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Monday, May 12, 2014

MFA Staff Profiles - Kyle Courtney

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Courtney Kyle

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!

10. Awesome Evening Concerts!

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!

9. There’s something for everyone

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.

8. Leadership is the theme

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.

7. Learn from the best

Where else would you get to go to be instructed by so many of the top music educators and clinicians from across the country?

6. Create life-long friends

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!

5. Take music & performance skills to the next level

This IS the Music for All Summer Symposium, so first and foremost you will be getting top-notch performance instruction from our outstanding faculty!

4. Get energized for next school year

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!

3. Get the away from home “college experience”

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.

2. It’s more fun than a summer job!

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!

1. Surrounded by students from across the country who are different – but also JUST LIKE YOU!

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!


For Teacher Appreciation Week, we'd love to hear about teachers who have impacted you. Send an email to Erin Fortune at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about why you want to thank your teacher this week, and it could be included in a blog post this week. (If you have a photo to share of you and your teacher, or just your teacher, even better!)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Saying Thanks

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Thank you chalkboard
I am not afraid to admit, I love special holidays. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving – I love these days that remind me to do something for someone else, to think about something more than my everyday life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think couples should express their love for each other on days other than Valentines, you should tell your mom you love and appreciate her every chance you get, you should think of the things you are thankful for each day… Yes, we all should do these things, each and every day.

I’m sure there are some people who manage to do all of these things everyday (please tell me your secrets!). I for one, do not. I get wrapped up and consumed with life, with work, with my to-do list. I get so busy that I just don’t think to thank the people around me for being awesome (or call my mom as often as I know I should).

This is why I LOVE that there are days that are meant to celebrate, days that draw our attention to the people and things that are important.

This week is one of those times to really show your appreciation for people who deserve your appreciation and thanks everyday. This week – we celebrate teachers.

National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5-9. Teacher Appreciation Week is the PERFECT time to really do something special, to go out of your way, to thank all of the amazing teachers in your life (or your child’s life!)

There are MANY ways to celebrate the teachers in your life. After doing some research online and asking my friends who are teachers, I came up with a quick list of 5 ideas to get you started:

1)    Gift Cards: So easy, but who doesn’t love receiving a Starbucks gift card, Target gift card, etc.? And it doesn’t even have to be much. I’ve received $5 Starbucks gift cards and was over the moon appreciative. Easy. Simple and something that your favorite teacher will be sure to use.

2)    Banner: Have your class work on creating a big banner with messages from everyone, and hang it in the room when your teacher walks in.  This idea is definitely cost effective, but incredibly thoughtful. Trust me – thoughtful gifts of appreciation mean the most!

3)    Food: Are you part of a band booster organization or PTA? Pitch the idea to treat teachers to lunch! When I asked my friends about the best teacher appreciation surprise they had ever had, most of them talked about food! Breakfasts, Lunches, Treats. Teachers LOVE this. If you are a student, maybe bake some cookies or find out what your teacher’s favorite snack is!

4)    Handwritten Note: By far, this was the gift that the majority of the teachers that responded to my inquiry appreciated the most. And lucky for you, it just might be one the easiest things you can do. Get a nice note card, get a plain lined sheet of paper – heck, write it on a napkin (preferably clean)! But just tell your teacher WHY you think they are amazing, and just how they have touched your life. I promise you, your teacher doesn’t hear it enough. Writing it down will let them hold on to it, and I bet your teacher will hold on to that note for years after you leave their classroom. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this video from Scott Lang where he talks about his “Happy Files” and encourages other teachers to start theirs!

5)    Feature your teacher on the MFA blog: We want to know ALL about the amazing teachers in your lives. So, what better way to appreciate them than telling the world about how great they are! Send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about why you want to thank your teacher this week, and I will include it in a blog post this week during our weeklong Teacher Appreciation celebration. (If you have a photo to share of you and your teacher, or just your teacher, even better!) I’ll then share the posts on Facebook and Twitter so we can both do our best to try and make your teacher internet famous!

Links to some even more great ideas:

There are so many ways you can go about showing your teachers appreciation this week. From simple to elaborate, there’s no “right” way to do it. But for your teachers, who work so hard to help you become the best possible version of yourself, it will mean the world. So whether you pick up a Starbucks gift card or sit down to write a personal letter from your heart, please just take a moment to step out of your busy life and thank a teacher for making a difference.

ErinSignatureinJennaSueFont copy


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.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Staff Edition

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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!

LauraLaura Blake
Events Manager

Instrument: Trumpet

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.


johnsbandpic-webJohn DeRoss
Seasonal Marketing Assistant

Instrument: Guitar/Vocals/Harmonica

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. 


DavidDavid Foth
Events & Participant Relations Administrative Assistant

Instrument: Trumpet/Euphonium

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!


MollyMMolly Miller
Event Coordinator

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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 1987

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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.

Detroit 2

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.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Why Kids Need Camp?

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Why should students and directors attend the Music for All Summer Symposium this June? Check out the infographic from MFA Summer Symposium Marching Band Division Coordinator, Jeff Young of Dynamic Marching, and see the ways that camp can be life changing!
Today for Throwback Thursday we are posting a guest throwback photo! The Franklin High School band from Franklin, Tennessee sent us this throwback from their very first band at their school, in 1937!
The Franklin band is trying to find any of the original members. They would be 91 years old or older. Help them spread the word with this post!
Does your band have an awesome Throwback photo that you want to share? Send it to us along with your story! We'd love to see it. You can send your photos and stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..