Out of Many, One — actions to take now
The League of American Orchestras took shape as a national organization representing the full range of symphony orchestras 75 years ago on the founding principle that collective action could advance music-making, thereby strengthening the civic fabric of our country. As a new Administration and Congress rapidly swing into action on a wide array of policy issues that affect orchestras and the communities they serve, our members are asking us how they can – together – be most effective in the policymaking process.
While the League has long been a leader in federal advocacy, the rapidly changing policy environment has prompted us to take a fresh perspective on this area of our work, in close consultation with our board, our members, and the many other national arts and nonprofit organizations with which we partner.
The League, and its advocacy team in Washington, D.C., will continue to directly represent orchestras before Congress, the White House, and federal agencies, and mobilize our members for action when pivotal policy moments are upon us. The most impactful advocacy, especially now, requires ongoing, collective action by our members.
And we are well positioned to make an impact: League member orchestras are in every state and in 313 of the 435 Congressional districts, and serve audiences that extend far beyond those district boundaries. Acting together – in D.C. and in local districts and states – we can make a difference. Here are some ways to start taking action now:
- Embrace bipartisanship. Recent successes in preserving funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, protecting and expanding tax incentives for charitable giving, and improving the artist visa process have depended entirely on support from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. The arts are not a partisan issue, the spectrum of policy areas is surprisingly broad, and there is a strong tradition of support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on each issue that will be before us in the coming weeks and months.
- Partner and act locally. An increasing amount of authority is in the hands of local and state governments. Do you belong to your state nonprofit association? Are you active in your state’s arts alliance? Are you at the table for city council meetings alongside other organizations that serve your community? Create new networks and partnerships – beyond your usual allies – that incorporate the full scope of arts and nonprofit voices.
- Know your elected officials. Key votes in Washington may be days, weeks, or months away. But your advocacy starts now by finding the contact information for your elected officials both in D.C., and in their home districts and states. Find out who in your orchestra family might already have a relationship with these officials, and start building one of your own. Signing a petition is a visible form of solidarity, but the most impact will come from highly personalized – and sometimes publicized – communications with elected officials by their own constituents.
- Show up and listen. Nothing counts more than showing up in person at a town hall event, or showing an elected official first-hand the power of your orchestra’s work when Congress returns home for weekend and recess breaks. While you’re in the room, really listen to what others in your community are saying. This context informs your orchestra’s service to community and should also guide your advocacy.
Finally – keep making music that matters. At the League, we believe in the power of music to animate the issues of our time, and to bridge differences through the shared human experience of live performances. Orchestras demonstrate this principle with every concert they present. Together, we do make a difference.
President and CEO, League of American Orchestras
January 27, 2017