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Today's guest post is from our 2012 Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster Award Winner - PJ Littleton from Franklin, Tennessee. Learn more about the Parent/Booster Award here.

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Everything I ever needed to know, I learned at Band Camp.

"Let me leave you with this piece of advice: Set your goals high because it is very likely that you will achieve them. Make sure that whatever you aspire to do with your life (and it won't be marching band) that it is noble and worthy of the time and investment that you will make in it. If you compromise this, I promise you that in the end you will feel empty and disappointed for not challenging yourself to be all that your potential would have allowed. Don't let this happen.  You are better than this. Give your life away for something good!"

I sat restlessly fidgeting in my seat in the Creative Arts Center Concert Hall at West Virginia University while these words were being spoken from the dimly lit stage by then Director of Bands, the legendary Don Wilcox. I just wanted to get outside, learn drill, play my horn. Hey, it was the first day of Band Camp. This was no time for a long lecture. Let's get on the field and do this!

Our "Chief" knew better.

Funny how thirty-four years later I have long since forgotten my dots in the drill, but these wise words still resonate deep within my core and have helped guide and shape me as a man, as a husband and as a father. This is just one of many lessons I learned while buzzing my pursed lips behind a mouthpiece.

Today you can find me in Franklin, Tennessee, straddling myself between two bands, The Hillsboro Middle School Band and The Franklin High School Band where I respectively serve as Band Booster President and VP of Fundraising. These days have become the days of my life as I aim to apply everything I learned from being in the band so long ago, now for the betterment of not only my two band kids but for the other 339 kids that I love.

Honestly, I'm tired. Really tired. I am sitting in the back row of the balcony of the fabulous restored Franklin Theatre right now, my face aglow from my iPad, listening to FHS alum and daughter of Vince Gill, Jenny Gill perform for a Franklin Football fundraising music event called "Punt, Pass and Pick.” Jenny just spoke of how much it meant to her attending Franklin High where she kept so busy with cheerleading et al that she was able to stay out of trouble and make great memories of her time in school. Some of our current Franklin Band set the tone tonight, kicking off the evening lining the aisles with spirited Rebel music to energize the crowd as they so ably do!

It's been mentioned more than once between songs how laudable it is that our Franklin parents care enough about their children to go to such great lengths to provide the very best experiences for them. We have been able to establish an inspirational and cooperative culture that will nourish not only the football program tonight but the equally admired (and respected) band program as well. This is a rare and wonderful thing--we are so blessed that we can boast of this.

The 45 graduated seniors from last season's BOA Jacksonville Regional Champions and Grand Nationals semi-finalist Franklin Band collectively received in excess of $5.6 million dollars in scholarship funds. This is an average of $125,000 per musician scholar! I contend that they too may have learned a few things at Band Camp as they now embark on the next season of their young lives.

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Core Value #1 at The Franklin Band is Community -- "The community in which we live and our own community within Franklin High School shape who we are and in return, we shape it." I witnessed community at its finest tonight as I sat next to a fellow band booster executive board member as he shared band challenges and victories with a football booster standing behind him, listening with mutual appreciation, admiration and respect.

These are some of the things that I learned about life at Band Camp and this is indeed all I ever needed to know. And you know Mr. Wilcox, as it turns out, it was all about marching band for me after all!

"The only ones among you that will really be happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." -- Albert Schweitzer

 

- PJ Littleton

 

We thank PJ for his perspective, the Franklin community is lucky to have such a great advocate! To learn more about PJ, read his 2012 Parent/Booster award story. Know an amazing advocate of your music program? Learn more about the Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster award and how to nominate someone here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BOA Regional Championship at Monroeville

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Congratulations to all of the bands who participated in the 2013 BOA Regional Championship at Monroeville! While the weather was somewhat unaccomodating to us last Saturday, everyone took it in stride and made the day fantastic. As our good friend Chuck Henson pointed out on the BOA Facebook wall, "It certainly was a challenging day. But everyone pulled together and made it happen. No Rain or fog could stop the #excellence on Saturday! Congratulations to all!"

So again, congratulations to all who were a part of the Monroeville Regional. Directors, students, parents, staff, volunteers and fans - thank you for showcasing excellent attitudes and leadership. You truly were legendary!

Here are some photos from both the Prelims and Finals awards ceremony as well as a few photos taken by our staff. Looking for more action photos of your band? Jolesch Enterprises will have photos available on their website coming soon - so make sure youcheck here for group photos as well as action shots that they took at the event.

Looking for Results and Scores from the event? You can find those here. Shout out to our 2013 Monroeville Regional Champions: Norwin H.S.!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BOA Regional Championship at Kettering

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Congratulations to all of the bands who participated in the 2013 BOA Regional Championship at Kettering! A very special thanks to our hosts, Kettering Fairmont High School, it was a wonderful day and we couldn't have done it without all of the fantastic volunteers who helped us out all day!

Here are some photos from both the Prelims and Finals awards ceremony as well as a few photos taken by our staff. Looking for more action photos of your band? Jolesch Enterprises will have photos available on their website coming soon - so make sure you check here  for group photos as well as action shots that they took at the event.

Looking for Results and Scores from the event? You can find those here. Shout out to our 2013 Kettering Regional Champions: William Mason H.S.!

 

Can't view this slideshow? Click here.

 

As we kick off the Bands of America Regional Championships this weekend in Kettering and Monroeville, the 2013 Bands of America Grand National Championships will be here in less than two months! This Throwback Thursday, I thought I would share my first Grand Nationals experience, as a member of the 2005 Centerville Jazz Band:

BLUESprintWhen my family moved to Centerville, Ohio my sophomore year of high school, the marching band was the first and only orientation to Centerville High School I needed. Coming from a small, rural school band that marched high-step and played pop tunes, the Bands of America world I stepped into was new and fascinating. For the first time, staff members were paying attention to every detail of my posture, movement and sound quality. At nearly every rehearsal, some mention of “The Dome” was included as we perfected our production, “BLUESprint.” “You’ll never forget the air lock at the Dome,” said most of my new friends. The hundreds of hours of rehearsal would supposedly be worth it once I reached “The Dome.”

As the evening rehearsals grew darker and colder, three months and an incredible first season with the Centerville Jazz Band was nearly finished. “Rock the Dome” posters for each section covered the hallway leading to the band room, filled with cheering band parents to send us off to Indianapolis. I knew something would be special about Grand Nationals after I learned that we would be attending a marching band competition instead of playing for the playoff football game that same weekend.

We boarded the buses Thursday morning, and I could barely stand the three months of anticipation. From the highway, I can remember first spotting the white roof of the RCA Dome. The indoor warm-up area was unlike anything I had experienced before. Hearing the other ensembles warming up across the pipe and drapes was hectic and distracting, and my nerves got the best of me. As we all gathered into the airlock, completely silent, our director gave us the last motivating words before our performance. “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel,” said Andrew Markworth. This phrase was handed down from Centerville Jazz Band to Centerville Jazz Band, creating a common experience for all alumni to relate. As the airlock opened and our wide eyes looked toward the fans, the expansive field and the incredible dome, everything clicked. We were able to hold everything together while soaking in one of the most life-changing experiences to-date.

Celebrate AmericaWe returned to Ohio for classes on Friday, but departed for Indianapolis after classes for the Prelims Award Ceremony. The RCA Dome was filled to the brim with students, parents and fans late Friday night to watch the 2004 Grand National Champion Lawrence Central and the exhibition Stephenson H.S. Marching Bands perform. The energy in the crowd was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. After prelims awards were presented and over 30 bands were announced for Semi-Finals, we headed to Pan Am Plaza for “Celebrate America!” The Riverside Community College and Stephenson High School bands provided entertainment as we awaited the performance order for the next day. For the finale of the evening, a spectacular fireworks display left us with “oohs” and “aahs” as we walked back to the buses. I was in complete disbelief that a marching band contest could warrant a fireworks display, let alone thousands of fans and a professional football stadium.

Saturday morning was a whirlwind of well wishes as we prepared for our Semi-Finals performance. The surroundings were more familiar this time, but the phrase was the same: “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel.” We were extremely fortunate to perform our show once more on Saturday night. There were quite a few tears in that last trip through airlock, but “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel” remained. After the performance, I watched our peers from across the country perform with such precision and passion I had not witnessed before, including Carmel’s unbelievable visual feats in “Suspended Symbols” and L.D. Bell’s incredible musical performance of “Lux Arumque.”

The Grand Finale celebration was a perfect capstone to the music-filled weekend. I can still remember distinctly my principal placing my finalist medallion during the ceremony. The intense emotions felt during that ceremony are still unmatched today, especially those final words from Chuck Henson, “Go for it – Break Ranks!” I met fellow high school musicians from across the country, sharing in the common Bands of America experience. Each of us embodied the positively-life changing experiences that made Bands of America events so special. After high school, I decided to pay forward my incredible experiences by volunteering at a Bands of America Regional. Six years later, I’m still involved and still indebted to Music for All’s mission, vision and core values. As a volunteer, intern, event staff and employee, I have constantly sought to continue the positively life-changing experiences I was afforded in high school.

Break Ranks!

Do you have a memory from your first Grand National Championships or other BOA event? Share it with us in the comments!

 

-Seth

 

Seth Williams is the Development Coordinator at Music for All. Seth is no stranger to Music for All and Bands of America – first as a participant and as an intern in Development and Participant Relations. He is a graduate of Butler University and previously worked in the Broadway theatre industry in New York. A proud alumnus of “The Centerville Jazz Band,” Seth is likely the biggest band nerd he knows.


Today I nearly forgot about Throwback Thursday. It was a day full of writing and formatting our e-newsletter and spending way too much time looking at lines of code to make sure everything was just right (by the way- keep a look out for your September e-newsletter hitting your email Saturday morning!)

But the good news is, I remembered. Throwback Thursday is probably one of my favorite things to do- so I didn’t mind having to quickly skim through a few piles of photos I pulled from an archive box last week.

As I was flipping through photos- this one made me pause right away. There was something about the faces in this photo that just drew me in.

Plymouth Canton 1990This is Plymouth Centennial Education Park (Plymouth-Canton, Michigan) in 1990 after they were announced as the Grand National Champions. Under the direction of Glen Adsit, they came in first place with a score of 95.35

So what strikes me about this photo?

It’s so familiar. When I saw this photo I couldn’t help but smile. The happiness on their faces just jumps out at you.  I’ve seen those looks before.

carmelDo you see what I mean? This is a photo of the Carmel High School Marching Greyhounds after they were announced as the 2012 Grand National Champions. 22 years between these photos. But the look on their faces is the same: pure joy.

Uniform styles change, hairstyles definitely change- but the joy felt when you are a Bands of America Grand National Champion is timeless!

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Do you have a BOA memory from 1990? Share it with us in the comments!

 

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Erin Fortune is the Marketing Coordinator focusing on digital marketing at Music for All, and has been working with Music for All for three years, first in the Participant Relations department and now in marketing. She is a graduate from the Music Industry Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and is a former Percussive Arts Society Intern and a Yamaha Corporation of America, Band and Orchestral Division Intern.

Friday, September 06, 2013

There’s Nothing Casual About the Big Band

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Today's guest post is from Caleb Chapman, award-winning performer, author, music educator and producer and the 2014 Conductor of the Jazz Band of America, part of the Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha.

 new calebI have been blessed to have many fantastic mentors in my path to become the musician and educator I am today. Two of my absolute favorites are the legendary John Clayton and Dr. Lou Fischer. So, you can imagine how much of an honor it was when I was invited to follow both of them as director of MFA’s Jazz Band of America!

MFA has asked for me to describe a bit about my approach to directing a big band. While there are dozens of philosophies I espouse, there are two that immediately jump to mind.

Improvisation Defines Even Big Band Jazz
It is becoming harder and harder to identify what styles of music fall under the umbrella of jazz. But to me, the one constant is the element of improvisation. While many people associate this strictly with soloists, I love to carry it over into the actual performance by the big band as a whole.

As a matter of fact, as a director, I love to “play” the band like an instrument. I actually practice directing in the same way I do my sax, and take it just as seriously. Changing the dynamics of a section or the form of a chart on the spot creates a spontaneous excitement that the audience can feel. Altering the feel or texture behind a soloist creates new sonic environments to explore. The musicians become engaged at a much higher level than simply playing notes on a page.

While not squarely in the jazz wheelhouse, I had the opportunity to see this in action with a different type of band last week when I got to hang with Dave Matthews and my very good friend, GRAMMY-winning saxophonist, Jeff Coffin, at the Dave Matthews Band’s Utah concert. As I was watching the show from backstage, I was given in-ear monitors that allowed for a unique concert experience as I could hear everything the band said to one another during the show.

It was exciting to watch as Dave would change the form of the tunes on the spot, stretching solos or vamping. Drummer Carter Beauford would frequently give audible cues on how many hits the band would play. And the horn section of Jeff and Rashawn Ross would improvise backing figures for the soloists.

All of these elements kept the musicians on stage focused and playing at their highest level, creating a performance for the audience that night that will never be replicated in exactly the same way – a gift to the 17,000+ plus in attendance. That is the beauty of improvised music!

Chasing the Perfect Performance
One of my musical heroes, saxophonist Branford Marsalis said, “Humans are imperfect… We’re on the quest for the perfect performance and every note has to be right. Man, every note is not right in life.” While I agree that there will never be a perfect performance, I don’t think that should keep us from trying! I think because of its perceived loose nature, too often big band music doesn’t receive the diligent attention its classical big brother does. In actuality, there is absolutely nothing casual about a big band performance!

We all want to have the treasured “tight” band. One challenge has been that there is currently no universally accepted method to approaching the notated jazz language. I'm sure other big band directors can agree: it is critical that every musician on the bandstand interpret the charts the exact same way. Over the years, I collected some standard practices to approaching articulation, which has helped my students become unified while playing. This has made a huge difference because it allowed my students follow some key rules so that we can afford the space to improvise and play "within the lines" (Jeff Coffin and I recently published these methods in our book, "The Articulate Jazz Musician").

Once the language is defined, the other aspects of the music can be tackled. As they say, the devil IS in the details. Polishing dynamics, intonation, and groove allow the music to be played as the composers were envisioning. THAT is the difference between a pro band and a student ensemble, not the age level of the musicians. Is it possible to have high school aged musicians play like pros? Absolutely! Our Crescent Super Band here in Utah made up entirely of musicians ages 15-18 has been named Utah’s “Best Professional Band” in any style for 8 years running.

The Payoff
Directing a big band is one of the most fulfilling challenges in music education and getting the students motivated, challenged, and consistent is truly the best part. One of my favorite moments during a show is when the set is coming to a close and the band is at its peak energy. There really is no other experience in my life that quite compares with it! I am excited to be part MFA’s Jazz Band of America and can't wait to work with the talented musicians in this amazing ensemble. See you in Indianapolis!

 

-Caleb Chapman

Caleb Chapman is an award-winning performer, author, music educator and producer. For more information on Caleb's projects and educational innovations visit CalebChapmanMusic.com.

 

Learn more about the Jazz Band of America

Applications to be considered for the 2014 Jazz Band of America are due September 15th- download an application today!

 

1985 Trophies

I know everyone was eagerly anticipating this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday. Well I’m happy to report that this week we are once again taking you back into BOA history.

Finding today’s throwback was no simple task. I searched through boxes of photos for something that represented 1985. I found thousands of other gems from before 1985 and after 1985 (you’ll see some of those in the coming weeks), but today 1985 was evading me. I pressed on because 1985 was a significant year and I wanted to showcase it.

1985 holds significance for a couple of reasons. 1985 was the year that BOA was “Soaring Into a New Decade” for their 10-year anniversary celebration!

But, today I chose 1985 for another reason.

September 5th, marks another anniversary in BOA history. Today is Debbie Laferty Asbill’s (our VP of Marketing and Communications) work anniversary. Debbie started working for Music for All (when Music for All was MBA) in 1985 as the Promotions Coordinator.

Staff photo- 85ish

This is a MBA staff photo- I don't believe it was 1985, but pretty sure it was close! Debbie is in the front in the white.

For 28 years Debbie has been the creative mind behind Music for All’s brand and marketing initiatives. I know that I can confidently speak for everyone here at Music for All- we are so glad she made the decision to join the team back in 1985, and we are thrilled that she is here today, continuing on the tradition of excellence.


Happy Work Anniversary Debbie!

 

Do you have a BOA memory from 1985? Share it with us in the comments!

 

 

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Erin Fortune is the Marketing Coordinator focusing on digital marketing at Music for All, and has been working with Music for All for three years, first in the Participant Relations department and now in marketing. She is a graduate from the Music Industry Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and is a former Percussive Arts Society Intern and a Yamaha Corporation of America, Band and Orchestral Division Intern.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday: 1984

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1984 Throwback

 

In today's throwback I want to take us all the way back to 1984, before Music for All was Music for All. 1984 marked a major turning point in history for this organization. Formerly part of a parent company, BOA separated to become a new self-supporting organization renamed Bands of America. This was also the year when Scott McCormick became executive director and when BOA filed for not-for-profit status.

But this photo we have chosen for today's throwback represents yet another big event in Bands of America history.

1984 was also the year when Grand Nationals moved to the newly completed Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, IN. This photo features Norwin High School (PA) who were the 1984 Open Class Champions. They placed 2nd overall with a score of 90.85.
 
Do you have memories of marching in the Hoosier Dome!? Share them with us in the comments!

Have a suggestion for Throwback Thursday? Let me hear it, I'd love to feature your favorite MFA/BOA memory- just send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 


Erin Fortune is the Marketing Coordinator focusing on digital marketing at Music for All, and has been working with Music for All for three years, first in the Participant Relations department and now in marketing. She is a graduate from the Music Industry Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and is a former Percussive Arts Society Intern and a Yamaha Corporation of America, Band and Orchestral Division Intern.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Student Feature: Welcome back, Lucas!

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At the 2012 Grand National Championships we shared a story about our friend, Lucas Santos, from Cary Senior H.S.  in North Carolina. Lucas was in the hospital recovering from a heart transplant while his band was marching at Grand Nationals.

Watch that story here:



We are happy to report that Lucas is doing great and is back with his band for the upcoming fall season! Thanks to Tabitha, a Cary Senior band parent, who sent us this photo of Lucas marching during band camp (and to Lucas’ mom for giving us permission to share it with the rest of the BOA family!)

Lucas 
On behalf of all of us at Music for All, welcome back, Lucas! We can’t wait to see you and the rest of the Cary Senior band this fall!



Have a story or a photo you want to share with our community of music education advocates? We'd love for you to share! Send us a message on Facebook, or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.! 

 

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Erin Fortune is the Marketing Coordinator focusing on digital marketing at Music for All, and has been working with Music for All for nearly three years, first in the Participant Relations department and now in marketing. She is a graduate from the Music Industry Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and is a former Percussive Arts Society Intern and a Yamaha Corporation of America, Band and Orchestral Division Intern.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In memory of Tom Barnett

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As many in the Indianapolis community have heard, a great man and music advocate, Tom Barnett, passed away earlier this month.

In his years of service as a volunteer with the Ben Davis High School Marching Giants, Tom Barnett saw state and national titles, performances in the most prestigious parades in the United States, a performance at the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan and of course, a countless number of BOA appearances.

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As Gary Wishmeyer, Supervisor of Music Education Students at Indiana University, said “He loved our days of competing at BOA in Johnson City, as this would give him a few days to visit with other competing band parents and equipment crews from around the nation to share ideas and to build friendships. He was a great good will ambassador for Ben Davis and the bands from the state on Indiana”

In 2011 Tom was the much deserving recipient of the Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster award. (Read Tom’s Parent/Booster story here.)

In a recent email, Ben Davis director David Cole told us:

“We would like to thank Music for All for helping us honor Tom as the Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster Award recipient in 2011. Tom always felt so special for being recognized nationally. Tom asked me once, "How the heck did BOA hear about me?"  We would just tell him that sometimes a person's actions are just too big to go unnoticed. You really made a hard working, selfless volunteer feel like a million dollars. Thanks!"

Rain-or-Shine-He is always there for usWhen someone like Tom Barnett is nominated for the Patrick John Hughes Parent/Booster Award- it is the LEAST we can do, to help showcase all of what they have been doing to support music education. In 2011 we had many deserving nominations for the Parent/Booster award, but in our opinion, Tom's nomination video was particularly special. One of the elements that stuck out to us were the STUDENTS who we heard on the video, expressing what a huge role Tom played in the success of the Ben Davis Marching Giants. The video ends with several students saying "We love him, we love him, we love you Tom."  It truly was a beautiful video and just spoke volumes to what Tom meant to the Ben Davis Marching Giants community.

We want to share that video with you:


Tom’s hard work, selflessness and true love of his time spent with the Ben Davis Marching Giants did NOT go unnoticed. Tom was not only a beloved member of the Ben Davis Band and the Indianapolis community- he was a member of the Music for All/ Bands of America family.

Laura Blake, Events Manager at Music for All has many fond memories of Tom, even before she became an MFA staff member.

"I had the privilege of knowing Tom since I was a little girl. I was a follower of the Ben Davis Band program well before I ever started playing an instrument. I'm convinced that Tom, even at my young age at the time, taught me the best ways to load and pack a truck. I was that little kid who always wanted to help, and the skills I learned from Tom come in handy time and time again with my work for Music for All. But even through high school (and I wasn't a BD Kid by the way), college, and later my work at Music for All; I always looked for Tom at shows and events. I'd find him scoping out the lay of the land, always with a big smile and a hug, wishing everyone participating to have a great show!"

This post is in memory of a great booster, advocate and most importantly, a great human being. Everyone at Music for All feels fortunate to have crossed paths with Tom, and to call him a member of the Music for All family over the years. The Music for All staff, event staff, competing bands, EVERYONE who came across the Ben Davis Band, will all be missing Tom this fall. Our thoughts are with Tom's family and the whole Ben Davis Community, and as the Ben Davis students so eloquently put it in their nomination video two years ago, "We Love You, Tom."

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