Music for All asked our friends on Facebook and Twitter what they would ask John Mackey if they had the chance - and he graciously answered their questions.
John will work with Concert Band Division students and directors at the MFA Summer Symposium this June at Ball State University.
We hope you enjoy the Q&A with John Mackey as much as we did. The questions were fantastic and his answers are thoughtful (and sometimes hilarious!) Let us know if you learned anything new in the comments, or if you have another question you would ask. Who knows, maybe we'll get him to answer some more questions at Symposium! Enjoy!
What was your inspiration for Foundry?
Asked by Brian Munoz via Facebook
This was my wife’s idea. She said that if she were a percussionist, it would be fun to play a piece where she could hit stuff with hammers. She also thought it was cool that with percussion, just about anything you strike could be considered a percussion instrument, so she suggested I write a piece that used all kinds of non-traditional percussion, but things that students could find at hardware stores and junk yards – and you’d then strike those things, maybe, with a hammer. Fun, right? So it was her idea to write for “found” percussion. My take on it was to try to write something aggressive in tone, sort of a sibling to my piece “Asphalt Cocktail.” The result – aggressive music with lots of found metal percussion – sounded like a steel factory. So the title is a play on that, because it sounds like a foundry, but the first five letters are “found,” as in “found” percussion.
What inspired Undertow?
Asked by Banon University via Twitter
Tardiness. I was completely stumped about what to write, so I procrastinated. During the time that I should have been writing music, I was playing video games – or one specific video game: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS. In that Zelda game, you sail a ship from island to island (dungeon to dungeon), and while you sail, music plays – and it’s good music. So I spent a great number of hours playing that game – and hearing that music - instead of writing what would become “Undertow.” Eventually, though, I had no choice but to start writing “Undertow,” because it was about to be due, but my brain was conditioned to hear the kind of music you hear in a Zelda video game, and in this case, a swashbuckling sea adventure. So that’s what I wrote: my brain’s idea of new Zelda music. An “undertow” is a spinning current that pulls ships underwater – ships like I sailed in that Zelda game.
With my school, we’ve played Undertow, Foundry, Sheltering Sky and Night on Fire. I love them all…how do you find your inspiration?
Asked by Lindsay Elizabeth Frees via Facebook
Wow, your directors are my favorite people in the world! The thing that helps me to keep each piece fresh is to approach each one differently, whether that’s a unique scoring (“Night on Fire” uses three or more hand drums; and “Foundry” uses 12 percussionists, many of whom play “found” percussion), an unusual rhythmic pattern (“Undertow,” which is mostly in alternating 7/8 and 4/4), or something as seemingly straight forward as the desire to write a lyrical piece that sounds like it contains old folk songs, when in fact the tune is new (“Sheltering Sky”). It’s hard to come up with a new idea for each piece. That’s really the hardest part of writing something – it’s not picking the notes, but deciding ahead of time what the reason is for the piece to exist at all. It takes a long time to figure out those things – time I spend walking, or jogging, or biking. I get my best ideas while exercising, not while staring at the computer monitor.
Aurora Awakes is my favorite of your pieces. What inspired you to incorporate U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name?
Asked by David Bowen via Facebook
The 80s station on Sirius XM radio. We were driving to dinner one night, and that US song came on the radio. It starts and ends with that 6 note riff in the guitar, on top of sustained synth chords. In the middle, the song itself happens, but it’s all bookended by that intro and outro with those six notes on top of those chords, and I think those outer sections are the best part of the song. So my idea was, why not make a whole piece just about those six perfect notes? I changed the key, and I changed the chords, but you’d still recognize them. So I wrote the fast part of the piece, or at least most of it, but then I got stuck. So I asked my wife, Abby, what I should do. She said she thought the fast music sounded like it was getting brighter and brighter, so the piece made her think of sunrise. She suggested that if it’s a piece about sunrise, why not write an opening for it that’s slow and still, like the start of the day right before the sun first peeks above the horizon? So, that’s what I did.
In Xerxes, why did you compose such a bold bass line?
Asked by Megan Jofriet via Facebook
I’d always wanted to write a hard, aggressive march. I also listen to a lot of progressive rock, and I think I had that sound in my head when I started “Xerxes,” so the first thing I came up with was that bass line, which sounds to me like it could be in a song by the band Tool. Last year, a guy named Brooks Tarkington made an arrangement of “Xerxes” for metal rock band. It’s incredible, and sounds to me exactly the way the tune sounded in my head when I first thought of it. You can hear Brooks’ version on my Soundcloud page.
Do you read all the stuff people post to you on the many Internet sources?
Asked by Greg Newton via Facebook
I definitely read a lot of it, at least on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter makes it easy to find those things, but Facebook doesn’t, because, at least for my accounts, I can’t search other wall posts. I’ve learned not to read YouTube comments about my music, because although most are nice, there’s always one that’s nasty, and that’s the only one I ever remember.
What would you like band directors to know when performing your music?
Asked by Tom Cox via Facebook
That I’m still alive, so you can ask me a question if you need to! Or you can try to schedule a clinic with me so I can work with you and your band in person on my music. I love working in person with students and their conductors.
What is your favorite instrument?
Asked by Megan Jofriet via Facebook
Everybody asks that, and I honestly don’t have a favorite single instrument. I love writing for lots of trombones (the more the better) and a lot of percussion, so if I were to play an instrument, I’d probably play trombone or percussion. (I never formally studied any instrument.) But the colors you can accomplish with a mixture of instruments are what make a large ensemble so exciting. Vibraphone is a great sound, but bowed vibraphone in unison with low-register flute is an INCREDIBLE sound.
What inspires you every day?
Asked by Kristen Popovich via Facebook
What was your favorite piece to compose?
Asked by Kaytee Parker via Twitter
I have favorite pieces that I HAVE composed, but while actually writing, the process is normally so slow and so difficult that I wouldn’t use the word “favorite.” For example, “Asphalt Cocktail” is one of my favorites to listen to, but writing it was extremely slow and challenging. I think that’s one thing I like about it – that it sounds, to me, sort of effortless, but in reality, it was a real slog to write.
Do you think you’ll write more extensively for middle level groups?
Asked by Michael Filla via Twitter
Absolutely! I have one fairly easy piece, “Foundry,” which is considered a “grade 3” level of piece, but I want to write a “grade 2 – 2.5,” maybe even this spring. Writing for mid-level groups is very challenging – much harder than writing difficult music, because you can’t fall back on flashy performance techniques like fast runs or percussion licks. There are fewer notes, and every note has to be perfect.
Where do you find inspiration? Do you seek it out or let it happen organically?
Asked by Michael Filla via Twitter
Deadlines are inspiring, and I’m not kidding. Writing music is hard work, and I think it gets harder with each new piece, because you don’t want to repeat yourself and do the same thing you did in an earlier piece. I rarely write music just for fun – it’s always for a commission, and if there was no deadline, I’d spend all of my time just playing video games and watching TV.
What parameters do you give yourself in the initial stages of a piece (e.g. grade level, instrumentation, unique features)
Asked by Michael Filla via Twitter
The answer varies depending on the commission. For a university or military band commission, grade level isn’t normally a consideration, but for a middle school commission, it has to be, so that’s the starting point for the piece. Difficulty level also determines instrumentation (to a point), but that challenge can also lead to unique features, like in Foundry, where the normally limited instrumentation challenges of a middle school band could be overcome by asking the percussionists to play non-traditional “found” percussion, so that’s a case of the difficulty level leading to the most interesting element of the piece. For a university-level piece like “The Frozen Cathedral,” I was encouraged by the commissioning organization to add extra players, and I took that to mean “extra instruments” as well, so I included things like alto flute, bass flute, English horn, and 10 percussionists. I figured out the scoring before I started any sketches, and that greatly influenced the overall sound of the piece.
Last Friday the MFA marketing team spent some much needed time cleaning, archiving and organizing the 30 something years of memorabilia that packs our warehouse. We sorted through the endless boxes of pictures and during the process found a ton of great ones from the old days of BOA (look out for more to come). As I was finishing up looking through a box that I’m fairly sure was older than me, I called over the rest of our cleaning crew. The conversation went something like this…
Me: Guys… Guys! I found a Keytar!
Everybody else: A keytar?
They quickly walked over and looked at the black and white picture in my hands.
Me: When do you think the last time someone used a keytar in BOA was? Seriously. How long has it been since the keytar?
No one could answer, and we all became incredibly curious.
Member of the cleaning crew: You should write a blog post about this! Maybe someone will remember.
Me: That’s a great idea! I’ll do it.
P.S. Anyone that can find/sends in a Theremin being used in a marching performance automatically wins. Seriously. I really want to see a Theremin.
The 2014 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade presented by Honda will step off with another fantastic lineup of colorful floats, top-notch marching bands and majestic equestrian units from across the country and around the world. The annual procession begins at 8:00 AM (Pacific) on Wednesday, January 1.
Congratulations to Dr. Barry Shepherd, Superintendent of Cabarrus County Schools in North Carolina who is the 2013 recipient of the George N. Parks Leadership in Music Education award. Dr. Shepherd received the award during the opening finals ceremonies at the 2013 Grand National Championships, presented by Yamaha on November 16.
Developed by NAfME, the National Association for Music Education and Music for All, the award is named for George N. Parks (1953–2010), director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1977 until his death, and honors an exemplary music educator who embodies the characteristics and leadership that Mr. Parks personified.
About Dr. Barry Shepherd
Since joining Cabarrus County Schools in February 2008, Dr. Barry Shepherd has led the school system through some of its most challenging and exciting times.
During his tenure, the school system has seen unprecedented reductions in funding. Yet, Cabarrus County Schools has continued to thrive thanks to Shepherd, who has successfully advocated for placing value on “people rather than things.”
Despite the challenging economy, student enrollment for Cabarrus County Schools has continued to grow – resulting in the need for more schools. And Shepherd has the led the school system through the construction of five new school buildings, as well as numerous academic and educational programs including magnet schools at Coltrane-Webb Elementary and J.N. Fries Middle, Central Cabarrus and Concord High Schools, the Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School, Language Immersion at Furr Elementary School, and the Mary Frances Wall Center, a preschool for children with special needs.
Under his direction, Cabarrus County Schools’ students are making strides on end-of-year assessments, the graduation rate has increased and the school system has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding.
Dr. Shepherd also is leading the school system in its focus on global education. Through a partnership with the Center for International Understanding at the University of North Carolina, Cabarrus County Schools is among several school districts across the state participating in Confucius Classrooms. Through this program, Cabarrus County Schools’ teachers and administrators have visited schools in China to learn about Chinese education and as part of a reciprocal agreement.
Prior to joining Cabarrus County Schools, Dr. Shepherd served as superintendent of Elkin City Schools and as assistant superintendent in Mooresville Graded School District.
Dr. Shepherd is a native of Wilkes County, N.C., and has held administrative positions in Iredell-Statesville Schools, Lexington City Schools and Thomasville City Schools.
He is a graduate of Appalachian State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in music education and a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership. He received his Doctor of Education degree in education from Columbia University in New York.
Dr. Shepherd is married to Laura Shepherd. They have two daughters: Fran and Parker, who attend Cabarrus County Schools.
Music for All has announced the industry leaders who will be inducted into the 2014 Bands of America Hall of Fame: Eugene Migliaro Corporon, Fred and Marlene Miller and Camilla M. Stasa.
The Bands of America Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have had a positively life-changing impact on Music for All’s Bands of America programs and music education. 2014 inductees were announced Saturday evening, November 16 during the opening ceremonies of the Bands of America Grand National Championships, presented by Yamaha, in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Eugene Migliaro Corporon is the conductor of the Wind Symphony and Regents Professor of Music at the University of North Texas. Mr. Corporon has been a cornerstone of the Music for All National Festival as a member of the non-competitive festival’s evaluation team and conductor of the Honor Band of America, which he will conduct for the second time in 2014. Mr. Corporon is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach and Claremont Graduate University. Mr. Corporon, a frequent guest conductor at the Showa University of Music in Kawasaki City, Japan, has also served as a visiting conductor at the Julliard School, the Interlochen World Center for Arts Education and the Aspen Music Festival and School. He is also the principal conductor of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, a professional group made up of musicians from the Dallas and Fort Worth metroplex.
Fred and Marlene Miller’s Fred J. Miller, Inc. is a leader in pageantry uniform design and manufacturing, outfitting many of the world’s best marching bands, drum corps and winter guards. As the Official Uniform Sponsor of Music for All, their support helps make possible MFA’s performance and educational programs. FJM also designed and created the uniforms outfitting the BOA Honor Band in the Rose Parade® in 2005, 2009 and 2013. A former band director, Mr. Miller was also a founding member of the United States Twirling Association. Mr. Miller passed away in August 2012. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were crucial to the development of a young Winter Guard International in the early 1980s and founded the award-winning Miller’s Blackhawks twirling corps and later winter guard. Currently President and CEO of FJM, Inc., Mrs. Miller is on the board of directors for Music for All.
Camilla M. Stasa has been involved with Music for All in a variety of roles since its beginning. She was a student drum major of the Chesaning Union High School Band, MI, who performed in the first “Marching Band of America” summer national championship in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1976. She served as a BOA summer camp clinician and adjudicator in the 1980s. Most notably, Ms. Stasa was on the Music for All staff from 1989, hired initially as Director of Operations, and then serving as Director of Participant Relations until her departure in 2010 after 21 years of service. Ms. Stasa is currently Associate Director of Admissions & Continuing Education for Vandercook College of Music in Chicago.
Music for All will induct these newest members into the Bands of America Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 8, 2014 during the Music for All National Festival in Indianapolis. They will be permanently recognized in the Bands of America Hall of Fame at Music for All’s Indianapolis headquarters, along with all the BOA Hall of Fame members inducted since the first in 2003.
Bands of America Hall of Fame
The Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster Award annually recognizes the extraordinary commitment, dedication, support and sacrifice of music parents and boosters around the world by shining a spotlight on an individual who exemplifies these qualities.
The award is named in honor of Patrick John Hughes, the father of Patrick Henry Hughes. Patrick Henry is a remarkable young man who, despite physical challenges that would seem overwhelming to many, has excelled as a musician and student, singing and playing piano and trumpet with the Louisville Marching and Pep Bands, with the help of his father, who tirelessly maneuvers his son’s wheelchair through the formations with the other 220+ members of the Cardinal Marching Band
On Friday night during Grand Nationals the 2013 Patrick John Hughes Parent Booster award was awarded to Dick Zentner, of Pennsylvania.
Music for All's President and CEO, Eric L. Martin with Dick Zentner, 2013 Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster Award Recipient
Eric Martin, Dick Zentner, Zentner's daughter Dawn Tatters, grandsons Dylan and Doug Tatters and Zentner's son Ron Zentner
Mr. Richard “Dick” Zentner first became involved with the Norwin Band Boosters in the 1980’s. He began his booster parent journey on the pit crew and when it became known that he had his commercial driver’s license, he was quickly recruited to drive one of the equipment trucks.
As Mr. Zentner’s other children continued their participation in the Norwin band program, so did he, serving on many booster committees and even serving as booster president for several terms. But Mr. Zentner was not just a supporter of the Norwin band program- he often met with other fledgling band parent organizations and shared with them the Norwin booster model and the wisdom of his experience.
Through the years Mr. Zentner played an increasingly important role in planning and coordinating the band’s transportation to and from all local competitions and community events, as well as events like BOA, WGI and band trips to Florida. Whenever the band had somewhere to go, Mr. Zentner made it happen flawlessly.
Through his involvement with the Norwin band program in the 1980’s, Mr. Zentner became a trusted confidant and friend of Norwin Director of Bands, the late L.J. Hancock. Though Mr. Zentner’s youngest son graduated from the Norwin band program in 1994, he continued to coordinate logistics, attended band parent meetings and served as an advisor to L.J. Hancock. In 2000, L.J. Hancock passed away, and while Mr. Zentner was crushed to have lost such a close friend, he worked toward helping to maintain the quality of the band program for the sake of the students. Since L.J. Hancock’s passing, Mr. Zentner has assisted in the transitioning of four band directors into the Norwin band program.
Mr. Zentner with the Norwin band
Former Director of Bands, Ian Morrison, said “As a former student in the Norwin band program, I personally remember “Mr. Z” unloading my Sousaphone from the truck and wishing me good luck. As a former director of bands at Norwin, and one of the band directors that Dick helped to transition into the program, I can say from personal experience that parents like Dick are invaluable to the success of an organization such as ours. In the uncertain times of transition, Dick was a calming and steadying influence on me and the band parents’ organization.”
There is no denying that Mr. Zentner has been a devoted and loyal advocate of the Norwin band program. After more than 25 years of involvement and working with 5 director of bands, Mr. Zentner has truly become an icon of the Norwin band.
“Since I have become the director of bands at Norwin, Dick and I have talked about the history of the program, what it means to him and why he does what he does. Throughout the conversations the words loyalty and tradition come up often. In many ways, Dick is the keeper of this tradition as he has been around longer than any of our current staff and is truly part of what makes the Norwin Band program successful. The guidance that he has provided me during my brief time as the Norwin director makes him almost like a father figure in this regard. Like me, when I was a student, most students don’t know just how much Mr. Zentner does for all of them and how much he shapes their experience, especially on the road. I will always be grateful for what Dick does for this organization.” –Director of Bands, Timothy Daniels
Dick Zentner with the Norwin HS Directors
Mr. Richard “Dick” Zentner has not only been a booster, pit crew dad, equipment truck driver, logistics specialist, prop construction crew member, volunteer coordinator, Vice President of the Norwin Band Aides, President of the Band Aides, Norwin band historian and Director of Operations during his time with the Norwin band, Mr. Zentner has been a true advocate of music education and a champion of every student.
“Year after year, rehearsal after rehearsal, performance after performance, Dick is there doing what needs to be done because he knows the importance of supporting the efforts of the student. Dick Zentner is the epitome of a dedicated band booster.” – Linda Hancock, Norwin Band Staff 1985-2001
Norwin students, directors and fellow boosters supporting Dick Zentner at the Parent/Booster Award Ceremony
Read more about Patrick John Hughes and his family and the Parent/Booster Award at www.musicforall.org, where you can also find out how to nominate the exceptional parent or booster in your music program.
Learn more about the award and how to submit a nomination
Watch the Video of the Award Presentation
The performances at the 2013 Band of America Grand National Championships did not disappoint. Students from 91 bands blew away over 10,000 spectators with incredible dedication and talent. Whether you want to re-live the experience or see what it is like behind-the-scenes, be sure to check out MusicforAllTV.
Many videos were posted during and after the event including features of each finalist band. Congratulations to everyone involved in the competitions this fall. Grand Nationals was a legendary culmination to a legendary season!
Today's guest post is from Larry Harper, Jr. Thank you, Larry for allowing us to share your thoughts on the 2013 Grand National Championships!
Seeing smaller bands go out and completely win over the crowd inside a massive stadium.
Witnessing so many countless acts of complete selflessness you don't even bother trying to note them all.
Although the performance might be the highlight of the trip for many bands, I guarantee that the experiences had from the time they arrived in the parking lot, until they left on Saturday night were unlike any found elsewhere and had very little to do with competition.
Competition is healthy and has its place in our activity. It pushes us to work harder and to achieve things we never thought possible, but at Grand Nationals, its about the common bond and experience that all of those performers, parents and staff shared.
Those life-changing experiences are what makes the event great.
Not the props, not the giant eagle, not even the stadium. The fist-bump, the high-five, the "Good Luck".
It's not just being able to have the opportunity to perform at the highest level; its about being supported by, and sharing the experience with 90 other bands.
Regardless of who we are, this week we're all just a stadium full of 'band kids.'
- Larry Harper, Jr.
Larry Harper, Jr. has spent the majority of the last fifteen years living in the Triangle area of North Carolina and filling a variety of roles in the marching-arts world. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Carolina Gold, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a stimulating and rewarding social experience by promoting responsibility and self-discipline through music education, competitive performance and community engagement. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Larry served as the Assistant Marching Percussion Instructor to the UNC Athletic Bands program in addition to serving as a visual instructor and drill writer for a variety of other area programs. Larry has spent a significant amount of time in service to organizations such as Winter Guard International and Music for All as well as having coordinated events in partnership with Drum Corps International.
This weekend is Music for All's 38th Annual Bands of America Grand National Championships. Gary Markham explains why Music for All's Bands of America Championships were developed so many years ago and why they are so important and impactful for students.