New York -- When VH1 brings its "Save the Music"
campaign to 30 local markets this year, it's looking for more than media exposure.
The network is seeking solid commitments from cable
operators, viewers, politicians and school-board officials that they will do everything
that they can to bring music education back into the lives of all school-aged children.
The two-year-old program, which will kick off its annual
campaign here later this week, has the grassroots support of 30 cable systems across the
country -- twice the number involved last year.
Through a series of fund-raising events at the local and
national level, the campaign aims to raise millions of dollars to buy new musical
instruments for schools selected by the 30 VH1 affiliates.
Public-service announcements set to air next week on VH1,
on 250 cable systems and on DirecTV Inc.'s direct-broadcast satellite service will
encourage parents of school-aged children to lobby for music education at the local level.
Other PSAs will ask viewers to search their attics and
basements for abandoned instruments that they can donate to schoolchildren who need them.
"This is an example of the good things that can happen
when a network and its affiliates partner on an initiative," said John Sykes,
president of VH1. "You can send a message nationally with a 30-second public-service
announcement, but when you customize it locally and send instruments into classrooms, you
really make a difference."
The program has already received high-profile support. Last
year, for example, President Clinton gave one of his own saxophones to a student in
Brad Anderson, vice president and area director for
Tele-Communications Inc.'s District Cablevision in Washington and Baltimore, called
Save the Music "a model program" and "the best-organized promotion
I've ever been involved in."
Anderson credited the promotion with raising the cable
operator's profile within its community. And in a media-intensive market like
Washington, Anderson added, that's not always easy to do.
In Los Angeles, MediaOne Group Inc. also got its share of
media coverage for the campaign, thanks in part to a guest appearance by Hammer, who
donated his trumpet to a local schoolgirl.
"Here in Los Angeles, television coverage is at a
premium," said Gisselle Acevedo-Franco, director of corporate communications and
public affairs for MediaOne's Western region. "If they have to choose between a
murder and a car chase, the car chase wins."
Last year, MediaOne's Los Angeles system was able to
help seven local schools to restore their music programs. This year, the goal is to help
eight. MediaOne will require local school systems to match some of the donated funds to
assure that the music programs will continue long after the instruments reach the
At TCI's Denver system, the operator is working with
the Colorado Music Educators Association to develop criteria to determine which four
schools will receive new instruments through the program this year.
TCI's Denver system also supported four schools last
year. "It was fun to see the kids' eyes light up when they saw their new, shiny
instruments," said Margaret Lejuste, director of government and community affairs for
TCI's Denver system.
Bob Morrison, vice president of public affairs for VH1,
predicted that the multiyear campaign will benefit 120,000 children by the end of 1999.
"That's what makes it worthwhile," he said.
"It truly is a labor of love."
The endeavor is taken seriously at every level of the
And if in the process, VH1 creates a new generation of
viewers and on-air talent for its network, that's nice, too.