The Music for All Blog
The Music for All Blog

MFA Staff Profiles – Ashley Peterson

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 18:28 Written by Erin Fortune
Ashley-PetersonName:  Ashley Peterson
Position:  Accounting Assistant
Hometown:  Born and raised in Lexington and Richmond, Kentucky, but have lived in Greenfield, IN for the past 11 years.

How long have you been with MFA?
Almost 8 whole months! I began at the end of January.
What is your educational background?  Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I received my Associates degree for accounting from Ivy Tech, and I am currently studying for my Bachelors at Indiana Wesleyan University.
What is your musical background?  (What instruments have you played? Played in groups or bands? Just enjoy music in general?)
Since I was about 8 years old, I’ve played piano. I’ve gotten rusty over the years, but I still get excited when a piano is in front of me and I have the opportunity to play, or just mess around. I’ve also played acoustic guitar (although I’m not very good at it) and I was in choir in high school. I still enjoy singing, but it seems to only happen when I’m in the car or hanging out with friends now!
What kind of music do you like to listen to?
I enjoy a wide variety of music. I’ll listen to anything and give it a chance. I mainly listen to the top 40 pop/rock type stations, and country.  But I have to admit, if I had to choose one artist or band to call my favorite, it would definitely be the Backstreet Boys! I’ve been a huge fan since they started out, and always will be. I actually finally got the chance to go to a sound check and meet them in August. Best day of my life!!
Why is music important to you?
Music is my therapy. No matter what mood I’m in, excited or upset, I can always find something to listen to that will either keep that great feeling going, or cheer me up.
Why do you believe in music education?
I truly believe that anyone and everyone deserves the opportunity to have music in their lives.  Whether you are playing an instrument, or just someone in the audience enjoying listening, music education makes this possible.
What sort of things do you do in your free time (hobbies)?
I usually just enjoy hanging out with friends, even if we’re just sitting around chatting.  Besides that, I love swimming and doing jigsaw puzzles. I also like to do crafty things, but they never turn out the way I had hoped!
What led you to Music for All?
Well, I had been working temporary positions for nearly a year, and I feel like I just kind of got lucky. When I heard about it, I was thrilled with the idea of working for such an amazing organization, and now here I am!
What do you enjoy the most about working for Music for All?
I enjoy being able to work with a group of people who are so dedicated to what the organization stands for. It makes for such a great work environment when everyone loves his or her job, coworkers, etc. You don’t see that often.
What is your favorite Music for All event, and why?
The only events I have worked so far is National Festival and Summer Symposium.  It was overwhelming, but I loved it.  It makes you feel good inside when you see all those students having such a great time. I look forward to experiencing the fall events.
What’s one interesting thing about yourself that some on staff may not be aware of?
Since I’ve only been around a few months, I’ll give a few little facts.
I am the oldest of 7 kids (and 2 cousins lived with us growing up, as well). Also, my mom was 1 of 10, and just on her side of the family, I have around 40 cousins. Things at home/family get togethers are never boring! I love animals, specifically dogs. But the most interesting pets I’ve ever owned were sugar gliders.

Stephens JamesMusic 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 nation’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 organization’s existing and new scholastic music-related arts advocacy initiatives. The position will also work with and assist the organization’s educational team as it develops, recommends and crafts organizational initiatives, ensuring the organization’s events and programs support and reflect its high educational standards and commitment.

“As 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,” stated Gary Markham, Senior Music for All Educational Consultant. “Additionally, he has the background, energy and experience to help facilitate and expand all of MFA’s educational initiatives. The Education Team and I are tremendously excited to work with him for a bright future.”

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. Stephens’ 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.


Download Official Press Release


"The Week in Music Education" is a weekly collection of news and stories about the latest in music education and music advocacy. This series highlights local, regional and national news in music education, as well as provide timely music advocacy resources so that you may promote music education in your community. If you would like to share a story or announcement in "The Week in Music Education," feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and it could be featured in an upcoming post.

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!

Pop culture: music education's greatest ally?

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?

Arts integration isn't just for primary and middle school classrooms anymore

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.

Professional Development tips from the Music Achievement Council

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."

Ingrid Michaelson promotes music education in her hometown

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."

TED-Ed: "How playing an instrument benefits your brain"

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:


"The Week in Music Education" is a weekly collection of news and stories about the latest in music education and music advocacy. This series highlights local, regional and national news in music education, as well as provide timely music advocacy resources so that you may promote music education in your community. If you would like to share a story or announcement in "The Week in Music Education," feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and it could be featured in an upcoming post.

Idaho director revives music program in rural school

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 we’re now a bright example of how you can find a way to provide music for these kids," said Hanchey. "I can’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 didn’t have this, because right now it’s all they do."

"20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools"

While you may get tired of the endless "listicles" on social media – from "10 Best Recipes" to "15 Books to Read This Summer" – 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.

Michelle Obama advocates for music and arts in Grammy Museum luncheon

First Lady Michelle Obama voiced her support for music and arts education last week at a Grammy Museum luncheon in Los Angeles. “For 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. “We 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.

Unlikely Combo: Yo-Yo Ma and Memphis "jookin" dancer

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.


"The Week in Music Education" is a weekly collection of news and stories about the latest in music education and music advocacy. This series highlights local, regional and national news in music education, as well as provide timely music advocacy resources so that you may promote music education in your community. If you would like to share a story or announcement in "The Week in Music Education," feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and it could be featured in an upcoming post.

NAMM Foundation and debut new website

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 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.

National Education Association recognizes music teachers advocating for music education

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 “has long championed bringing back music and fine arts education to America’s public schools.” Congratulations to Jessica and Princess!

Infographic: Piano Lessons Are Good For You and Your Brain

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.

Music education struggles in Portland Schools

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.

Music education program in Virgin Islands provides once-in-a-lifetime performance in NYC

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.



"Fanfare: The Week in Music Education" is a weekly collection of news and stories about the latest in music education and music advocacy. Get your week started right with the latest news in music education, as well as timely music advocacy resources so that you may promote music education in your community. If you would like to share a story or announcement in "Fanfare," feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and it could be featured in an upcoming post.

NAfME members and leadership visit Capitol Hill to advocate for music education in our schools

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.


The benefits of being a music parent

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 – but be sure to thank them as well for supporting your passion.

New York Times features prominent El Sistema-related program in New York City

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: “They also develop teamwork, discipline, perseverance, empathy and problem solving — critical life skills for finding success in any career they choose to follow,” said Mike Fitelson, executive director of the United Palace of Cultural Arts. “But who knows — perhaps there is a Mozart-like virtuoso, or a Bernstein-like maestro, hiding in their midst.”

Advocates struggle for build widespread support for music education in the United Kingdom

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.

Pop music artists share their stories of music's impact

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.


MFA Summer Symposium Photo Stream: Day 6

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 16:03 Written by Erin Fortune
Check out the photos from the sixth and final day of the full-week Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha! 
If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link:

MFA Summer Symposium Photo Stream: Day 5

Saturday, 28 June 2014 14:35 Written by Erin Fortune
Check out the photos from the fifth day of the full-week Summer Symposium! 
If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link:

Inside the Circle with Carolina Crown

Friday, 27 June 2014 22:46 Written by Erin Fortune
The Music for All Summer Symposium provides many amazing opportunities for students. One of these experiences is definitely found in the Marching Band Division. The Marching Band students had the unique opportunity to rehearse and perform with Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps at the DCI Central Indiana show. They also will be playing the national anthem at the start of the show tonight.
Yesterday, the Marching Division had the chance to have a clinic with Crown where they experienced what most marching band division students would say was "one of the coolest things ever." The students actually got to sit inside the Carolina Crown horn line circle.
We have heard from so many different students, that hearing the horn line like that is simply incredible (and dare we say, possibly life-changing!) 
The students also had the chance to interact with Carolina Crown members and were even instructed by Matt Harloff, Brass Caption Head of Carolina Crown, to take 30 seconds to "take a selfie" with Crown members!
Even better than all of that, the script was flipped, and the students played for members of Carolina Crown who were then sitting inside the circle of Marching Band Division members!
Yesterday was definitely an incredible experience for these students and we know tonight's performance in front of a full crowd at the DCI Central Indiana show will also be a moment these students will never forget.
On Thursday night Christian Howes and Southern Exposure joined us at Emens Auditorium for the fourth night in the Summer Symposium evening concert series. Christian Howes is a jazz violinist, educator, and producer from Columbus, OH. Christian Howes began working with Southern Exposure to create a style that combines modern jazz with Latin musical influences. This concert included a good mix of different types of music that surely did not disappoint.
The concert began with a more classical style mixed with jazz. Each instrumentalist had the opportunity to take a solo as Christian Howes played the melodies. One unique aspect to this group was the accordion player. This was definitely something that students had not been exposed to before and a great experience for them to have!

As the concert progressed, the group did something really unexpected. They went from a classical jazz ensemble to a rock band. Christian Howes whipped out his electric violin, changed some settings on his soundboard, and made the violin sound like an electric guitar! The students in the audience were in awe of this and immediately began cheering and clapping along. This sure was a unique aspect to the concert and something that many had never heard before.

About halfway through the concert, Christian Howes asked all the students to get out their phones and tweet about something in music that has inspired them. It was so amazing to see the different responses that the students came up with!
The final number of the concert featured some very special guest artists, the orchestra division students participating the Summer Symposium! Christian Howes wrote the piece for an orchestra accompaniment to play with the group. This sure was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students.
Page 1 of 28