Orchestras Feeding America

Advocacy and Government

CITES Treaty Negotiations Include Musical Instrument Policies

October 24, 2016

The League of American Orchestras was a voice for the music community in what is being called “game changing” treaty negotiations over international protected species rules. The 17th conference of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was the largest event in the treaty’s more than 40-year history, and the array of issues under consideration included two key areas that will impact the rules for musical instruments that cross borders among the 183 party countries. The League’s Vice President for Advocacy Heather Noonan was credentialed by the U.S. government and participated September 24 through October 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The League spoke on the floor of the negotiations, hosted a special event open to all delegates, and partnered with other national and international music organizations and conservation leaders to find solutions for musicians that use their instruments internationally.  

Heather Noonan at CITES

Heather Noonan on the CITES convention floor

Easing Travel with Musical Instruments

Among the voting delegates assembled in Johannesburg, the European Union initiated efforts to improve the current rules for travel with musical instruments. In advance of the negotiations and throughout the convening, the music community called for streamlining and harmonizing permit requirements for instruments that contain rosewood, ivory, tortoiseshell, and other material regulated under the treaty. 

Unanimous approval was given to:

  1. Clarify that instruments loaned to musicians may qualify for CITES Musical Instrument Certificates.
  2. Specify that the non-commercial scope of the Musical Instrument Certificates includes using the permits when traveling for “paid or unpaid” performances.
  3. Recommend that CITES countries not require permits when musicians are carrying instruments as personal effects.

If implemented across CITES Parties, this personal effects exemption could help the many musicians that prefer to carry instruments on-board flights or as checked items. Since implementation of the musical instrument certificate process began, nearly all orchestra musicians with CITES materials place their instruments in cargo shipments to avoid multiple, unwieldy permits in favor of a single permit and inspection procedure. If more musicians can carry instruments in cabin or as checked baggage without needing to obtain permits, they practice and rehearse at their own discretion (shortly before departure and soon after landing), as well as have the ability to branch away from a tour for other solo and smaller ensemble work. The personal effects exemption will represent real relief for international guest soloists, small-groups, and large ensemble musicians.

The League was recognized by the chair of the proceedings to address all CITES delegates, delivering comments on behalf of the international music community to support these improvements and urge further progress in streamlining and harmonizing international rules for travel with musical instruments.

Relief as Rosewood Protections Increase

An original proposal related to the rosewood frequently used in crafting musical instruments would have subjected significantly more musicians to the burdensome travel permit requirements. Entering into the negotiations, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, and Kenya requested listing all species of rosewood (the scientific name of the genus is dalbergia) under Appendix II of the treaty, requiring permits for transportation of any rosewood items across borders without exceptions.  While musical instruments that contain Brazilian rosewood already require CITES permits under the treaty’s highest Appendix I level of protection and will continue to do so, very many stringed instruments that contain Indian rosewood tuning pegs and tail pieces have not been subject to CITES permit rules. As the underlying threat to rosewood species is driven by a demand for large luxury furniture items, the music community successfully appealed to the CITES Parties to add an exemption for the small quantity of rosewood found in musical instruments so that permits would not be required when instruments are merely transported across borders for performances and personal use. Sales of these items across borders, on the other hand, will now require permits.

The process of crafting the non-commercial exemption for musical instruments was a very complicated one, and up to the very last moment of deliberations it was unclear whether a real solution had been found. On the closing day of the CITES decision-making process, the U.S. delegation, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, took the highly visible and essential step of intervening during the proceedings to successfully obtain a clarification so that musicians traveling back and forth from their home countries with their instruments will find relief under the new rules. We are most grateful for this key leadership by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is consistent with the recent steps taken by the Obama Administration to find solutions for musicians under new domestic ivory rules.

Special Event Features Musical Performances

On September 27, the League hosted a presentation, together with the National Association of Music Merchants, for all CITES delegates. The well-attended event featured opportunities to address urgent conservation priorities while facilitating international cultural exchange. Representatives from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Resources Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Austrian CITES management authority made comments at this presentation as well. The case for the music community was also made not only by the League but also by our essential partners from the American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers, International Federation of Musicians, Pearle Live Performance Europe, Martin Guitars, and Taylor Guitars. The highlight of the event was – by far – the extraordinary performances provided by two young musicians and the founder of South Africa's Music Enlightenment Project.

Music Enlightenment Project Musicians

Music Enlightenment Project founder Adeyemi Oladiran and students Kamogelo Mthembu
and Camila Lungile Mathebula perform on September 27, 2016
at a special event at the CITES negotiation in Johannesburg.

Next Steps and Implementation Still to Come

The countries that participate in CITES have 90 days following the conclusion of the negotiations to implement new policies. The League will continue to work with our coalition partners as well as U.S. and international authorities to seek the best possible outcome as implementation begins. As we received more detailed information about how procedures will change for both travel with musical instruments and sales of instruments across borders, the League will be updating our comprehensive guidance on these topics. The relationships established at this year’s negotiations form a critical foundation for work to come as CITES parties continue to make policies that impact the music community between now and the next Conference of Parties scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka in 2019.

Treaty negotiations, the next Administration, NEA updates, and more

September 21, 2016

League joins international treaty negotiations

Following the successful policy solutions achieved this summer on domestic rules for musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory, League VP for Advocacy Heather Noonan departs for Johannesburg, South Africa this week to represent orchestras in treaty negotiations on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The League was credentialed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to participate in the full 12 days of deliberations. Delegates from more than 180 countries will consider a proposal to streamline current requirements for travelling internationally with musical instruments that contain protected species materials, and other policies that impact musicians whose instruments contain rosewood, ivory, and other material that is subject to the terms of the treaty. The League partners with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and other national and international music organizations on these issues, and with support from NAMM will host an event open to all CITES delegates to discuss CITES policy solutions that balance urgent conservation needs with ongoing international cultural activity.

Advancing the arts in the next Administration

The League plays a key leadership role alongside an array of national arts and cultural organizations crafting and promoting the statement, Advancing the Arts to Support National Policy Priorities, calling for a robust commitment to the arts as the next Administration takes office in 2017. The nonpartisan statement, signed by 65 groups (and counting) representing the diversity of U.S. arts and cultural activity, calls on the next Administration to leverage the arts to their full potential by identifying and raising their visibility in policy issues that cut across federal agencies, including economic and community development, health and wellness, veteran and active duty military care, education and youth development, international diplomacy and cultural exchange, and technology and communications policy.

NEA news: new report and next grant deadline

As part of the NEA Chairman's 50th anniversary Creativity Connects initiative, Creativity Connects: Trends and Conditions Affecting U.S. Artists was produced in cooperation with the Center for Cultural Innovation. It examines issues such as funding and training, but also widens the lens to look at the effect of other forces shaping the work environment for artists including technology, the gig economy, student debt, and the growth of cross-disciplinary work. Accompanying the report is a new interactive graphic on the NEA's website, called Bright Spots. This graphic features resources and successful projects undertaken by partnerships of arts and non-arts organizations that demonstrate new ways in which creative people are working.

In other NEA news, the grant deadline for Research: Art Works is quickly approaching. These grants support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts and this year, the NEA is offering research support in two areas:

  • Track One: Value and Impact research projects aim to examine the value and/or impact of the arts in any topic area(s) by using data and methods appropriate to the proposed research questions. Matching grants range from $10,000-$30,000.
  • Track Two: Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs research projects aim to test the causal or inferred-causal impact of the arts on individual or cohort outcomes by using experimental or quasi-experimental design methods appropriate to the proposed research questions. Matching grants range from $30,000-$100,000.

Applicants must choose only one of the track options and submit no later than October 11, 2016. Please direct any questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Music education: keep celebrating!

Thanks to all the orchestras who celebrated National Arts in Education Week! From September 11 - 17, social media was filled with wonderful stories and pictures about the impact of arts education on children and adults. As orchestras kick off the season and welcome students in this new school year, please keep the stories coming and feel free to use #artsed at any time, especially since October is National Arts and Humanities Month. Make the most of every opportunity to promote the need for more equitable access to arts education! Also, the start of a new school year is a great reminder that states are beginning to make plans to implement the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Advocacy at the local level is critically important! To stay up to date on the law and opportunities for the arts, bookmark the League's ESSA Resource Center.

Visa reminder: file early!

Orchestras that engage foreign guest artists are reminded to file visa petitions carefully and early. Delays continue to persist at the Vermont Service Center, and petitioners experiencing significant delays at either service center may wish to request a traditional expedite. If USCIS does not choose to grant the traditional expedite free of charge, it may be necessary to upgrade to Premium Processing Service. Keep an eye on your case status, and feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions at any point in your visa petition process

Newest NEA Grants to Orchestras Support Local Communities

December 14, 2016

Orchestras create new music, learning, and partnerships in communities with FY17 NEA grant support

Orchestras will share the experience of live music with communities throughout the country in the coming year with grant support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) by way of 56 new grants in the Art Works (Part 1) and Challenge America categories. Direct funding from the NEA enables grantees to leverage the federal investment into an average return of at least nine dollars from other state, local, and private sources.

The NEA's first round of FY17 Art Works grants -- which focus on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts -- includes 40 direct awards to orchestras totaling $1,237,500, as well as numerous grants for related projects in a variety of disciplines.


This first major funding round of the fiscal year includes Art Works: Creativity Connects grants, which support partnerships between arts organizations and organizations from non-arts sectors such as healthcare, nutrition, juvenile justice, science, and technology, among many others. One orchestral recipient of this grant is the Philadelphia Orchestra, which will provide a music therapy program for Philadelphia's homeless population in partnership with Broad Street Ministry. Orchestra grantees receiving Art Works support will support emerging composers and premiere new works, provide music instruction and mentorship for students, collaborate with other arts organizations and disciplines, support new productions and experimental programming, enable orchestras to conduct residencies in their communities, celebrate diverse cultural heritages, and provide countless engagement opportunities through lectures, panel discussions, and master classes.

The NEA also awarded $160,000 in FY17 Challenge America grants to sixteen small and mid-sized orchestras that will extend the reach of their music, educational programming, and workshops for youth and adults whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, economics, or disability. Supported projects include free performances, lecture-demonstrations, workshops for students in economically underserved and geographically isolated areas, free concerts and transportation for seniors, a sensory-friendly concert for families and community members with autism, and programming for immigrant and refugee populations.

Future FY17 grants will be announced for Art Works (Part Two) in the spring. 
Deadlines for FY18 grant applications have been posted, and guidelines are expected in mid-late December.

The League has compiled the project descriptions for grants to orchestras and grants related to the orchestra field. Complete lists of grant amounts and project descriptions for awards in all disciplines may be found on the NEA web site

View Complete Orchestra Project Descriptions

Apply Now for 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is now accepting applications for the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. With its $10,000 award for each of twelve winners, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program assists organizations, furthers knowledge, and encourages development of future programs.

After-school and out-of-school time arts and humanities programs sponsored by performing arts organizations, museums, libraries, educational institutions, arts centers, community service organizations, businesses, and eligible government entities are encouraged to submit an application. Be sure to review all of the program's 
Eligibility Criteria note that the deadline for application submissions is Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 5:00 p.m. PST.

Prepare for 2017: winter policy update and forecast

December 16, 2016

New Year's Resolution: engage all elected policymakers

From tax policy to spending levels, protected species issues to artist visas, the federal policies that impact orchestras are as diverse as the places where music is made and heard. Preparing to be a strong advocate in 2017 starts now, by inviting your Senators and Representative in Congress to see your orchestra's work firsthand, right in your community. The League will let you know of key moments to weigh in with policy leaders on specific issues, and it's critical to start or renew those relationships now by visiting them at their district headquarters and inviting them to your performances and community events. There are many opportunities to meet with your U.S. Representative and Senators when they return "home" between their sessions in Washington, D.C., and we strongly encourage you to plan ahead so your members of Congress can stay informed about your orchestra all year long. The League has created a 2017 calendar of opportunitiesidentifying the dates your officials are most likely to be home, along with monthly suggestions to help you keep up with your contacts -- both virtually and in person. Involve your board, musicians, staff, and the whole orchestra family. And, remember to let the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. know when know when you've been in touch with members of Congress so we can reinforce those contacts in Washington, D.C.

Charitable giving policy in the first 100 days

Tax reform is at the very top of the agenda for both the new Administration and the Congress, prompting policy action on the charitable giving incentives that orchestras and the full array of nonprofit organizations rely on to fuel their service to communities. Earlier this week, tax policy leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives said that a new draft of a comprehensive reform proposal would be crafted within the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. Orchestras and their nonprofit partners are speaking up now to urge policy leaders in Washington to protect and expand incentives for charitable giving. Learn more and add your voice through the League's policy action center

Twice as many NEA and arts education decisions ahead for new Congress

When the new Congress takes office in January it will have two years of funding decisions simultaneously on its plate, as both FY17 and FY18 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and federal arts education spending will be in play. Last week, the President signed into law a bill that temporarily funds the federal government through April 28, 2017 for the current spending year. While this action averted a government shutdown, all federal agencies are left waiting for a final resolution on their FY17 spending levels, and Congress will also need to start the FY18 budget process. As this week's latest announcement of NEA grants to orchestras shows, federal leadership in support of the arts makes an impact across the country. The League will keep you informed as the funding process moves ahead. In the meantime, view a new video showcasing the impact of the National Endowment for the Arts across its 50 years of work.

Traveling? New protected species rules for instruments

Instruments that contain ivory, rosewood, and other protected materials are subject to new rules when carried across international borders. The League has worked to improve the process for musicians and produced a webinar detailing the latest requirements in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. View the webinar here or read our comprehensive tips to access additional essential guidance.

League to Comment on Proposed Ivory Rules

September 21, 2015

As the League reported earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced new draft rules related to African elephant ivory. The proposed new policies - which would impact commerce and travel for musical instruments that contain ivory, such as bows, stringed instruments, and bassoons - are open for public comment through Monday, September 28. 
Aside from one clear improvement that would broaden the array of instruments eligible for travel permits, the proposed new rules are intended to deal primarily with future domestic interstate sale of items that contain African elephant ivory.
The League will file comments on behalf of its member orchestras in response to the proposed ivory rules and is coordinating with colleagues in other national music organizations to reinforce the following key points:                        

  • The music community is fully committed to the goals of wildlife conservation and combating illegal trade in ivory and other protected species. We seek reasonable solutions that protect the domestic and international use of musicians' tools of their trade and preserve the use of historically and legally made instruments now and for future generations to come.


  • We support the proposal to allow the future domestic interstate sale of musical instruments that contain "de minimis" amounts of ivory. 
  • We applaud USFWS for acknowledging multiple times in the draft regulations that "trade in the types of manufactured items that would qualify for this proposed de minimis exception is not contributing to or driving the illegal ivory trade." 
  • The proposed threshold for qualifying for the "de minimis" standard for domestic interstate commerce is 200 grams. While this amount covers a wide array of musical instruments that contain ivory, it may not cover instruments with multiple keyboards, such as organs, and some bagpipes. We also prefer a measurement by volume, as it may be difficult to assess the weight of ivory parts without dismantling fragile instruments. 
  • The proposed rules include exemptions for exhibitions by "museums or similar cultural or historical organizations." We request that orchestras and other 501(c)(3) cultural organizations be considered eligible for exemptions under this, or a separate future rulemaking process.


  • The proposed rules would remove the current restriction on non-commercial travel into the U.S. with instruments that were purchased after February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory. We strongly support this substantial policy improvement. 
  • Further improvements are urgently needed for international travel with musical instruments that contain protected species material. We look forward to the opportunity for continued communication with USFWS as new travel-related policies are crafted.

Ongoing concerns related to international travel by orchestras and other musicians that cross borders to perform with the tools of their trade could be taken up in a separate rulemaking procedure. The opportunity to comment on travel-related concerns in more detail may begin later this year, when USFWS is expected to issue draft rules to formally implement the newly-crafted musical instrument certificate, and this issue may be taken up during the next negotiations on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The League will keep orchestras informed as that process moves forward, so that touring orchestras, guest musicians, and music ensembles can take full advantage of the opportunity to weigh in on potential policy changes.

If your orchestra - or individuals associated with the orchestra - would like to comment on the proposed rules, please keep in mind that all comments submitted to the Federal Register can be viewed by the general public. Also, responses on proposed regulations are most effective if they are customized to bring personal experience, statistical data, or a unique perspective to the issue. Multiple copies of "cookie cutter" messages do not have as much impact in this regulatory setting. Comments may be submitted using this portal in the Federal Register by September 28. If you do submit comments, please send a copy to the League's Washington, D.C. office so that we can reinforce your message in our ongoing communications with federal policy makers.
Further background on the proposed new ivory policies is on the League web site, and we will be keeping you posted on policy developments. If you have any questions, please feel welcome to contact the League's VP for Advocacy, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Thank you!

New Draft Ivory Rules Address Musical Instruments

July 27, 2015

President Obama has announced a new round of draft rules to implement a near-total ivory sales ban in response to the global poaching and trafficking threat to African elephants. In February of 2014, the Administration had announced that new rules limiting domestic sales were on the way, and also immediately implemented new restrictions related to international travel. The proposed rules that have just been released for public review and comment primarily address domestic commerce, would make some new changes for travel, and include some important accommodations that have been requested by the League and our partners in the broader music community since plans for the ban were first announced last year.

The League has been actively weighing in with policy leaders and stakeholders as proposals take shape, and informing orchestras of the immediate impact of policy changes. In announcing the proposed rules, which would reverse a current travel restriction and provide certain opportunities for ongoing domestic commerce in musical instruments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated that it, "consulted extensively with groups that may be impacted by new trade controls for ivory, including professional musicians" and said that the proposal "recognizes that legal trade in these items does not contribute to the current poaching crisis."

The music community supports the goals of wildlife conservation and combating illegal trade in ivory and other protected species. In partnership with the broader music community, the League is in ongoing dialogue with the Administration and key policy leaders to seek solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting musical activity that is supported by musicians' tools of their trade.
These new regulations are in draft form, and will not go into effect until the public has an opportunity to comment on the new policies.  After public comments are taken into consideration, the proposed rules may be further altered before they are finalized and enforced. The League is still analyzing the new rules, will comment on behalf of the field of orchestras, and will prepare orchestras to respond directly to this important opportunity to weigh in. The rules will be formally posted for public comment on July 28, and remain open for comments until September 28, 2015. As we explore the details further, here are some highlights related to musical instruments:

  • For international travel, the proposed rule would grant a request of the music community by removing the current prohibition on travel with musical instruments legally purchased after February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory. The remaining travel requirements which have been in effect for more than a year, would continue to apply. This removal of the purchase date restriction would be a significant improvement over current policy. Further requests of the music community related to easing international travel will be under consideration in separate rule-making procedures, and as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is re-negotiated in 2016.
  • For domestic interstate commerce, the proposed rule would allow the future sale of musical instruments that contain "de minimis" amounts of ivory (less than 200 grams), and that were legally crafted and legally imported. Allowances would also be made for qualified antiques, 100 years old or older. Sales within states would remain subject to any additional state commerce laws. For instruments less than 100 years old, the following requirements would apply:
  1. If the item is located in the United States, the ivory must have been imported prior to January 18, 1990, or imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use.
  2. If the item is located outside of the United States, the ivory must have been removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976.
  3. The ivory is a fixed component or components of a larger manufactured item and not the primary source of the value of the item.
  4. The ivory is not raw.
  5. The manufactured item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory.
  6. The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams.
  7. The item must have been manufactured before the effective date of the final rule.

Among the variety of musical instruments that have been previously made with small quantities of ivory, the most common are bows used for stringed instruments, which may have a piece of finished ivory on the protective tip.  The quantity of ivory in a bow tip weighs on average 0.25 grams. Embellishments on bassoons and stringed instruments, and the veneer of piano keys use larger quantities. In the proposed rules the USFWS says, "We have chosen 200 grams as the weight limit because we understand that this is the approximate maximum weight of the ivory veneer on a piano with a full set of ivory keys and that this quantity would also cover most other musical instruments with ivory trim or appointments."

The Q & A on the proposed rule offers the following example of how the rules would apply to musical instruments:

Example scenario:

I have a violin bow that contains a small amount of ivory. Under the proposed revisions, will I be able to sell the bow in the United States, export it for sale, or take it overseas for a concert? 

If the bow meets the requirements for the de minimis exception, including that the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976, and that the total weight of the ivory is less than 200 grams you will be able to sell it in the United States.

If the bow qualifies as an ESA antique you will be able to export it for sale.

If the bow meets the requirements for import/export of a musical instrument, including that the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976, it is accompanied by a CITES musical instrument certificate or equivalent CITES document, the bow is securely marked or uniquely identified, and it will not be sold or otherwise transferred while outside the United States (see paragraph (e)(4) in the proposed rule text for details) you can travel with it internationally for personal use, including to perform in concert.

The League is analyzing the proposed rules for a more complete understanding of their full impact. The removal of one travel restriction would be very helpful, and the opportunity to allow future commerce in legally crafted musical instruments is also encouraging. As we continue to examine the specific details of the proposed new rules, we will take into account whether the documentation requirements for qualifying for an exemption are affordable and accessible, and the implications of implementing an exemption based on weight rather than volume, which is more easily measured.

Thank you for your ongoing, effective advocacy on this complicated and important topic! Our website provides additional detail and context about this policy area and the League will soon provide more information about how to participate in the public comment period on these rules.

Education and IRA Progress: Your Continued Advocacy Needed!

July 22, 2015

While U.S. Senate Passes Education Bill, Policies are Made in Your Home Town

On July 16, the Senate passed a bipartisan education reform bill that would replace the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Child Achieves Act, a federal education bill that names the arts and music as core academic subjects of learning, preserves 21st Century Learning Centers afterschool funding, and provides support for Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education -- three of the key policy requests made in hundreds of messages from orchestras to Senators during the drafting process and debate on the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Early this month, the House passed its education reform package, the Student Success Act. The House bill omits any definition of core academic subjects, and eliminates current afterschool and Arts in Education programs, in favor of flexible grants to states and districts. 
Next up, both chambers will need to designate Senators and Representatives charged with meeting in the middle to iron out a single bill that could win support from the House, Senate, and the White House. At issue will be major differences in each chamber's approach to state flexibility for the use of federal funds, and state accountability for students' progress. A proposal to require states to create publicly accessible "dashboards" was endorsed by orchestras and other arts advocates, but was defeated on the Senate floor amid broader disagreements on how to approach transparency on educational progress in a post-No Child Left Behind era.
What can your orchestra do to support music education in the schools as the national education reform debate continues? Advocate for music education in your community and at the state level. While federal education law provides broader structural pressures and incentives for public education policy, the vast majority of the decisions about how to close gaps in equitable access to arts education for our nation's students are -- and will continue to be -- made in your own back yard. Check out the League's music education advocacy tools, and stay engaged as the education reform process continues!

Progress on Reviving IRA Charitable Rollover

Dozens of orchestras in the states of members of the tax policy-writing Senate Finance Committee weighed in this week as those Senators acted to advance a legislative package that reinstates and extends 52 expired tax provisions, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. The bill is now ready to advance to the Senate floor, and would reinstate the IRA Rollover for the entire calendar years of 2015 and 2016, allowing donors to make larger contributions to charitable organizations by directly transferring a gift from their IRA without first paying taxes on the distribution. 
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has said he hopes the "extenders" package would reach the Senate floor before Congress goes on recess for the month of August, and that he would like to see some provisions made permanent. Timing will be tricky as fewer than 20 legislative days remain before the federal fiscal year ends, and the legislative calendar is packed with other priorities. Orchestras have joined the broader nonprofit sector in asking the Senate to make the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent as soon as possible, as approved earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives.
THANK YOU to the many orchestras that have been responding to the League's targeted requests for examples of how the IRA Charitable Rollover has supported your orchestra's work in your community. Your stories have been critical to supporting our efforts in meetings with key tax policy leaders in the U.S. Congress, as we work side-by-side with groups like Feeding America, the American Red Cross, and United Way Worldwide to seek permanent enactment of charitable giving incentives. Please stay tuned. The League will alert you as soon as there is certainty that the IRA Rollover will once again be reinstated.

Senate Finance Committee to Consider 2-Year Reinstatement of IRA Charitable Rollover

July 20, 2015

Your U.S. Senator is on an Important Committee: Urge Support for the IRA Rollover Today!

Your Senator, who sits on the Senate Committee on Finance, will be considering a bill tomorrow that would extend certain expired tax provisions, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. Nonprofit advocates across the country have been asking the Senate to reinstate and make permanent expired charitable giving incentives such as the IRA rollover, enhanced deductions for donations of food inventories, and conservation easements. The Senate bill that will be marked up tomorrow would reinstate these provisions for two years, retroactively from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

Communities throughout the country have benefitted from programs and performances delivered by orchestras, with support from IRA Charitable Rollover donations. The longer Congress waits to take action, the fewer resources will be available to support community needs.

Please contact your Senator on the Finance Committee, and describe just how important the IRA Rollover is to the work you do. Clicking on the link below will supply an email message addressed to your Senator, ready for you to customize very quickly and easily. Thank you!

Contact your Senator today!

Policy Action Heats Up

July 10, 2015

League Calls for Treaty Improvements for Musical Instruments

As more than 180 countries prepare to re-negotiate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the fall of 2016, the League is asking U.S. representatives to pursue improvements to policies for travel with musical instruments. In comments on behalf of orchestras filed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on July 10, the League asked the U.S. negotiators to pursue exemptions, harmonize international policies, and improve guidance as musicians struggle to comply with newly-enforced permit requirements for international travel with musical instruments that contain protected species material like ivory, rosewood, sea turtle and lizard. Just this month, Switzerland announced an exemption from the CITES permit process for musical instruments that are hand-carried -- a policy that could be adopted by the U.S. and other CITES countries. As the U.S. also continues to consider potential new domestic restrictions on commerce and international travel with items containing African elephant ivory, the League is in ongoing dialogue with other national music organizations, conservation groups, and federal officials, in pursuit of policy solutions that meet urgent conservation needs while also protecting international cultural exchange.

As Education Debate Continues, Music Advocates Weigh In

Orchestras are speaking up as both the House and Senate re-write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind.  At the center of debate is the fundamental question of how far the federal government should go in requiring state accountability for equitable access to a complete education. The House has passed its bill, which has earned a White House veto promise given HR 5's dramatic reduction in the federal footprint on education policy. The House bill also omits a definition of core academic subjects, and would eliminate the Arts in Education program, along with 60 other programs of the U.S. Department of Education. As the Senate continues debate on its bill, orchestras are joining other arts advocates in requesting support for the arts as a core academic subject of learning, and asking for approval of an amendment that would encourage states to develop public "dashboards" that offer transparency on disparities in student access to arts education and other core subjects of learning.

NEA Budget Process Still Underway

Initial rapid progress in Congress has now slowed as the FY16 Interior Appropriations bill, which funds the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), gets caught up in broader partisan policy divides. Both the House and Senate committees passed their proposals, which call for continued funding of the NEA at $146 million. The House bill made its way through debate this week, before being abruptly pulled from the floor, while the Senate has not yet sent its bill to the floor for a full debate. Controversial policy provisions related to environmental policy, overall budget levels, and recent proposals related to display of the confederate flag have drawn objections from the White House and Congressional minority, miring the bill in partisan debates. Even if both chambers pass their versions, the ultimate state of Interior funding remains uncertain.

Orchestras have been active participants during the FY16 budget process, beginning with in-person testimony before the House Interior Subcommittee in March, written testimony to the Senate submitted by the League in April, and continual advocacy from orchestras engaging throughout each stage of the funding process, reaching out to officials in 38 states and counting.

IRA Rollover Remains Expired as Congress Mulls Comprehensive Tax Reform

The IRA Charitable Rollover provision has spurred new and increased giving to orchestras and thousands of other charitable organizations, but remains unavailable to donors following its expiration on December 31, 2014. Orchestras and other nonprofit advocates continue to ask Congress to act now, and to #Act4Good by making the IRA Rollover and other expired charitable giving incentives permanent. Action on reinstating the IRA Rollover is hung up as Congress considers next steps in comprehensive tax reform. On July 8, the Senate Finance Committee released reports from their working groups, including consideration of charitable giving incentives. The report includes comments that are generally supportive of considering action that would "increase certainty for taxpayers and increase the amount of funds that flow to charities" regarding the IRA Rollover, but provides no firm plans for action. More than 40% of the revenue that supports orchestras' work in service to their communities comes from charitable giving.  The League is representing orchestras in ongoing tax reform conversations, while orchestras continue to weigh in from home as policy leaders on both sides of the Capital dome consider next steps.

Summer Homework: Meet Your Elected Officials!

Summer is the best time to connect with your elected officials. They will be home for the entire month of August, which means now is the perfect time to reach out and invite your Representative and Senators to meet with you, attend a summer concert, witness an education program at work, or participate in an event that demonstrates your orchestra's engagement in the community. Getting in touch now pays off later, when you need to contact members on urgent issues. Please stay in touch with the League's DC Office as well-- we'd love to know how you're connecting with your officials at home, so we can help reinforce your relationships in Washington!

Take Action on Music Education: Senate to Start Debate, House to Follow

July 2, 2015

Senate Takes Up Education Policy Next Week, Followed by House

Beginning as early as Tuesday, July 7, the U.S. Senate will begin debating the Every Child Achieves Act, a bipartisan attempt at re-writing our nation's education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This is the first major Senate floor action on this topic since 2001. The U.S. House of Representatives plans to take up their bill, the Student Success Act, later in the week. 

Please take a moment to weigh in as your Senators and Representative prepare for what will likely be a lengthy debate and amendment process. Every communication counts, and helps amplify our collective voice!

Orchestras delivered more than 400 messages to the Senate in support of music education as an earlier version of the Senate bill made its way through committee. The latest version of the Senate bill, crafted by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), preserves the arts as a core academic subject of learning, maintains support for after-school learning programs, and provides for activities currently administered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education grant program.

The House bill omits any definition of core academic subjects, and eliminates current afterschool and Arts in Education programs, in favor of flexible grants to states and districts.

As the Senate and House both consider competing points of view on how the federal government should influence education reform, we are asking Congress to do more to lead states and local schools to be publicly transparent about gaps in access to arts education, and to take steps to close those gaps. 
After all, to transition the arts from being merely listed as a core academic subject to being fully implemented in every school, there must be public accountability for disparities in student access to the benefits of a complete arts education.

Your members of Congress are in their home states for the 4th of July break. Contact them now and stay tuned as we keep you informed of key developments in the Senate and the House. Thank you!

Contact Your Senators and Representative in Support of Arts Education