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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Intern Spotlight

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A look at our Spring Marketing Intern

Meet Nick Gonzalez!

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1. What is your hometown? City, State.

  • Fort Wayne, IN

2. Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • 2016 Graduate of Indiana University - Bloomington

3. What is your major/degree?

  • Major - Telecommunications with minors in Business and Music, and an Arts Administration Certificate.

4. What is your musical background? This could be instruments you play and involvement in musical activities such as choir, DCI, theatre, winter guard, ect…

  • I started playing music as a sophomore in high school. I joined the marching band because my best friend at the time convinced me to do it! I learned to play the tuba during marching and concert season, and simultaneously the bass trombone during jazz season. Since then, I have been heavily involved. In college, I participated in many ensembles including the IU Marching Hundred, All-Campus Band (on tuba, trombone, euphonium, percussion, and french horn), All-Campus Jazz, Big Red Basketball Band, Crabb Band (soccer band), Bloomington Community Band, the Bloomington Brass Band, and Hoosier Pops Orchestra.

5. What are you most looking forward to in your internship this spring?

  • I am looking forward to working in an arts organization and finally putting to use the knowledge I learned as an undergrad. Working with arts and arts education is something I strive for. I also look forward to the connection and opportunities that await me here!

6. What is an interesting fact about you?

  • This past summer I spent the semester studying abroad in Ireland, London, and Austria. It was a great time and from it came one very eventful story. Between my programs, I did some vacationing/photography in Scotland. I then planned out a bus route from Inverness, Scotland all the way to Graz, Austria. If everything went to plan, I would leave Thursday at 6 a.m. and arrive at 3 p.m. on Saturday. But of course, I didn’t. My bus ended up being four hours late in London. Then we got to Border Patrol and there was another four hour wait. Some of the other passengers and I went to the store and got dinner. When we came back, the bus had left and we had to chase after it. Eventually I made it to my transit stop at 6 a.m. in Bonn, Germany. Since I missed my transit time, I had to wait until the next bus to Munich, which wasn’t until 10 a.m. Two buses came between 10 and 12, but they said I couldn’t get on because I didn’t have the appropriate bus ticket. Around 12:30 p.m., I managed to convince the 3rd bus that came to let me on. Finally, I was on the home stretch. I made it to my last stop in Salzburg, Austria at 2 a.m. and had to wait until my last bus to Graz at 7 a.m. I made it safely to my school at noon on Sunday. It was a very long and stressful time, but at least I came out of the summer with a fun story!

7. Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • Melanie Martinez
  • Post Modern Jukebox
  • Earth, Wind and Fire

A look at the Fall 2016 Interns

Meet Conlon Griesmer, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Nashville, TN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Father Ryan H.S. (Go Irish!)
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville - Fall 2017 (Go Vols!)

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Human Resources Management: Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management

4) What is your musical background?

  • I played the trombone in middle school, and then I played baritone and tuba in high school. I played sousaphone in colege marching band and just finished a summer internship with DCI.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Broken Arrow H.S. 2009 "The Rite of Raptor" because I loved the music, and they made velociraptors cool before Jurassic World!

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am super excited to get to interact with the performers and their families!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • My first name is actually my mom's maiden name. In fact, one of my life goals is to meet another Conlon!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists?

  • I pretty much listen to whatever is on the radio...

Meet Maddie Fitzgerald, our Participant Relations Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Lenexa, Kansas

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Olathe H.S./Butler University 2016

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration with a concentration in music.

4) What is your musical background?

  • I played the french horn and mellophone in band orchestra and athletic bands. I was also a part of Kappa Kappa Psi and Pi Kappa Lambda.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Hard to say because I’ve never marched a BOA show, but probably one in Indy because I love Lucas Oil Stadium.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • Experiencing BOA for the first time while traveling all around the country.

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I traveled with Butler’s Basketball Band to NYC for the Big East Tournament in 2014 and 2015.

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • Sara Bareilles
  • Bastille
  • Walk the Moon

Meet Bryant Sharpley, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Avon, IN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • High School-Avon High School 
  • College-University of North Alabama

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor of Science in Music Education

4) What is your musical background?

  • I marched clarinet in high school at Avon. After that, I marched euphonium in college for six years at North Alabama. I was a leader in the symphony and wind ensemble. While working on my masters, I accepted a job teaching band and orchestra in Carmel, which lead me to moving back to Indiana.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • I'm going to go home team and say Avon 2013. When it comes to marching arts, I love louder, faster, and higher; and this show looked crazy fun. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I love Lawrence Central 2001. It was executed and designed with a subtle artistic quality that has rarely been touched before or after.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • As much as I love the administrative side of things, it's hard to beat a free trip to Long Beach

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • Before I decided on music education, I wanted to be a dentist or a biochemist, but there's nothing like seeing kids' faces light up when they finally "get it" or have the performance of their lives!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music. 

  • Panic! At the Disco
  • Celine Dion
  • Adele

Meet Hannah Carlson, our Participant Relations – Tournament of Roses Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Tallahassee, FL

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Lincoln H.S. 2012, Furman University 2016, Butler University 2018

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor's in Music Education from Furman University, Master's in Percussion Performance and Instrumental Conducting from Butler University

4) What is your musical background?

  • I started playing Clarinet in 2002, and switched to percussion my senior year in high school. I was in marching band for 8 years, including 3 years as Drum Major at Furman. I have played in Percussion Ensemble, Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble at Furman and Butler. This summer, I played in the John Psathas recording project with Omar Carmenates.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Avon HS 2010 "Iconoclash," because the musical combinations are unbelievable - who would have thought that a mashup of Led Zeppelin and Beethoven would work so well?!

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • Getting to know directors and students from around the country, and seeing the Honor Band march in the Rose Parade!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I was almost in the Jeopardy! College Tournament last fall, but the taping was in Los Angeles on the same day that I had a concert at Furman, so I had to stay and play the concert, which turned out to be really great!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • I can't pick just 3, but I'll try... Leonard Bernstein (Chichester Psalms), Ben Folds, Gustav Mahler (Sym. 2), and a special shoutout to Elliott Cole forHanuman's Leap

Meet Lyndee Stisher, our Events Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • LaPorte, IN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • LaPorte H.S. – 2011/Purdue University - 2015

3) What is your major/degree?

  • Bachelor’s in Health & Human Sciences, with my major being Hospitality and Tourism

4) What is your musical background? 

  • With my father being a band director, along with his involvement with DCI, ISSMA, and various other music organizations, that is what provoked my interest in music. I played the clarinet in concert bands and was in guard for 6 years.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • Broken Arrow H.S. 2013 show “Utopia.” I love the music! But can I please be in Tarpon Springs or Carmel’s guard? #goals

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am most excited to make so many connections in an industry that has the same passion that I do. Most of all, I cannot wait to help make these events possible!

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • My first name is my parent’s middle names put together! Mom: Teri Lynn + Dad: Mickey Dee = Lyndee!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  • One Republic
  • Ben Rector
  • Disney Instrumental

Meet Claire Albrecht, our Marketing Intern!

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1) What is your hometown?

  • Franklin, TN

2) Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college and when did you/will you graduate?

  • Franklin H.S., TN / University of South Carolina, 2018

3) What is your major/degree?

  •  Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Minor: Business Administration

4) What is your musical background? 

  • Flute from 6th to 12th grade. Drum Major for Music City Drum Corps 2014 and 2015. Drum Major for The Cadets 2016.

5) If you could march any BOA show, which show would it be and why?

  • L.D. Bell H.S. 2007, “Transcendents”. Transcendents was beautifully haunting. That program impacted the audience in such a unique way. I will never forget the first time I watched it; I just wish I had been able to watch it live. I think getting to perform that show would certainly  be a memorable experience.

6) What are you most looking forward to in your internship this fall?

  • I am very excited to travel to shows! I am looking forward to covering the events and watching all of the different programs this season.

7) What is an interesting fact about you?

  • I have been to 39 states and 17 countries!

8) Who are your top three favorite artists? This could be any genre of music.

  •  The Head and The Heart
  •  The Mowgli’s
  •  Nat “King” Cole

Hi! My name is Madeline Yost but my friends call me Maddie and I’d consider us friends already. Goshen, Indiana is my hometown which I have a lot of love for. Four generations of Yost’s have lived and worked in Goshen so everyone pretty much knows everyone at this point and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have lived there my whole life and wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t grow up with the atmosphere Goshen has. I spend most of my time in Muncie, Indiana where I attend Ball State University. I am currently studying Public Relations and Fashion and plan on graduating in the Spring of 2017. So far at Ball State, I have been apart of with NewsLink, Dance Marathon and Chi Omega sorority. I serve as the Webmaster for the Phi Epsilon chapter which is just a weird way to say Marketing and Technology chair. They prefer Webmaster, I prefer Social Media Princess.

My music background includes playing piano and cello, as well as singing in choir, show choir and multiple musicals. My mother is the choral director and music department chairperson at Goshen High School which is where I attended. She has 3 State Champion and 9 State Runner-up titles with her Advanced Crimson Choir as well as multiple grand champion titles from cities such as New York City, Toronto and Washington D.C. but no pressure as her daughter right? Okay...there wasn’t THAT much pressure because we both love music and bond over it. Whether it was her directing me in The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch or singing along to Adele on the radio, music helped make my mom my best friend.

If you’d like to know even more about me, I made a list below of some of my favorite things and not so favorite things. By the way, I’m a big advocate of lists.

Favorite Things

  • Being on the water
    The Chief ice cream
    Grey’s Anatomy
    Stargazing in the middle of a lake

Not So Favorite Things

  • The middle back seat of small cars
    Big piles of gross brown snow in parking lots

I also love the smell of coffee but not a huge fan of the taste, spending time at my lake house, eating breakfast food and have the honor of being maid of honor this summer for my best friend, Katie. I hope this gives you a better idea about who I am and what I love. I am so excited to be at MFA for the summer as a Marketing Intern. So if you’re ever in Goshen, Muncie or Downtown Indianapolis this summer and spot me, don’t be afraid to say hi!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thought Multi-Tasking

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(Or What I Learned About Painting From Playing the Viola)

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Recently, I purchased a home. It was built in the 1960s, and a lot of the features in the house seem to be original, or at least a good twenty to thirty years old. The house has great bones but really needed some updating. So, for the last few weeks, I have been painting, changing fixtures, replacing outlets and light switches, cleaning, and dealing with many other hands-on home-sprucing activities. As you may imagine, I have not had much desire or energy to practice the viola while doing all of this. But, throughout all of this, I did discover something interesting related to my viola-playing career.

See, as a violist, I think all of the time while I am playing, whether it be rehearsing with my trio or an orchestra, preparing for a solo recital, or especially when warming up. Other than the obvious things like, “What notes and dynamics am I playing?” I am constantly thinking about the following things: my bow hold, releasing unwanted tension in my shoulders or other parts of my body, which fingering will be easiest for the upcoming passage (or inversely, which will provide the greatest shifting or vibrato challenge—especially in boring orchestral parts!), whether or not I am clenching my jaw, vibrato connection between notes, “release and plop,”1 and a whole host of other considerations. is kind of “thought multi-tasking” within my brain is probably a normal occurrence for most musicians and one of the reasons I love to do “simple” activities, such as cycling, where there is basically only one thing to think about to execute the task accurately—staying upright!

So, a few weeks ago, as I was painting the trim in my living room, I was struck by how uncomfortable I was, up on the ladder, compressing myself toward the ceiling to get the edge of the paintbrush perfectly aligned with the trim, so as not to get any paint onto the ceiling. But I was getting paint on the ceiling, and it was so frustrating! Why was my normally steady hand so inaccurate? Why was I unable to execute this relatively simple task? And why did I care SO much if a little off-white trim paint got onto the white ceiling? I took a break and gave myself a chance to think about all of this.

See, this is my first house, and I care. As a perfectionist in just about all of the tasks I undertake, correctly painting the room in which I will spend the most time while at home is important. To me, the stakes were high. Because of this, I had been seriously clenching my jaw and had been holding tension throughout my body in an unconscious effort to control my motions and to do well.

High stakes and the desire to perform well: Sounds like any audition or performance situation, does it not? It turns out that, in my mind, painting the trim in my new living room was on the same level as performing the viola well. I climbed back up on my ladder and immediately felt my jaw clench. The ladder had taken on the likeness of the stage, and the painting had taken on the likeness of performing. I loosened my jaw, considered my body position, and decided to stand on the lower step so that I was not as contorted as before. I realized that I had been holding my breath while painting, so I made a conscious effort to breathe and continued to focus on my breathing as I again began to paint.

The “thought multi-tasking” that I mentioned earlier is something I often discuss with my students. Too often, students only think about one or two things while playing, and more often than not, they do not actively listen to the sounds they are producing. In an attempt to increase their awareness of many of the factors required to play the viola well, I ask them to list six items that they are trying to address. For example: stacked body (feet under knees under hips under shoulders), vibrato connection, relaxed jaw, loose thumbs, relaxed shifts, and breathe. I have them write these six items on a piece of paper and leave that paper on the music stand next to their music. I ask them to scan the paper before they start playing and in every rest or long note. As they start to memorize the six items, I ask them to imagine a cube, with an always-bouncing ball inside of it. Each surface of the cube contains one of these items, and each time the ball bounces against a surface, the student thinks about or executes the item listed on that surface. Because the ball within the cube does not bounce in the same order, the “thought multi-tasking” could go something like: “relaxed jaw, stacked body, loose thumbs, relaxed jaw, vibrato connection, relaxed shifts, loose thumbs, breathe, vibrato connection, etc.” It is difficult to do at first, and starting with a smaller list is perhaps a good idea. But in my experience, this “thought multi-tasking” is what helps students progress more quickly than if they get stuck in only two or three thoughts.

Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a mobile to which you could attach your own photographs. For a long time, it had pictures of good friends from college, but shortly after starting my job at Ball State, I thought that the mobile would be a perfect “thought multi-tasking” reminder. I created colorful cards with eight of the most common requests I make of my students: relaxed jaw, loose thumbs, squishy knees (misspelled on the mobile! I always spell it “squooshy”), breathe, taffy bow (i.e., right arm weight), round fingers (right pinky), center, and release and plop. The mobile now hangs in my office, right in eyesight of the music stand at which my students perform. With the room’s airflow, the mobile gently vacillates, so that different ideas are visible at different times. Since I hung it, many students have commented that a specific idea comes into sight and they remember to focus on that item. It is a fun and decorative element in my office that also serves a useful purpose.

As I stood there on my ladder-stage, holding my paintbrush-viola, I discovered that my mind had been in a place where I thought of myself as a novice painter, worried about my execution and afraid of making mistakes. Instead of thinking about the task, I was thinking about the judgment that I, as the outside observer of the finished work, would pass. All of the same unconscious habits that I had as a young violist were active in this novel venue. I was tense and mildly nervous, uncomfortable, unbalanced on my feet, and way too worried about the outcome of my painting. e task of painting the trim had taken on the resemblance of a scary viola audition. But then I realized that I could handle this otherwise-simple task by drawing on the years of experience I had in a much more difficult endeavor. My “thought multi-tasking” went something like: “breathe, relaxed jaw, slow stroke, breathe, balance,” and I was able to execute my trim-painting much more accurately than I had been able to before I started actively thinking about what I was doing and how my body was doing it.

When I look at my new living room now, I am quite proud of how it turned out. The paint is beautiful—especially the trim.



1. “Release and plop” is a Karen Tuttle Coordination reminder for loose finger action.

Reprinted courtesy of the Journal of the American Viola Society.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Camp Faculty Profile: Taylor Watts

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This is the first edition of a new series on our blog that we hope you'll find both fun and interesting! Each week we will highlight a new MFA Summer Symposium faculty member. 

Welcome to the very first edition of the Camp Faculty Profile series! Today I'd like to introduce you to Taylor Watts. This year will be Taylor's first year as an official faculty member on the BOA Drum Major Institute staff, but he is certainily no stranger to the MFA Summer Symposium! Taylor has experienced camp as a student, a SWAG team member, a Directors' Track Assistant, and now this year he is joining the ranks of our amazing faculty. We know Taylor will be a wealth of knowledge for all of those who are planning on participating in the BOA Drum Major Institute this year. Let's dive into getting to know Taylor, I hope you enjoy reading his responses as much as I did! 


Name: Taylor Watts

Camp Division: Drum Major Institute

Home Town: Kennesaw, GA

Current Location: Marietta, GA

Favorite Things About Being A Teacher:
I love watching students grow as human beings – learning to treat others with love and respect, to develop and pursue their passions, and to grapple with the inner workings of their own person. I definitely consider myself blessed to witness (and sometimes impact) the transformation of so many people during some of the most formative years of their lives.

Why do you like to come to the MFA Summer Symposium each year:
Having experienced the camp as a student, SWAG team member, Director Track Assistant, and now staff member, one thing always holds true of my time spent at Summer Symposium – no other place in my life challenges and supports me in being the best version of myself that I can possibly be like MFA. As Jamie Weaver, one of the SWAG team coordinators, always poses to our group: “We come here every summer to be who we are truly meant to be.”

What would you say to a student who was thinking about possibly coming to camp?
Take the leap, and bring any friend you care about! Camp will challenge you and provide opportunities that most people never have the chance to experience. The lessons and relationships that you’ll find here have the potential to change you in ways that you’d never imagine – they can truly change the entire course of your life!

Most memorable moment/interaction at camp?
Despite now serving as a staff member, I think my most cherished memory at camp still stems from my time as a student. I’ll certainly never forget my last evening together standing in the auditorium with my drum major squad embracing and shedding a few tears as we reminisced on several outstandingly life-changing years spent at this camp.

Funniest thing that has happened at camp?
It may be a bit silly, but I always enjoyed participating in the “everyday camp preparation” skit that the SWAG team puts on with Norm Ruebling. The crowd always got a kick out of our ridiculous outfits and choreography that we put together to over-accentuate our points – not to mention how difficult it was to hold a static pose in our crazy get-ups without laughing myself!

Favorite spot on Ball State's campus?
I love spending time under the bell tower, particularly in the evening. It’s such a beautiful structure.

What book are you reading right now?
Most of the books on my shelf right now have titles like The Five Love Languages and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work as I prepare for my quickly approaching wedding. Normally, however, I enjoy reading philosophy, psychology, and science articles, with the occasional high fantasy novel to spice things up.

What are you listening to right now?
Over the last few years I’ve gotten into primarily acoustic music to the tune of Nickel Creek, Fiction Family, and Mumford and Sons. I love the stories and sounds and am always impressed by the technical virtuosity of their more bluegrass-style songs.

What is ONE thing you recommend a student do at camp?
Normally I would suggest that students get outside their comfort zones and reach out to develop relationships with other campers (which they should ABSOLUTELY still do), but I have to say, as teacher as it sounds, I recommend HUGELY that all students write down every bit of wisdom that they hear during their conversations at camp (both with the staff and other students). Going back through my old binders of notes always inspires and reenergizes me, even years later – sometimes some of the truths sink in even deeper later in time.

What made you decide to be a teacher?
Truth be told, I had originally planned to go into psychology – my driving passion has always been helping people become better versions of themselves. Fortunately, a wise mentor of mine (coincidentally, a band director – go figure!) enlightened me to the opportunity for a wider spread audience over a longer period of time, and so I became a teacher!

What do you wish other people knew about the Summer Symposium?
Most camps provide students with entertaining and exciting experiences, but few other places challenge students to grow in their very being like Summer Symposium. I can certainly attest that you’ll leave camp a much stronger, bolder, and more compassionate person than you came.

What do you do when you aren't teaching at the Summer Symposium?
During the few moments that I’m not teaching or planning to teach (few and far between!), I love spending my time pushing myself physically. Most recently, this has taken the form of obstacle course races (Spartan Races, the Tough Mudder, the Warrior Dash, etc.), skydiving, and snowboarding trips!


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My fondest teenage memories are of playing tuba at Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, located in the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia. Band director Summer Smith led that band program faithfully for over thirty years. Mr. Smith was more than the average band director; he was a counselor, mentor, and father figure. One of Mr. Smith’s strongest attributes was enforcing the necessary discipline and guidance to succeed in life and the classroom. His guidance was essential to persevere through all the distractors outside our classrooms such as crime, drugs, and poverty in the local community. In the face of so many distractors and excuses not to succeed, Mr. Smith always said, “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” He challenged his students to believe in themselves and not accept mediocrity.

After high school I used many of the lessons taught by Mr. Smith when I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In the Marines I learned more valuable lessons about discipline, teamwork, and “a do whatever it takes attitude,” to accomplishe the mission. As a veteran teacher I have used my high school experience, training from the Marines, and college education at Florida State University to learn effective band director techniques in any school setting. The following describes ideas, techniques, and behaviors that have made my teaching in Title I band programs successful.

Beginning: As a high school band director I have taught in minority communities with students of low socioeconomic status. Poverty, high crime rates, drugs, gangs, single parent households, and high pregnancy rates were all prevalent in and around the school community. Using Mr. Smith’s philosophy of high expectations, I chose to strive for goals others thought were impossible, such as maintaining a high standard of musicianship, character, and academic achievement. Initially the problem was that the students did not believe in themselves. These students were hampered by low expectations. Moreover, the students had an apathetic attitude toward school and life. To counteract this behavior, I started focusing on the whole child instead of just the music student. This meant learning more than their names and instrument. I tried to learn about a student’s family, personal interests, goals, and challenges. Next, I encouraged students to think of the band program as a family, where they were free to talk about any issue. Furthermore, the band room served as safe haven from all negative outside influences. For most students, music served as a positive release from stress that may originate from home, school, and other peers. Most importantly, influencing a culture of pride in the organization quickly turned the negative culture of low expectations into an encouraging and positive environment.

Setting the tone: “If you are not committed to reaching the highest standards of character, integrity, and musicianship, you can leave the band room and go home.” I knew I was taking a risk when these were the first words I ever spoke to my high school band. Afterward, I waited for about three minutes and then said, “Good, now you have about an hour to clean the band room from top to bottom.” I slowly picked up my briefcase and waited patiently inside my office. That first statement set a standard of the expectation. Florida State University Professor Clifford Madsen says that “We control the environment, which in turns control us.” Creating an environment of success starts with a clean and structured teaching area. In the book the Tipping Point (2002) Malcolm Gladwell explains that cleaning up a “little problem” of litter and graffiti in New York helped to dissolve a “bigger problem” of criminal activity.” Likewise, having a clean area makes a big difference in student’s behavior in class, care for their instruments, and treatment other students. Additionally, a clean environment demonstrates professionalism in the organization.

Setting Goals/ Building Organizational Identity: Along with setting the right tone, setting realistic goals and building an organizational identity is essential. During my first year as a band director I wrote a five-year plan for our goals. This list included items such as recruitment, retention, field trips, and establishing good band fundamentals. After creating goals I made it a priority to bring in staff members and volunteers with good character and integrity. These role models demonstrated the behavior and attitude that was expected in my band program. Funding for staff members was very limited; therefore, I called local colleges in the area for volunteers. Fortunately most colleges with active music departments have music service organizations such as Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. The principal mission of these organizations is to provide service to their band program and or music programs. Unfortunately most young band directors make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. Utilizing a local college music program was easy and the best part is most students will work for food!

As stated earlier, in most Title I band programs money is a huge issue. Being cognizant of resources in your community can aid your school. Many symphony orchestras have outreach programs designed to help young musicians. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has a “talent development program” where students in urban schools can audition to receive free private lessons. Utilizing the Symphony’s talent development program is one example of many resources a creative director might use to enhance his or her band program.

Building Identity: One of the best ways to build an effective band program is to thoughtfully develop the band’s identity. This starts with a mission statement. A mission statement is important because it lists the program’s guiding principles and ideals. My band mission statement included phrases such as, “striving for the highest in character and musicianship” and “pride in our school and community.” The next step was to do activities that promoted building pride in the band. These activities include performing for local elementary school, middle school, and community organizations. In fact participating in short performances before a teacher or parent/teacher organization meeting is an excellent way to show pride in one’s school. To that end, a director must be creative in giving students a positive avenue to perform and have success. Each success builds upon the last performance and a series of small successes accumulate over time and enhance perception of an effective band program.

Administrator involvement: Another useful technique is getting school administrators involved. This can start with acknowledging the principal or fine art administrator at all performances. Additionally, asking a band parent to prepare a surprise lunch for counselors, or ordering extra band t-shirts for administrators, demonstrates your enthusiasm for getting them involved in your program. Another great idea is allowing your principal to conduct a piece of music at a concert or main event. If you make sure the experience is a good one your principal will smile for days, guaranteed!

Dealing with challenges in school and home: Family issues such as parents working two or three jobs, students contributing to or responsible for raising their siblings, and parents with severe financial problems are most common in urban schools. When dealing with these issues remember all students should have the opportunity to participate in the music program. The “everyone should participate” philosophy is easier said than done. However, if there is a will, there is always a way. Donations of instruments from local families whose students have graduated and partnerships with music stores to provide repairs are one way to get instruments into the hands of students without the means to do so. These students need to have the opportunity to participate. More often than not, their future depends on it. Your community can also develop pride in the program as their support is recognized and produces performances.

Student development: In many Title I schools, students may lack the same opportunities as students in other communities such as private lessons, attending professional concerts, visiting college campuses, summer music camps, and state/national conferences. These activities provide long lasting memories and greatly enhances a child’s musical experience. In order to provide these opportunities to students who lack funding, find ways to take school-sponsored fields trips to professional concerts and conferences. In fact, many local military band programs will perform at public schools for free. Supporting local education is part of their mission. Local college music programs also look for opportunities to perform in their area. Researching local college and professional band programs is essential to building an effective high school band program. It is also important to remember that if students are not exposed to better, they cannot do better.

Another effective activity for exposure is nominating students for festivals such as state solo and ensemble festivals or festivals sponsored by colleges. These activities are relatively inexpensive and very effective for student development. For many years I made auditioning for all-county/state mandatory for my advanced level students. Not only does this provide a measuring stick for students but also lets students observe others around the city or county. This technique is helpful in three ways. First, the evaluation process uses many of the national standards music curricula, such as “performing on instruments”, “alone and with others”, “a varied repertoire of music”, and “reading and notating music.” Second, practicing scales and preparing a challenging etude will make a student a better musician by giving them goals outside the daily expectations of the program. Third, the process can help students prepare for college auditions and the chance to earn scholarships. Not many parents in an urban environment, or any other environment, will argue with opportunities that can lead to receiving money to pay for a college education.

Discipline: Discipline in the band program is probably the most important topic. Students must have a structured environment. Again, directors control the environment which in turns controls the probability for positive actions by teachers and students. Besides keeping a clean environment, maintaining a quiet learning environment is paramount. At the beginning of each class, students need to know when silence begins. One method is simply saying, “good morning class,” the student’s response is, “good morning Mr. Arnold.” This greeting signified that all talking and movement should cease and learning was about to begin. Similar to any form of discipline, this activity took consistency and persistence. The teacher must not begin until absolute silence is established. Initially it may be necessary to work toward this goal using successive approximations, but if the teacher is consistent and contingent success can be realized. Another method is conditioning students to respect the rehearsal space. If a student leaves the rehearsal space, they must be acknowledged in order to return to their seat. By doing this, students will gain more appreciation of the rehearsal space and the function as a classroom. Another effective method is to condition students to minimize personal movements during rehearsal. Staying still will remove unwanted noises in the rehearsal environment. This may be the most difficult goal to achieve, understanding the energy that students bring to the rehearsal environment and the natural tendency of adolescents to need an outlet for pent up energy. But teaching student musicians to direct their energy and focus their attention on the musical activity while minimizing extraneous actions leads to both a better rehearsal environment overall and the personal discipline necessary to meet musical goals. Remember, discipline takes consistency and persistence.

Mentors: Among the many reasons to find an experienced educator as a mentor for yourself as a teacher, one of the best is to help you keep perspective. Keeping the bigger picture in mind helps in dealing with frustrations of daily teaching or the more challenging times that can crop up during any academic year. Another way to have positive mental health is having a fellow director or colleague that is close to your same experience level. Together you can relate to the same issues and experiences and share solutions. 

This presentation was conceived to cover topics to help teachers in a Title I school find success, but these ideas are also universally important for anyone hoping to find success as a teacher in any musical environment. The only difference going in is being ready for the hurdles and open to the challenges. At the start of my career, I was told by a veteran director not to apply to a Title I school. Fortunately, I did not listen and discovered that teaching at this school gave me the necessary skills to teach in any setting. The band program flourished and grew from thirty students to over two hundred in four years. Additionally, the band program became the pride of the community and well respected in the county. Finding success and personal fulfillment teaching in the challenging environment is possible, and I hope that anyone considering a position in an Title I school setting will see both the need and the potential as both a challenge and a possibility.

Edited and reprinted with permission from the article “Effective Band Director Techinques for Teaching in Urban Schools” (from: The Florida Music Director Magazine, Feburary 2015)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

#tbt Being Part of the Band Then and Now

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Lloyd Hinnant, Rocky Mount Senior H.S., NC alumni (class of 1984) shares his experience on what it was like attending this year’s Bands of America Grand National Championships with his son Grayson, who’s a part of the Green Hope H.S., NC Marching Band, and reliving his own experience of his band becoming Grand National Champion in 1983. 

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The euphoria of achieving everything you had worked toward for three years was unbelievable. The Rocky Mount Senior H.S. Marching Band competed at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in 1981 and 1982, but it wasn’t until 1983 that we achieved our greatest potential and became Bands of America Grand National Champion. I still get goose bumps and tear up thinking about it. All the “set it up, do it again's, trips, and bonds you build with your band mates are something that I cherish because not everyone gets to experience that high of emotions. 

This year my son Grayson and the Green Hope H.S. Marching Band went to Grand National Championships and I was flooded with nostalgia. Not only was my son about to compete on the same national stage I had 32 years earlier, but his band was competing against some of the same schools my band competed against. 

Though his band didn’t make it to Finals, they left everything on the field and performed like champions. I couldn’t have been more proud and I’m excited to see where this growing marching band program will go in upcoming years. 

Looking back on my experience, both competing then and supporting now, I’ve come to the conclusion that being a part of the marching band taught me three things – 

  • Dedication - knowing your goals
  • Determination - willing to work your hardest
  • Discipline – developing a plan and working on it while learning from your mistakes

Being involved in music has also taught me that having a positive attitude and demonstrating teamwork can help you achieve a goal. I remember those hot summer days on a paved parking lot learning our drill and only one person would complain about the heat before several others would confront that person about adjusting their attitude. 

For those students who are currently involved in different musical ensembles and groups, take time to enjoy the moments and memories you make during your high school band years. Work hard, dream big, and do everything you can to achieve your objectives! You may not achieve every single one, but you will be so much better for at least trying. 

Remember the motto - “If it is to be, it is up to me!”


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Story Behind Our Fall Championship Wall

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The Midwest Clinic, starting today, marks a busy time for everyone here at Music for All as we prepare for our upcoming events. It has been an annual tradition to announce our upcoming Fall Championship schedule on the first day. We look forward to yet another sensational season as we gear up for 2016! 

Since moving to Indianapolis in 2004, Music for All has started a tradition of hanging a photo of our most recent Bands of America Grand Champion on our “Fall Championship Wall”. The wall has everything from the humble beginning when Bands of America was our Summer National Championships, to all of the stadiums we hosted Grand Nationals in, to the faces over the years, and of course our Champions. Lawrence Central H.S., IN was honorable number one in 2004 with their 2004 “La Rosa” (fun fact, Lawrence Central won Grand Nationals without winning a single caption!).

Fall Wall

With our 40th anniversary and 2015 Grand Nationals in the book, it is time for the annual tradition and changing of the guard. We salute our 2014 Grand National Champion, Tarpon Springs H.S., FL, as they had the honor and prestige of hanging up in the office for a year. Now we make room for our 2015 Grand National Champion, Broken Arrow H.S., OK. 

Tarpon Springs Wall Art

BA Wall Photo

Don’t worry; those photos don’t go to waste, as we still recognize all Champions on our “Wall of Champions”. Every year we look forward to adding to our collection of memories and building on the rich tradition and history that is the Bands of America Grand National Championships.

Wall of Champions

Will we see you this upcoming fall for a BOA Regional, Super Regional, or our Grand National Championships? We want you and your school to be a part of our history. You never know - your school might be the next band featured in the office as the 2016 Grand National Champion!

Rebecca Palmer, alumna of Henry Clay High School in Lexington, KY and Music for All programs, tells us first-hand about her experience with the Bands of America Honor Band that marched in the 2013 Rose Parade®

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It was my first day in California for the Rose Parade® and we were getting fitted for uniforms. We were all waiting in line and talking with the other students, it was so interesting because I met someone from Alaska on one side of me and someone from the South on the other side of me. Also, one of the drum majors was going up and down the whole line memorizing everyone’s name, instrument and favorite color or food, which was pretty impressive! Just the immediate chemistry between everyone was astounding.

We had many rehearsals over the next week, but the one that sticks out most is the last rehearsal for the parade. We started with a fun dance warm-up and then after that we had the most impressive rehearsal I have ever been a part of. They had taped off the parade corner and we only had a handful of hours to master the turn. The work ethic from my fellow band members was outstanding. After every set, we all sprinted back and you could just feel the energy everyone was putting into the rehearsal. I remember the directors telling us to slow down and pace ourselves but everyone was so dedicated that we just wanted to go all out so we could be the best we could possibly be. 

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The day of the parade came and I couldn’t believe it. Along the route there was a spot where we went under a bridge and all of the sound echoed back on the band and it blocked everything else out. To just be so immersed in the marching and the music and to be surrounded by so many people I had grown close with was an amazing feeling.

My happiest memory from the Rose Parade® was at the end of the parade route when we stopped and played “Firework” one last time. The drum line started dancing and that energy trickled down to the rest of the band. By the end of the song we were all jumping around and playing our hearts out. We were all so proud of what we accomplished, and to have that moment together of just pure joy brought tears to my eyes. 

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Being a part of the 2013 Bands of America Honor Band in the Rose Parade® helped me as a musician because I got to work with talented instructors like Matt Harloff, who really brings the best out of anyone he directs. Also, I developed a much greater appreciation for playing music as a group because it was amazing how everyone focusing beyond their own sound improved our overall sound. In life, it showed me how much more effective you can be when everyone gives it their all. The dedication and passion that was exhibited in this group was something that I haven’t experienced since because it was just that strong. It truly demonstrated to me what teamwork means and that is something I will always hold near and dear to my heart.

I was a member of the Bands of America Honor Band almost three years ago and it truly changed how I view music and band. Though I have not pursued a career in music, this experience is one I will never forget and Music for All helped make my high school band experience incredible. I still regularly talk to some of the people I met in California as part of the Rose Parade® and we are from all over the U.S. (Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, to name a few). It’s great that when people from this unique group are traveling across the U.S. they will post in our Facebook group and see if people can meet up every so often. Music for All really provided me with a second band family through this Rose Parade experience and I am truly thankful for that. In fact, my younger sister plays clarinet and is applying to become a member of the Bands of America Honor Band marching at the 2017 Rose Parade®! I hope she makes it so I can go to California and remember my experience again by cheering on her ensemble!

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If you are interested in marching with the Bands of America Honor Band at the 2017 Rose Parade®, applications are still be accepted until January 15, 2016. Learn more and apply at

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


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December 1, 2015 is #GivingTuesday…a global movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.

Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday connects individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

As you plan YOUR charitable year-end giving, please consider including Music for All!

Your gift will strengthen our ability to deliver our nationally recognized programs that support the efforts of music teachers on the high school and middle school levels, as well as provide positively life-changing experiences for students.

On #GivingTuesday please help us ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to participate in active music making in his or her scholastic environment by making a gift to Music for All!

Check out the awards photos from the 2015 Bands of America Regional Championship at American Canyon, CA

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