Government Relations Corner

Government Relations Corner: 

Posted April 12, 2021: Updated Distancing Guidelines offered by New York State:

In a document titled “Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency” released on Friday, April 9, 2021 , New York State changed the distancing guidelines that have been in place since August, 2020.

In doing so, the Governor and the Department of Health have positively responded to the countless tweets, emails, phone calls, and letters that have been generated by music educators around the state urging the reconsideration of distancing requirements in order to align their guidance with the science with which we have all become familiar. The new guidance addresses music settings in two statements:

  1. Individuals participating in activities that require projecting the voice (e.g., singing) or playing a wind instrument must be six feet apart and there must be six feet of distance between the performers and the audience during performances and concerts.
  2. Responsible Parties should ensure that a distance of six feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities requires projecting the voice (e.g., singing), playing a wind instrument, or aerobic activity resulting in heavy breathing (e.g., participating in gym classes).

There are no direct mentions of bell covers in this latest guidance. Under the “Masks” category it is made clear that: “Face masks are required at all times, except for meals.” Of related interest is the recommendation that physical barriers not be utilized; improved air-flow and ventilation is preferred.

At this point in time, the CDC, New York State, and Nassau County have all expressed their support of 6’ distancing in music settings. Superintendents have received this latest guidance and are already making modifications to their plans. Check with your department or building leadership to make sure they know that the new guidance includes new protocols for music (found on page 8 of the linked document below). Feel free to reach out for suggestions should you need any further assistance advocating in your district.

You can view the entire document at this link:


March 1st, 2021 – Joe Sugar Day goes Virtual!

The Annual Joe Sugar Day in Albany is, like everything else, going virtual. That means it is easier than ever to get involved and send a message to our legislators that music education is vital. Every music program has been impacted in some way by Covid-19, and the resolve of music teachers to continue to provide a meaningful music education to students has been inspiring.

Getting involved in Joe Sugar Day is the absolute best way to make sure music has a seat at the decision-making table, especially when it comes to reopening schools for September 2021. What we do transcends political party; we focus on government and how its functioning can serve our students.

Details of March 1st:

Nassau County will split up all of our appointments into two teams. We already have confirmed appointments with every Assembly Member and Senator in Nassau County.

  • Each Meeting will have its own Zoom Link. Everyone will be assigned to a team, and we will do our best to put you on a team that visits the legislator for the area in which you live and/or work. Teachers who are unable to get professional leave coverage for the day are welcome to join us during meetings that coincide with their lunch breaks or “free periods.”
  • Meetings take place between 8:00am and 3:00pm and are scheduled for 15-30 minutes. The exact schedule will be shared with your at our orientation meeting.
  • We script our meetings, and assign “lines” to members. Not everyone gets a chance to speak, but each person in the “room” amplifies the message just by being there.
  • We will have an “orientation meeting” on Zoom, SUNDAY February 28th at 7:00pm. All those who register will receive an invitation via email for more information.
  • Let us know you are interested by filling out this form. The email address you use here will be where we send all of the zoom links, team assignments, etc.
  • In the meantime – please participate in the NYSSMA Letter writing campaign. Fill out this letter and send it to your county and state elected officials! It’s super easy and effective.
  • Here’s an interactive map to see how the lines are drawn. The GRC Resources page also has tools to help you find your representatives.

If you’re ready to bring your thoughts to decision makers, check out the this page. Learn how to connect with your legislators and make a difference for all students. For questions, email our Government Relations Chairperson, Joe Owens at [email protected].




 Find your Assembly Member:

Find your State Senator:

Know your facts:

The Aerosol Study Highlights

The NYSED 2020-2021 Reopening Guide from August 2020 (Page 30 is the spot about 12’)

NYSSMA Advocacy Page

Sample Script for Starting a Conversation with a Legislature: 

How to start a conversation with a legislator:

Hi, My name is ______ and I
{option a} …am a music teacher and teach in [Assembly Member Name’s] District.


{option b} …am a music teacher and a constituent of [Senator Name].
As a member of Nassau Music Educators Association, I wanted to express a few thoughts
relating to music education.

Music is a vital component to the growth and development of our children and is an integral
part of their well-rounded education as outlined in federal education law.

I hope the [senator/assembly member] will work to ensure that:
{option a} School Districts are funded fully through the state budget so music can
continue to be a point of pride in our district.


{option b} NYSED reviews and updates their recommendations on distancing in the music
classroom based upon the latest scientific studies and information. These studies include
ensuring wind instruments and singers all have proper PPE in order to play with 6’
distancing in classrooms. Without these recommendation reviews students will continue
to needlessly go without music in school.

Thank you for your time.