Believe in Music Week (18-22 Jan 21) was the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) online version of their usual full on, in-person trade show in Anaheim California.
They made a virtue of necessity to market the event more widely, with free access for everyone worldwide making it more accessible for more of us. I took the opportunity to pop in for some sessions. The online platform was great, I could register easily for events – some were live and interactive, others pre-recorded – but broadcast at a specific time, and many I could watch on catch-up later – very handy.
A lot of the NAMM show is about tech gear and too techy for me. But the week had plenty of stuff for me, too. Inspirational stuff, much needed right now. And it may be over, but you can watch most of it until 28 Feb, so do register on the Believe in Music Week website for this completely different experience in lockdown. One of the strands I enjoyed most was the Oral History strand, including an interview with Ravi Shankar; a history of instrument-making in a corner of Germany trapped between East and West politics for most of the 20th century, and more.
Mary Luehrsen, the inspirational CEO of NAMM Foundation (the charitable arm of NAMM), chaired a number of sessions that reminded me strongly of discussions here in the UK – one example being her Grand Rally for Music Education, talking to soprano Renee Fleming, neurologist Dr Nina Kraus and the legendary Gustavo Dudamel. Another was an interview with choir guru Eric Whitacre about his Virtual Choir journey (and if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend Virtual Choir 6, released July 2020).
I tried random stuff – learning about the Huaxin Factory for Musical Instruments in China; taking a video tour of an Italian violin maker workshop in Cremona; dropping in on a panel on the Future of Leadership in Live Events (change the accents and it could be taking place in the UK…).
And I went and ‘met’ Chorus America, one of the event’s selected charity partners this year.
"...there’s a whole world out there of people who do what we do; and then there are all these dedicated specialist industries out there supporting us: crafting pianos, re-inventing amps, improving and creating instruments."
So what are the takeaways?
Well, there’s a whole world out there of people who do what we do; and then there are all these dedicated specialist industries out there supporting us: crafting pianos, re-inventing amps, improving and creating instruments. And they’re all musicians. Perhaps not earning their living as performers, but they do this work because they Believe in Music.
If you watch one thing only, make it Worldful of Pianos, an arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca for five pianos, filmed with professionals in Steinway’s original New York workshop and made available for pianists from around the world to join in live.
Some final thoughts: Dr Nina Kraus (specialist researcher into sound processing in the brain in humans) is hopeful that after Covid 'we will move towards a society that makes music an integral part of education and medicine'.
And I leave you with Mary Luehrsen’s attractive vision for the ‘Roaring 20s’: not the 1920s, but the 2020s, with the arts and people’s zest for them bouncing back after Covid as they did after the Spanish ‘flu a century ago. I would certainly like to believe in that!
Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive attended Believe in Music Week
Find out about the Music Industries Association (MIA), the UK trade body for retailers and manufacturers
Look up a music shop near you on the MIA website to connect up for events and promotions