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The Music for All Blog

Stories (282)

Written with assistance from Michael Reed.


November 12, 2016
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

The Bands of America Grand National Championships Finals in Lucas Oil Stadium was a grand ending to the beginning of BOA’s second 40 years. Once again, Yamaha presented the four days of events in Indianapolis, continuing a mission of music education support that is second to none. For the first time, in 2016, all BOA Championships were live-streamed online by, helping celebrate the most Championships BOA has ever held in the fall with 21 events.

The Grand National Championships is far from the end of Music for All’s yearlong season. The Music for All National Festival will be in Indianapolis, March 9-11, 2017. After schools let out for the summer, the Music for All Leadership Weekend Experience will be held at Ball State University June 24-25, 2017, followed at the same location by the Music for All Summer Symposium June 26-July 1. The Grand National Championships will return to Indianapolis November 8-11, 2017.

In the Indianapolis Marching Band Tournament, held on Wednesday night, November 9, Arsenal Technical HS captured 1st place in the Corps Style division, also winning honors for Best General Effect and Best Visual Performance. Emmerich Manual HS took 2nd place, and George Washington HS took the award for Best Musical Performance. Broad Ripple HS took 1st place in the Show Style division, also capturing honors for Best Music Performance and Best General Effect. Crispus Attucks Magnet HS took 2nd place while taking the award for Best Visual Performance.

In addition to the competition on the field among the Indianapolis Public Schools bands, the schools also vie for the coveted Spirit Award, which includes a $1,000.00 scholarship and is awarded to the school demonstrating the best enthusiasm and support for their band. Crispus Attucks Magnet H.S. was named the winner of the award.

After 100 bands competed in Prelims on Thursday and Friday, the following 36 bands (listed in performance order) advanced into Semi-Finals: North Hardin HS (KY), Adair County HS (KY), Williamstown HS (KY), Archbishop Alter HS (OH), Milton-Union HS (OH), Reeths-Puffer HS (MI), Lockport Township HS (IL), Ayala HS (CA), Green Hope HS (NC), O'Fallon Township HS (IL), Ronald Reagan HS (TX), James F. Byrnes HS (SC), Wando HS (SC), Claudia Taylor Johnson HS (TX), Marian Catholic HS (IL), Avon HS (IN), Owasso HS (OK), Castle HS (IN), William Mason HS (OH), Union HS (OK), Bellevue West HS (NE), Dobyns-Bennett HS (TN), Leander HS (TX), Franklin HS (TN), Cedar Park HS (TX), Center Grove HS (IN), Carmel HS (IN), Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (MI), ), Homestead HS (IN), Lawrence Township HS (IN), Tarpon Springs HS (FL), Vista Murrieta HS (CA), James Bowie HS (TX), Fort Mill HS (SC), Clovis West HS (CA), and Columbus North HS (IN).

After the performances of all Semi-Finals bands and the exhibition of the Ohio State University Marching Band, caption highest achievement awards and caption placement awards were presented to the top bands in each of the four competitive Semi-Finals classes.

In Class AAAA, 1st place Avon HS took Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect, and 3rd place William Mason HS took Outstanding Visual Performance. In between was 2nd place Carmel HS. In Class AAA, 1st place Leander HS took all three caption awards, sharing Outstanding General Effect with 2nd place Cedar Park HS. Castle HS finished in 3rd place. In Class AA, 1st place Tarpon Springs HS took all three caption awards, followed by 2nd place Marian Catholic HS and 3rd place North Hardin HS. In Class A, 1st place Adair County HS took all three caption awards, followed by 2nd place Williamstown HS and 3rd place Archbishop Alter HS.

The Finalist bands were randomly announced as being Carmel HS, Leander HS, Avon HS, Claudia Taylor Johnson HS, Cedar Park HS, Tarpon Springs HS, Marian Catholic HS, Homestead HS, Wando HS, William Mason HS, Ronald Reagan HS, Dobyns-Bennett HS, and Castle HS. For the first time in BOA Grand Nationals history, there were 13 bands in Finals due to a tie for 12th place in Semifinals.

Representatives from each band drew for their performing position in Finals in two blocks; the 7th-12th place bands followed by the 1st-6th place bands. (Prior to 2016, all Finalist bands drew for position in one block.) Finals performances concluded with an exhibition performance by Class A Champion Adair County HS, as Class Champions present an exhibition in Finals if they aren’t in the top-12.

Other special awards included Tom Hannum receiving the George N. Parks Leadership Award. The Yamaha Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Watt of Bentonville HS (AR), the Fred J. Miller Family Scholarship went to Olivia Klein of Norton HS (OH), and the Fred J. Miller Memorial Scholarship went to Lesly Hinojosa of Roma HS (TX). The Al Castronovo Espirit de Corps Award was presented to the Vista Murrieta HS (CA). Ronald Reagan HS (TX) received an invitation to perform at the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Avon HS was awarded both the Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding Visual Performance Awards, and Carmel HS took the award for Outstanding General Effect. Because Carmel won GE, they were declared the 2017 BOA Grand Nationals National Champion when it was announced that both Carmel and Avon tied with the highest score, being that General Effect is used to break any ties in any of Finals placements.


Carmel HS, 1st place: 97:45

One could be forgiven for wondering why Carmel was so small at the beginning of “Adagio-Presto.” Suddenly, the band appeared to double in size in this production that had no particular theme, celebrating music for music’s sake. Reflecting the show title, brass on one side of the field moved in slow curvilinear forms while brass on the other side moved at an accelerated tempo, resolving in a huge glorious show-ending statement.

Avon HS, 2nd place: 97.45

Kinetic sculptures inspired by Burning Man Festival enhanced the Americana music of “Go Forth,” based on the Walt Whitman poem, “Pioneer, O Pioneer,” which was heard throughout. The program explored the restlessness and adventurousness of youth—as well as the ongoing desire to explore the unknown—by employing the inviting wide-open expanses of the western United States as a thematic motif for manifest destiny.

William Mason HS, 3rd place: 96.55

The music of Samuel Barber and multitudes of giant rolling bubbles helped William Mason achieve its first GN placement in the top-3 with “World Out of Balance.” The bubbles rolled around the field like giant tumbleweeds, each swallowing up a member of the band. The juxtaposition of Barber’s music with a continual visual so wacky, and yet so captivating, allowed this show to roll over the audience as well as the marchers.

Tarpon Springs HS, 4th place: 95.70

“Pandora” studied the ancient Greek story of the first woman on earth, who unleashed all the troubles of the world through her curiosity and subsequent opening of a container full of various miseries. She inadvertently let everything escape the box except Hope, which popped out of the box at the end bedazzled with a giant white peacock-like silk, suggesting there was still a chance of she and all humanity becoming free.

Cedar Park HS, 5th place: 95.30

Eerily spooky and impishly fun, “All Hallows’ Eve” (“Halloween”) delighted with its wry mischievousness, pitting smiling Jack-o’-lanterns (the treats) counter to their more sinister twins (the tricks), each taking turns popping up and just as quickly disappearing. Maneuvering amidst the sticky threads of a giant spider web, flying bats had their way until the sun arose, demonstrating everyone survived the night.

Leander HS, 6th place: 94.65

“The Fourth Dimension” explored the fascinating mathematical field of Euclidean geometry, enhanced by cube props and sets, with many of the flags emblazoned with images of cubes. Rotating 3-D cubes manipulated by the guard and the winds revealed new shapes when viewed from the changing perspective of different angles, the morphing of the shapes further reflected in the continual morphing of the sonic landscape.

Ronald Reagan HS, 7th place: 91.85

“One Love” explored the need to love and embrace the diversity in the world, celebrating how the inclusion of others from all different walks of life adds value to our existence. Shocking to the eyes and brain was when the dresses worn by the massive guard all changed from either pink or blue to yellow in the blink of an eye. The show ended with the band forming a giant hand on the field, reflecting the hands imprinted upon the flags.

Wando HS, 8th place: 91.50

Cataclysmic has never been as much fun as the opener of “Gorgon” suggested in the cerebral production of “Therefore,” which encouraged us to question everything, but only after thinking about it to the nth degree. From “Violence of the Mind” to the reassuring strains of “How Great Thou Art,” the thoughts and words of famous philosophers through the millennia were intimidating, challenging, and ultimately encouraging.

Claudia Taylor Johnson HS, 9th place: 91.30

One could be forgiven for thinking that if a dance had ever been created, there was a good chance it had been snuck into “flashDANCE” somewhere. The show was all about dance, the dancers controlled by a DJ overlooking the dance floor from his platform. Hints of dances of long-ago centuries led into the jazz era of flappers, to the refined artistry of prim ballerinas and throbbing head banging to the latest pop hits.

Castle HS, 10th place: 91:05

In mythology, Sirens were stunning female creatures who lured sailors to their demise upon jagged rocks with the beauty of their irresistible voices. “A Siren’s Song” explored the interplay between such a creature and her unsuspecting prey, the sailor quickly learning that resistance was futile as he reluctantly-yet-willingly joined the Siren in a flute duet prior to being led by the hand to the destiny of the unforgiving rocks.

Homestead HS, 11th place: 91.00

“A Time to Turn” was based on the lesson of Ecclesiastes 3, which inspired the folk song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” LED lights on tree sets changed colors as the show progressed through the times and seasons of life. These included the vibrant summer celebration of tender love, the caring autumn contemplation of mutual embracing, the harsh wintery chill of sorrowful weeping, and the festive spring jubilee of ecstatic dancing.

Marian Catholic HS, 12th place: 90:05

Completing the band’s 33-year unbroken string of being a Grand Nationals finalist, “Unbroken” explored the Japanese art of kintsugi (repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with precious metals) as a metaphor for healing after suffering tragic loss. Out of the chaos of disaster, life moves forward, reflected by the final commentary: “The world breaks everyone. Afterward, everyone is strong in the broken places.”

Dobyns-Bennett HS, 13th place: 89.45

“Echoes of Hope” served elegant old wine in sparkling new bottles by reinventing the music of Richard Wagner, allowing us to hear the master’s work from a novel perspective. Commencing with an unorthodox saxophone octet treatment of “Pilgrims’ Chorus,” the relatively abstract production Wagner-fied a couple contemporary works that one might suspect had been written under a pseudonym by a latter-day Wagner.

The marching band community was shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Castle High School’s Sophie Rinehart, who, along with her father and grandmother, lost her life in an auto accident on the way home from Indianapolis. All in attendance at Grand Nationals were uplifted by her ethereal voice, which will serve as a haunting reminder that life is fragile, must continually be cherished, and is a gift that can evaporate in a heartbeat. Debbie Laferty Asbill perfectly captured the essence of our collective grief with the following reflections on Sophie’s life, complete with a video from what no one could have suspected would be her last performance.

See the list of all Grand National Finals results, as well as all 2016 BOA Championship awards results.



Band people often talk about their “band family.” In the days following the 2016 Bands of America Grand Nationals it became clear that “family” extends beyond one’s own band and school to all of us who are alumni, band parents, and boosters.

Just hours after Sophie Rinehart’s standout feature performance with the Castle Marching Knights of Newburgh, Indiana in their first BOA Grand Nationals Finals appearance, her life was taken in a tragic car crash, along with her father and grandmother. Her older sister was injured.

Sophie’s vocal solo and flute duet during Castle’s 2016 show had moved audiences all fall. Grand Nationals was no exception. It seemed everyone, from the 100 participating bands and their supporters to those watching online and fans in the stands, was talking about “the singer with Castle.”

When news spread online Sunday that Sophie had passed away just hours after her Finals performance and celebrating Castle’s 10th place accomplishment with her fellow band members, the band world expressed its shock and sadness.

Condolences began pouring in from band parents, students, teachers, and fans from the Grand National bands and fans from across the country and around the world. Sophie’s vocal solo performance was of Sara Bareilles’ Gravity; Sara herself sent an email offering condolences to the Castle band.

Personally, after sharing the sad news and Music for All staff’s own sadness on the Bands of America Facebook page on Sunday, I was riveted to my computer screen the rest of that evening, finding some small comfort in the thousands of shares and comments from band programs nationwide. #weareallcastle became a way to share the pain and honor Sophie, her family, the Castle band, and the Newburgh community.

Bands of America interviewed many band directors and students during Grand Nationals. When we asked Castle band director Tom Dean to select a student representative for us to interview, he brought Sophie to the set. To honor her memory, and share her special gifts with the world, we are offering this video with portions of that interview and her final performance.

Special thanks to Tresona Multimedia for helping us to secure the rights to allow us to include a portion of the performance, and to Hansen Multimedia for donating the production of this video.

We remember Sophie and her unforgettable performance in Lucas Oil Stadium.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My day shadowing the Marketing Department

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Hello, my name is Madi Dornseif and I am a senior at Homestead H.S. in Fort Wayne, IN! I’m in the color guard and winter guard at Homestead, and I’m hoping to pursue a degree in Marketing. On October 19, I had the experience to job shadow Music for All in the Marketing Department. I quickly realized there is so much that goes into for preparing each show. I was able to sit by Lucy, one of the Marketing Coordinators, and see what she does on a busy day before a Super Regional Competition like making press kits, scheduling, and seeing what she does on the media side of Music for All. I even got to sit in a meeting with the Marketing Manager Erin Fortune, for the St. Louis Super Regional; it was very interesting to see all of the planning that goes it. Getting the experience really helped me with figuring out what I want to pursue as a career, hopefully someday I will be working with Music for All.

Check out the awards photos from the 2016 Bands of America Regional Championship at Plano, TX

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Check out the awards photos from the 2016 Bands of America Regional Championship at McAllen, TX

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Check out the awards photos from the 2016 Bands of America Regional Championship at Powder Springs, GA

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Intern Spotlight

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A look at our Spring Marketing Intern

Meet Nick Gonzalez!

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1. What is your hometown? City, State.

  • Fort Wayne, IN

2. Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • 2016 Graduate of Indiana University - Bloomington

3. What is your major/degree?

  • Major - Telecommunications with minors in Business and Music, and an Arts Administration Certificate.

4. What is your musical background? This could be instruments you play and involvement in musical activities such as choir, DCI, theatre, winter guard, ect…

  • I started playing music as a sophomore in high school. I joined the marching band because my best friend at the time convinced me to do it! I learned to play the tuba during marching and concert season, and simultaneously the bass trombone during jazz season. Since then, I have been heavily involved. In college, I participated in many ensembles including the IU Marching Hundred, All-Campus Band (on tuba, trombone, euphonium, percussion, and french horn), All-Campus Jazz, Big Red Basketball Band, Crabb Band (soccer band), Bloomington Community Band, the Bloomington Brass Band, and Hoosier Pops Orchestra.

5. What are you most looking forward to in your internship this spring?

  • I am looking forward to working in an arts organization and finally putting to use the knowledge I learned as an undergrad. Working with arts and arts education is something I strive for. I also look forward to the connection and opportunities that await me here!

6. What is an interesting fact about you?

  • This past summer I spent the semester studying abroad in Ireland, London, and Austria. It was a great time and from it came one very eventful story. Between my programs, I did some vacationing/photography in Scotland. I then planned out a bus route from Inverness, Scotland all the way to Graz, Austria. If everything went to plan, I would leave Thursday at 6 a.m. and arrive at 3 p.m. on Saturday. But of course, I didn’t. My bus ended up being four hours late in London. Then we got to Border Patrol and there was another four hour wait. Some of the other passengers and I went to the store and got dinner. When we came back, the bus had left and we had to chase after it. Eventually I made it to my transit stop at 6 a.m. in Bonn, Germany. Since I missed my transit time, I had to wait until the next bus to Munich, which wasn’t until 10 a.m. Two buses came between 10 and 12, but they said I couldn’t get on because I didn’t have the appropriate bus ticket. Around 12:30 p.m., I managed to convince the 3rd bus that came to let me on. Finally, I was on the home stretch. I made it to my last stop in Salzburg, Austria at 2 a.m. and had to wait until my last bus to Graz at 7 a.m. I made it safely to my school at noon on Sunday. It was a very long and stressful time, but at least I came out of the summer with a fun story!

7. Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • Melanie Martinez
  • Post Modern Jukebox
  • Earth, Wind and Fire

A look at the Fall 2016 Interns

Meet Conlon Griesmer, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Nashville, TN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Father Ryan H.S. (Go Irish!)
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville - Fall 2017 (Go Vols!)

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Human Resources Management: Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management

4) What is your musical background?

  • I played the trombone in middle school, and then I played baritone and tuba in high school. I played sousaphone in colege marching band and just finished a summer internship with DCI.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Broken Arrow H.S. 2009 "The Rite of Raptor" because I loved the music, and they made velociraptors cool before Jurassic World!

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am super excited to get to interact with the performers and their families!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • My first name is actually my mom's maiden name. In fact, one of my life goals is to meet another Conlon!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists?

  • I pretty much listen to whatever is on the radio...

Meet Maddie Fitzgerald, our Participant Relations Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Lenexa, Kansas

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Olathe H.S./Butler University 2016

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration with a concentration in music.

4) What is your musical background?

  • I played the french horn and mellophone in band orchestra and athletic bands. I was also a part of Kappa Kappa Psi and Pi Kappa Lambda.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Hard to say because I’ve never marched a BOA show, but probably one in Indy because I love Lucas Oil Stadium.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • Experiencing BOA for the first time while traveling all around the country.

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I traveled with Butler’s Basketball Band to NYC for the Big East Tournament in 2014 and 2015.

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • Sara Bareilles
  • Bastille
  • Walk the Moon

Meet Bryant Sharpley, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Avon, IN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • High School-Avon High School 
  • College-University of North Alabama

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor of Science in Music Education

4) What is your musical background?

  • I marched clarinet in high school at Avon. After that, I marched euphonium in college for six years at North Alabama. I was a leader in the symphony and wind ensemble. While working on my masters, I accepted a job teaching band and orchestra in Carmel, which lead me to moving back to Indiana.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • I'm going to go home team and say Avon 2013. When it comes to marching arts, I love louder, faster, and higher; and this show looked crazy fun. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I love Lawrence Central 2001. It was executed and designed with a subtle artistic quality that has rarely been touched before or after.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • As much as I love the administrative side of things, it's hard to beat a free trip to Long Beach

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • Before I decided on music education, I wanted to be a dentist or a biochemist, but there's nothing like seeing kids' faces light up when they finally "get it" or have the performance of their lives!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music. 

  • Panic! At the Disco
  • Celine Dion
  • Adele

Meet Hannah Carlson, our Participant Relations – Tournament of Roses Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Tallahassee, FL

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Lincoln H.S. 2012, Furman University 2016, Butler University 2018

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor's in Music Education from Furman University, Master's in Percussion Performance and Instrumental Conducting from Butler University

4) What is your musical background?

  • I started playing Clarinet in 2002, and switched to percussion my senior year in high school. I was in marching band for 8 years, including 3 years as Drum Major at Furman. I have played in Percussion Ensemble, Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble at Furman and Butler. This summer, I played in the John Psathas recording project with Omar Carmenates.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Avon HS 2010 "Iconoclash," because the musical combinations are unbelievable - who would have thought that a mashup of Led Zeppelin and Beethoven would work so well?!

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • Getting to know directors and students from around the country, and seeing the Honor Band march in the Rose Parade!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I was almost in the Jeopardy! College Tournament last fall, but the taping was in Los Angeles on the same day that I had a concert at Furman, so I had to stay and play the concert, which turned out to be really great!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • I can't pick just 3, but I'll try... Leonard Bernstein (Chichester Psalms), Ben Folds, Gustav Mahler (Sym. 2), and a special shoutout to Elliott Cole forHanuman's Leap

Meet Lyndee Stisher, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • LaPorte, IN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • LaPorte H.S. – 2011/Purdue University - 2015

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor’s in Health & Human Sciences, with my major being Hospitality and Tourism

4) What is your musical background? 

  • With my father being a band director, along with his involvement with DCI, ISSMA, and various other music organizations, that is what provoked my interest in music. I played the clarinet in concert bands and was in guard for 6 years.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Broken Arrow H.S. 2013 show “Utopia.” I love the music! But can I please be in Tarpon Springs or Carmel’s guard? #goals

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am most excited to make so many connections in an industry that has the same passion that I do. Most of all, I cannot wait to help make these events possible!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • My first name is my parent’s middle names put together! Mom: Teri Lynn + Dad: Mickey Dee = Lyndee!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • One Republic
  • Ben Rector
  • Disney Instrumental

Meet Claire Albrecht, our Marketing Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Franklin, TN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Franklin H.S., TN / University of South Carolina, 2018

3) What is your major/degree?

  •  Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Minor: Business Administration

4) What is your musical background? 

  • Flute from 6th to 12th grade. Drum Major for Music City Drum Corps 2014 and 2015. Drum Major for The Cadets 2016.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • L.D. Bell H.S. 2007, “Transcendents”. Transcendents was beautifully haunting. That program impacted the audience in such a unique way. I will never forget the first time I watched it; I just wish I had been able to watch it live. I think getting to perform that show would certainly  be a memorable experience.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am very excited to travel to shows! I am looking forward to covering the events and watching all of the different programs this season.

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I have been to 39 states and 17 countries!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  •  The Head and The Heart
  •  The Mowgli’s
  •  Nat “King” Cole

Hi! My name is Madeline Yost but my friends call me Maddie and I’d consider us friends already. Goshen, Indiana is my hometown which I have a lot of love for. Four generations of Yost’s have lived and worked in Goshen so everyone pretty much knows everyone at this point and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have lived there my whole life and wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t grow up with the atmosphere Goshen has. I spend most of my time in Muncie, Indiana where I attend Ball State University. I am currently studying Public Relations and Fashion and plan on graduating in the Spring of 2017. So far at Ball State, I have been apart of with NewsLink, Dance Marathon and Chi Omega sorority. I serve as the Webmaster for the Phi Epsilon chapter which is just a weird way to say Marketing and Technology chair. They prefer Webmaster, I prefer Social Media Princess.

My music background includes playing piano and cello, as well as singing in choir, show choir and multiple musicals. My mother is the choral director and music department chairperson at Goshen High School which is where I attended. She has 3 State Champion and 9 State Runner-up titles with her Advanced Crimson Choir as well as multiple grand champion titles from cities such as New York City, Toronto and Washington D.C. but no pressure as her daughter right? Okay...there wasn’t THAT much pressure because we both love music and bond over it. Whether it was her directing me in The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch or singing along to Adele on the radio, music helped make my mom my best friend.

If you’d like to know even more about me, I made a list below of some of my favorite things and not so favorite things. By the way, I’m a big advocate of lists.

Favorite Things

  • Being on the water
    The Chief ice cream
    Grey’s Anatomy
    Stargazing in the middle of a lake

Not So Favorite Things

  • The middle back seat of small cars
    Big piles of gross brown snow in parking lots

I also love the smell of coffee but not a huge fan of the taste, spending time at my lake house, eating breakfast food and have the honor of being maid of honor this summer for my best friend, Katie. I hope this gives you a better idea about who I am and what I love. I am so excited to be at MFA for the summer as a Marketing Intern. So if you’re ever in Goshen, Muncie or Downtown Indianapolis this summer and spot me, don’t be afraid to say hi!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thought Multi-Tasking

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(Or What I Learned About Painting From Playing the Viola)

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Recently, I purchased a home. It was built in the 1960s, and a lot of the features in the house seem to be original, or at least a good twenty to thirty years old. The house has great bones but really needed some updating. So, for the last few weeks, I have been painting, changing fixtures, replacing outlets and light switches, cleaning, and dealing with many other hands-on home-sprucing activities. As you may imagine, I have not had much desire or energy to practice the viola while doing all of this. But, throughout all of this, I did discover something interesting related to my viola-playing career.

See, as a violist, I think all of the time while I am playing, whether it be rehearsing with my trio or an orchestra, preparing for a solo recital, or especially when warming up. Other than the obvious things like, “What notes and dynamics am I playing?” I am constantly thinking about the following things: my bow hold, releasing unwanted tension in my shoulders or other parts of my body, which fingering will be easiest for the upcoming passage (or inversely, which will provide the greatest shifting or vibrato challenge—especially in boring orchestral parts!), whether or not I am clenching my jaw, vibrato connection between notes, “release and plop,”1 and a whole host of other considerations. is kind of “thought multi-tasking” within my brain is probably a normal occurrence for most musicians and one of the reasons I love to do “simple” activities, such as cycling, where there is basically only one thing to think about to execute the task accurately—staying upright!

So, a few weeks ago, as I was painting the trim in my living room, I was struck by how uncomfortable I was, up on the ladder, compressing myself toward the ceiling to get the edge of the paintbrush perfectly aligned with the trim, so as not to get any paint onto the ceiling. But I was getting paint on the ceiling, and it was so frustrating! Why was my normally steady hand so inaccurate? Why was I unable to execute this relatively simple task? And why did I care SO much if a little off-white trim paint got onto the white ceiling? I took a break and gave myself a chance to think about all of this.

See, this is my first house, and I care. As a perfectionist in just about all of the tasks I undertake, correctly painting the room in which I will spend the most time while at home is important. To me, the stakes were high. Because of this, I had been seriously clenching my jaw and had been holding tension throughout my body in an unconscious effort to control my motions and to do well.

High stakes and the desire to perform well: Sounds like any audition or performance situation, does it not? It turns out that, in my mind, painting the trim in my new living room was on the same level as performing the viola well. I climbed back up on my ladder and immediately felt my jaw clench. The ladder had taken on the likeness of the stage, and the painting had taken on the likeness of performing. I loosened my jaw, considered my body position, and decided to stand on the lower step so that I was not as contorted as before. I realized that I had been holding my breath while painting, so I made a conscious effort to breathe and continued to focus on my breathing as I again began to paint.

The “thought multi-tasking” that I mentioned earlier is something I often discuss with my students. Too often, students only think about one or two things while playing, and more often than not, they do not actively listen to the sounds they are producing. In an attempt to increase their awareness of many of the factors required to play the viola well, I ask them to list six items that they are trying to address. For example: stacked body (feet under knees under hips under shoulders), vibrato connection, relaxed jaw, loose thumbs, relaxed shifts, and breathe. I have them write these six items on a piece of paper and leave that paper on the music stand next to their music. I ask them to scan the paper before they start playing and in every rest or long note. As they start to memorize the six items, I ask them to imagine a cube, with an always-bouncing ball inside of it. Each surface of the cube contains one of these items, and each time the ball bounces against a surface, the student thinks about or executes the item listed on that surface. Because the ball within the cube does not bounce in the same order, the “thought multi-tasking” could go something like: “relaxed jaw, stacked body, loose thumbs, relaxed jaw, vibrato connection, relaxed shifts, loose thumbs, breathe, vibrato connection, etc.” It is difficult to do at first, and starting with a smaller list is perhaps a good idea. But in my experience, this “thought multi-tasking” is what helps students progress more quickly than if they get stuck in only two or three thoughts.

Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a mobile to which you could attach your own photographs. For a long time, it had pictures of good friends from college, but shortly after starting my job at Ball State, I thought that the mobile would be a perfect “thought multi-tasking” reminder. I created colorful cards with eight of the most common requests I make of my students: relaxed jaw, loose thumbs, squishy knees (misspelled on the mobile! I always spell it “squooshy”), breathe, taffy bow (i.e., right arm weight), round fingers (right pinky), center, and release and plop. The mobile now hangs in my office, right in eyesight of the music stand at which my students perform. With the room’s airflow, the mobile gently vacillates, so that different ideas are visible at different times. Since I hung it, many students have commented that a specific idea comes into sight and they remember to focus on that item. It is a fun and decorative element in my office that also serves a useful purpose.

As I stood there on my ladder-stage, holding my paintbrush-viola, I discovered that my mind had been in a place where I thought of myself as a novice painter, worried about my execution and afraid of making mistakes. Instead of thinking about the task, I was thinking about the judgment that I, as the outside observer of the finished work, would pass. All of the same unconscious habits that I had as a young violist were active in this novel venue. I was tense and mildly nervous, uncomfortable, unbalanced on my feet, and way too worried about the outcome of my painting. e task of painting the trim had taken on the resemblance of a scary viola audition. But then I realized that I could handle this otherwise-simple task by drawing on the years of experience I had in a much more difficult endeavor. My “thought multi-tasking” went something like: “breathe, relaxed jaw, slow stroke, breathe, balance,” and I was able to execute my trim-painting much more accurately than I had been able to before I started actively thinking about what I was doing and how my body was doing it.

When I look at my new living room now, I am quite proud of how it turned out. The paint is beautiful—especially the trim.



1. “Release and plop” is a Karen Tuttle Coordination reminder for loose finger action.

Reprinted courtesy of the Journal of the American Viola Society.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Camp Faculty Profile: Taylor Watts

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This is the first edition of a new series on our blog that we hope you'll find both fun and interesting! Each week we will highlight a new MFA Summer Symposium faculty member. 

Welcome to the very first edition of the Camp Faculty Profile series! Today I'd like to introduce you to Taylor Watts. This year will be Taylor's first year as an official faculty member on the BOA Drum Major Institute staff, but he is certainily no stranger to the MFA Summer Symposium! Taylor has experienced camp as a student, a SWAG team member, a Directors' Track Assistant, and now this year he is joining the ranks of our amazing faculty. We know Taylor will be a wealth of knowledge for all of those who are planning on participating in the BOA Drum Major Institute this year. Let's dive into getting to know Taylor, I hope you enjoy reading his responses as much as I did! 


Name: Taylor Watts

Camp Division: Drum Major Institute

Home Town: Kennesaw, GA

Current Location: Marietta, GA

Favorite Things About Being A Teacher:
I love watching students grow as human beings – learning to treat others with love and respect, to develop and pursue their passions, and to grapple with the inner workings of their own person. I definitely consider myself blessed to witness (and sometimes impact) the transformation of so many people during some of the most formative years of their lives.

Why do you like to come to the MFA Summer Symposium each year:
Having experienced the camp as a student, SWAG team member, Director Track Assistant, and now staff member, one thing always holds true of my time spent at Summer Symposium – no other place in my life challenges and supports me in being the best version of myself that I can possibly be like MFA. As Jamie Weaver, one of the SWAG team coordinators, always poses to our group: “We come here every summer to be who we are truly meant to be.”

What would you say to a student who was thinking about possibly coming to camp?
Take the leap, and bring any friend you care about! Camp will challenge you and provide opportunities that most people never have the chance to experience. The lessons and relationships that you’ll find here have the potential to change you in ways that you’d never imagine – they can truly change the entire course of your life!

Most memorable moment/interaction at camp?
Despite now serving as a staff member, I think my most cherished memory at camp still stems from my time as a student. I’ll certainly never forget my last evening together standing in the auditorium with my drum major squad embracing and shedding a few tears as we reminisced on several outstandingly life-changing years spent at this camp.

Funniest thing that has happened at camp?
It may be a bit silly, but I always enjoyed participating in the “everyday camp preparation” skit that the SWAG team puts on with Norm Ruebling. The crowd always got a kick out of our ridiculous outfits and choreography that we put together to over-accentuate our points – not to mention how difficult it was to hold a static pose in our crazy get-ups without laughing myself!

Favorite spot on Ball State's campus?
I love spending time under the bell tower, particularly in the evening. It’s such a beautiful structure.

What book are you reading right now?
Most of the books on my shelf right now have titles like The Five Love Languages and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work as I prepare for my quickly approaching wedding. Normally, however, I enjoy reading philosophy, psychology, and science articles, with the occasional high fantasy novel to spice things up.

What are you listening to right now?
Over the last few years I’ve gotten into primarily acoustic music to the tune of Nickel Creek, Fiction Family, and Mumford and Sons. I love the stories and sounds and am always impressed by the technical virtuosity of their more bluegrass-style songs.

What is ONE thing you recommend a student do at camp?
Normally I would suggest that students get outside their comfort zones and reach out to develop relationships with other campers (which they should ABSOLUTELY still do), but I have to say, as teacher as it sounds, I recommend HUGELY that all students write down every bit of wisdom that they hear during their conversations at camp (both with the staff and other students). Going back through my old binders of notes always inspires and reenergizes me, even years later – sometimes some of the truths sink in even deeper later in time.

What made you decide to be a teacher?
Truth be told, I had originally planned to go into psychology – my driving passion has always been helping people become better versions of themselves. Fortunately, a wise mentor of mine (coincidentally, a band director – go figure!) enlightened me to the opportunity for a wider spread audience over a longer period of time, and so I became a teacher!

What do you wish other people knew about the Summer Symposium?
Most camps provide students with entertaining and exciting experiences, but few other places challenge students to grow in their very being like Summer Symposium. I can certainly attest that you’ll leave camp a much stronger, bolder, and more compassionate person than you came.

What do you do when you aren't teaching at the Summer Symposium?
During the few moments that I’m not teaching or planning to teach (few and far between!), I love spending my time pushing myself physically. Most recently, this has taken the form of obstacle course races (Spartan Races, the Tough Mudder, the Warrior Dash, etc.), skydiving, and snowboarding trips!


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