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The Music for All Blog

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

#TBT - Band Parents Edition

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TBT Centerville Band Dads

Today’s Throwback Thursday goes out to all of the band parents who have dedicated (and continue to dedicate) their time during the week to rehearsals and weekends, to lugging props and pit equipment on and off the field and to encouraging their children to do their best. The tradition continues when band parents end up becoming extended family, just as students see fellow band members as siblings. You travel together, create and build memories together, experience the ups and the downs together, and most importantly become part of the amazing performances out on the field.

One of favorite aspects of working Bands of America Championships shows during the fall is hearing the parents’ stories. My most vivid memory was the 2014 Jacksonville Regional where not just one parent, but handful of parents, came up to me saying that Bands of America and Music for All had truly changed their kids and families lives. It truly warms my heart knowing that my job and something as seemingly little as marching band has impacted so many people.

As we begin the 2015 marching band season, I would like students, directors and staff from all bands to make sure to reach out to your parents, say thank you, give them hugs, and make sure they know how truly cherished they are. 

West Genesee Band Dads

Check out the photos from the first day of the Leadership Weekend Experience!

If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link:

Voices from the Soul

Soul music is unique because it was formed in pop culture by the merging of other types of music such as gospel and doo-wop. When full and resounding voices of soul-style vocalists and warm-sounding instruments come together it creates an unforgettable cohesive collaboration.

Voices from the Soul, a jazzy soul group made up with musicians such as Joyce “Peaches” Faison, Mark Buselli, Kevin Anker, Joel Tucker and many more, is performing at this year’s Music for All Summer Symposium. Each musician in this group has a unique style, but all hold a level of natural-born talent that has been heard at venues across the nation.

Take Joyce “Peaches” Faison – after listening to her sing “Talkin’ bout Love” you can feel the genuinity inside her rich & smooth voice that helps you understands her emotion and the control she has with her tone is phenomenal! It's no surprise she’s headlined for many talented artists including Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle.

With someone like trumpet player Mark Buselli, his sound is light and sweet. It carries you from one musical thought in a song to the next like string tied to the notes. His precision is admired and envied. In addition to being a performer, Mark is also a composer and arranger who has written big band arrangements of several different difficulty levels. 

Overall, this interesting group of musicians has found a way to come together to make something beautiful. With a variety of these musicians being educators, they also help share their talent and knowledge by teaching students in both public and private settings. This concert will definitely see faces of many different musical tastes and should be one to remember!

I look forward to seeing you there at the Voices from the Soul concert on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 8:00pm in Emens Auditorium at Ball State University! 

To buy tickets to this concert, please visit

army chorus

What’s more patriotic than listening to music that is skillfully performed by the US Armed Forces?  Whether it’s the Soldiers’ Chorus, Concert Band, Jazz Ambassadors or The Volunteers, the US Army Field Band & Chorus exemplifies talented musicianship from all over the nation that connects the American people with the military that fights for our saftey and rights every day.

The US Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus will perform on Tuesday, June 23 during the Music for All Summer Symposium. It's not everyday that you get to see musicians who are led by command sergeants and lieutenant colonels or hear such unprecedented musical talent that pays tribute to our country and people.

It's inspiring to think about how this group was created to be a connector between civilians and the military in the 1940’s when the relationship was in need of mends. It’s a great example of music bringing people together in the past and in present day. 

Another remarkable thing about the US Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus is that, since it’s made up of multiple components, it’s eclectic and stretches across several genres. The Jazz Ambassadors might play a variety of big band, swing and Dixieland repertoire while the Concert Band might perform with one of the nation’s leading orchestras or alone with a program of marches and overtures. They really cover the spectrum. 

Possibly the best thing about the US Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus is dedicated to music education. Many of the musicians who are enlisted in this group offer on-site and Google+ Hangout music clinics for educators and students and often appear at music events as guest conductors. In addition to an educational YouTube series, they also provide recordings and sheet music to schools so that students can learn to play repertoire of many different skill levels.

We hope to see you at Summer Symposium so you can experience this exciting concert! It wouldn’t be uncommon for US Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus members to chat with students about what its like to be a part of their band and how to audition after college.

For more information, please visit

ahn trio 4fc80edc39807

For many, knowledge of classical music is limited to compositions written by historic composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. While these composers are pioneers who will never be forgotten, the Ahn Trio, a group performing at Music for All’s Summer Symposium, has found a new way to take classical concepts and transform them into exciting original compositions for a more mainstream and modern audience. This ensemble has found a way to reach an eclectic audience across several genres by using unique violin, viola and piano styles in addition to collaborations with an array of pop singers, DJs, electronic music artists, photographers and dancers.

As I’ve been listening to the group’s album “Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac” all morning, I can’t help but to be thoroughly impressed by the creativity that this group exhibits. It’s no wonder they’ve been invited to play in all 50 states, over 30 countries and for some of the most influential world leaders such as President Obama and South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak. They’ve even performed as part of the TEDWomen talk series, showcasing their passion for music while exemplifying the qualities of driven, talented women.

I love how this trio’s performances take you on a musical journey as a group but each of the sisters has their own style that is distinctive and magical. It’s hard to miss how in-tune (music pun) they are with one another, but also how they play into their own strengths to create the best sound. 

Professionally trained at the Julliard School of Music, Korean-born sisters Lucia (piano), Maria (cello) and Angella (violin) officially formed the Ahn Trio in 1989. Since, the group has been recognized globally by publications such as Time magazine, where they were featured as “Asian-American Whiz Kids,” in People magazine where they were named three of the “50 Most Beautiful People” and in the Los Angeles Times as a “dynamically flexible sound that gets us thinking about the bonding power of family.”

I can’t wait to listen to the Ahn Trio perform at the 2015 Summer Symposium on Thursday, June 26 in Emens Auditorium at Ball State University! 

To learn more about the Music for All Summer Symposium and to register, please visit Hope to see you there!


After leaving a particularly electric clinic session with Larry Livingston at the 2015 Music for All Orchestra America National Festival, I caught up with my kids at the hotel. Many were sitting in the hallway after an intense day of early-morning traveling and all-day music making. I asked them, “Okay, tell the truth: what did you think of the rehearsal?” Thinking I was going to hear gripes and groans, I was taken aback by some of the candid answers I received: “That was the most emotional rehearsal I've ever been a part of.” “It was life-changing.” “I was reminded of why I like music.” The question we as educators often ask ourselves is, “Why bother traveling?” Traveling means more work, money, time, and energy. What are the benefits, and why should our groups take part? Here are three benefits to taking the plunge and taking your orchestra on the road:

1. A Fresh Approach

The orchestra world is small, and it is often easy for students to know exactly where they stand, especially compared to other programs in the region. With repeated exposure to the same small pool of ensembles, it's understandably easy for students to gain a “big fish in a small pond” mentality to their performances. Touring drops your fishy students into a nation-sized pond to see and hear groups they have never heard before. Hearing the best ensembles in the country can help give a great boost to a students' drive to practice, to improve, and to hear new music performed at a high level.

Rehearsals can be repetitive—we've all been there: you tell the students every day, “more bow here,” “use more bow,” “use the opposite of less bow,” “free the elbow,” “imagine the upbow is like lifting dead souls by their hair out of the River Styx, and the souls are all tall spartan warriors, so you have to really pull,” etc. Nothing seems to work. Then, a guest clinician says to the students, “Hey, you should probably use more bow here,” and suddenly the students act as if they've never before heard such divine words. Something often clicks by hearing a fresh voice, and it gets results. The MFA Festival team of clinicians—some of the best professionals in the country—works with your group and gets results, and the students often get feedback from peers at meals or student socials.

2. Helping Grow the “Orchestra Nerds”

Think back to your own middle school, high school, and college music experiences. What do you remember more clearly: the detailed process of your teacher tuning an important chord in a piece's climax, or So-and-So's wacky bus antics on a trip? Or do you remember bonding with a friend, or laughing at a joke in rehearsal? Hopefully we all have some fondness of our orchestra experience, and hopefully it was a combination of both musical and social enjoyment. To help students gain a positive musical experience, we use many tools and tricks of the trade everyday in the pieces we select, our rehearsal pacing, and the way we repeatedly make sure the kids sit up straight or hold their bows correctly. What are we doing that helps kids' social needs while building orchestral musicians? How are we helping grow “orchestra nerds”—kids that are so in love with orchestra that they don't want to leave our rehearsals? We can build memories that last a lifetime and provide social experiences that gel with a top-notch performing experience by traveling—not just a “field trip,” but a play-hard, work-hard performance tour.

3. Keeping Up with Other Areas

Orchestra programs historically have had smaller numbers than other music ensembles in schools. Part of our role in educating the next generation of musicians is to reach out and recruit as many personality types as we can. Marching bands and show choirs regularly travel and compete in festivals—it's part of their culture. Their activities make them visible. We have to work harder in this regard, since traveling is often not naturally built into our programs. We typically don't have a “pep orchestra” to send out during basketball tournaments. We probably won't flaunt matching sequin dresses for our choreographed dance numbers. With visibility brings recognition; with recognition, support, and with better support usually comes more funding, more students, and better music making. So feel free to siphon that sequin budget into your travel funds and take your concert group on the road!

– Dan Whisler, Director of Orchestras, Youth Performing Arts School, Louisville, KY 

Although universities do much to prepare music educators to begin their career, teaching music at any level in today’s schools requires the willingness to deal with “on the job” training. All young teachers, no matter the subject, must leave any ego “at the door” and must be willing to learn and improve their craft EVERY DAY.

1) Work to create and maintain a positive and professional relationship with your administrators.

Make sure you consult your department head and/or assistant principal or principal before making any major decisions involving the band program. Keep them informed! Don’t bug them, but make sure they know what’s going on with the band. Try to find a short time where you can sit with your administrators and give them an overview of your vision for the future. Remember that if you go into your principal and complain, it’s probably the 50th complaint they’ve heard that day. Go in with more than just the issue and have some possible solutions. Invite your administrators to concerts, contests, and festivals. If you have a marching band, ask your principal to go through warm-up and actually come on the field with the group. Make sure you provide all the current band spirit wear for your principal! Don’t laugh! It’s important!

2) Work with your most positive parents to create a band booster group.

Don’t forget to constantly thank your parents for their assistance with things like uniform maintenance, raising money and putting out the “good word” about your program. Make sure your parents understand that YOU make the decisions for what’s best for the program, but you should always listen and consider parent input. Deal with the positive situations in public and with the full parent group, but deal with any negative situations in private, either with a board of directors or your band booster president. There must be a POSITIVE relationship between the director and the booster group and that relationship must be based on mutual TRUST. Consistent COMMUNICATION is the best way for a director to earn the trust of parents.

3) Make sure your groups are fundamentally solid.

Set aside enough time in rehearsals to work on tone quality, blend, balance (especially within music), technique, intonation, and musicianship. That’s a long list, but you cannot skip steps when it comes to developing your ensemble. Remember that you can rehearse the same music for weeks and still not sound good on your concerts and at festivals if your band is not built on basics. For example, a trumpet section that understands and applies the concept of “blending” will always sound like they have better tone and intonation than a trumpet section that doesn’t understand the concept. If you can’t demonstrate characteristic sounds on the instruments, then bring in good college players or local private teachers to do so. If these folks are not available, play great recordings of SOLOISTS on each instrument throughout the year so students will always have a model for their sound. Keep in mind that many bands don’t do well at festivals because of a lack of sonority when they play. You must insist on excellence every time your group plays, whether it’s on a long tone, technique exercise or a section of music.

4) Create a culture of excellence and integrity within all areas of the band program.

Work with your students and student leaders to develop the mantra of  “excellence as a lifestyle”. That simple phrase covers work ethic, behavior and respecting others, as well as setting a standard in everything that your staff, your students and your band parents pursue. I am a big believer that the quality of a person’s life is related to their attempt to pursue excellence in all that they do. My great friend, Freddy Martin, taught me that there is no “wrong” or “right” in rehearsal. There is only “getting better”! Instead of making a negative comment to an individual or section, ask them if they can make it better the next time. With your help and suggestions, I’m betting your students will “get better” and have a positive experience in band. Ask yourself after each rehearsal: “Are my students eager to come back and make music again tomorrow?” If you’re not sure, maybe a more positive approach will help. Students need “information” more than they need to be told they are right or wrong. Make sure the community, as well as the rest of the school respect the band program. Support other areas of the school by providing groups to play at athletic or special school/community events.

5) Get better as a musician, a rehearsal technician and as a leader everyday.

The most energetic teachers are those who can’t wait to share NEW information with their groups. Attend clinics and workshops, go watch great teachers in front of their ensembles, and constantly invite other conductors or private teachers to work with your band or to run sectionals.


Surround yourself with people that are better than you in certain areas. Push yourself to become that teacher that students remember for years! Even if you only have ten students in your band, get help to make them sound amazing. Don’t make excuses about why things can’t happen at your school. It all depends on the teacher in front of the room: YOU!

- Richard Saucedo, Retired Band Director Carmel H.S., Carmel IN, Freelance Arranger and Composer

Monday, February 23, 2015

Renaissance of Traditional Enrichment

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For several of us, the term renaissance triggers memories of college music history classes where the presentation of ones hair was in direct proportion to how recently they stopped tapping the snooze button. This Renaissance is not a music style period, but a renewal of emphasis and a distinctive twist on enrichment courses in public school music education. It is a recommitment or a doubling-down on music as a tool to help students matriculate through the school system––from recruitment out of the elementary grades to the completion of grade 12.

In many schools, secondary music features a team of adult stakeholders (teachers/directors) charged with this important responsibility. We are talking about the pragmatic case to systemically drive elective participation into classes with high potential student/teacher ratios––band/choir/orchestra––and engender a culture that strengthens these courses as comprehensive beginner through grade 12 vertical programs: A school within a school.

Music Expansion =Enhanced Economics

Music ROI GraphBottom line: the more students in your program, the better it is for the school’s finances. “Any circumstance that causes a decline in student enrollment or prevents students from participation will have a negative cost effect on the district budget” (Benham, 2011, p. 95). That is to say, expanding enrollment in secondary music can save money.

If the students are in your program, they are not in another class. The more students you have in your program, the more they are not in other elective classes. This translates into cost savings as your classes have high potential student/teacher ratios. Additionally students of the arts generate higher attendance, graduation rates, and test scores (Texas Music, 2015). Therefore, school systems promoting participation in secondary music supports inherent cost savings and improved achievement data, while providing tremendous student benefits. This is known as a high ROI (return on investment).

As a band director of a growing program I would say that it was not my job to know where the students aren’t, but where they are. As an administrator I say that robust fine arts programs increase the bang for your educational buck.

are you sure

Think Win, Win…Win

In today’s culture of choice and downloaded-gratification, we just can’t do fine arts to our students the way fine arts was done to us. “My way or the highway” will simply push kids to the information super-highway or other endeavors absent the aesthetic, cognitive, and relational benefits of our programs. A rising tide lifts all boats; therefore an inclusive approach to expand access and excellence to arts education is a high-yield recipe to serve our students, schools, and communities. Enter a renaissance of traditional enrichment.

As school systems we don’t need to invent new things for students to do. Arts can provide stabilization for education based on personalization. They build achievement on discovering the individual talents of children and putting them in an environment where they want to learn and can find their true passions (Robinson, 2009).

Literature and research-based benefits of music education––and more specifically instrumental music education––cast a long shadow over the latest (and possibly not greatest) educational fad or business-based solution to fix education. The trick is to think win, win… win. When decisions need to be made, remember: Everyone is in it for the students (win), and we all want staff to be taken care of (second win)… The trick is to scan the environment and decode/prepare/present how what you need for your students and staff is also best for the system as a whole (a win thrice).

For example, if your program would benefit from a change within the school schedule (good for your students and staff), be sure to find other classes/programs/activities that could benefit from the change. This process builds consensus, which is ultimately anyone’s most effective weapon in the politics and bureaucracy of public education.

A Systems Approach to Traditional Enrichment

Combining music expansion = enhanced economics with win/win… win, provides the foundation for strategies that have worked to change conversations from music cuts to music expansion. Every community, school, and department are different, so adapt accordingly and let us all keep working for greater student access and excellence to music education through innovation––a renaissance of traditional enrichment


- Jeremy Earnhart, Director of Fine Arts, Arlington, TX Independent School District

Benham, J. L. (2011). Music advocacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Robinson, K. (2009). The element. New York: Penguin Group.
Texas Music Educators Association. (2015). Fine arts participation data [PowerPoint presentation]. Available January 10, 2015, TMEA Web site:

How MFA Summer Symposium can help you and your students...


Have you given any thought to what you might do differently this next year regarding your band’s marching band season?  I have to be honest, since I am the visual caption head at Carmel High School and not an actual band director, I get lots of time in the “off season” to think about marching band – while you all are doing concert band, jazz band, pep band, etc.  

Last year Dynamic Marching put out a survey about what the biggest areas of frustration are among band directors.  The results were not too surprising! One director said, “The greatest challenge is finding ways to teach the students what is beyond the notes on the page (phrasing, dynamics, balance, articulation, etc.).  In addition, when it comes to marching, we are in need of a fresh start regarding the technique of marching.”  Another director answered, “I have a very small staff and I really need to count on my section leaders.  I feel like I spend too much time pushing and pulling my section leaders to get their help and not enough time actually getting better.”  Wow! If you asked 1,000 band directors if they have similar frustrations – you would likely get universal agreement.  We all want our students to be more musical, to have great fundamentals, and to be great leaders.

Good news!  We can help you with all of that.  While I am probably not the guy to fix your woodwind intonation, I am the guy who can help you and your students to establish a top-notch visual fundamentals program.  I can still help your woodwinds though… AND your brass.  How?  I have assembled a staff that is the “best of the best” that your students will not only learn from but LOVE.

Our music staff at the MFA Summer Symposium is led by Matt Harloff, Richard Saucedo, and Scott Atchison – our music team represents great teachers from some of the very best bands and drum corps in the country (Carolina Crown, Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps, University of Kentucky, Avon H.S., Broken Arrow H.S., Carmel H.S., Center Grove H.S., LD Bell H.S., Lassiter H.S., and more) ! Our visual staff:  Features instruction from me, Chris Kaflik, and Jordan Lalama (Carmel H.S., Broken Arrow H.S., Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps).

3 Skills that your student leaders need right now!


Through small-group sectionals with nationally recognized teachers, students who attend the Music for All Summer Symposium marching band track will return to your group with a better understanding of:

  • Breathing
  • Sound Production
  • Intonation
  • Ensemble Balance & Listening
  • Articulation
  • Dynamics
  • Emotion

Visual Artistry

Utilizing full-group & small-group fundamentals exercises, students who come to the marching band track learn various fundamentals of marching & movement such as:

  • Posture
  • Instrument Carriage
  • The Weight Shift / Stops & Starts
  • Upper Bodies & Slides
  • Prep Steps and Transitions
  • Timing & Articulation
  • Introduction to Dance Fundamentals


We are really working diligently to integrate the training and curriculum from the Drum Major track at camp with the marching band track.  We are well aware that the students you send to the marching track this year may be the section leaders and drum majors in the next couple of years and working with Bobby Lambert to develop leadership skills in these students is a priority for us.  They will learn skills such as:

  • Identifying the audience
  • Knowing the intent of the communication
  • Communicating the message
  • Applying the details of music and visual fundamentals to the actual style choices of the home band
  • Teamwork

For years now, I have been wondering why band directors automatically send their drum majors to summer camp, but they do not do the same for the student leaders and section leaders.  
I feel that this is a critical step that will help you to have a more successful season. Send us one or two students from each section of your band and we will return them to you  more knowledgeable and more qualified to help you and their section-mates. And – just to sweeten the deal  - your students will get to perform part of the actual Carolina Crown show for a gigantic DCI audience at the end of the week!!!  Win…. Win.

Please email me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the marching band track at the Music for All Summer Symposium.