Music for All has added a new professional, James P. Stephens, to its Indianapolis staff, as Director of Advocacy and Educational Resources. Stephens joins Music for All having most recently served as a music educator for one of the nationâ€™s most respected scholastic music programs, at Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma.
Music for All uniquely combines regional and national music-event programming with awareness and advocacy efforts aimed at expanding access to music in schools and communities, including Indianapolis.
The Director of Advocacy and Educational Resources is a new position created to meet key organizational objectives and initiatives. This high-level management position will develop and implement the organizationâ€™s existing and new scholastic music-related arts advocacy initiatives. The position will also work with and assist the organizationâ€™s educational team as it develops, recommends and crafts organizational initiatives, ensuring the organizationâ€™s events and programs support and reflect its high educational standards and commitment.
â€śAs the Music for All vision continues to broaden, Mr. Stephens will be a wonderful and valued asset to the staff. Advocacy is paramount to music education and he will provide needed insight and direction,â€ť stated Gary Markham, Senior Music for All Educational Consultant. â€śAdditionally, he has the background, energy and experience to help facilitate and expand all of MFAâ€™s educational initiatives. The Education Team and I are tremendously excited to work with him for a bright future.â€ť
As an educator, Stephens worked closely and passionately with Music for All at various programs and events and has served on the faculty at the Music for All Summer Symposium.
Prior to joining Music for All, Stephens was the former Associate Director of Bands at Broken Arrow High School where he taught since 2006. Stephensâ€™ teaching responsibilities included three concert bands, music theory and assistant marching band director for the Pride of Broken Arrow. While at Broken Arrow, the marching band was named the Bands of America Grand National Champion twice (in 2011 and 2006), was a seven-time national finalist at the Bands of America Grand National Championships, and was presented with the prestigious Sudler Shield of Excellence by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The marching band performed by invitation in the 2009 and 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
Under the direction of Stephens, the Broken Arrow Wind Bands have performed multiple times at the Oklahoma Music Educators Association state conventions and most recently in New York City's renowned Carnegie Hall.
Stephens brings both large and small band program experience, prior to his appointment at Broken Arrow, Stephens taught at Jamestown High School (NY), Marion Local High School (OH) and Mad River Middle School (OH). Bands under Stephens' direction have performed in venues across the United States and have consistently received superior ratings and have been awarded numerous honors in concert and marching venues.
Note: This week will be my final "Fanfare" blog post as a MFA staff member. I begin a new journey next month in Los Angeles, where I'll be attending graduate school. It's been a pleasure bringing you music education and advocacy news for the past few months. Please be sure to stay tuned to the MFA Blog for advocacy news and more!
Last week, you may have heard about results from the latest Harris Poll that were promising for music education. According to those surveyed in the Poll, over three-quarters of Americans were involved in school music, an increase from a 2007 Harris Poll. More people surveyed also said that music education prepares students better for their careers and for problem solving. Some have speculated that the increased presence of music education in pop culture, including shows like "Glee," "The Voice," etc., have helped expand participation in school music. While many of these shows display a distorted view of what school music classes are really like, are they valuable advocacy tools?
When you think arts integration, or utilizing music, dance, theatre or visual art into core lesson plans, you may envision it only for elementary students, for making learning fun or interesting. Bucking that trend, Alexandra Pannoni from the U.S. News & World Report showed us three ways to incorporate music into high school classes in a recent article. From rap in an English class to music production in science and engineering classes, music is a universal, relatable vehicle for student learning. "We found that once we began to balance both the creativity and the academics, that their academics became more important to them," said a San Diego high school English teacher who utilized songwriting to assist in character analysis.
As schools across the nation begin to ring in a new year, its a perfect time for teachers to think about professional development, re-charging the batteries for a new school year. In this month's School Band & Orchestra Magazine, professional development was a big focus, including an article from Marcia Neel and the Music Achievement Council. One of the biggest takeaways in this article for me was the importance of engaging and inspiring students through setting goals, creating mottos and encouraging community service. SBO also featured an interview with MFA Summer Symposium faculty member and former Wando H.S. director Scott Rush. This year, Mr. Rush will serve as Director of Fine Arts for the Dorchester School District 2 in Summerville, SC. Scott Rush penned the valuable "Habits of a Successful Band Director."
I've been an Ingrid Michaelson fan for years, and her latest album, including the single "Girls Chase Boys Chase Girls," has finally brought her mainstream. Long a supporter of music education, Michaelson is giving back to her hometown in the form of quality music education through the VH1 Save the Music Foundation: "In 2012, I accompanied the VH1 Save the Music Foundation on a visit to a school in my Staten Island hometown. My heart melted not just because of the adorable kids, but also because I was so inspired by their talent and love for music. Seeing their faces light up as they walked into the music room, ready to place their tiny hands on newly donated musical instruments and start their music exploration, I decided to take a stronger stand on saving music education."
From Daniel Levitan's This Is Your Brain on Music to recent brain studies in the news, we know that listening and performing music is a great exercise for our brains. The folks famous for short, impactful speeches have created a new video, which displays the benefits of playing an instrument in an animated and entertaining way. The video emphasizes that while listening to music involved much brain activity, playing an instrument is akin to a full-body workout for your brain. The video also speaks to the number of qualities and personality traits in musicians, such as high executive function, which may explain why so many of our nation's business and community leaders played music. You can watch the video for yourself below:
We brought you this story in April, but since then, Robbie Hanchey's inspiring story of promoting music education in a struggling rural school has made its way across the country. This month, the School Band & Orchestra magazine profiled him in their cover story. With about 600 students in the small Idaho school, Hanchey had very few resources to support a music program. After three years, Hanchey's relentless work to recruit studetns and build support paid off. He now has nearly 100 students participating in his junior/high school band program, out of 250 students in the junior/high school. "I like to think that weâ€™re now a bright example of how you can find a way to provide music for these kids," said Hanchey. "I canâ€™t even imagine these kids not having music because they love it so much. I see all my sixth through 12th graders and I wonder what these kids would do if they didnâ€™t have this, because right now itâ€™s all they do."
While you may get tired of the endless "listicles" on social media â€“ from "10 Best Recipes" to "15 Books to Read This Summer" â€“ I think we found a list you will enjoy, and use! The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has a new list of "20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools." From increased test scores, better work ethic and success beyond school, this list covers it all. When making the case for music education in your school, try focusing on just a few of the important benefits. If you feel you aren't making progress, you still have plenty of proven benefits to share. Be sure to find specific, personal examples of the benefits in action. Whether talking to a parent in your PTA or to an elected official, this is a great list to have in your back pocket.
First Lady Michelle Obama voiced her support for music and arts education last week at a Grammy Museum luncheon in Los Angeles. â€śFor so many young people, arts education is the only reason they get up out of bed in the morning," said the First Lady. The luncheon honored musician Janelle Monae and Placentia school teacher Sunshine Cavalluzzi. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was also in attendance and spoke of how music has helped him, even while in office. A piano player as a kid, Garcetti recently moved his piano into his City Hall office so he can rejuvenate himself. â€śWe all know what music does for our souls, and to our hearts, and to our minds," said Garcetti. You can view the full text of Michelle Obama's keynote speech here.
Cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma has been known recently for some unlikely collaborations, including the Silk Road Ensemble and his foray into hip-hop. Lately, he's connected with Lil Buck, a dancer who struggled to keep up in Memphis Public Schools until he found his passion. The "jookin" style is unique to Memphis, but Lil Buck has applied it to much of his work, including a 9-month run with Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson ONE." In this inspirational video, Lil Buck evokes the intense emotion in Saint-Saen's "The Swan" with unique, intense and seemingly effortless dancing.
MFA Strategic Adovcacy Partner, the NAMM Foundation, debuted a new website last week, making valuable advocacy resources easier to access than ever. The redesign gives the website a fresh new look that will look great whether giving presentations, sending information to elected officials or encouraging your friends to join the cause for music education. Visit www.nammfoundation.org now to check out the new website. While you're there, go ahead and sign up for the next SupportMusic Coalition Webinar, held this Thursday, July 18, live from Summer NAMM! Tons of incredible educators, advocates and music industry professionals are lined up for the Webinar, including BOA adjudicator and Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Dr. Nola Jones; Mark Goff, President of Paige's Music, Official Music Store for the BOA Grand National Championships and other events, and Mark Despotakis from Progressive Music, a music store partner each year for the BOA Regional at Monroeville, PA.
The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union and professional organization for public school teachers, honored two music teachers at their Annual Meeting in Denver earlier this month. According to the National Association for Music Education, Jessica Fitzwater, an elementary music educator in Frederick, Maryland, was named 2014 Political Activist of the Year for her work puhsing for education funding in Frederick County. Princess Moss, a Virginia elementary music teacher was elected Secretary-Treasurer for the NEA's Executive Committee. According to the NEA, Princess has â€śhas long championed bringing back music and fine arts education to Americaâ€™s public schools.â€ť Congratulations to Jessica and Princess!
Encore Music Lessons created one of my favorite new infographics: "Piano Lessons Are Good For You and Your Brain!" As a piano player myself, I didn't even recognize all of the benefits listed in this infographic. While "Piano lessons are good for your brain" may not be the most successful tactic when getting young children to practice daily, this infographic is a great resource when encouraging other parents to enroll their kids, or even advocating for piano lessons/classes in your school. You can download the full-size version of the infographic here.
Vortex Magazine featured "The State of Music Education" in Portland, Ore. this month and the results were a bit surprising. When I think of Portland, aside from the clever IFC series "Portlandia," I think of vibrant arts and music. In fact, Portland even boasts a $35-per-person "Arts Tax" to support the arts in Portland. Unfortunately, access to quality arts and music in Portland doesn't reach the elementary schools, where only 58% receive music instruction. This article does feature great arguments for music education in our schools, but we must also reach out to school administrators, elected officials and community leaders to ensure that Portland students have the opportunity to experience the power of music.
Many of us here in the "Lower 48" often forget about the United States' various territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, except maybe for vacations. United Jazz in the Virgin Islands sent several young jazz students to New York City to perform at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center last month with teacher and accomplished drummer Dion Parson. Students experienced the long tradition of jazz excellence and educational outreach at Jazz at Lincoln Center and performed for a captive audience on a stage that overlooks Central Park. Experiences like this not only are life-changing for the students, but provide visibility for underserved areas that have created innovated music education program such as United Jazz. You can check out local news coverage from the once-in-a-lifetime trip below.
More than 150 music education leaders visited Washington D.C. last month as part of the National Association for Music Education's (NAfME) Hill Day 2014. Leaders and educators met with elected representatives to advocate for support of school music. Additionally, NAfME presented their "Stand 4 Music" Award to the Grammy-winning band Fun.'s Andrew Dost and hosted a panel discussion on art's role in STEM Education with the Congressional STEAM Caucus. The panel discussion featured NAfME President Glenn Nirman, Young Audiences Executive Director David Dik and Memphis City Schools Chair of Arts Education Dru Davidson. You can view the full panel discussion on the importance of the arts below.
My parents would be the first to tell you that they are not musical people. After all, it was me who had to beg my parents to start me on piano lessons in third grade. They were great sports in listening to my early piano practicing, then saxophone and French horn. But they also have taken a keen interest in music. For example, my dad, who grew up in rural Ohio without much access to classical music, now really enjoys the big, symphonic orchestral works like the Mahler Symphonies. Author of The Music Parents' Survival Guide Amy Nathan recently described the many benefits of being a music parent. While we mainly think of the benefits to the child learning music, the parents also expand their horizons, try something new and connect to their children. So if you're a music student, go ahead and say "You're Welcome!" to your parents â€“ but be sure to thank them as well for supporting your passion.
We've featured several El Sistema-related programs in "Fanfare," which displays the extracurricular and community support music instruction is receiving across the country. When schools are unable to provide quality music education, organizations like Upbeat NYC provide musical opportunities for students. This in-depth article from the New York Times describes the impact Upbeat NYC has had on many families: â€śThey also develop teamwork, discipline, perseverance, empathy and problem solving â€” critical life skills for finding success in any career they choose to follow,â€ť said Mike Fitelson, executive director of the United Palace of Cultural Arts. â€śBut who knows â€” perhaps there is a Mozart-like virtuoso, or a Bernstein-like maestro, hiding in their midst.â€ť
While this blog primarily focuses on the state of music education in the United States, I can't help buy feel for our friends across the pond in the U.K. In wake of austerity measures and budget cuts, the arts have taken a serious hit throughout the country. Programs like the BBC's Ten Pieces are attempting to keep the U.K.'s long tradition of musical excellence alive, but many advocates want more to ensure students have access to music education. This Guardian article explains the struggles in the U.K. and points to some possibility for progress.
Earlier this year, the Grammy Foundation posted several videos featuring prominent music artists describing how music impacted them. From Ariana Grande to Tierny Sutton, many artists participated in school music as a child and today are advocating for its importance. The Grammy Foundation produced the videos to promote their Grammy Music Educator Award, currently in the Quarterfinal stages. These short video snippets can also be used as resources for your own community. Whether recruiting young students to participate in music making or to display to the public music's importance. These videos can be a great resource for any music advocate. Below is a video from "The X-Factor" Third Season Champions, Alex and Sierra.
#mfacamp has inspired me to bring everything I learned to my band. Being a leader isn't for the title, it's for the change you want to see.â€” Sidney McDonald (@SidneySaurusRex) June 27, 2014
Inspired by this camp in so many ways. Can't wait to go into music education after this! #mfacampâ€” Kent Hickey (@KENT_hickey) June 27, 2014
Music For All is changing my life forever. It is one of the best experiences I have ever had. #mfacampâ€” Kolin Edrington (@EdringtonKolin) June 27, 2014