Music Products Industry Veteran Paul Damiano Advocates Greater Support For Market Development, Music Education and Guitars In The Classroom.
In addition to his prolific career with the KAMAN Corporation, Paul Damiano was one of the principal architects of the game-changing merger between KAMAN and Fender that created KMC Music and he is currently KMC’s Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing. In both his professional and personal life, Paul has also been a tireless, dedicated advocate for music education and market development; serving on the boards of NAMM, GAMA, IAKEM and PMC as well as several other music industry associations. Guitars In The Classroom had the opportunity to sit down with him for a quick conversation at the KMC booth during the recent NAMM Show.
GITC: You and Kaman have supported and participated in the music industry’s expansion efforts on many levels. Has the merger with Fender changed that commitment?
Damiano: Both KAMAN and Fender have always been aware of the need for market development and very involved with industry efforts. We believe that we have a social responsibility that extends beyond merely making and selling musical instruments. Now that Fender and KAMAN are all one company, we’re even more united in that fundamental philosophy.
GITC: Has the economic slowdown affected the market development movement?
Damiano: The need is the same if not greater now but, unfortunately, with less fat in the economy, one company, no matter how big it is, can’t do as much of the heavy lifting. However, (Fender CEO) Bill Mendello has given us specific guidance that even though times are tough we should continue to support programs that are working. Certainly Guitars In The Classroom is one of the programs that is working and one that we continue to support.
GITC: What do you say to encourage companies that haven’t supported the industry’s market
development efforts to step up?
Damiano: Companies that, for whatever reasons, don’t see the benefits of market development efforts don’t contribute to them. But these efforts would be more effective if we could get more participation. The time for standing on the sidelines is past. If we don’t develop more players and build our own industry, who will? No one’s going to do it for us, but us. Those of us in the music instrument industry who are waiting for the next Beatles to happen are going to be awfully disappointed.
GITC: Young people have never had as many distractions as they have today. How do we do we get their attention and continue to increase the number of music makers?
Damiano: Today, there are so many things that divert young people’s attention from music. At the same time, today’s kids are very much part of what I call the Sesame St. generation; a generation that has come to believe in music as a positive and fundamental part of everyday life. We may not be able to see it now but I think 5 years from now we are going to look back and say that music video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero were a major factors in generating new players.
There are also gaps in music education that we need to address. A lot of kids want to play guitar but it’s not offered as part of traditional music education programs. This is another reason why guitar manufacturers need to support programs like GAMA and GITC. Where GAMA reaches kids and music teachers through the band program, GITC reaches kids and general classroom teachers.
GITC: What else can the music products industry do to move things forward?
Damiano: NAMM and the industry have done a lot but NAMM is limited by its charter and government regulations and has had to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with the alphabet soup of music associations. It’s important that we get more music retailers and music teachers involved, too. To be successful, these types of projects require organization as well as grass roots support.
These things don’t happen without the vision and hard work of people like (GITC founder and Executive Director) Jessica Baron who are passionate about the cause. I applaud Jessica and the work she and Guitars In The Classroom are doing to create more musicians and improve their quality of life.
There’s an ongoing discussion among music advocates about the roles that recreation, retention and relevance play in our business and how much we should support music education vs. music integration. But I’ve never seen creating more music makers as being an either/or situation. There are many opportunities for growth and we all need work together and support each other so we don’t miss any of them.
Guitars In The Classroom is a non-profit organization that provides innovative musical training for classroom teachers so all students can experience the joy and essential benefits of making music. Its programs deliver ongoing instruction, access to instruments, and educational materials that weave music across the academic curriculum in sustainable, grassroots programs, nationwide. For further information or to get involved, please contact GITC at 858-755-2239 or go online at www.guitarsintheclassroom.org.