Economic Development

His campaign slogan? A conga in every home!

originally published on LNP on April 7th


Today, I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States of America. If a former reality TV personality can become president of the United States, why not me?


I did not come to this decision without deep thought and much research. My first step was to find an example of a presidential campaign and slogan that every American, regardless of race, creed or socio-economic status, could agree upon and revise it to apply to today’s world.

Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan offers an excellent example:

“A chicken in every pot.”

While Hoover’s presidency is regarded by many as a disaster (it’s widely agreed that his economic policies deepened the effects of the Great Depression), it’s hard to argue that he didn’t have a great campaign slogan. (A brief historical side note:  Hoover’s slogan was actually, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” But with the rise of ride services such as Uber and Lyft and driverless cars soon to be taking over the roads, the car part doesn’t apply today.)

My platform’s central planks are education, health care, economic development, gun control, investment in research and development, strengthening the family, support of activities that will unify our nation and improving international relations.

So with a humble heart and great respect for the American people, I offer my campaign slogan and central policy initiative.

“A conga in every home!”

What better way to address the issues of education, health care, economic development, gun control, investment in research and development, family values and a deeply divided nation and world than bringing music into every home?

This is why I believe my platform is good for America:

Education: The research is clear that involvement in music education boosts academic performance, increases test scores and improves math, reading, language and logic skills and outcomes. Research also tells us that implementing an integrated arts curriculum has a positive impact on teachers’ attitudes and school climate. The result is that students benefit because happier teachers are better teachers and a more positive school environment is a more effective learning environment.

Health care: Seemingly every day we read about doctors using music in new, creative ways to address depression, manage pain, and slow or mitigate the effects of conditions such as dementia. Health care professionals are only beginning to scratch the surface in applying the healing powers of music to drive positive health benefits.

Economic impact: Research tells us that strategic investment in arts and culture initiatives can generate significant economic benefits for cities of all sizes. Lancaster is a prime example of that impact.

Gun control: Simply stated, it’s much better for people to have instruments in their hands than guns.

Investment in research and development: In this fast-paced, integrated global economy and world community, the challenges we face, whether related to the environment, education, health care or global politics, are becoming more complex. Effectively addressing these increasingly complex issues will require the development of a corresponding increase in the creativity of our populace so they can develop creative solutions to these problems. And the most effective tool in our educational and community arsenal to teach creativity and thinking outside the box is music.

Strengthening the family: What could possibly be a better way to bring families closer than sitting around a conga drum playing music and singing songs? Sharing musical experiences is a tremendous way to improve communication and promote love and understanding among people.

Unifying our nation: We must invest in things that can bring our deeply divided nation together. As the universal language, music has the unparalleled power to bring people of all backgrounds together.

Strengthening international relations: Finally, not only can music strengthen our families here at home, it also can serve as a vital tool to enhance international relations. Music's potential to foster understanding and build bridges between disparate cultures and nations is enormous. Thus, my administration will work to expand the “A Conga in Every Home” initiative to homes throughout the world.

These policies will provide a solid blueprint for the future of America.

I hope you will join me in this journey to the White House in 2020. Together, we will put a conga in every home.

Now get out there and knock on some doors and spread the word!

I am John Gerdy, and I approved this message.

Music Education and Community Economic Development

While the majority of public school program and funding decisions are dictated by federal and state mandates the area in which local education and community leaders have enormous influence and decision making power is with extracurricular activities, such as sports, music and the arts. You can get a fairly good idea of what a local community values by examining how they allocate resources and what types of extracurricular activities are sponsored and emphasized in their schools.

The local public school environment and the values that are embraced and projected within that environment molds and influences the attitudes, beliefs and values of children, teachers, parents and general citizens of the community. What is taught and emphasized in schools influence and impact the culture and values of the community at large.  Not only is that influence felt today, but many of those children eventually graduate and settle in the same community, bringing those attitudes and values to bear on the community for years to come. In other words, the values, priorities and culture of the local high school as reflected through the types of programs emphasized have a long lasting impact on the general values and culture of the community in which it is located. 

One area in particular where programming can impact a community relates to economic development.  Social scientist Richard Florida has conducted extensive research on the impact of arts and culture on economic development. In his groundbreaking work, The Rise of the Creative Class, he indentifies the emerging class of  “creative professionals in business and finance, law, health care and related fields. These people engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital. In addition, all members of the Creative Class-whether they are artists or engineers, musicians or computer scientists, writers or entrepreneurs-share a common creative ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference and merit. For the members of the Creative Class, every aspect and every manifestation of creativity-technological, cultural and economic-is interlinked and inseparable.

The Creative Class is the norm-setting class of our time. But its norms are very different: Individuality, self-expression and openness to difference are favored over the homogeneity conformity and “fitting in” that defined the organizational age.” (Florida, 2002, pp. 8,9)

According to Florida, this Creative Class can have a profound impact on economic development and a city or region’s economic vitality. Members of the Creative Class are precisely the types of people civic leaders should work to attract to their communities to live, work and raise their families. Or, as summarized in an article that appeared in Economic Development Quarterly titled “Arts and Crafts: Critical to Economic Development”:
               "Because of their knowledge-based jobs, Florida asserts that members of the creative class tend to contribute directly to the growth of a thriving economy. Equally important, members of the creative class tend to prefer those jobs in geographical locations with high levels of culture and diversity. Florida thus argues that regions that support the arts will attract and retain the creative class and consequently enjoy higher levels of economic prosperity.” (Lemore, et al., 2013, p. 222)

It may seem like a reach to consider economic development of the local economy as a factor in determining how to invest a high school’s extracurricular resources, but what is emphasized at the high school level is absorbed by students who eventually graduate and become residents of the town.  What students are exposed to and learn impacts what they will later value as community investments. It’s hard to imagine that someone who was not exposed to a quality music and arts curriculum as a student will value music and the arts as a community investment as an adult.

Further, according to Florida, members of the Creative Class tend to be more successful and engaged in the community.  They are precisely the type of people a city, town or region wants to attract to their area to live, work and raise their children. The ability for a city, town or region to attract such people is becoming increasingly important as the Creative Class is composed of citizens who are more likely to be community “movers and shakers.”  

The challenge for communities comes from the fact that members of the Creative Class have more freedom to choose where they want to live. Such freedom results from improvements in transportation and communication (Internet, video conferencing, Skype, etc.). In the past, when a company moved to a different city or state, all employees were required to pick up and move with the company to the new location. Today, companies are much more willing to offer flexibility to valuable “creative” employees to remain with the company while they live in another location. Just as the Creative Class includes the types of employees that companies value and want to keep, they are also the type of people a city, town or region should want to have in their community as citizens.

Thus, the question becomes: What do communities have to offer as resources and values that will appeal to members of the Creative Class? According to Florida, a major, if not the major, community value or feature, is a creative, vibrant, arts-oriented culture. And one important component of such a vibrant arts culture is the type of commitment the community makes to the arts in the schools. Schools are often a major decision influencer for people who are considering where to live, work and raise their families and members of the Creative Class in particular, are very interested in the emphasis the local school district places on music and the arts.

Or, stated differently, creative people want to work with people and live in communities that value creativity. And because music and the arts are the most powerful tool in our educational and community arsenal to teach creativity, it is imperative that educational and community leaders consider that impact when allocating educational resources.

Inasmuch as creativity is the currency of the future and a major key to driving a vibrant local economy decisions regarding how a school invests in extracurricular activities such as music, theater and visual arts is immensely important as those decisions and priorities have both an immediate educational impact on the students who participate in them, but also a long-term community economic development impact beyond the school walls.