At Music for All, our mission is to provide positively life-changing experiences through music for all. We believe that music is powerful beyond measure and can change lives. At every single one of our events, there is something that I see or hear that proves to me that we have accomplished our mission, and that music CAN change people’s lives in so many ways.
This year at the Music for All National Festival, the Honor Band of America had the opportunity to be involved in something even more incredible than the experience of being part of a national honor band. This year, the Honor Band of America performed the premiere of a commissioned piece, Everything Beautiful by composer Samuel Hazo under the baton of Eugene Migliaro Corporon.
Everything Beautiful was commissioned by The Charles F. Campbell Jr. Memorial Consortium, in memory of Charles (Chuck) Campbell, Jr, a respected music educator, conductor and mentor to young music teachers, and 2012 posthumous inductee of the Bands of America Hall of Fame.
While many of the young musicians who performed in the 2014 Honor Band of America had never had the opportunity to meet Chuck Campbell before he passed, they were tasked with the responsibility of being the very first musicians who would perform this beautiful piece of music in his memory.
During their time rehearsing, the students had the opportunity to learn about Chuck Campbell and why he was special to so many people. They even had the chance to hear from the composer himself, Samuel Hazo, to really understand what this piece of music was about. (To learn more about the piece and the history behind the commission click here.)
Every artist, no matter the medium, strives to connect with his or her audience. I know I’m not the only one who believes that the 2014 Honor Band of America accomplished this the night they premiered Everything Beautiful for a packed house at Clowes Hall during the Music for All National Festival.
Composer Samuel Hazo put it best in this video that takes us inside Everything Beautiful.
Everything Beautiful. Never has there been a more perfect title for a piece of music. Every time I listen to it, I cannot think of a better adjective to describe what I’m hearing than simply – beautiful.
The Honor Band of America did a magnificent job connecting with their audience and invoking so many emotions throughout the three movements. Bravo, members of the 2014 Honor Band of America!
Watch the full performance of Everything Beautiful performed by the 2014 Honor Band of America:
To learn more about the history of the Everything Beautiful commission, composer Samuel Hazo and to read the program notes click here.
As my time at Music for All comes to an end, I though it fitting to dedicate this throwback Thursday post to my first and favorite event, 2013 BOA Grand Nationals.
This past year’s Grand Nats was one of the most exhilarating, challenging, sometimes frustrating, and all around fun experiences of my life. Helping produce positively life-changing experiences for the participants, their families, and all of our amazing volunteers is something I will never forget. And, as a huge Colts’ fan, walking on the field, into the press box, and all around Lucas Oil Stadium was a dream come true.
As a non-BOA participant myself, I didn’t fully grasp just how important these championships were to our many fans. But, I learned very quickly. One afternoon I, along with my fellow marketing assistant (we miss you Cristina!) were tasked with handling quite possibly the most prized possession in the house: The Eagle. We wheeled the trophy up from the field, through elevators and onto the main concourse. The looks we were garnering from passersby throughout the stadium gave me my first clue to just how “big” this was. A few stopped us to ask “Is that the real Eagle?” When we answered with “yes, and we’re giving everyone the chance to get their very own picture taken with it,” their faces lit up.
Soon, fans from all across the stadium began coming to our booth hoping to have their own moment with the trophy. We snapped photos, exchanged stories, and learned some really interesting history about the Eagle, and BOA itself. I can’t even tell you how many folks just wanted to come and look for their school’s engraving from past championships, and share a tale from that year’s marching season. The amount of joy that came from these people as they thought back to their marching days or stood next to the Eagle for the first time could have lit the entirety of Lucas Oil Stadium that weekend.
This was the moment that cemented in my mind just how important Music for All is. BOA is not just a competition but, as we at Music for All like to say, an absolutely life-changing experience. I will never forget my time with Music for All, and am honored to add my name to the incredible legacy of the organization.
Name: Kyle Courtney
Position: Event Coordinator
Hometown: Newburgh, Indiana
How long have you been with MFA?
Just over two years.
What is your educational background? Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I went to Indiana State University and got a Bachelor of Science with emphasis on Music Business. Give or take a couple of credit hours, it is essentially a double major in Music and Business Administration.
What is your musical background?
In high school, I played Euphonium for the Castle Marching Knights (yes, I was a BOA kid) and the concert bands. I also sang in our show choir and was a part of several stage productions. In college, I stuck to singing and performed with of our concert choir and chamber ensemble, the Sycamore Singers. I also play guitar (badly), and my biggest regret is that I never was in a rock band in high school. If I could have had just ONE successful stage dive…
What kind of music do you like to listen to?
It truly depends on my mood, but I have a particular love for 90’s rock music, only because it is the best era of music (fact). That being said, I have a VERY eclectic array of albums, from Metallica to Queen to the Goo Goo Dolls to Michael Buble. Growing up, I was introduced to many different types and styles of music and I am still constantly discovering new artists, as well as appreciating those that have paved the way.
Why is music important to you?
Music is one of the few things that touches everyone. It’s on the radio, on our phones, on our computers, in the movies and TV shows that we watch, and is continuing to be made every day. We develop personal relationships and become emotionally and monetarily invested in the art because it invokes feelings within us that nothing else can. Music can be a reminder, an escape, an outlet and a career, connecting us all to one another in various shapes and forms.
Why do you believe in music education?
I can state all kinds of statistics and studies proving that music education is an essential component for healthy and sound academic development, but really I was just very fortunate to have a lot of great educators that taught me life skills through music. They pushed me to work hard, be a good leader, be focused, set and accomplish realistic goals, learn to work as a team and strive to be as good as I can. What I realize now is every component that makes an ensemble successful also makes a business successful. Only a handful of my friends ended up in the music industry or music education, but many of the people that were involved with me in music found success and happiness in various other industries and I ABSOLUTELY believe that it was because of the training we received.
What sort of things do you do in your free time (hobbies)?
I am a HUGE football fan. However, I am a Steelers fan living in Indianapolis, so I get plenty of grief from Colts fans, but my allegiance will not waiver. I also have an (unhealthy) obsession with movies and pop culture and a barrage of obscure facts that, I feel, really makes me a hit at parties.
What led you to Music for All?
Between my sophomore and junior year of college, I was struggling to figure out which aspect of the music industry I wanted to work in, so I went to a Foo Fighters concert to clear my head. For three hours, I screamed lyrics and sweated uncomfortably close to complete strangers, and it was the most pure I had felt in a long time. From that point forward, I made it my goal to work in the world of live performance, just to provide others with that same feeling.
I had the opportunity to work as the stage manager for the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra my last two years in college, gaining valuable event planning and “gear schlepping” experience. Upon graduation, I moved down to Nashville where I worked for a couple of music agencies, assisted at the Country Music Awards and went on the road with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. It was all a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing from the equation. I had the very fortunate opportunity to interview and get the Event Coordinator position here at Music for All, where I am able to provide the same experiences that made me the person I am today. I couldn’t be happier!
What do you enjoy the most about working for Music for All?
Seeing the kids faces after they DO have a “positively life-changing experience.” I still remember at Grand Nationals last year, hearing a girl say “I can’t believe we just marched on the same field the Colts play on!” and it brought me back to that moment for me when I was in high school. Working on our side of it, we are often so caught up in making the event run, it’s easy to forget that those reactions are why we do what we do. We make it a point to step back and watch a few shows, just to remember what it’s really about.
Also, I have the best co-workers in the world. It takes a special kind of person to do this kind of work, and we are so lucky to have an office full of them. Plus, they tolerate me making EXTRA strong coffee.
What is your favorite Music for All event, and why?
Grand Nationals is my favorite event that we do. First of all, Lucas Oil Stadium is an INCREDIBLE venue and the stadium staff we work with are amazing. The city of Indianapolis embraces this event and we are so grateful that they work with us each year to make it bigger and better.
From my perspective, it is really nice to have the MFA and site staff together in one place. For the previous two months, we have all been traveling around to various parts of the United States and we get to finally sit down and share the hilarious and enlightening experiences from the fall. It is a perfect end to the season!
What’s one interesting thing about yourself that some on staff may not be aware of?
I have a little sister that my parents adopted from China when I was a junior in high school. It has been an awesome experience to watch her grow up and I absolutely love her to death. I am jealous of her ability to ALREADY play piano better than I ever could (she has been playing for 4 months…I took it for 2 years in college), but am very proud to see her embracing music as a part of her life. In a few years, I look forward to seeing her in a Castle Marching Band uniform.
Are you still debating whether or not you should attend the the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha in June? Here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider it!
Each night after a day full of track intensive work (and fun!), the WHOLE camp comes together for an evening of inspiring music! Whether your favorite is an evening of jazz, virtuosic soloists or some of the world’s best drum corps, there will be at least one night you can’t wait to tell your friends back home about!
Whether you are a jazz cat, guard diva, marching band buff, orchestra nut, concert band wiz, or drum guru, there’s a division and a place for you at the Music for All Summer Symposium.
At the Music for All Summer Symposium we don’t believe that only drum majors or section leaders benefit from leadership. We believe that EVERY student benefits from leadership training and that’s why it is incorporated in EVERY division of the Summer Symposium. Anyone who is willing to pay attention, respond and get involved has the potential to positively lead others.
Where else would you get to go to be instructed by so many of the top music educators and clinicians from across the country?
At camp you will be with over 1,000 other students from all across the country. You will not only have the opportunity to make friends within your own track, but you will make friends with other students in your dorm, your swags, and faculty! These are relationships that can last you a lifetime; just think of the instagram followers you will have when you get home!
This IS the Music for All Summer Symposium, so first and foremost you will be getting top-notch performance instruction from our outstanding faculty!
There is no doubt about it that you will take things that you learn at Music for All Summer Symposium back to your own band, orchestra or guard program back home, not only music or performance skills, but attitude, energy, and a new outlook. Imagine how much stronger of a performer and leader you’ll be and how it could positively impact your school ensemble!
You’re probably already thinking leaving home to go to college and into the broader world in the next 1-4 years. Heading away from home can be pretty nerve wrecking. Going to a week long summer camp on a college campus is a great way of getting the experience of being away from home, navigating around a campus and having a roommate! It’s a week of learning about yourself in a new environment.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. What would you rather do? Come to camp, make music and hang out with awesome people or go to work everyday? (p.s. you have the rest of your life to work, spend this summer at camp!) Plus, we know that a large percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs participated in their school music programs, so think of it as an investment in your future!
At school you probably are in a band with anywhere from 50-350 students (give or take) who have similar interests as you, and maybe half who are as PASSIONATE about music making as you are. Can you imagine being in one place, where the focus is music making and you are surrounded by over 1,000 people who are just as passionate as you are about band, orchestra or guard? Well, you can stop dreaming because that place exists, and it’s in Muncie, Indiana at Ball State University this June.
So what are you waiting for? If these reasons didn't convince you that the Symposium is the right place for you, check out our videos on YouTube from last year's camp as well as the extended online coverage!
Ready to dive in and have the best summer of your life? Register for the MFA Summer Symposium here!
Since 1975, passionate and skilled educators have been key to ensuring that Music for All programs are positively life-changing. We are incredibly thankful for the continuous support of music teachers across the country. In celebration of both Teacher Appreciation Week and Throwback Thursday, here are some of the many wonderful teachers who have impacted Music for All!
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be performing as a part of the 2014 Concert Series at the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha on Wednesday, June 25th.
We were lucky enough to hear from Karl Hunter from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy about how excited the band is to be performing at the Summer Symposium.
Formed in 1989, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has been keeping the soul of 40’s and 50’s swing music going strong for over 20 years. Named famously after an autograph by blues legend Albert Collins, they busted onto the scene in 1996, when their original songs “You & Me & the Bottle,” “I Wan’na Be Like You” and “Go Daddy-O” were featured in the soundtrack of the hit comedy Swingers. From there, the seven-piece group went on to sign with Capitol Records, releasing albums and touring extensively. Their popularity rose during this time, culminating with a performance at the 1999 Super Bowl half-time show, where they played alongside music icons Stevie Wonder, and Gloria Estefan in a “Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing.” The group’s music has been featured in over sixty movies and television shows during their career.
Over the last few years, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has shifted their focus. They are no longer performing in large arenas, and at Super Bowl halftime shows. Instead, they have begun playing with a number of American Symphony Orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Indianapolis Sympony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and recording more songs for projects such as the film The Wild, and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.
We are extremely excited to have Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Music for All Summer Symposium, and know that the MFA Campers will have a great time at this evening concert. Click here to learn more and to register for the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha, held June 23-28, 2014 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
Tickets are also available for those who are not attending the MFA Summer Symposium. Click here for more information.
Another Thursday, another throwback post! This week, we decided to crowd-source Throwback Thursday and give you a few memorable moments from our staff. While many of our staff members (including myself) are alumni of Music for All programs, we do have several staff members who participated in other musical outlets and some who were not involved in music. Here are a few musical moments from our devoted staff members. Enjoy!
Memorable Moment: I completely own that I grew up as a marching band junky! So when I say that my most memorable experience wasn't marching related, some who know me well may gasp. A truly defining moment was performing at the National Concert Band Festival. It was one of the only noncompetitive experiences I had in high school. There is an exhilaration that comes from preparing and performing some of the hardest music written for that medium. You rehearse and prepare and with such a small group you really have to own your part, your notes, your emotional investment in the process. Then you are ushered into a grand hall and have the performance of a lifetime, followed by music giants taking time and working with you, it's an unprecedented experience for most high school students, it certainly was for me. There are no trophies, no high distinctions or even discussion of who gave a better performance. Your thinking, where's the reward? Trust me, there is a moment. It's one that will never be replicated, but will stay with you forever.
Seasonal Marketing Assistant
Memorable Moment: I was playing in a cover band during my Junior year of college, and we got offered a gig at a house party on campus. We decided to go for a whole new set, and play nothing we had before. Believe it or not, I can still remember the entire set list (Money - B. Gordy, Mary Jane's Last Dance - T. Petty, Stuck in the Middle with You - Stealers Wheel, The Weight - The Band, I Second That Emotion - S. Robinson, Like a Rolling Stone - B. Dylan, Helter Sketler - The Beatles, and Jumpin' Jack Flash - Rolling Stones). Anyway, everything was going pretty well and I was having a great time getting to play music by virtually all of my favorite artists. That was, until we got to "Helter Skelter." The song started out rocking, and I was screaming the lyrics in my best McCartney impression. Then, somehow, we fell apart. I'm not sure who's fault it was (probably all of ours for not practicing enough) but our drummer and lead guitar player switched to a bridge unexpectedly in the middle of the song, as our bass player and I jumped into another verse. Needless to say it did not sound too great, but we recovered, had a laugh, and I tossed my guitar to the side to belt out our last tune, "Jumpin' Jack Flash", while channeling my inner Mick Jagger. Even though we had a little flub, the night was still great. Any time that I'm able to play music I love, with great friends is a good time.
Events & Participant Relations Administrative Assistant
Memorable Moment: While I never had the opportunity to perform in a Bands of America Regional with my high school band, I did have the honor of performing in exhibition with the UMass Minuteman Marching Band at the 2011 Grand Nationals. I had many memorable performances with the UMMB, but that one was definitely in the top 3. Towards the end of our show, we "crashed the stands," meaning the entire band ran past the front sideline, and we formed a giant "wall of sound." Watching the positive reactions of everyone sitting in the first few rows of the stands was priceless. Even better was the huge standing ovation we received afterwards. It's a memory I definitely won't ever forget!
Instrument: Flute/Drum Major
Memorable Moment: In 2004 my band traveled from Kentucky to Indianapolis to compete in Grand Nationals. It was my sophomore year and I’ll be honest- I was a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. As we took the field in Finals competition, all of that anxiety melted away. Looking up from your first set to realize you’re about to perform in front of tens of thousands of people is an incredible feeling. Now, every year that I stand on the front sideline during our GN awards ceremony, I’m reminded of that feeling and am so thankful we are providing that life-changing experience to another group of students. My ‘tied-for-first’ memorable moment (is this cheating?) was winning our state competition my senior year. This photo is from that night- can you tell I was excited?
Can you tell we have some pretty passionate and awesome staff members? It is such an honor to be able to work with each of them every day. If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned! We'll have more staff profiles and Throwback Thursday staff posts soon. If you have an idea or story for Throwback Thursday, we'd love to hear it! Just fill out our online "Share Your Story" form and it could be featured in an upcoming post.
As a brass player myself, I love playing with other brass players in small ensembles. It is in those small ensembles where you are able to fully expereince the versatility of brass instruments. This is exactly why I am very excited for the Atlantic Brass Quintet’s (ABQ) performance at the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha in June. I’ve been listening to their recordings all morning and can’t wait to hear them fill up Emens Auditorium with some outstanding music!
The Atlantic Brass Quintet will be performing Tuesday evening (June 24) at the Symposium. The ABQ is a group of five virtuosic musicians from across the country who have played together for many years. From Brazil to Carnegie Hall to the White House, the Quintet has performed across the globe since its founding in 1985. The group performs a wide variety of music, from Monteverdi to Stravinsky and jazz standards to brass street music. Listen below to their most recent album, “Crossover,” just released this year:
The Atlantic Brass Quintet began in 1985 in Boston as a competition brass quintet, winning awards across the world for their performances. Current tuba player John Manning was a founding member of the Quintet. Since 1985, the group has been comprised of some of the country’s foremost brass players. Currently the group includes founding member John Manning (tuba), Tim Albright (trombone), Seth Orgel (horn), Andrew Sorg (trumpet) and Tom Bergeron (trumpet).
The Quintet has been the resident brass quintet of Boston University, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and the Boston Conservatory. Over the past 30 years of music making, the group has become known for their emphasis on music from across the world. The regularly perform ethnic music from the streets of Brazil, Cuba, the Balkans, and New Orleans. In 2012, the Atlantic Brass Quintet partnered with kerPlunk Dance to present a unique dance and brass piece entitled “Music in Motion.” You can watch selections of the piece in the video below:
I think The Boston Globe put it best of the Atlantic Brass Quintet: “They kick butt.” I'm looking forward most to hearing one of my favorite pieces, Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which also happens to be an audience favorite for the group. For anyone thinking about attending the Symposium, don’t miss the opportunity to see the Atlantic Brass Quintet live! I certainly can’t wait to see what the group comes up with for their performance at the Summer Symposium!
Click here to learn more and to register for the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha, held June 23-28, 2014 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
This week’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to the teenage years of BOA, a time when newspapers were the primary source of information, and the Berlin Wall was still standing tall. Seems like a while ago, right?
This 1987 article from the Detroit Free Press highlighted what is still BOA’s largest event: the Grand National Championships. However, this Grand Nationals was slightly different than what we’ve grown accustomed to over past years. It wasn’t held in Indianapolis, the city that has become BOA’s home. No, back in 1987 Grand Nationals were staged at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan (They would again be held at the Silverdome in 1988). 50 bands competed, and only two days were needed to crown a champion, Marian Catholic H.S. And, as most know, today we have two jam-packed days of prelims followed by full day of semi-finals and finals performances. Needless to say, Bands of America is now an adult.
This piece also included a quote that I think sums up BOA performances perfectly: “It’s not the old high step (University of) Michigan marching band performance that many people are used to. It’s a much more sophisticated performance. It’s more of a concert hall effect with motion.”
So what do you think? How have you seen BOA change throughout the years?
Check out the full article below.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month and the very last day, April 30, is International Jazz Day with cities all over the world hosting special events. One of them will be a celebration of David Leander Williams’ new book “Indiana Jazz: The Masters, Legends, and Legacy of Indiana Avenue” with book signing and music by Indiana Jazz Legacy artists Clifford Ratliff and Hank Hankerson accompanied by Monika Herzig at Topo’s 403 in Bloomington. The event is produced by Jazz from Bloomington with support by the Jazz Education Network.
Indiana holds a special place in the history of Jazz in America. We asked Indiana University Lecturer and author of “David Baker – A Legacy in Music,” Monika Herzig to share her knowledge of Indy’s Jazz roots.
Except for the historic Walker Theatre just north of downtown there seems to be nothing unique about Indiana Avenue these days and especially no jazz venues that are worth dedicating a book to. The legend of Indiana Avenue dates back to the Jazz Age when musicians would embark on the Chitlin circuit, a network of venues in towns around the Midwest and South featuring safe engagements for black touring groups during segregation. The central geographic location of Indianapolis at the crossroads of America made it a favorite touring stop and clubs and dance halls blossomed up and down the Avenue. . Known as "Funky Broadway," "The Yellow Brick Road," and "The Grand Ol' Street," black business was thriving during the heydays of segregation in the 1930s and 40s in the blocks around the Madam Walker Theater. There was jazz six nights a week in more than 30 clubs lining the Avenue, and great touring bands such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington could be heard regularly at the Sunset Terrace.
In addition, Crispus Attucks High School was established in an effort by the Indianapolis population to segregate the school system. It turned out that bad intentions turned into great results. Here is an excerpt from Lissa May’s chapter in David Baker – A Legacy in Music (IU Press, 2011):
The attitude of excellence that permeated the school was exemplified by the music department. Instrumental music teachers LaVerne Newsome, Norman Merrifield, and Russell W. Brown were outstanding musicians, trained at some of the finest music schools in the country. LaVerne Newsome, a graduate of Northwestern University, taught orchestra, string classes, and music appreciation and was known for his dedication to his students. Merrifield, chairman of the Attucks music department, was a pianist, choral director, band director, composer and arranger. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Northwestern University. The music department thrived under his leadership, embodying the values of post-Reconstruction black American life which blended African heritage with European art music.
The result of this nurturing environment and the nightly exposure to great music was a crop of young jazz musicians that excelled at their craft and was essential at codifying the language of jazz. Trombonist J.J. Johnson is acknowledged as the most virtuous and prolific jazz trombonists in history. Guitarist West Montgomery created a new style of playing using his thumb to mute strings and his Riverside Recordings have become models for jazz guitarists around the world. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard became known for his high-energy approach to ensemble playing and his modern jazz songs became standard repertoire for every aspiring jazz musician. Trombonist Slide Hampton was the youngest member of the Hampton family, a family band of 12 siblings that toured for years before settling in Indianapolis and becoming mentors to the music community. Bassists Larry Ridley and Leroy Vinegar left for New York and played with most prominent musicians at the time. And David Baker’s combo including David Young, Al Kiger, Joe Hunt, and Chuck Israels, a regular feature at the Topper, was recruited by composer/ theorist George Russell for a string of legendary recordings on Riverside Records. The list goes on with many more notable musicians – a wonderful mural picturing several of them can be found now in Indianapolis at 332 N College.
The lesson to be learned is that a nurturing community and exposure to excellence has tremendous impact on young learners. Especially during the month of April, let’s celebrate our regional legacies and jazz heroes. And throughout the year, let’s create a community of support and role models to foster excellence in our next generation.
Monika Herzig teaches classes on the Music Industry, Creativity, Programming, and Community Arts Organizations at Indiana University. She is the co-founder of Jazz from Bloomington, a jazz society fostering exposure and education about Jazz, and currently serves on the board of the Jazz Education Network, the largest international jazz organization. Her jazz record label ACME Records is home to the jazz ensembles Monika Herzig Acoustic Project, Kwyjibo, Third Man, and BeebleBrox. Herzig received a B.A. from Paedagogische Hochschule Weingarten, Germany in 1988, an M.A. from the University of Alabama in 1991, and a D.M.E. from Indiana University in 1997.
For more information on the Jazz Band Division of the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha, please visit http://musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp/students/jazz-band.
I’ve been on a huge Wilco kick lately. Seriously. In the past two weeks I’ve listened to everything from “A.M.” to “The Whole Love,” and enjoyed every second of it. Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting, and the group’s skill constantly left me in awe. I was hooked. I had to learn more about these people who had brought me so much joy. So, like most would, I did a quick Google search and soon found myself lost in an endless maze of Wikipedia articles, learning things like Jeff Tweedy’s early influences included The Ramones and country music, and that bassist John Stirratt was a member of Phi Kappa Tau.
As I kept digging through the Wilco archives, I stumbled onto a video interview with current drummer, Glenn Kotche, from 2007. During the interview Kotche mentioned some very interesting information. He revealed that he was member of the Lake Park High School drumline and… wait for it…. a former Bands of America participant, and Summer Symposium Percussion TA!
I was shocked, and honestly a little embarassed that I didn’t already know this for a couple of reasons.
1. I am a Music for All Staff Member.
2. Wilco is one of my all-time favorite bands
3. Glenn Kotche is an amazing drummer!
After letting this sink in, I realized, it made perfect sense. Of course Kotche is a BOA alum. He is one of the most talented drummers in music, a strong supporter of music education, and uses percussion in an intelligent and very interesting way. In the video above (you have to take a look, just trust me) he mentions how his music background has influenced playing with Wilco. Specifically, he talks about approaching percussion as not just a method of keeping the beat, but rather of contributing to the musical experience by adding texture or color, as it would in an orchestra or another setting*. This is something Kotche attributes to his years spent studying percussion at Lake Park and with MFA adjudicator, clinician and evaluator, James Campbell at the University of Kentucky. He says that these past experiences gave him the ability to play a variety of different styles, whether it’s backing a soft ballad, or creating chaos in a rock environment.
The skills Kotche picked up during his education/BOA career aren’t all musical, either. As we hear from many former students and participators, Kotche’s experiences taught him how to work, think quickly, and play in front of a large audience. It gave him confidence and an increased ability to muli-task and analyze. His success is due to, in part, the instruction he received from, and interactions he had with music educators throughout his life.
*Check out this song, “I am trying to break your heart” from Kotche’s first album with Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” for a great example of using percussion as a texture or color.
The moral of story here is this: there are BOA alums all around us, in all sorts of fields. From lawyers, to doctors, to teachers, to rockstars, those who benefitted from music education can be found everywhere. Individuals like Kotche were afforded the opportunity to pursue music in their childhood, and we must ensure that coming generations receive the same chance. Because who knows? The next Glenn Kotche may be competing in the Bands of America Championships this fall, and we could sure use a few more like him around.