The Music for All Blog
The Music for All Blog

Returning students to the Bands of America Drum Major Institute put their leadership skills to the test today with a new challenge: The Marble Exercise. In addition to conducting and score study classes at the Symposium, drum major participants build and improve leadership qualities important to marching band leaders. Teambuilding exercises that expose leaders and move them outside their comfort zone are important in ensuring that drum majors can lead and empower in almost any situation.

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IMG 2156In a group of 20, students received a piece of paper folded in half and one marble, which they were required to roll from one point, 25 feet out and around back to the original point using only the folded sheets of paper. Group members lined up their folded paper and attempted to move the marble down the line. After the marble passed through their paper, the participant would then have to move to the end of the line, helping the marble advance further. At first, the marble moved very quickly, students were unable to react in time and the marble fell soon after. Participants then realized that they would need to carefully control the pace of the marble, especially when it reached a curve in the track.

Throughout the exercise, some students because visibly frustrated, while others keep encouraging and supporting others. Many had simple phrases to help their fellow participants remember tactics they had agreed on, such as “Stay with your partner,” or “Keep your shoulders out.” After several tries and some discussion, the group was able to successfully roll the marble through the entire track. While many cheered at the distance they achieved, several even wanted to go further and keep improving.

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IMG 2150Like the brick exercise and other leadership activities that the drum majors participate in, the Marble Exercise is applicable to their own program. The marble, like their band, does not stop rolling. Leadership must utilize control, make adjustments along the way and communicate constantly to ensure that the ensemble does not falter and fall. When the marble fell and the participants failed, they had to get up and try again, and keep encouraging the others in their group. While applicable to a lot in life, the nonstop rolling reflects the fast-paced nature of marching band. From band camp to daily rehearsals to competitions, you cannot allow yourself or fellow members fall off the wagon. If so, they’ll not only be behind, but also be discouraged.

“When you go back to your own program, I charge you to find a way to make a flame,” said DMI faculty member Kim Shuttlesworth. Drum majors must empower their band members to be passionate about the ensemble. They must create a supporting family environment, where students can be honest, caring and respectful of each other. Just one of many exercises throughout the week, the Marble Exercise helped students realize the importance of group encouragement and teamwork in a larger group. At the end of the day, the marble keeps rolling, and you must adjust.

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Check out the photos from Summer Symposium Day 4! (Day 6 for our awesome Leadership students!)


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If I had to pick one adjective to describe the Wednesday concert in the Summer Symposium evening concert series, it would be…


We welcomed to the stage The PROJECT Trio, a “passionate, high energy chamber music ensemble” from Brooklyn, New York ( The group, comprised of Peter Seymour, double bass; Greg Pattillo, flute; and Eric Stephenson, cello, is anything but ordinary. The three met while attending the Cleveland Institute of Music together. A milestone for the group occurred in 2006 when Pattillo’s beatbox flute video went viral on YouTube. The PROJECT Trio concept stemmed from a desire to create music for the unique flue-cello-double bass combination, and these individuals’ pure love for music was evident as they performed for us last evening.

The PROJECT Trio composes and plays music in a vast array of genres. We were treated to all sorts of tunes, from Beethoven’s “5th” and the “William Tell Overture” to funky hip-hop and some sassy salsa beats. The audience even got to experience a more theatrical side of PROJECT Trio with their rendition of “Peter and the Wolf.”

The PROJECT Trio created a special opportunity for our Summer Symposium Strings Division students, who not only participated in in workshop with the Trio, but got to perform two pieces with them onstage. And what a stellar performance it was!

PROJECT Trio in rehearsal

The PROJECT Trio giving a workshop to the Strings students


playingwithstringsStrings students performing with PROJECT Trio in Emens Auditorium

A big congratulations to the Strings students, and a warm thank you to The PROJECT Trio for the unique blessing brought by their presence at the Summer Symposium!

For more information and a full bio of The PROJECT Trio, you can visit their website,; connect with “Project Trio” on Facebook; and follow @thePROJECTTrio on Twitter.


-Carolyn T.

Carolyn Tobin is the Marketing Intern at Music for All. Drawn to all that is digital media, she was an award-recipient of the NMU Tube Student Video Contest and was named the Outstanding Graduating Senior in the Communications and Performance Studies Department at Northern Michigan University. She is a devout runner, and has also enjoyed blogging about her adventures living in Spain and Argentina. Carolyn is a music, dance and color guard enthusiast, the former color guard section leader of Legends Drum & Bugle Corps from Kalamazoo, and she has served on the guard staff for Legends and for Marian University in Indianapolis.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Mindi Abair Experience

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We’ve only had two evening concerts so far and the talent that has come to Emens Auditorium this week has already blown me away!

On Tuesday evening, Mindi Abair and her band came to the Ball State campus and I was lucky enough to get a few moments of her time to chat after her sound check.
Anytime I need to interview I interview anyone, let alone a professional musician, I wonder what the interview will be like: if it will be easy or hard, if they will be kind and sincere or if I will feel like I’m an imposition.

Lucky for me, the moment I was introduced to Mindi Abair, I felt at ease and like I was chatting with an old friend.

It was great talking with Mindi about the Summer Symposium and what happens throughout the week. She was genuinely interested in the Music for All's mission and talked at length about how important music education was to her own life. Mindi recognizes that because of how important music was to her life, she is a strong advocate for music education.

Watch Mindi’s Interview (as well as some highlights from the concert) here:


After leaving the interview with Mindi, I couldn’t stop talking about how awesome the concert was going to be (it was a really fun sound check!) and how great of a person she was. I definitely thought I knew how great the concert would be.

But I was wrong. It was better! The moment I walked into the auditorium I could feel the energy not only coming from Mindi and her band, but from the students who were up off their feet and simply enjoying the concert. It's almost impossible for me to explain the feeling that I had while watching our campers, watch the performance. It was amazing to see them so engaged and just LOVING what was happening on stage in front of them. Here's a photo that gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.

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The best thing about Mindi Abair: she's not only talented, she's just plain fun. You could see on her face, and on the faces of the members of her band, that they were having a BLAST performing for this incredible audience. At the end of the encore Mindi even invited students on stage with her (she couldn’t have known what she was getting into there, right!?) It was a pretty incredible sight, and I’m sure many students are not going to forget the night that they got to come up on stage while Mindi Abair finished out her show!


This evening concert was defintly one of my favorites I have seen in my past three camp experiences. I hope that the students enjoyed it as much as I did!




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


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While conducting is an important part of the Bands of America Drum Major Institute at Summer Symposium, leadership training is key to the DMI curriculum. Each day, the DMI Faculty empowers campers to become effective leaders of their own band through varying lessons and exercises. I was intrigued by one of these exercises outside Pruis Hall and decided to stick around to watch our young leaders at work.

James Stephens, DMI Faculty member and Associate Director of Bands at Broken Arrow High School, created the exercise "The Brick Game" and presented it to the drum majors with fellow faculty member Kim Shuttlesworth, Director of Bands at James Bowie High School and former drum major of the University of Texas at Austin "Showband of the Southwest."

DMI-bricksThe challenge: Each group of approximately 15 students is provided 10 bricks in order to travel a path of 20 feet without touching the ground. All of the bricks start on one side, and one member must be touching each brick at all times until they cross the path. If any group member touches the ground or leaves a brick unattended, they must start over. Groups are given a couple minutes to devise a plan; however, they cannot speak during the exercise. Although nonverbal communication is key in "The Brick Game," there are many more attributes of effective leaderership required to be successful in this exercise.

Many groups first attempted to cross the bricks individually without assistance; however, many fell or left bricks unattended. Quickly, members began to use each other for support and assistance. An active awareness of each other and their surroundings proved valuable to the groups. Patience was one of the most important attributes for the "The Brick Game." The group I watched required several tries before reaching the goal. While it was easy to become frustrated after a failed attempt, patience and perseverance prevailed.

Unlike most leadership exercises where the difficulty lies in finding the solution, the difficulty in this exercise was completing the exercise once the solution is found. Very quickly, groups had successful plans to get across the path; however, executing the plan proved very difficult and required that each member commit to the plan. The success of the group falls on every single member, not just one leader. Just like in an ensemble or on the field, the weak link was easily visible. Positive reinforcement and support helped the entire group achieve the challenge.

DMI-3In the end, only two of nine groups were successful. It took participants nearly 30 minutes to get the entire group across the path. Once one group was successful, I was surprised at the reaction—they clapped and celebrated for themselves politely, but quickly stopped to encourage the other groups. While friendly competition served as the initial motivation, the drum majors remained committed to each other. The unsuccessful groups did not seem too discouraged, as they recognized the leadership skills learned during the exercise.

The Drum Major Institute's core teaching principles include Character, Content, Communication and Chemistry, and "The Brick Game" reflected these principles: the patience and persistence revealed the character required for an effective drum major and leader; the requirement for all to commit was similar to the content of marching ensembles; all forms of communication, including nonverbal, were integral; the awareness and support between group members reflected the chemistry of a successful community.

I am very glad I decided to stop by the Drum Major Institute. The leadership and life skills displayed in just one exercise were astonishing, and I am confident that each of the participants will become an excellent drum major, leader and human in his or her own community.


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

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Symposium Day 2 Photo Stream

Check out the photos from Summer Symposium Day 2! (Day 4 for our awesome Leadership students!)

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Check out the photos from Summer Symposium Day 1! (Day 3 for our awesome Leadership students!)


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The Music for All Summer Symposium has gone mobile! Download the “Music for All Summer Symposium 2013, presented by Yamaha” Guidebook app today to serve as a guide and companion during your time at camp!


--Full event and track-specific schedule:  Access the Summer Symposium schedules, in digital form, all in one place. This is a comprehensive resource listing each class, workshop, meal time and performance with the date, time and location information, along with additional notes and shuttle information when applicable. Click the “Schedule Tracks” module to see your camp division’s specific schedule for the week.

Too many events to keep track of? Clicking the “Add To My Schedule” button at the bottom of each event will add it to your personal “My Schedule” module. This will be helpful when selecting from elective workshops, and is an especially useful tool for those enrolled in the Directors’ Academy. You can even set pre-event reminders!

--Maps:  Don’t know your way around? No worries! Click on the “Maps” module and find a Ball State University area map, a campus map (with labeled, track-specific zones), a Family Day map, and an area restaurants map.

--Camp Faculty List:  Learn more about your clinicians with quick access to our list of faculty and their professional biographies.

--To Do List:  Jot down notes or things you just don’t want to forget!


You can get the app by:
•    Downloading “Guidebook” from the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace
•    Visiting from your phone's browser
•    Scanning the QR code below with your mobile phone (QR-Code reader required, e.g. 'Red Laser', 'Barcode Scanner')

Once Guidebook is installed, open it and click the "Download Guide" button to search for the MFA app ("Music for All Summer Symposium 2013, presented by Yamaha" is the name).

We’re excited to have the Summer Symposium going mobile, and hope the app serves our campers well :)  Enjoy!!!

-Carolyn T.

Carolyn Tobin is the Marketing Intern at Music for All. Drawn to all that is digital media, she was an award-recipient of the NMU Tube Student Video Contest and was named the Outstanding Graduating Senior in the Communications and Performance Studies Department at Northern Michigan University. She is a devout runner, and has also enjoyed blogging about her adventures living in Spain and Argentina. Carolyn is a music, dance and color guard enthusiast, the former color guard section leader of Legends Drum & Bugle Corps from Kalamazoo, and she has served on the guard staff for Legends and for Marian University in Indianapolis.

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Today's guest post is from Michael J. West who will be on the Bands of America Drum Major Institute faculty at the Music for All Summer Symposium presented by Yamaha. Thanks for giving us a look at what you will be teaching at camp this June, Michael!  
This summer, I will be joining the staff at the Bands of America Drum Major Institute to teach mace technique. I recently graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a master's degree in music education and have been spinning mace for the past nine years. I was a drum major at Carl Sandburg H.S., IL for two years and a drum major for the Marching Illini at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana for two years. 
Because of tradition with the Marching Illini Drum Majors, I spent a great deal of time with my mace during those two years. The Marching Illini pregame show, a traditional "Big Ten Conference" production, has been the same since the 1970's. Serving as a central role to that legacy and being able to spin the mace routines that have been passed down to only a few select people each year was a great honor and a wonderful memory. Performing for tens of thousands of fans at Memorial Stadium every fall was a thrill like no other. 
MaceVarietyShowBeing able to collaborate with colleagues skilled in this area has been a great deal of fun as well. I have been able to work with a lot of gifted people including past Illini drum majors and other talented individuals from other universities. One of the most fulfilling mace experiences I have had is taking the mace off the field and onto the stage. This past fall I programed and produced a variety show of sorts, which included performing a mace routine to spliced music. It allowed me to explore the more creative side of the mace. Performing this choreography was one of the more expressive opportunities I had. 
At the Bands of America Drum Major Institute, I want to teach and refine the basic mace fundamentals. However, we will not limit ourselves to just the basics. It is important that those fundamentals are strong, but I also believe in giving students the tools to create something on their own. I want them to take those ideas, return home, and turn it into something that matches the values of their music program and their individual style. 
Looking foward to seeing everyone this summer!
-Mike West
Michael J. West
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 
Former Drum Major Marching Illini
Have you enrolled in the Bands of America Drum Major Institute yet? Don't wait any longer, enroll today!
Need more reasons to enroll? Check out the amazing BOA Drum Major Institute faculty, camp videos on YouTube, read Student Testimonials, and check out the Symposium coverage from 2012!
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Today's guest post is written by Bobby Lambert, the Bands of America Drum Major Institute Coordinator and Assistant Director at Marian Catholic H.S. in Chicago Heights, Illinois.
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I am delighted to represent the staff of the brand new Bands of America Drum Major Institute. This weekend in fact, I spent time with James Stephens, Assistant Band Director from Broken Arrow High School, planning some of the activities and lessons for our camp. It is an exciting venture into a new world of taking drum major instruction, something that has been around for many years, and putting it into 21st century technology and understanding.
For example, we are looking at Disney and their approach to entertainment and using that as a lens over our approach toward education. Simply put, we want to exceed the expectations of those coming to our camp not only this year, but for many years to come.  The exciting part of coming to this first camp will be helping to engineer future camps with student input and experience. These “pioneers” will, in essence, help design the future of what we hope will become a new standard in summer music education.
CoreTeachingPrinciplesWhile we want to move toward the future, we must begin with strong foundations—Leadership at its Core. The BOA Drum Major Institute will create opportunities that promote honorable Character, comprehensive Content, effective Communication and, the final ingredient for ensemble cohesion and individual enrichment, Chemistry.
Beginning with self-analysis, students learn their strengths and weaknesses, wants and needs and finally, the paths they wish to explore. We work to create leaders for whom leadership is not an exercise or task, it is a natural extension of their being.
The musical and visual knowledge possessed by the most effective drum majors is extensive. From score study and concise conducting patterns to visual acuity and showmanship, our program will provide instruction, challenges and growth.
Our program will help develop communication skills by examining the words we speak, the signals we give, the message that is received and the actions that occur as a result. Drum Major Institute participants will examine each aspect and work to find his/her own unique style.
In the most embracing and encouraging community in America, participants will examine with us this vital, often intangible portion of a successful ensemble. With the building blocks provided in this camp, we will explore the importance of group dynamics, define the variables that affect it and incorporate ways to influence the elements that matter most. 
Look for more information as we continue to build this experience. We believe this will be something very special. Join us and help us create the first ever BOA Drum Major Institute!
Bobby Lambert
Bands of America Drum Major Institute Coordinator
Assistant Band Director, Marian Catholic High School, Illiniois
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