The Music for All Blog
The Music for All Blog

2015 MFA Summer Symposium

Today I come home, my home away from home. Ball State is where I spent four years of my academic career and it was the best experience of my life. Flash forward a few years from graduation and I work for Music for All. Today my staff and I are gearing up for the 2015 Music for All Summer Symposium.

The drive up from Indianapolis to Muncie I had this feeling of reuniting with an old friend. Something is special about Ball State and it is rather hard to describe. It is as if I am reuniting with an old friend; however, they have had many changes as have I.

Making the turn down University and then McKinley I was hit with a flood of memories. From living in the AJ building with my PR friends to endless nights in Bracken and walks around the Quad to going to football games at Scheumann Stadium. I was like a little kid preparing to go to Disney World. The biggest smile and all excited.


It is a bittersweet reunion back on campus as all my friends are gone, there are new buildings up and I am now here for work. This will be my first Music for All Summer Symposium and I couldn’t be any more excited. I am ready to see students and directors from all over the country arrive on campus and create memories. Just as I created my own the four years of college, I know get to create a new chapter of memories in a familiar location. Being able to create these life-changing experiences for students will be the highlight of my camp experience. Hearing their stories, capturing the moments and getting to know as many of them as possible!


Stay in touch with myself and other Music for All staff members as we write, tweet, Facebook and share not only our experiences at camp, but the people who truly matter… the students! We are here to brighten their musical education experience and push their passion of music and the arts!

Matt Mackowiak
Marketing Assistant
Twitter: @MFAmatt

Every evening Music for All puts on a concert for students, faculty and the community. Tuesday night we had the honor and privilege of having the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus put on a spectacular concert. The repertoire for the concert ranged all over from traditional Sousa marches, movies scores and even classic Motown hits.


The evening started with the best rendition of our National Anthem I have ever heard as six French Horns took center stage. The crowd gave a standing ovation at the conclusion and I had chills running through my body. Something about that instrument and the emotion it portrays. Then again, I will admit that I have a soft spot for French Horns. Pure magic!


Speaking of magical, there were a handful of students that had the opportunity to perform on stage with the band. These talented students had little, if no, prep time for the concert. However, you could not tell as these kids played their hearts out. I could only imagine what was going through their heads being on stage with such a astounding ensemble and I bet this has to be a top highlight of their camp experience.


There was one piece that brought the house down as the U.S. Army Field Band played “Georgia on My Mind”. The saxophone soloist was the most talented artist I have ever heard. The range was phenomenal and the raw emotion ended up having the biggest standing ovation of the evening.


The overall theme for the evening was that music can take you anywhere in life. You don’t have to be a music educator to still carry on your passion for music. The men and women we saw on stage last night still get to enjoy and express that passion of music, but at the same time serve our country. That is one thing I love about music and our activity as we have such a wide range of opportunity to include it in our daily life.

And one last thing, I want to give a giant thanks to the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus for the concert! It was definitely a highlight of my week and it was truly positively life-changing not only for me, but for everyone in attendance.

Check out the photos from the second day of the Music for All Summer Symposium!


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I spent yesterday morning with the Jazz Band Track watching a Master Class session led by Sammy Kestenholtz.

During his session, he surprised his students by Skyping in Rich Redmond, Jason Aldean’s drummer. To no surprise, Redmond has studied both jazz and classical music most of his life and holds a Master’s degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas. Sammy Kestenholtz thought Redmond would be a good role model to our campers here at the Summer Symposium since he took the time to become a trained percussionist and is now famous all over the world. 

Redmond was so full of energy and you could easily recognize his passion for music education. During the session Redmond gave advice to the Jazz Band Track drummers to “take the gig,” because learning to play with other people will only make you better. He told the kids that even with a Master’s Degree he played for tips when he first started out. Redmond emphasized that he got where he was today from hard work, a sincere personality, and an original style. 

After Redmond was done speaking about his experience, the students attending had the opportunity to ask him questions and interact with him, making this master class truly unique. From music questions to advice about the personal life of being a professional musician, Redmond made sure to provide some invaluable insight.

Sammy Kestenholtz does a great job relating to his student campers. Hopefully the kids understood the message to “take the gig” and to let very few opportunities to play pass them by.

Thank you, Sammy and Rich! You are truly making this camp a positively life changing experience for our campers!

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YYPA logo

For the past couple of days I have had the pleasure of following around the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) as they prepared for their performance on Monday evening.

The Yamaha Young Performing Artists Program (YYPA) recognizes outstanding young musicians from the world of classical, jazz, and contemporary music. Winners of this competition are invited to attend a weekend at the Music for All Summer Symposium, receive a once in a lifetime performance opportunity in front of thousands, national press coverage, receive a recording and photos of the live performance, and participate in workshops designed to launch a professional music career. Winners also  enjoy many of the privileges of a Yamaha Artist, including services and communication with Yamaha's Artist Relations department.

I was lucky enough to sit in on sessions with the YYPA winners and Jeff Coffin, a Yamaha Artist and current saxophone player for Dave Matthew’s Band. During this session the YYPA winners were very engaged and enthusiastic about being able to get advice from Coffin, hear about his experience of taking his career to the next level, and what to work on to make themselves a better solo artist through being more marketable and authentic.


I also was able see the Jazz YYPA winners' rehearsal for their final performance that included Jeff Coffin and other Yamaha sponsored faculty at the Music for All Summer Symposium, like Sammy Kestenholtz who is on our Jazz Faculty! The energy in the room was amazing and I could not wait to hear how everything would come together on stage.

All of the YYPA winners also got to do a round table session where they got to talk to more directors and artists about their experiences. Some of the winners asked questions like "how do you learn other types of influences to make your own sound" or "how do you balance family and your love for playing" and "when do you find time to practice." The Staff really gave some great answers to how they balanced their lives by having a plan on what you are going to work on each day in advance so you are getting things accomplished.

YYPA Panel

Later that day I was fortunate to be able to sit back stage and interact with the Yamaha Young Performing artists and watch their final performances in front of more than 1,200 Summer Symposium Campers. The students got to see what the next step could be for them and some of the opportunities there are to take their careers to the next level as young artists. The YYPA Winners were both Classical and Jazz artists.

The final performance was the first time I had heard the classical winners and they were amazing. I do not come from a musical background and from listening to the YYPA Winners, I have found a new appreciation for music that I would have never had without this experience. I am very curious to see where the love of their instruments and determination takes these young artists in their careers. I also loved watching the young artists support each other before and after their individual performances.

YYPA Group

The final performance "Move Your Rug" by Jeff Coffin was a mixture of artist with the jazz winners, two of the classical winners, Jeff Coffin, as well as Luke Gillespie, Jeremy Allen and Sammy Kestenholtz from our Music for All Jazz Faulty. It was one of the most fun and energetic performances of the night.

I think the Yamaha Young Performing Artists concert was a really cool experience for the YYPA Winners and our Summer Symposium Campers. It's a great opportunity for our campers to see what kinds of opportunities are out there for them and it really showcases Yamaha's commitment to education. 

Check out the photos from the first day for full week campers of the Music for All Summer Symposium!


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 TG20558How lucky we’ve been as staff to have two first days of camp - it’s like Christmas came twice! 

Today was day one for our full-week campers and just seeing the joy on their faces as they picked up their binders and name tags made my heart warm and full. 

As leadership campers made our newcomers feel a part of the MFA family at registration, I felt compelled to yell and high five with them too, proving that the enthusiasm of the Music for All Summer Symposium is truly contagious. 

As we all loaded into Opening Session and the auditorium lights were lowered, it felt like room was still lit, but by the students and directors faces in the crowd. The energy that radiated from the room was like standing in the sun on the beach, but positively comforting and unique!

After Music for All CEO, Eric Martin took the stage, he invited Ball State University President, Paul Ferguson to talk about the value that the Summer Symposium adds to this university. He talked about how, though Music for All is always very appreciative to be able to take advantage of such a safe and friendly campus, Ball State also benefits from the opportunity to be a part of so many students’ learning experiences outside of their usual realm with collegiate students. 

The day was full of contagious energy though. Through the busy and sometimes crazy runs between different tracks, buildings and sessions, the smiles, laughter and optimism shared among everyone here helped us all focus on what we all came here to focus on, the music.


When observing the color guard and marching band welcome sessions, it showed that the attitudes among campers and faculty truly set the tone for everything that happened and set a pace for the week.

The day was also filled with clinician and keynote sessions for both students and directors with nationally recognized musicians and directors such as Richard Floyd, Richard Saucedo, Ian Grom, and Deborah Price. 

One session that I found eye-opening both musically and intellectually was the “Getting to the Art of the Matter” with Richard Floyd. This directors’ session didn’t apply to me directly, since I am not a director myself, but it spoke to me in the sense that sometimes we get caught up in the clutter of life, the little stresses that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but often distract us from the things that really matter, like our motivators and goals. For band directors, Floyd talked about how the focus that sometimes gets lost is, ironically, the growth and learning of the kids. There’s always so much behind the scenes work that bogs us down that when there’s face time with students we can feel tense or distracted. If we let go of that, we can do our jobs better.


This really came full circle to the attitude lesson that I learned earlier that morning. If we stay focused and have a positive attitude about what really matters, we can tune out the distractions that are getting in the way of us doing our jobs in the best possible way. When we spread that outlook to others, it’s like putting a whole rest on anything that’s getting in the way of our life missions. 

I'm confident that the others in this session walked away feeling recharged and only hope that they can bring back this message to their colleagues. 

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

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dilallo session 1I had the opportunity this afternoon to attend a session led by Frank A. DiLallo, presented at the Leadership Weekend Experience at the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha.

It was a session right up my personal alley – with emphasis on compassion for self and others, and mindfulness as a component of self-care. I have served in various leadership roles, starting in my high school band as first chair flute and drum major of my high school band, and over my 30 years with Music for All. I also have a personal meditation and mindfulness practice, which, along with a regular meditative yoga practice, has shaped how I approach my work, and how I interact with my staff, coworkers, and those we serve. Students were given tips and techniques to add mindfulness to their leadership toolbox.

The central concept throughout Frank’s session was the self-care is critical for leadership. The session explored how stress impacts performance and ways to reduce stress.

Frank asked the student leaders “Why does it matter? What does stress have to do with leadership?” It appeared that every student raised their hand at the opening of the session when asked who regularly feels stress, and there was no shortage of answers offered to “what does stress have to do with leadership:”

“You can’t help others if you’re stressed out.”
“When you’re stressed out you’re more focused on yourself and block out other people.”
“You can’t think straight and it’s harder to make good decisions.”
“It’s contagious.”

That last one is key. Negativity can be contagious. So can positivity. As Frank said: “Be a positive contagion. Just like a stone tossed into a pond will have a ripple effect that will eventually spread out across the entire surface of the water, so can your attitude affect everyone around you. Be a positive ‘stone.’ Create a ripple of positivity.”

Frank offered these keywords to describe qualities of leadership, or “PAVIC:”

Ideas (also Integrity, Inspiration, Influence – “I” words offered by the student leaders in attendance)

Leadership starts inside us. Everything we encounter is an opportunity to grow. We must first take care of ourselves and make sure we have balance to be in a position to effectively lead.

Self-care and self-compassion make for a more effective leader. Frank offered great tips for students to cultivate the internal balance necessary for leadership. Those tips included checking in on your stress level, on your breath, and on your balance.

“Attitude is everything” and students took away ideas for creating a personal affirmation statement, and how to check in on their environment and relationships – do your environment and relationships make you feel loved, supported, and celebrated? If not, you can choose to make changes so that you do.

“Take time” was another tip that resonated deeply with me and is a key concept in mindfulness practice. Frank offered tangible ways to be present and “anchor” your experiences, to take time and honor that time.

The session concluded with a visualization meditation practice, led by Frank. Students were invited to take a comfortable seat or position, and then to check in with and relax each part of their body. (Check out the photo above: they’re not napping in class, they are deep in “visualization” mode!)

The meditation ended with a visualization of a “place of awe” that Frank had invited students to think of at the beginning of the session, and then to anchor the experience of that moment and feeling.

I am grateful that Fran Kick, our leadership programs coordinator, has asked Frank DiLallo to share these practices with our students over the past 12 MFA summer camps. I believe wholeheartedly that mindfulness practice, and compassion for self and others, makes for strong leaders.

In his book, It Worked For Me, Colin Powell, the former U.S. Joint Military Chief of Staff and Secretary of State,says that kindness is not just about being nice, it is about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect. Powell once told a senior staff meeting, “You can never err by treating everyone in the building with respect, thoughtfulness and a kind word.” Powell says that being kind doesn’t mean being soft or a pushover.

Some mistake a show of force for leadership. Leading with compassion and kindness in a world of extraverted, charismatic leaders can be seen as being “soft” or as weakness. In reality, those characteristics are strengths. Treating others with respect, kindness, and compassion results in greater enthusiasm, productivity, and motivation to push the limits.

Cultivating balance in your own life, and compassion for self and others, is key to being a leader that empowers others, and that can sustain your personal leadership role. 

About the Presenter
Frank A. DiLallo holds a B.A. degree in sociology and a graduate degree in counseling. He is licensed in Ohio as a Professional Counselor, Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor and is a certified Prevention Specialist II. Frank has been employed with the Diocese of Toledo for over 25 years and is currently a Schools Consultant for 75 schools, pre-K-12. He has published several pieces that addresses bullying of boys and girls in “inspiring, meaningful, and sustainable ways.” He is the author of an audio CD, The Peace Project, filled with relaxation techniques, meditations, and music composed by Grammy nominated artist Tim Story. For more visit and like Frank on Facebook/peacebewithyouworld. 

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Day two for Music for All Summer Symposium Leadership Weekend campers was a day full of pushing limits and challenging the ideas of what a leader should be. While first year leadership members stayed on campus honing in on key elements of being a band leader, second year leadership campers had the treat of attending the Camp Rainbow ropes course.

Other MFA Staff members and I made the trip off-campus and traveled to Camp Rainbow.  After taking some back country roads, we pulled into the parking lot. Grassy fields and shady, yet muddy, wooded areas covered the camp while obstacle courses were spread all over the property. From rope courses to the “wall,” the camp was filled with challenges both mental and physical. While working together in small groups, these kids worked on 5 are: Cooperation, Humility, Integrity, Focus and Courage.

One thing that fascinated me was that these kids come from all over the country, from urban schools to rural schools, both large and small band programs. None of these outside factors mattered. These kids were here to focus on one thing, to bond with one another and take this knowledge with them back home to become not only be a leader and role model for new band students, but to become a “go to” person for the band director. 

At the beginning of the day there were a handful of kids who took a leap of faith by stepping forward and volunteering to go first at the different obstacles. The timid, yet eager, students stood by, soaking in the information. The energetic and peppy campers encouraged others a little bit at a time. After walking around the camp, each group had more and more students willing to give it a go. This was all made possible because of the comradery and community these kids created. They were not afraid to fail because of the support of these new friends they had made.

These kids are going to do amazing things on the football field performing or in the classroom, and also as they are blossoming into the leaders of tomorrow.  This camp has a contagious nature to it.

“Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.” —John Zenger

On Saturday, 500 students arrived at Ball State University to begin the Leadership Weekend Experience! Students began with an opening session featuring Fran Kick, moved on to break-out sessions and small group sessions and finished the evening with an exciting keynote from Dr. Tim. Following the keynote, students were treated to a surprise party to cap off an exciting day!


Students received Leadership Weekend T-Shirts and markers and began signing each other's shirts while they jammed to the music. By signing these T-shirts, students are commemorating their Leadership Weekend experience and creating lasting connections with fellow campers.


The Leadership Weekend Party is a long tradition at the Summer Symposium, and while the returning Leadership students likely remember the party from previous years, it was a complete surprise to first-year attendees. The SWAG Team and DTAs (Directors' Track Assistants) chaperoned the party, and got in on some of the dancing!


At the end of the party, campers left to their dorms for the evening with new leadership skills, t-shirts full of signatures and inspiring notes and memories that the students will keep for a long time!

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