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National Music Council: Guided by the 5 Music Rights, Working Toward a Better Future For Music

Interview with Dr David Sanders, Director of the National Music Council, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022.

When was the National Music Council formed?

The NMC came together in the 1940s because of the need for having a conversation with industry, government, education stakeholders and what that all means. There was a big movement worldwide about having music councils everywhere, and the International Music Council was formed around that time as well, and then in 1956 is when the NMC became congressionally chartered to be the official representative to the International Music Council from the United States. 

What is the mission of the NMC?

We focus on the 5 Musical Rights:

The Right For All Children and Adults

1. To express themselves musically in all freedom

2. To learn musical languages and skills

3. To have access to musical involvement through participation, listening, creation and information.

The Right For All Musical Artists

4. To develop their artistry and communicate through all media, with proper facilities at their disposal.

5. To obtain just recognition and fair remuneration for their work. 

Those 5 rights are our core driving components; how do we make sure that people have access and are able to learn the musical language and skills, and how do we make sure they have access to participating and creating, and all those kinds of things. Also we want to make sure we balance that with making sure that people who create music have the opportunity to continue to do that in a free environment, and also have the ability to make livelihoods off of what they do, and trying to balance that out. That allows us to have really interesting conversations at the convergence of where music is created, where music is used, where music is taught, and the governmental areas where music is regulated. We also work with UNESCO to help protect and preserve our musical heritage.

The past two years have been devastating for performing artists, music students and listeners; how are you responding to this and moving forward?

We want to work on educating people on the good work that has been done; we have a lot of members in the Music Council, all of whom have a similar yet different approach to what they want to do, which in my opinion makes for a very strong organization, because we get a better product through discussion. One thing the National Music Council does very well is it fosters those kinds of high level conversations across a very broad sector of music, from creators to educators to users. With the pandemic, we saw a contraction of everything which was really difficult. We didn’t have access to school based music programs because for a good chunk of time all the schools in the country were shut down, and then as they opened back up there were fears—not all necessarily legitimate—about what music would do in spreading the virus, and then on the creators and performers side it was really hard. No concert venues were open, people weren’t allowed to go out, it was just a really difficult time. We had a great symposium back in March that really focused on what did happen and where are we going from those moments, and I think that really allowed us to have that “turning the corner” conversation. We all knew something had happened, and we have talked ad nauseam about what had occurred, and now it’s a matter of, in the Music Council area, can we have these discussions to make sure we are ready if we have another pandemic? That’s why the National Music Council was a big supporter of the  international aerosol study, and then also how do we make sure that we are protecting everybody if something like this happens again, and then using what have we learned collectively to do better than what we were doing pre pandemic.