Music Retailer Champions Music Education in Community

Elizabeth Dale

NAMM Member, Popplers Music, is teaming up with a grassroots campaign to save arts and music education in its community’s schools.

Established in 1909 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Popplers Music has served the educational music needs of the region for 112 years. Having expanded over the past century to include a second location in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the retailer now provides its services throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond while still maintaining its commitment to provide superior “personal and knowledgeable service” to its customers. In addition, the staff at Popplers Music includes former educators who understand the unique challenges that face music education today, making the store a natural ally in the fight to save arts and music education.

Don Langlie, the owner and president of Popplers Music, recognizes the ever-present threat to music education. “The arts in our area are in the crosshairs. This community has always provided rich and significant music offerings. Unfortunately, the challenges of complacency and student interest have led to a decrease in participation. Our interest is altruistic as our business is based on the philosophy that music and the arts are essential to student growth and learning. Popplers Music recognizes that we will survive as long as this belief remains universal.”

The looming threat to arts and music education programs has inspired a grassroots movement of parents, teachers, and community members to advocate on behalf of students so that they may “continue to have access to wide-ranging benefits of a quality music education.” Popplers Music facilitated a meeting of the minds at its Grand Forks location to help support the advocacy efforts. Langlie said, “We are founded on the belief of universal access to music education. As a staff of musicians ourselves, we understand the narrative experienced by so many before us and, most importantly, the need for these experiences to be available to our future musicians.”

A Grand Forks educator, who wished to remain anonymous, reflected on the plight reporting that, “Music education is a critical piece to a child’s educational experience. Whether or not a student finds their ‘home’ in the music classroom, students undoubtedly experience a sense of community, acceptance, and joy in the music classroom. Music trains students to self-evaluate, practice determination and patience, and focus and work hard on difficult tasks. All of these skills are positive factors that can lead students to a successful future beyond the music classroom.” Parents in the community echo these sentiments, “Through music education, our children hone skills beyond the application of their craft. They learn to listen, cooperate, and innovate. They learn about history and culture and the value of working toward a long-term goal, individually and collectively. With a strong commitment to music education, we make sure the documented benefits of music remain accessible for all, continuing a strong tradition that is rightly a point of pride for our schools and community.”

While the struggle for continued arts and music education funding continues, Langlie warns other communities and NAMM Members that the problem may be already at their doorstep. “Keep your eyes on your school’s roads, as potholes exist around every corner. Our help, as an industry, is needed. We must listen to our educators. Go out and engage in conversation with music teachers to gain a sense of their challenges and frustrations and work alongside them to find solutions.”

Educators involved in the advocacy efforts in Grand Forks ask that allies spread the support of music education in their community. The group realizes the importance of compelling research, statistics, and facts in the fight to save music education. They ask that people share studies that support music education with their school board and community leaders. Finally, the movement is requesting support in the form of mentorship from other advocates who have had success in their communities affecting change.

The next meeting of the advocacy group at Popplers Music is at 7 pm on December 7. For more information on Popplers Music, please visit them at