Clarksville, TN – Mackenzie Kelly is passionate. She’s passionate about playing the saxophone, but what really drives her at Austin Peay State University is her desire to gain a degree and help make a difference in children’s lives.
“I really want to be a voice for those who can’t advocate for themselves,” she said during a recent interview. “I believe music education is a good tool we can use to help disadvantaged students.”
Last week she took that voice to Washington, D.C., as the fourth straight Austin Peay student picked to represent Tennessee at the National Association for Music Education Collegiate Advocacy (NAfME) Summit.
Kelly was one of five Tennessee college students and one of 119 students nationwide picked to attend the three-day summit and to advocate on Capitol Hill for U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s GAAME Act, or the Guarantee Access to Arts & Music Education Act, which would expand federal money for arts education at underserved elementary and secondary schools. The bill was introduced on June 19th.
“The role of music and art in a child’s development cannot be forgotten — especially in schools where funding is limited and budgets are stretched,” Velázquez, D-NY, said. “I am proud to introduce legislation that would open the doors for enriching music education in these schools and help to ensure that all children are exposed to the joy and benefits of learning music.”
Kelly advocated for the bill to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker’s offices, and she met and spoke with Corker.
During the trip, Kelly toured the capital city, seeing the Washington and Lincoln monuments. But a highlight for her was seeing “The Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum and Bugle Corps perform. She also attended sessions about leadership and advocacy during the summit.
“It was cool to get to know a bunch of people my own age who wanted the same things I wanted,” she said. “Everybody there was a music educator. We were all there for the same thing.”
Kelly just finished what she calls her “power year” at Austin Peay. She was president of the Governors Own Marching Band, president of APSU’s NAfME chapter and recording secretary of Sigma Alpha Iota. She performs with the University’s wind ensemble, symphonic band, saxophone ensemble and jazz band.
After she graduates from Austin Peay, Kelly wants to lead a high school or middle school band program before joining education administration, specifically to help disadvantaged students.
“In the grand scheme of things, music education is still vivid in our schools,” Kelly said. “It’s not going anywhere. But there are still schools in rural and disadvantaged communities that don’t have the money to put toward arts programs.
“Those students don’t have the same opportunities to have arts as an outlet, and I’d say that’s a problem.”
Learn more about the Bill
You can read more about the bill and track its progress at www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6137 . And you can find out more about NAfME at https://nafme.org .