Mikaela Ray is a Senior at Franklin High School in Tennessee. Mikaela is the 2015 recipient of the William D. Revelli Scholarship. She is a two-time Honor Band of America member who has performed in the National Concert Band Festival and the Chamber Music National Festival. She is the principal horn and section leader in her high school’s band and is passionate about helping others realize their musical potential.
I sobbed so much the first day of high school marching band and, after an interesting three-year journey, I now know that it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.
When summer band camp started the summer before freshman year I was the new kid – terrified and alone. Day after day it was mentally and physically exhausting, maybe one of the toughest things I’d done in my life, and I hated it. As I began to let my guard down, I grew stronger, made friends and became more excited to play.
School started in August and with the new experiences I had over the summer I now looked forward to concert band during the week and marching band with football games or competitions on the weekends. Each day I spent as a musician I learned more. Not only did I gain knowledge about playing my horn and things such as tuning and rhythm, but I also began to learn how to be a dependable and think critically. School may have taught me English and algebra, but band taught me that my actions and performance in life directly affects others.
I grew tremendously as a person from freshman to sophomore year. I became a more reliable, forward thinking team player. Sophomore year stretched me even more. I began to learn how to lead as a musician and a person. I learned respect, when to lead and when to follow through my involvement with marching band, my school’s inaugural winter guard and the principal horn spot in the wind ensemble. That winter I had my first experience with Music for All when my wind ensemble went to National Festival. It truly showed me how amazing high school concert band could be and how music could bring people together. After seeing the Honor Band of America perform, I wanted nothing more than to play at that level of excellence.
MFA President and CEO, Eric Martin and Mikaela at the Music for All National Festival
After Music for All National Festival I auditioned for drum major. I thought I had the “cat in the bag,” but that dream ended when David, my director, explained that I needed to be mellophone section leader instead. He explained that the section needed someone strong, and he needed me to be that person, but though I was honored I was also disappointed because I didn’t get to lead in the way I wanted. I didn’t know it then, but his decision would mark a monumental change in my future with music.
Overwhelmed with the thought of leading my section during the upcoming fall, I looked to my past and present band directors as well as section leaders and I observed how they led. I realized that they were all passionate about music and people. They were discerning, decisive and weren’t afraid to apologize when they were wrong. They led fearlessly and by example.
I had the passion for music (I practically lived in the band room and loved it), I always had a passion for helping people, but I had no idea how I was going to attain the many other qualities of a good leader. After expressing my concern, my band director encouraged me to attend the Music for All Summer Symposium and leadership weekend. Attending gave me the knowledge, confidence and tools I needed to lead and the tools to put these new skills into practice. I returned home invigorated and ready to make a difference.
Starting with my high school’s band camp, I led the mellophones all of junior year. We tackled after-school rehearsals, long hours at weekend competitions and the dynamic that comes with any group that spends the majority of their free time together. I got to know my section as people began to understand how they learned best. I was their friend and cared for them, which made them willing to follow me. I was fearless, decisive, passionate, discerning and unafraid to apologize. I pushed them as a section and as people. Not only was I successful, but also I had the time of my life doing it.
During the fall of 2013 I realized that I love to teach. I applied play with the Music for All Honor Band of America and was accepted that December. Time flew until the National Festival in March where I got to perform with some of the most talented people of my life and under the direction of some of the most seasoned clinicians, including our amazing director Eugene Coorporon. I made valuable connections that I will continue to cherish in my professional career and I pushed myself to perform better than ever before. Mr. Coorporon taught me how to improve a group’s performance by only saying few, but well thought out, words and to believe in myself. That weekend was the best weekend of my life.
Again, Music for All had given me the capability to go back to school and use new skills to improve personally as a musician and as a leader for my classmates. I applied again for HBOA the next fall and also joined my school’s Serenade Ensemble, which would play at the first ever Music for All Chamber Music National Festival. In addition, I applied for the William D Revelli Memorial Scholarship thinking of the great moment when the winner at the previous year’s festival had received it.
A few months later I found out that I was going to receive the scholarship. I was honored and wanted to tell everyone, but I had to keep it a secret until it was announced.
MFA Annual Fund Manager, Gregg Puls and Mikaela after she was awarded
the William D. Revelli Scholarship at the Music for All National Festival
Coming back to Indianapolis in March felt like going home. I reunited with old friends, met new ones and got excited to make some great music. Kevin Sedatole was a wonderful conductor for the Honor Band of America and my chamber ensemble performed with precision and true musicality.
All of my experiences with Music for All have confirmed my passion to become a music educator and I can’t wait to bring a band of my own to National Festival someday.