The Music for All Blog
The Music for All Blog

Finding the Courage to Create

Friday, 05 May 2017 13:25 Written by Christian Howes

Courage to Create Blog Header

Most artists follow a curve in their development that rises, peaks, plateaus, and eventually declines. The inevitable question we all face is regarding how to keep growing.

What have you done lately to be inspired and how have you followed through on that inspiration?

No matter how good you are at what you do, you’ve got to keep creating if you want to keep growing, and this requires finding courage to put yourself out there again and again, to stretch beyond what you’ve done before and continually reinvent your work. Rehashing what you’ve done before isn’t really being creative, and you’re only as relevant as your last project.

For more established artists, this means you can’t rest on your laurels. For developing artists, it’s a reason to get busy, because if you have the drive and energy to be prolific, generating a bulk of material could take you far, fast.

Supposedly, most visionaries make their greatest innovations before they become experts, i.e., when they are novices. Once recognized as experts, once we are “trained,” we become less willing to go into that vulnerable space of the “novice,” where real exploration happens. We become afraid that we will lose our status as experts and be revealed for the bumbling, fumbling human beings that we really are.

I can think of many artists who made their biggest statements at a relatively early age, when they had nothing to lose.

It could be said that each of us is at the same time both immeasurably powerful and incredibly insignificant. To focus on our “smallness” is to wallow in despair. To focus on our power is to become obsessed with delusions of grandeur. The trick is to truly accept this contradiction by both owning your power and accepting your weakness. Ride the wave! Artists who create every day
are optimistic in their ability to transcend their limits, and are at the same time able to be realistic about their limitations and constructively critical of their work, maintaining a skeptical confidence without succumbing to the uncritical denial of arrogance or
the paralysis of insecurity.

If you can’t overcome your insecurity, or if you you have trouble acknowledging any limitations, I recommend sublimating through exercise, meditation, reading, or other activities that allow you to lose yourself in something totally unrelated to your art. (One of my favorite activities that helps me sublimate my feelings is hacky sacking.)

I take inspiration from my students. They haven’t “proven” themselves yet, so they have nothing to lose. Their lack of experience is unrelated to the courage they are capable of employing to reach their goal. I must have demonstrated courage at some point when I was young, but now it’s my students that lead by their example, reminding me that I need to step up to the plate with the kind of fearlessness they demonstrate. “The curve” of development suggests that our willingness to display creative courage diminishes as we get older and more established, and I don’t want to suffer the fate of having my work become stale,
like yesterday’s news.

Many of my students are aspiring jazz violinists and cellists. I meet other jazz string players around the U.S. who complain about the difficulties of “breaking in” the jazz scene. It’s hard to gain acceptance in the jazz community for various reasons. And then there are infinite reasons that each person has for why it’s even harder for them, whether it be their training, race, gender, geography, financial position, physical handicaps, something that happened to them when they were a kid, their Zodiac sign, and so on. Today I listened to the new CD of one of my former students, Tomoko Omura, and I was humbled by the realization of what she has overcome, and the courage it must have taken to produce such a great creative work of art. She came from Japan, learned a new language, a new culture, and overcame tremendous odds to get where she is now.

I can imagine how many times she was NOT invited to play on stage at a jam session after waiting for hours just to play one song. I can imagine how many times she must have thought, “Why am I even trying to do this? It seems impossible!” And now, she’s created one of the most beautiful, important, creative and relevant works of jazz violinists in the recent past. Shu Mei Yap lives in Singapore and has worked with me now on the production of two CDs. She is another example of an artist who refused to allow barriers to get in the way.

My daughter Camille is one of the most inspiring examples to me of courage. She’s gone through her whole life with a dad who might have seemed a little bit bigger than life at times. Every year I surround her with all my favorite jazz string players at my annual “Creative Strings Workshop,” a week during which all the world’s hottest players jam and show their stuff. I’m thrilled that she’s gotten to know all these cool people and amazing artists, except that she’s also got to deal with measuring herself against that standard, and I can only imagine the kind of pressure she may feel sometimes!

Every day that she picks up her violin and keeps going for it, I feel immensely proud and take inspiration from her because that takes courage. My students make me humble. They make me remember that it’s not how much knowledge or experience you have, but whether you’re willing to keep pushing through your own fears, re-engaging continuously in the creative process, no matter what form that process takes for you, because you know that wherever you fall on life’s curve is a function of the strength of your last project.

Here are some quick tips for getting engaged creatively:

  • Narrow down/compartmentalize: Instead of writing “a song,” be specific: Write a 12-bar song, a bass line in 4/4, a song in a certain style/tempo, a melody, etc. Instead of writing “an essay,” write a “persuasive essay” about a specific subject, with a specific duration.
  • Limit the scope; write just one paragraph, one sentence, or 4 bars of a song.
  • Schedule: Schedule time in your calendar for working on your project.
  • Keep notes: Use your phone to keep voice memos or keep a journal.
  • Review: Listen back to your work at various stages – listen uncritically at first, and listen critically later, allowing for your insights to change over time.
  • Try different processes: For a musician, you may work better with pencil and paper, or improvising into a recorder, or using a different instrument, or employing software.

What is your take on “courage and the creative process?”

Board member banner

Three new members have been elected to the Music for All Board of Directors: David Simmons, Denver; Marla D. Smith, Indianapolis; and Anthony M. Tang, Winston-Salem, N.C.; all with extensive experience within the music community. Music for All’s vision is to be a catalyst to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to participate in active music-making in his or her scholastic environment.

“We welcome three new board members to our Music for All board,” says Gayl Doster, Chairman of the Music for All Board of Directors. “These three individuals bring additional diversity and a wealth of expertise and knowledge in the areas of technology, education, and advancement to the Music for All Board of Directors. Their varying experiences and geographic locations represents the breadth of the constituency of this national organization. “Each director displays business and fiscal acumen as well as a love of music. Together they will help us expand opportunities for Music for All as we serve young musicians and their teachers, and advocate for the inclusion of music education as part of a complete education for our young people.”

David Simons is a Software Developer at Bertram Labs in Denver. Prior to serving on the technology team, Mr. Simons was a member of the investment team for Bertram Capital, targeting investments and advising in the operations and strategic management of portfolio companies in the business services, health care, technology, and consumer industries.

Mr. Simons is an alumnus of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., where he was an active member and performer in many ensembles of the music program, including its storied marching band. He received a Bachelor of Arts from DePauw University, where he studied economics and computer science.

Marla D. Smith is the retired Executive Assistant to Indianapolis Entrepreneur Michael S. Maurer and the office manager for Maurer Rifkin & Hill. Marla has an Associate Degree in Business from Western Michigan University, and she was the featured twirler and a member of the Western Michigan University marching band. She was an active band parent at the Westfield High School Marching Band, while her daughter participated in the band. She is a supporter and consultant of the Ball State University Marching Band.

Anthony M. Tang is a native of Rocky Mount, N.C., and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Engagement Programs in the Office of Alumni Engagement at Wake Forest University; and he volunteers much of his time as the Director of Student Leadership for the "Spirit of the Old Gold and Black" Marching Band, where he was Drum Major as an undergraduate.

Anthony played a vital role in bringing the Bands of America North Carolina Regional Championship to Winston-Salem and Wake Forest University. In December 2015, Anthony and his wife Megan set up the Tang Family Scholarship Fund through Music for All, benefitting individual students who are interested in attending the Music for All Summer Symposium as Anthony and Megan see value in the leadership-driven environment.

This is the fifth installment of a new series that will highlight the Music for All staff members who work behind-the-scenes to make all of the positively life-changing experiences happen! Get to know each of our amazing staff members, as we learn more about who they are and what they do at Music for All. A new post will be featured every week!

 Mark Sternberg header

Mark Sternberg/Senior Event Coordinator

Hometown: Elkhart, IN

How long have you been with Music for All?
I did some seasonal work with Music for All for a couple of falls, but started working full-time at Music for All in 2013.

What is your favorite event at Music for All and why?
I really enjoy everything we do (the variety is part of what keeps things interesting and fun), but probably the fall season. We have the opportunity to be around so many great bands every week, and work with some really wonderful volunteers and Music for All Event Staff.

Do you have a favorite memory of working an event with Music for All?
The Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus from Washington D.C. (one of the best bands in the world) has performed at the Music for All Summer Symposium twice in the past few years. I was backstage during one of their concerts, and they were performing a piece that featured several of their low brass players, playing in front of the band. The featured members exited the stage to a RIDICULOUS round of applause and cheering. Once they were backstage, they had huge smiles, were high-fiving, and absolutely pumped from the amount of energy from the students in the crowd. A number of Field Band members said they “felt like rock stars” that night. It was amazing to see the performers, audience, and the staff all having such a positive experience.

What is your musical background?
I started as a percussionist in band when I was 10 years old, and continued throughout school. I studied Music Education at Butler University, and was a band director for 10 years. I still try to play, and love that percussion can allow such a broad spectrum of performance opportunities.

One thing you couldn’t live without?
Music, Friends & Family, and Diet Coke

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading questions from our staff profile interviews… Also, I’ve been reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The collection of short stories makes it easy to still finish something when things are busy.

Do you have a favorite quote?
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

What's a show you've binge watched recently?
West Wing, Scandal, The Office, Lost

Favorite movie not many people have seen?
Serious movie, and a great story – The Red Violin. Completely stupid and funny movie – Army of Darkness

IMG 2788IMG 2789

Advancement Monthly Blog: Revelli Scholarship

Thursday, 27 April 2017 17:15 Written by Elise Middleton

Advancement blog header

March was an exciting and busy month in the Advancement department, with Music for All’s National Festival as the center of it all. This was my first National Festival I have attended, and the musicality and energy of all the participants blew me away. This event overflowed with talent, thrill, and passion for music. It was fantastic to see this talent celebrated and awarded during the Gala Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. One award that the Advancement team was especially excited to present was the William D. Revelli Scholarship.

The Music for All Foundation, formerly known as The Revelli Foundation and established in honor of Dr. William D. Revelli, has a longstanding history of awarding scholarships to future music educators. Dr. Revelli’s legacy continues to live through the many students who benefit from the scholarships. The $1,000 William D. Revelli Scholarship is a one-time award, and it honors a student performing at the Music for All National Festival. This scholarship is named after a talented and renowned educator. At the time of his death in 1994, at the age of 92, he was regarded as one of the great music educators and band conductors of the century. During his long career, he had received every honor and accolade imaginable. With a name of a legacy, this scholarship is truly an honor.

Of the many applicants, one stood out. She demonstrates exemplary leadership skills, work ethic, and musical talents and is truly invested in her high school music program and strives to be a servant leader among her peers. This year’s winner is Leah Warman from Thompson High School in Alabaster, Alabama.

We were moved by her compelling scholarship essay that ended with important advice that we all follow: “I have a secret: music is not about what other people want or who is better than another, but about what you feel. If it makes you feel good, then that is justification enough. Always remember this.”

Music for All scholarships, like the Revelli Scholarship, are awarded annually at Music for All events throughout the year. These scholarships are possible due to the generous support and donations from those who wish to help Music for All be a catalyst to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to participate in active music-making in his or her scholastic environment.

You can learn more about all Music for All scholarships opportunities, how to apply, and especially, how you can support them by visiting our scholarship page at

Music for All Staff Spotlight: Lucy Wotell

Monday, 24 April 2017 14:30 Written by Lucy Wotell

This is the fourth installment of a new series that will highlight the Music for All staff members who work behind-the-scenes to make all of the positively life-changing experiences happen! Get to know each of our amazing staff members, as we learn more about who they are and what they do at Music for All. A new post will be featured every week!

 Lucy Wotell header

Name/Job Title
Lucy Wotell/Marketing Coordinator

Hometown: Boca Raton, FL

How long have you been with Music for All?
I started at Music for All in August, so a little over eight months!

What has been your favorite part of working at Music for All?
My favorite part of working at Music for All is working with supportive, passionate, and inspiring people! There are not many opportunities where you have an outlet to express yourself, and I feel like I am able to do that in my department and for this organization. I also love making coffee runs with my co-workers!

What is your musical background?
I played the clarinet from 6th to 12th grade in concert band, symphonic band, and marching band. I was also in the Women’s Honor Choir my sophomore year of high school.

One thing you couldn’t live without?
Coffee! And of course my family, friends, and my longtime boyfriend Tyler.

What kind of music do you listen to?
I love all sorts of music: classic rock, pop, show tunes, hip-hop, classical, etc.

What do you like to do in your free time?
In the past year and a half, I’ve gotten into photography! My focus is portrait photography.

Do you have a favorite quote?
I have two, both by Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up” and “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

What's a show you've binge watched recently?
Season 7 of Archer. Hilarious show!

Favorite movie not many people have seen?
What About Bob?

Lucy W
Lucy W2
Lucy W3

Directors Academy header

Music for All remains committed to providing educational resources and professional development tools in support of music in our schools and our communities. Our most recent program was the Directors’ Academy at the Music for All National Festival, a three-day professional development conference for directors and music education majors. Held in Indianapolis during the Music for All National Festival from March 9-11, the 2017 Directors’ Academy offered an unparalleled opportunity for colleagues to share best practices focused on our grand profession.

We kicked off the event with Thursday afternoon’s Opening Session delivered by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser to a room of over 2,300 students, parents, and educators. Over the course of three days, attendees had access to the full scope of the Music for All National Festival featuring more than 50 concerts of wind bands, orchestras, percussion ensembles, and chamber music as well as rehearsal and ensemble clinic sessions given by some of the most well-respected musicians in our field.

One of my favorite aspects was observing the student Master Class sessions, broken out into specialized instrumentation and led by Yamaha Performing Artists and members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Witnessing the young musicians learn from these dedicated and professional musicians was very inspiring!

The most special part of the experience was having the opportunity to sit down in an intimate setting and learn from the icons of music education in our Directors’ Academy classes. Hosted by Richard Crain (Retired Director of Music; Spring Independent School District, TX) this year’s attendees gained valuable insight into the past and future of music education through the lens of four passionate educators.

Gary Green (Professor Emeritus; University of Miami, FL) shared his thoughts on the importance of being a music educator. It’s not just about teaching notes and rhythms, but more importantly making music and sharing the process with others.

Craig Kirchhoff (Director Emeritus; University of Minnesota) asked for us to consider whether or not our conducting is helping or hurting our ensemble. Kirchhoff also shared his personal viewpoint on selecting repertoire. It’s not about choosing pieces to play, but rather defining a curriculum and our beliefs about what music education should be for our students.

H. Robert Reynolds (Principal Conductor, Wind Ensemble at University of Southern California) discussed the use of batons and shared what he personally uses. Learning by listening and watching others that you respect was one of Reynolds’ themes. Look for those that use expressive conducting. Chances are the ensemble will want to match that level of expressiveness.

Anthony Maiello (Professor of Music, George Mason University) shared practical ways to develop confidence and security with the technical aspects of conducting, but also encouraged us and offered suggestions on how to move beyond technique to create emotionally engaging music with your ensemble.

This year’s attendees were inspired and rejuvenated, and reminded us WHY they teach music. If you missed out this year, it is my hope that you might consider joining us next year from March 15-17, 2018, to take part in this inspirational showcase of mission-oriented music educators who are committed to excellence.

Music for All Staff Spotlight: Elise Middleton

Monday, 17 April 2017 14:30 Written by Lucy Wotell

This is the third installment of a new series that will highlight the Music for All staff members who work behind-the-scenes to make all of the positively life-changing experiences happen! Get to know each of our amazing staff members, as we learn more about who they are and what they do at Music for All. A new post will be featured every week!

Elise Middleton header

Name/Job Title: Elise Middleton / Advancement Coordinator

Hometown: Greenwood, IN

How long have you been with Music for All?
I started working at Music for All at the end of October 2016, so I have been here for about six months.

What has been your favorite part of working at Music for All?
I enjoy working at an organization that I have a passion for, and I love witnessing the musicality and energy of all the students and staff at our events!

What is your musical background?
I played violin and took private lessons in the Center Grove school district from sixth grade until the end of high school. I went on to play until my junior year of college at Indiana State University, and I also joined a music fraternity for women, Sigma Alpha Iota.

What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to most types of music, except I’m not a big fan of Country music. My all time favorite artist is Florence and the Machine. I also love artists such as Saint Motel, Bastille, Kimbra, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lady Gaga, and many more.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to collect vintage books, watch/read Shakespeare plays, travel, hike, read, watch Netflix, go to plays and museums, and of course spend time with family and friends.

What are you currently reading?
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which is a true story about a cunning serial killer that struck during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Do you have a favorite quote?
“We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?”

What's a show you've binge watched recently?
There are so many! For example, I have been binge watching Shameless, The Great British Baking Show, and The OA.

Favorite movie not many people have seen?
Billy Elliot

Elise 3Elise 2Elise Middleton

Peer teaching header2

Music for All has added the Student Peer Teaching Program to the Music for All Summer Symposium starting this year. The Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha is the largest national weeklong summer music camp for students and teachers, and will take place at Ball State University in Muncie from June 26-July 1 at Ball State University for its seventh summer.

The Peer Teaching Program’s primary mission will be to train student leaders on how to be a MODEL for their band program: M-Motivate, O-Observe, D-Demonstrate, E-Educate/Equip, and L-Lead. The program is designed to not only teach students leadership concepts, but also train them how to be effective leaders in their band programs, and become a valuable asset to their directors. With this training, students will be equipped with the tools to help them teach and inspire their peers, which includes being trained to help with musical and visual marching instruction, to effectively communicate with their peers, basic principles of movement, how to read and clean drill charts, and how to observe and conduct sectionals and rehearsals.

The Student Peer Teaching Program has a superb staff that includes Joel Denton, coordinator of the Peer Teaching Program and Director of Bands of Ooltewah High School, TN; Jeremy Spicer, former Director of Bands of Vandegrift High School, TX; John Howell Visual Designer for nationally acclaimed high school bands, drum and bugle corps, and winter guards; and Anna Rodriguez Assistant Director of Bands at Westlake High School, TX.

“You must train your leadership before you can empower them,” states Joel Denton, coordinator of the Peer Teaching Program. “The Peer Teaching Program is designed to produce educated and inspired student leaders, who can actively engage their peers throughout the school year in concert and marching band, and produce a dynamic impact in their entire band program.”

Music for All Staff Spotlight: Jenny Fultz

Monday, 10 April 2017 10:00 Written by Lucy Wotell

 This is the second installment of a new series that will highlight the Music for All staff members who work behind-the-scenes to make all of the positively life-changing experiences happen! Get to know each of our amazing staff members, as we learn more about who they are and what they do at Music for All. A new post will be featured every week!

Jenny Fultz header 

Name/Job Title
Jenny Fultz, Event Manager

Hometown: Indianapolis

How long have you been with Music for All?
I’ve been with Music for All about seven months (started at the end of August 2016). I’ve been blessed to be able to work in many places around the country in a variety of aspects within the Events Industry.

What is your favorite event at Music for All and why?
So far, I’ve only experienced the Bands of America season and the National Festival. I’m not sure I can answer that until making it full-circle through camp!

What has been your favorite part of working at Music for All?
The dynamic balance of the different types of people and backgrounds that make up the Music for All staff. It’s been wonderful learning everyone’s unique circumstances and experiences!

Do you have a favorite memory of working an event with Music for All?
So far, my favorite memory has been standing on the front sideline at Grand Nationals watching the bands enter the field in retreat to start the awards ceremony. It was my “this is why I do what I do” moment!

What is your musical background?
I started playing the clarinet in 5th grade and quickly fell in love with it! I picked up a few instruments along the way for fun, but stayed as a clarinet until I graduated high school. While my musical career ended with high school graduation, I was “all band” up to that point. I met my husband in Marching Band when I was 15 and most of my best friends today are those I made from band.

One thing you couldn’t live without?
Besides the obvious choices of my two beautiful children and husband, Diet Coke is what I can’t live without!

What kind of music do you listen to?
I love just about all types of music (minus the head-banging metal rock). If you checked my radio pre-sets in the car, you’d find a split between country and “today’s hits.” Most played on my Spotify currently are Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Anything with family! I’m close with my family (they live ten houses down from us!) and my husband’s family – both our parents and six sibling families live within a five-mile radius! We like to host bonfires, take long walks that usually end up at Dairy Queen, and we spend a lot of time camping/boating in the summer.

Do you have a favorite quote?
“All dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

What's a show you've binge watched recently?

15534972 742593919224012 6791817911867539456 n

The Southern Regional Concert Festival at Russellville Center for the Arts took place between March 30 - April 1. Tina Maria Christiansen, a sophomore music education major at Arkansas Tech University, had the pleasure of helping the host of the festival, and has provided a recap and photos from the event!

IMG 2585

The 2017 Southern Regional Concert Band Festival was a HUGE success! It was hosted by Arkansas Tech University, Russellville HS and The Center for The Arts.

IMG 2577IMG 2579

Throughout the three-day festival, Over 40 bands from the region signed up to give themselves the wonderful opportunity of performing in front of our extraordinary clinicians Robert Ambrose, Sarah McKoin, Cody Birdwell, Gary Green, and Allan McMurray.

IMG 2583IMG 2580

We would like to thank all students and directors for participating at the Russellville Performance Arts Center!

IMG 2586