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Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 12:33pm

Panel Discusses Music Industry

Georgia's music industry isn't just live concerts.

That's the message a room full of Savannah residents expressed Wednesday to a panel of state lawmakers dealing with the industry.

They also touted the benefits of music education and manufacturing.

Among the people who spoke were Savannah residents who bring music to classrooms.

A panel of five Georgia House members on the Music Industry Committee also heard from Savannah businessmen who sell instruments and audio services worldwide.

Jazz musician Jody Espina manufactures instrument mouthpieces.

He says this week's ongoing Jazz Festival is one example of how Savannah's tourism industry thrives on a vibrant cultural calendar.

"It is an economic engine," Espina says. "It brings tourism. Savannah should be known like New Orleans and like Nashville and Memphis. Savannah should be known as a music town."

Non-profit leaders asked the lawmakers to expand tax credits, grant eligibility and arts funding.

Lawmakers suggested there was little they could do about an emotional issue, Savannah's seven year old ban on under 21 bar customers.

Musicians see the ban as hindering live music.

Lawmakers said addressing it would be meddling in a local issue.

Jazz musician Howard Paul says he employs 11 workers who manufacture high-end Benedetto guitars that are sold around the world.

"The state and the government can produce a synergy to help attract more businesses like our here because we feed off of one another," Paul says.

The panel is looking into ways of stimulating Georgia's music industry as part of economic development efforts.

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