Seth Williams
Seth Williams
Seth Williams is the Advocacy 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 the Butler University Jordan College of the Arts 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.

Question: What venue has hosted Bands of America events for the most consecutive years?

Answer: Georgia Dome (20 years)

Georgia Dome
Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2001)

The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia will be hosting its 21st Bands of America event on October 25-26, 2013 for the Bands of America Super Regional Championship. The Dome opened in 1992 as the largest cable-supported dome structure in the world and has served as the home of the Atlanta Falcons, as well as hundreds of other sporting events including the 1996 Summer Olympics. For 20 years, BOA Championships at the Georgia Dome have been capstone events for bands across the Southeast. The first Regional Champion at the Georgia Dome was Seminole H.S., FL (1993). Tarpon Springs H.S. has won the most Regional Championships at the Dome (8, including 2009-2012).

Georgia Dome

Last fall, Music for All and the Georgia Dome celebrated 20 years of partnership, and a commemorative football sits in the MFA office lobby to honor the occasion. The second-longest running venue is a tie! The RCA Dome hosted the BOA Grand National Championships from 1989 – 2007 (19 consecutive years), as well as 1984 – 1986. Additionally, Illinois State University hosted the Summer Symposium 19 consecutive years from 1992 – 2010.

Click here for more information on the 2013 Bands of America Atlanta Super Regional October 25-26 at the Georgia Dome. you can purchase advance tickets to this event and other Bands of America Marching Championships here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Throwback Thursday: 1998

We’re staying in the 90’s for Throwback Thursday this week, honoring the Lassiter H.S. Trojan Marching Band and their director for more than 30 years, Alfred Watkins. At their third ever Grand National appearance, the Lassiter band won the 1998 Bands of America Grand National Championship. The 1998 event marked the beginning of the 12-band finals tradition that continues today at Grand Nationals.


Lassiter4Utilizing Jerry Goldsmith’s music from the 1975 film “The Wind and the Lion,” Lassiter enchanted the RCA Dome crowd with virtuosic woodwind runs and a beautiful Oboe solo. Just watching the show again today on MFA Video, I was blown away by the incredible student achievement, even 15 years later.

The tradition of achievement continued at Lassiter H.S. for many years under the baton of Alfred Watkins, even earning a second Grand National Championship in 2002. The Lassiter band not only enjoyed success on the marching band field, but also in the auditorium, attending the National Concert Band Festival three times and the Midwest Clinic four times. The Lassiter band received the Sudler Shield for Marching Excellence and the Sudler Flag of Honor, and Alfred Watkins was inducted into the BOA Hall of Fame in 2008.

Watkins has also trained many of the finest music educators at clinics across the nation such as the MFA Summer Symposium and as educators in his program at Lassiter. Dr. Catherine Sinon Bushman served as an assistant director at Lassiter from 1998 - 2007. She has just joined the faculty of the St. Cloud State University Department of Music and will even be adjudicating at the Texas Dairy Queen® Bands of America Regional Championship at Dallas-Fort Worth this weekend!

Lassiter HS

Alfred Watkins retired from Lassiter H.S. this past spring, and the Lassiter Band produced an incredible video highlighting his impact on music education in Lassiter, Cobb County, Georgia and the nation.


Seth Williams is the 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.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Trivia Tuesday: Texas

Bands of America has a long history of marching band events in Texas. What year and at which location was the first BOA event held in the Lone Star state?

Answer: 1980 Southwestern Regional Championship, East Texas State University, Commerce, TX


1980 was an important year for Bands of America, then Marching Bands of America(MBA). MBA launched the first ever Grand National Championships later that fall in Jacksonville, Florida and also expanded the Regional Championship format to 8 Regionals across the country. The Southwestern Regional Championship was held November 8, 1980 at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University—Commerce.

Our host for this weekend’s Texas Dairy Queen® Bands of America Regional Championship at Dallas-Fort Worth, the Allen Eagle Escadrille, even performed in BOA’s first Texas event! Be sure to check out the 800-member Escadrille and 22 other bands from across the Lone Star state at the beautiful new Allen Eagle Stadium on October 12. Click here for the schedule and additional show information.

Heartland Film Festival

Heartland Truly Moving Pictures will hold the 22nd Annual Heartland Film Festival on October 17-26 in Indianapolis. The Festival will showcase the very best in inspiring independent film from all over the world with screenings at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12, AMC Castleton Square 14 and the Wheeler Arts Community in Fountain Square.

Like Music for All, Heartland Truly Moving Pictures is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit arts organization. Their mission is to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. We are excited to participate in the 2013 Heartland Film Festival $2BACK Program, which gives us $2 back for every ticket purchased online! Use the promo code “MUSIC4ALL.” This is an amazing opportunity to support both Heartland Truly Moving Pictures and Music for All!

You can click here to see the full schedule of films in the Heartland Film Festival, including Life Inside Out, a film that uses music to connect a struggling family: When a mother returned to her musical roots, she rediscovers the passion of her youth and finds a way to connect with her troubled teenage son.

If you are looking for something fun and entertaining to do in Indianapolis this month, why not support local arts organizations while enjoying new, award-winning films! When you purchase tickets online, be sure to enter the promo code “MUSIC4ALL” and support Music for All’s “I believe” campaign.

For more information about the Heartland Film Festival, check out their website:;

Facebook: Heartland Truly Moving Pictures on Facebook

Twitter: @heartlandtmp

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Throwback Thursday: 1996

This Throwback Thursday, we're going back to 1996! The 1996 Grand National Championships marked an important change for the Bands of America event: the Championship expanded to a three-day format, featuring 80 marching bands at the RCA Dome. For the first time, Grand Nationals included three rounds of competition: prelims, semi-finals and finals.

1996 Grand National Finale


At the Grand National Finale on Saturday evening, a new Grand National Champion was named: the Lake Park High School Marching Band from Roselle, Illinois! Under the direction of Bands of America Hall of Fame member Kenneth Snoeck, the Lake Park H.S. Band performed their show "Queen of Spades." Here are a few Lake Park band members, breaking ranks to celebrate their incredible achievement!

Lake Park Band

Do you have a Grand Nationals experience you would like to share? We'd love to hear it; share in the comments below!



Seth Williams is the 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.


As we kick off the Bands of America Regional Championships this weekend in Kettering and Monroeville, the 2013 Bands of America Grand National Championships will be here in less than two months! This Throwback Thursday, I thought I would share my first Grand Nationals experience, as a member of the 2005 Centerville Jazz Band:

BLUESprintWhen my family moved to Centerville, Ohio my sophomore year of high school, the marching band was the first and only orientation to Centerville High School I needed. Coming from a small, rural school band that marched high-step and played pop tunes, the Bands of America world I stepped into was new and fascinating. For the first time, staff members were paying attention to every detail of my posture, movement and sound quality. At nearly every rehearsal, some mention of “The Dome” was included as we perfected our production, “BLUESprint.” “You’ll never forget the air lock at the Dome,” said most of my new friends. The hundreds of hours of rehearsal would supposedly be worth it once I reached “The Dome.”

As the evening rehearsals grew darker and colder, three months and an incredible first season with the Centerville Jazz Band was nearly finished. “Rock the Dome” posters for each section covered the hallway leading to the band room, filled with cheering band parents to send us off to Indianapolis. I knew something would be special about Grand Nationals after I learned that we would be attending a marching band competition instead of playing for the playoff football game that same weekend.

We boarded the buses Thursday morning, and I could barely stand the three months of anticipation. From the highway, I can remember first spotting the white roof of the RCA Dome. The indoor warm-up area was unlike anything I had experienced before. Hearing the other ensembles warming up across the pipe and drapes was hectic and distracting, and my nerves got the best of me. As we all gathered into the airlock, completely silent, our director gave us the last motivating words before our performance. “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel,” said Andrew Markworth. This phrase was handed down from Centerville Jazz Band to Centerville Jazz Band, creating a common experience for all alumni to relate. As the airlock opened and our wide eyes looked toward the fans, the expansive field and the incredible dome, everything clicked. We were able to hold everything together while soaking in one of the most life-changing experiences to-date.

Celebrate AmericaWe returned to Ohio for classes on Friday, but departed for Indianapolis after classes for the Prelims Award Ceremony. The RCA Dome was filled to the brim with students, parents and fans late Friday night to watch the 2004 Grand National Champion Lawrence Central and the exhibition Stephenson H.S. Marching Bands perform. The energy in the crowd was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. After prelims awards were presented and over 30 bands were announced for Semi-Finals, we headed to Pan Am Plaza for “Celebrate America!” The Riverside Community College and Stephenson High School bands provided entertainment as we awaited the performance order for the next day. For the finale of the evening, a spectacular fireworks display left us with “oohs” and “aahs” as we walked back to the buses. I was in complete disbelief that a marching band contest could warrant a fireworks display, let alone thousands of fans and a professional football stadium.

Saturday morning was a whirlwind of well wishes as we prepared for our Semi-Finals performance. The surroundings were more familiar this time, but the phrase was the same: “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel.” We were extremely fortunate to perform our show once more on Saturday night. There were quite a few tears in that last trip through airlock, but “Hearts on fire, eyes cold as steel” remained. After the performance, I watched our peers from across the country perform with such precision and passion I had not witnessed before, including Carmel’s unbelievable visual feats in “Suspended Symbols” and L.D. Bell’s incredible musical performance of “Lux Arumque.”

The Grand Finale celebration was a perfect capstone to the music-filled weekend. I can still remember distinctly my principal placing my finalist medallion during the ceremony. The intense emotions felt during that ceremony are still unmatched today, especially those final words from Chuck Henson, “Go for it – Break Ranks!” I met fellow high school musicians from across the country, sharing in the common Bands of America experience. Each of us embodied the positively-life changing experiences that made Bands of America events so special. After high school, I decided to pay forward my incredible experiences by volunteering at a Bands of America Regional. Six years later, I’m still involved and still indebted to Music for All’s mission, vision and core values. As a volunteer, intern, event staff and employee, I have constantly sought to continue the positively life-changing experiences I was afforded in high school.

Break Ranks!

Do you have a memory from your first Grand National Championships or other BOA event? Share it with us in the comments!




Seth Williams is the 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.


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.

YYPA2013header 1

The first out of a week-long evening concert series, the 2013 Yamaha Young Performing Artists Concert was a powerful, beautiful and magically musical closing to our first day of the full-week Music for All Summer Symposium. Our 1000+ campers filed into BSU's Emens Auditorium, but I'll bet very few, if any, knew exactly what kind of treat was in store.

The Yamaha Young Performing Artists program, known as YYPA (pronounced YIP-pa), began in 1988, with last night's concert marking its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, composer David P. Sartor composed a special trumpet fanfare that was performed by 2013 YYPA winner, Josh Gilbert, and two former YYPA winners, Stephen Bottom (1994) and Chad Winkler (1995).

trumpet-trioPerforming the trumpet fanfare, "Prologue," from left to right: Chad Winkler, Stephen Bottom and Josh Gilbert

YYPA is an annual competitive program designed to recognize outstanding young musicians, ages 16-21, from the world of classical, jazz and contemporary music. Winners are invited to attend an all-expense paid YYPA Celebration Weekend, where they perform in Emens Auditorium with national press coverage, attend an awards ceremony, and participate in professional workshops and clinics designed to launch a professional music career. This year's eleven YYPA winners, listed below, underwent an extensive audition process and were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants from across the country.

Xue Su, Cincinnati, OH - Flute
Ron Cohen Mann, New York, NY - Oboe
Danny Mui, Kalamazoo, MI - Clarinet
Tsz Kiu Kwok, Iowa City, IA - Saxophone
Alekos Syropoulos, Ann Arbor, MI - Jazz Saxophone
Joshua Gilbert, Lexington, MA - Jazz Trumpet
Markus Osterlund, Honolulu, HI - Horn
Joe LeFevre, Kalamazoo, MI - Tuba
Johnathan Hulett, South Miami, FL - Jazz Drum Set
Addison Frei, Oviedo, FL - Jazz Piano
Kanako Shimasaki, Springfield, OH - Violin

While helping to seat YYPA winners' families in the auditorium, I enjoyed brief conversation with some of them. It was awesome to hear how proud these families felt and how excited they were to see their young musician perform that night.

And for good reason. These performers were, simply put, astonishing. From a drum set jam session and a beautifully soothing clarinet piece to a sassy violin tune and a musical montage of flute, humming and beat-boxing, the concert showcased an array of diverse, naturally talented and well-disciplined emerging artists. I am confident that if each of this year's YYPA winners continue to pursue their craft, they have bright futures ahead of them.

Former YYPA winners have gone on to highly successful careers, becoming faculty at universities, members of prestigious ensembles and recording artists. Many have become Yamaha Performing Artists and Clinicians.

The concert also gave campers a special chance to see some of their Symposium faculty perform, as Sammy K, Jeremy Allen and Luke Gillespie were featured onstage for select jazz numbers.

jazz-with-alekos-syropoulosLuke Gillespie (piano), Jeremy Allen (bass) and Sammy K (drums) performing with YYPA winner Alekos Syropoulos

The evening exemplified the incredible musical talent of our nation's youth, exactly what we strive to create, provide and expand through the Music for All programs. The YYPA concert operates in conjunction with the Summer Symposium, and Music for All is proud to have the program continue in our relationship with Yamaha Corporation of America. A special thank you to our camp participants—you guys were a great audience!

all-onstageAll 2013 YYPA Concert Performers

Ron-Cohen-Mann-with-JohnYYPA winner Ron Cohen Mann pictured with John Wittmann, Director of Artist Relations, Yamaha Corporation of America, at the post-concert reception

For more information about YYPA, follow "Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) Competition" on Facebook.

Think YOU might have what it takes to be a Yamaha Young Performing Artist? Check their website,, to learn more and apply.

-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.

Just before Nik Wallenda made his high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon live on national television, returning Leadership Weekend Experience students ventured 35 minutes north to Taylor University to experience the Escape to Reality Challenge Course. Like Nik Wallenda's unbelievable journey, campers stepped out of their comfort zone and built life and leadership skills in the process. As a Music for All staff member, I have never participated in the challenge course and decided to join the leaders in a truly life-changing experience.

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In our first exercise, campers were required to transport themselves between three platforms without touching the ground and only using two boards. The group was quickly able to brainstorm and test solutions. Effective communication, patience and support within the group resulted in a successful exercise. When the facilitator gave the group a "freebie" to touch the ground, the group weighed the options of maintaining pride and integrity as a motivator, or utilizing the second chance to be successful. I was impressed by the maturity and focus of this group in this tough challenge.

Nonverbal communication was key at the next station, where we arranged each other by birthdate and age on a narrow log without speaking. This proved to be a daunting challenge (although my place at the end was very obvious), but the group was very patient and incredibly helpful of each other. The group learned that nonverbal listening, or awareness, is integral to success as a leader. In the end, we succeeded, bringing the group of 12 closer, even in less than 24 hours as a team.

After lunch, I was excited to hear a new perspective on leadership from a former band director of mine, Tom Pompeii, in "Leadership Straight from the Horse's Mouth." Tom is an accomplished music educator and horseman, and provided the campers a fresh look at nonverbal communication. Tom's session introduced concepts for interacting and leading introverts vs. extroverts, similar to skittish horses. The awareness required to notice and respond appropriately to different types of people is important for new leaders.

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At the high ropes area, campers learned to live beyond their comfort zone and take a literal leap of faith. There were several stations that provided thrills, but required focus and concentration. Fellow campers on the ground cheered for those in the air, providing a safe, supportive environment for success. The daunting zip line was a favorite for the thrill-seeking campers. Even in my own, clumsy and unsuccessful attempt at climbing a pole and jumping toward a trapeze, campers were supportive, serving as the counterweight. From the apprehension of jumping off the ledge to the electrifying feeling of near free fall, my trip down the zip line was incredible. By stepping out of my own comfort zone, I was able to face my fears and grow, in my own leadership and life skills.



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