Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and most people are dreaming about turkey, reuniting with family, and scoring great deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While eating and shopping to your heart’s content are exciting, it is good to remember that the true meaning of the holidays is spreading joy and giving, not only to your loved ones but to those in need. A great opportunity to do so is participating in #GivingTuesday, which takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year.
Created by New York’s 92nd Street Y and United Nations Foundation in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a global holiday that celebrates generosity and kindness by giving to nonprofit organizations all around the world. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday start off the buying season, #GivingTuesday starts off the giving season. #GivingTuesday is considered a social media celebration, thus many people post online about their favorite causes and advocate for people to give.
While there are a multitude of fantastic organizations to donate to on #GivingTuesday, we ask that you consider donating to Music for All in order to help us finish the year strong. Your donation will positively impact our advocacy efforts, rural and urban school initiatives, and scholarship offerings. Through these programs, Music for All works to provide all students across America with access to participate in music, no matter their socioeconomic status.
Music powerfully impacts students. Research has shown that music education improves cognition and academic achievement, such as higher GPAs and higher graduation rates. Music also increases decision-making, collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and emotional awareness. Not only does music positively affect students, but also schools, communities, the economy, and society. That is why Music for All is so passionate about music education in America.
Thus, on this #GivingTuesday, please help us ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to participate in active music making in his or her scholastic environment by making a gift to Music for All!
We hope that everyone will be joining us on Thanksgiving day by watching the 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! We cannot wait to watch and support all of the amazing marching bands that will be featured throughout the parade. We are especially excited this year to say that all of the high school bands that will be marching in the parade are in the Bands of America family! Congratulations to all of you on being selected for the Macy's 90th Thanskgiving Day Parade!
So make sure you tune in and join us in supporting these incredible ensembles as they perform for nearly 50 million television viewers nationwide! We know they will make us proud! The parade steps off at 9:00 AM on Thursday, November 24th. You can watch the parade live on NBC.
Below is a list of all of the marching bands you will see in the parade!
Cary Senior High School
Cary, North Carolina
Band Director: Matthew Minick
Grain Valley High School
Grain Valley, Missouri
Band Director: Reid Atkinson
Greendale High School
Band Director: Tom Reifenberg
Harrison High School
Band Director: Josh Ray
Hendrickson High School
Band Director: Garth Gundersen
Joe E. Newsome High School
Band Director: Michael Miller
Macy's Great American Marching Band
Students from schools across the country
Band Director: Dr. Rick Good
Na Koa Ali'l Hawaii All-State Marching Band
The State of Hawaii
Band Director: John Riggle
NYPD Marching Band
New York Police Department, New York, New York
Band Director: Lt. Tony Giorgio
Prospect High School
Band Director: Chris Barnum
United States Military Academy Band
West Point, New York
Band Director: Major Sergeant Christopher Jones
The West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band
Morgantown, West Virginia
Band Director: Jay Drury
For great Macy's coverage (including a list of what these bands will be performing!) visit our friends at Marching.com.
For more information about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade visit www.macys.com/parade.
Written with assistance from Michael Reed.
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 FloMarching.com, 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.”
“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. http://www.musicforall.org/blog/stories/remembering-sophie-rinehart
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.
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
If this photo stream is not viewable for you, try this link: https://www.flickr.com//photos/officialmusicforall/sets/72157673757463932/show/
Check out the awards photos from the 2016 Bands of America Regional Championship at McAllen, TX
If this photo stream is not viewable for you, try this link: https://www.flickr.com//photos/officialmusicforall/sets/72157674899507685/show/
Check out the awards photos from the 2016 Bands of America Regional Championship at Powder Springs, GA
If this photo stream is not viewable for you, try this link: https://www.flickr.com//photos/officialmusicforall/sets/72157671440856754/show/
1. What is your hometown? City, State.
2. Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?
3. What is your major/degree?
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…
5. What are you most looking forward to in your internship this spring?
6. What is an interesting fact about you?
7. Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.
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.
Not So Favorite Things
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!
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.
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!
My fondest teenage memories are of playing tuba at Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, located in the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia. Band director Summer Smith led that band program faithfully for over thirty years. Mr. Smith was more than the average band director; he was a counselor, mentor, and father figure. One of Mr. Smith’s strongest attributes was enforcing the necessary discipline and guidance to succeed in life and the classroom. His guidance was essential to persevere through all the distractors outside our classrooms such as crime, drugs, and poverty in the local community. In the face of so many distractors and excuses not to succeed, Mr. Smith always said, “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” He challenged his students to believe in themselves and not accept mediocrity.
After high school I used many of the lessons taught by Mr. Smith when I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In the Marines I learned more valuable lessons about discipline, teamwork, and “a do whatever it takes attitude,” to accomplishe the mission. As a veteran teacher I have used my high school experience, training from the Marines, and college education at Florida State University to learn effective band director techniques in any school setting. The following describes ideas, techniques, and behaviors that have made my teaching in Title I band programs successful.
Beginning: As a high school band director I have taught in minority communities with students of low socioeconomic status. Poverty, high crime rates, drugs, gangs, single parent households, and high pregnancy rates were all prevalent in and around the school community. Using Mr. Smith’s philosophy of high expectations, I chose to strive for goals others thought were impossible, such as maintaining a high standard of musicianship, character, and academic achievement. Initially the problem was that the students did not believe in themselves. These students were hampered by low expectations. Moreover, the students had an apathetic attitude toward school and life. To counteract this behavior, I started focusing on the whole child instead of just the music student. This meant learning more than their names and instrument. I tried to learn about a student’s family, personal interests, goals, and challenges. Next, I encouraged students to think of the band program as a family, where they were free to talk about any issue. Furthermore, the band room served as safe haven from all negative outside influences. For most students, music served as a positive release from stress that may originate from home, school, and other peers. Most importantly, influencing a culture of pride in the organization quickly turned the negative culture of low expectations into an encouraging and positive environment.
Setting the tone: “If you are not committed to reaching the highest standards of character, integrity, and musicianship, you can leave the band room and go home.” I knew I was taking a risk when these were the first words I ever spoke to my high school band. Afterward, I waited for about three minutes and then said, “Good, now you have about an hour to clean the band room from top to bottom.” I slowly picked up my briefcase and waited patiently inside my office. That first statement set a standard of the expectation. Florida State University Professor Clifford Madsen says that “We control the environment, which in turns control us.” Creating an environment of success starts with a clean and structured teaching area. In the book the Tipping Point (2002) Malcolm Gladwell explains that cleaning up a “little problem” of litter and graffiti in New York helped to dissolve a “bigger problem” of criminal activity.” Likewise, having a clean area makes a big difference in student’s behavior in class, care for their instruments, and treatment other students. Additionally, a clean environment demonstrates professionalism in the organization.
Setting Goals/ Building Organizational Identity: Along with setting the right tone, setting realistic goals and building an organizational identity is essential. During my first year as a band director I wrote a five-year plan for our goals. This list included items such as recruitment, retention, field trips, and establishing good band fundamentals. After creating goals I made it a priority to bring in staff members and volunteers with good character and integrity. These role models demonstrated the behavior and attitude that was expected in my band program. Funding for staff members was very limited; therefore, I called local colleges in the area for volunteers. Fortunately most colleges with active music departments have music service organizations such as Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. The principal mission of these organizations is to provide service to their band program and or music programs. Unfortunately most young band directors make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. Utilizing a local college music program was easy and the best part is most students will work for food!
As stated earlier, in most Title I band programs money is a huge issue. Being cognizant of resources in your community can aid your school. Many symphony orchestras have outreach programs designed to help young musicians. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has a “talent development program” where students in urban schools can audition to receive free private lessons. Utilizing the Symphony’s talent development program is one example of many resources a creative director might use to enhance his or her band program.
Building Identity: One of the best ways to build an effective band program is to thoughtfully develop the band’s identity. This starts with a mission statement. A mission statement is important because it lists the program’s guiding principles and ideals. My band mission statement included phrases such as, “striving for the highest in character and musicianship” and “pride in our school and community.” The next step was to do activities that promoted building pride in the band. These activities include performing for local elementary school, middle school, and community organizations. In fact participating in short performances before a teacher or parent/teacher organization meeting is an excellent way to show pride in one’s school. To that end, a director must be creative in giving students a positive avenue to perform and have success. Each success builds upon the last performance and a series of small successes accumulate over time and enhance perception of an effective band program.
Administrator involvement: Another useful technique is getting school administrators involved. This can start with acknowledging the principal or fine art administrator at all performances. Additionally, asking a band parent to prepare a surprise lunch for counselors, or ordering extra band t-shirts for administrators, demonstrates your enthusiasm for getting them involved in your program. Another great idea is allowing your principal to conduct a piece of music at a concert or main event. If you make sure the experience is a good one your principal will smile for days, guaranteed!
Dealing with challenges in school and home: Family issues such as parents working two or three jobs, students contributing to or responsible for raising their siblings, and parents with severe financial problems are most common in urban schools. When dealing with these issues remember all students should have the opportunity to participate in the music program. The “everyone should participate” philosophy is easier said than done. However, if there is a will, there is always a way. Donations of instruments from local families whose students have graduated and partnerships with music stores to provide repairs are one way to get instruments into the hands of students without the means to do so. These students need to have the opportunity to participate. More often than not, their future depends on it. Your community can also develop pride in the program as their support is recognized and produces performances.
Student development: In many Title I schools, students may lack the same opportunities as students in other communities such as private lessons, attending professional concerts, visiting college campuses, summer music camps, and state/national conferences. These activities provide long lasting memories and greatly enhances a child’s musical experience. In order to provide these opportunities to students who lack funding, find ways to take school-sponsored fields trips to professional concerts and conferences. In fact, many local military band programs will perform at public schools for free. Supporting local education is part of their mission. Local college music programs also look for opportunities to perform in their area. Researching local college and professional band programs is essential to building an effective high school band program. It is also important to remember that if students are not exposed to better, they cannot do better.
Another effective activity for exposure is nominating students for festivals such as state solo and ensemble festivals or festivals sponsored by colleges. These activities are relatively inexpensive and very effective for student development. For many years I made auditioning for all-county/state mandatory for my advanced level students. Not only does this provide a measuring stick for students but also lets students observe others around the city or county. This technique is helpful in three ways. First, the evaluation process uses many of the national standards music curricula, such as “performing on instruments”, “alone and with others”, “a varied repertoire of music”, and “reading and notating music.” Second, practicing scales and preparing a challenging etude will make a student a better musician by giving them goals outside the daily expectations of the program. Third, the process can help students prepare for college auditions and the chance to earn scholarships. Not many parents in an urban environment, or any other environment, will argue with opportunities that can lead to receiving money to pay for a college education.
Discipline: Discipline in the band program is probably the most important topic. Students must have a structured environment. Again, directors control the environment which in turns controls the probability for positive actions by teachers and students. Besides keeping a clean environment, maintaining a quiet learning environment is paramount. At the beginning of each class, students need to know when silence begins. One method is simply saying, “good morning class,” the student’s response is, “good morning Mr. Arnold.” This greeting signified that all talking and movement should cease and learning was about to begin. Similar to any form of discipline, this activity took consistency and persistence. The teacher must not begin until absolute silence is established. Initially it may be necessary to work toward this goal using successive approximations, but if the teacher is consistent and contingent success can be realized. Another method is conditioning students to respect the rehearsal space. If a student leaves the rehearsal space, they must be acknowledged in order to return to their seat. By doing this, students will gain more appreciation of the rehearsal space and the function as a classroom. Another effective method is to condition students to minimize personal movements during rehearsal. Staying still will remove unwanted noises in the rehearsal environment. This may be the most difficult goal to achieve, understanding the energy that students bring to the rehearsal environment and the natural tendency of adolescents to need an outlet for pent up energy. But teaching student musicians to direct their energy and focus their attention on the musical activity while minimizing extraneous actions leads to both a better rehearsal environment overall and the personal discipline necessary to meet musical goals. Remember, discipline takes consistency and persistence.
Mentors: Among the many reasons to find an experienced educator as a mentor for yourself as a teacher, one of the best is to help you keep perspective. Keeping the bigger picture in mind helps in dealing with frustrations of daily teaching or the more challenging times that can crop up during any academic year. Another way to have positive mental health is having a fellow director or colleague that is close to your same experience level. Together you can relate to the same issues and experiences and share solutions.
This presentation was conceived to cover topics to help teachers in a Title I school find success, but these ideas are also universally important for anyone hoping to find success as a teacher in any musical environment. The only difference going in is being ready for the hurdles and open to the challenges. At the start of my career, I was told by a veteran director not to apply to a Title I school. Fortunately, I did not listen and discovered that teaching at this school gave me the necessary skills to teach in any setting. The band program flourished and grew from thirty students to over two hundred in four years. Additionally, the band program became the pride of the community and well respected in the county. Finding success and personal fulfillment teaching in the challenging environment is possible, and I hope that anyone considering a position in an Title I school setting will see both the need and the potential as both a challenge and a possibility.
Edited and reprinted with permission from the article “Effective Band Director Techinques for Teaching in Urban Schools” (from: The Florida Music Director Magazine, Feburary 2015)
Lloyd Hinnant, Rocky Mount Senior H.S., NC alumni (class of 1984) shares his experience on what it was like attending this year’s Bands of America Grand National Championships with his son Grayson, who’s a part of the Green Hope H.S., NC Marching Band, and reliving his own experience of his band becoming Grand National Champion in 1983.
The euphoria of achieving everything you had worked toward for three years was unbelievable. The Rocky Mount Senior H.S. Marching Band competed at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in 1981 and 1982, but it wasn’t until 1983 that we achieved our greatest potential and became Bands of America Grand National Champion. I still get goose bumps and tear up thinking about it. All the “set it up, do it again's, trips, and bonds you build with your band mates are something that I cherish because not everyone gets to experience that high of emotions.
This year my son Grayson and the Green Hope H.S. Marching Band went to Grand National Championships and I was flooded with nostalgia. Not only was my son about to compete on the same national stage I had 32 years earlier, but his band was competing against some of the same schools my band competed against.
Though his band didn’t make it to Finals, they left everything on the field and performed like champions. I couldn’t have been more proud and I’m excited to see where this growing marching band program will go in upcoming years.
Looking back on my experience, both competing then and supporting now, I’ve come to the conclusion that being a part of the marching band taught me three things –
Being involved in music has also taught me that having a positive attitude and demonstrating teamwork can help you achieve a goal. I remember those hot summer days on a paved parking lot learning our drill and only one person would complain about the heat before several others would confront that person about adjusting their attitude.
For those students who are currently involved in different musical ensembles and groups, take time to enjoy the moments and memories you make during your high school band years. Work hard, dream big, and do everything you can to achieve your objectives! You may not achieve every single one, but you will be so much better for at least trying.
Remember the motto - “If it is to be, it is up to me!”