Give A Note's Beth Rivar Slusher on Equity in Music Education

Plus, looking for the end game in musician-brand partnerships

Beth Rivar Slusher is a passionate voice in advancing the cause for equitable access to music education for all children.

A former business owner and entrepreneur in the school music performance apparel industry, Beth continues to champion support for music educators as CEO for the Give A Note Foundation. Her commitment and dedication to enhance and expand music education opportunities through Give A Note began as one of the founding board members in 2012, serving as board chair and president from 2014 to 2018.

Music has long played a key role in Beth's life. She earned a bachelor of arts in vocal and instrumental music performance from Ball State University and was honored by her alma mater as an Outstanding Young Alumnus Award winner in 1994. An avid concert goer, Beth appreciates all music genres and enjoys traveling, hiking and biking with her family.

Give A Note is presenting its official SXSW showcase and panel this Friday, March 18. Fans not attending this year's festival can text MUSIC to 707070 or visit pledge.to/music to donate to Give A Note Foundation at any time.

We caught up with Beth for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.


Beth, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up primarily in Indiana and Michigan. We moved about every four or five years as my dad was a JCPenney store manager and that's just how they did things back then. I live in Noblesville, Indiana, now, just outside Indianapolis.

Your earliest musical memory.

Singing in the Cherub Choir at church when I was 4 years old, and our family gathered around the piano singing together at home.

Your first concert.

My first major concert was Elton John—he blew me away!

Your favorite bands/musicians.

Elton John—his unmatched ability with the lyrics and music that made his songs resonate so deeply with his audience. Master musician and showman!

Chris Stapleton—amazing raw talent who shows genuine gratitude toward his fans.

Jennifer Hudson—her amazing voice and her artistry in knowing when to belt it and when not to. Not many can navigate the stylization of a song quite like she can!

How you get your music these days.

Streaming—primarily Spotify.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

Intimate venues with emerging artists. Nothing better than seeing someone before they become a household name and just knowing they will!

Your favorite music video.

I loved and admired all of Michael Jackson's videos, specifically "Billy Jean" and "Thriller." He had an incredible talent for weaving the story through music, dance, costuming and theatrics. His attention to detail showed in every aspect of each video.

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

The Voice for a music-focused TV show. I'm not much of a podcaster.

A recent project you're proud of.

The pandemic threw an enormous curveball at music education programs in our schools. Many students, especially those in historically marginalized communities, were unable to participate in their music programs in school simply because they could not afford to purchase music-specific PPE that was required to play. And music is often the only reason some of these kids make it to school each day. I'm enormously proud that Give A Note established the Let's Play Music Fund during this time, providing 13,000+ pcs specialized PPE, helping more than 7,000 students from 86 schools in 18 states get back into the music classroom to play. Our mission is deeply rooted in creating equitable access and participation in music education, and although this was outside our normal scope for grant funding programs, it was exactly what teachers and students needed—a way to get the band back together!

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

Back in November, the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrated their 150th anniversary with a benefit concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. One of our Give A Note board members, Eric Holt, was part of the organizing committee that produced the show. It was a remarkable tribute to the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, their contribution to music and the city of Nashville and raised over $1.5 million to secure an endowment for ongoing sustainability for the organization. It was an impressive show of talent, history and philanthropy all wrapped into one incredible package!

How musicians should approach working with brands.

Musicians have a unique opportunity when working with a brand to change and broaden the audience for both profit and nonprofit brands. The impact affects both the musician and the brand—and hopefully in a positive way. They need to have the end game in sight when deciding if/when they want to align with that brand.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

It's the same idea in terms of knowing the end game in advance. Brands need to make the ask when they have a clear strategy for how they want the musician to impact their brand, and know what benefit it will create for the musician as well.

What music can do that nothing else can.

Music always makes us feel something, and many times in deeply profound ways.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.

Marketing and advertising. I like the idea of collaborating with others to create something that might change the way people think.

Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a senior broadcast journalism student at the University of Colorado Boulder and a contributor to Muse by Clio.

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