listen to music that moves me, it is the most empowering, awe-inspiring thing I can participate in. Whenever I get deep into listening, my wife says I've "gone to church”... and that means something. That is powerful. I know it means something to you, too, and this is where I want to take the conversation as we bring SpreadMusicNow forward with our new rallying cry: Music Empowers!

This is the first of a multi-part blog on this subject. Talk to you soon!

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