Championing Music Education at NAMM Hill Day

Elizabeth Dale

Many know Mark Despotakis from his days at Progressive Music as the company’s Director of Market Development. Or perhaps his name rings a bell as a past president of the NAMM Young Professionals or as the dynamic presenter of NAMM Show sessions like “Survival Tactics for Your First Years in the Music Products Industry,” or “The NAMM Foundation – College Music Society Music Industry Leadership Forum.”

While his role in the retail operation was to run a successful music products business, he found that he was spending considerable time working on public policy and music education advocacy issues. In addition to his role at Progressive Music, he volunteered with organizations like the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA).

Beginning in 2020, Despotakis recognized the future unknowns of the pandemic, especially in music education policy. This future-forward mindset led to PMEA bringing Despotakis on full-time to help prepare for the “new normal” that students and educators would eventually face returning to the classroom.

Despotakis said, “I have a fascination with policy and trying to make it less intimidating for those that don’t have the same level of interest. I’m incredibly lucky to work with members of our industry, music educators, policymakers, and parents and community members, all with a shared interest of keeping and getting more kids and, in truth, adults, involved in music.”

This unique position created an opportunity for Despotakis to continue his involvement in music education advocacy alongside NAMM with his participation in NAMM-sponsored events like NAMM’s Music Education Advocacy Hill Day on September 14, 2022.

Welcome to NAMM Hill Day

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Fly-In Short Promo

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In 2010, Despotakis attended his first Fly-In for Music Education with NAMM, using it to absorb everything around him in D.C. He said, “I was in learning mode those first few years. I learned so much from those in the industry that attended, NAMM staff, and Nelson Mullins staff. As the years went on, I found myself placed into more of a seasoned veteran role. It has been a great experience to go with newbies to their first ever legislative meeting.”

Utilizing his experience, Despotakis not only provided mentorship to new advocates, but he has taken the lessons learned through his experiences back to Pennsylvania to apply at the state level. During the 2022 NAMM Hill Day, he aided in the facilitation of meetings with elected officials and staff to engage in meaningful conversation. According to Despotakis, these conversations included how federal funds were used previously and can be further applied to strengthen music education. Of the meetings, Despotakis shared, “These conversations with legislators and staffers, in some cases, were enlightening and gave them more reasons to support the funding requests we presented.”

According to Despotakis, advocacy is critical to all facets of our industry as it is an area “where the industry and the end user come together for a common cause. For those in the industry, this work supports their customers. For educators, it benefits their students. By having these groups come together, it is a unified voice that legislators respond to.” As he departed D.C., Despotakis reflected on the experience, noting that, like always, it renewed his passion. “I was part of and heard so many conversations about ways to collaborate beyond the one day in D.C.”

Despotakis offers some wisdom for NAMM Members interested in advocacy, saying, “Stand up for what you believe in and do it at whatever level works best for you. You can do that work in your community or in the halls of Congress. NAMM has created a place for us to have a collective voice. There is no reason not to participate in the work in your state and local community.”

For more information on NAMM’s Hill Day and to get involved in the industry’s music education advocacy efforts, please visit