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Frostburg State University Students Advocate for Music Education in Nation’s Capital

Frostburg State University Students Advocate for Music Education in Nation’s Capital
Alexa Bashaw, left, and Shefali Shah wait outside the office of U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., on the National Association for Music Education’s Capitol Hill Day. They were the only two college students representing Maryland at the organization’s annual advocacy day.

Frostburg State University Music Education students Alexa Bashaw and Shefali Shah spent a day in June on Capitol Hill advocating for the importance of music education for every student at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) annual Capitol Hill Day. Bashaw and Shah were the only two college students representing Maryland at the event.

Bashaw and Shah traveled with Dr. Rebecca Birnie, a lecturer in the Department of Music, and members of the Executive Board of the Maryland Music Educators Association for “an excellent day of making the message clear of the importance of music education for every child,” according to Birnie.

“Congressmen and -women are much more likely to listen to college students who are dedicating their lives to music education,” Shah said. “We are firsthand examples of why it is important to have music in our schools. … I plan on advocating until music reaches the same level as other disciplines.”

Shah, a sophomore music education major from Elkton, Md., joined FSU’s NAfME chapter in fall of 2015 to gain resources for her future and to be able to attend professional development events. She attended both conferences last year, in October and February, which was when she “truly got involved and invested in this wonderful organization.” She saw a post about NAfME’s Collegiate Advocacy Summit and thought it “sounded so great and knew it would be an incredible opportunity … to advocate on a bigger scale for music education.”

Shah prepared for the event by researching the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) “in order to understand what [they] were asking for when [they] went to Capitol Hill,” she said. “Now that music is finally a stand-alone subject, we have to fight for something different.” The most beneficial part of her trip was “meeting students from all over the country and sharing ideas on how to make our NAfME chapters better, and even how to improve our field.”

Shah would love to organize a “Hill Day” event on a smaller scale specifically for Maryland or Maryland counties.

Bashaw, a senior from Burke, Va., is president of FSU’s NAfME chapter. She joined the organization during her first semester because it is the “professional organization for music teachers and music lovers alike.” Since joining, she has been fortunate enough to attend each Maryland state conference to network and learn outside of the classroom.

Bashaw found out about the Collegiate Advocacy Summit through emails sent by NAfME and thought it looked like a good way to meet people and learn more about her profession. “Little did I know then how much of an impact it would have on me!” she admitted.

In preparation for the event, Bashaw and others attended a conference in Tyson’s Corner, Va., on the first night that provided them with information and research about what they would be advocating for – specifically, for ESSA to be fully funded. Bashaw also described how she and Shah were able to work closely with the Maryland Music Educators Association Executive Board since they were the only college students in attendance from the entire state.

“Almost all of our meetings were positive, and we even got to speak with a congressional staffer who is a Frostburg graduate and who sang with the University Chorale and Chamber Choir under Dr. Karen Soderberg,” she said.

“Hill Day taught me how to share my passion for music education with others and how to speak about it in such a way that makes it accessible – not just something only ‘musical people’ should have access to,” said Bashaw.

 “I want to … continue to grow Frostburg State’s presence at Hill Day to show the men and women on Capitol Hill that even though we are a small school, we are strong and have students who are going to change the lives of their future student,” Bashaw said.

NAfME Hill Day 2016 included more than 200 meetings in congressional offices. Of the 300 music education advocates participating, 97 of them were NAfME collegiate members. The collegiate members represent the future of the profession and the association, making them an integral part in Hill Day’s efforts. FSU’s collegiate chapter of NAfME, the largest arts professional organization in the world, is advised by Birnie, Dr. Phil Klickman and Dr. James Reddan.

For more information on the Department of Music, call 301-687-4019 or visit


For further information on this release, contact:

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Frostburg State University
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