2015 MFA Summer Symposium

2015 MFA Summer Symposium

Today I come home, my home away from home. Ball State is where I spent four years of my academic career and it was the best experience of my life. Flash forward a few years from graduation and I work for Music for All. Today my staff and I are gearing up for the 2015 Music for All Summer Symposium.

The drive up from Indianapolis to Muncie I had this feeling of reuniting with an old friend. Something is special about Ball State and it is rather hard to describe. It is as if I am reuniting with an old friend; however, they have had many changes as have I.

Making the turn down University and then McKinley I was hit with a flood of memories. From living in the AJ building with my PR friends to endless nights in Bracken and walks around the Quad to going to football games at Scheumann Stadium. I was like a little kid preparing to go to Disney World. The biggest smile and all excited.


It is a bittersweet reunion back on campus as all my friends are gone, there are new buildings up and I am now here for work. This will be my first Music for All Summer Symposium and I couldn’t be any more excited. I am ready to see students and directors from all over the country arrive on campus and create memories. Just as I created my own the four years of college, I know get to create a new chapter of memories in a familiar location. Being able to create these life-changing experiences for students will be the highlight of my camp experience. Hearing their stories, capturing the moments and getting to know as many of them as possible!


Stay in touch with myself and other Music for All staff members as we write, tweet, Facebook and share not only our experiences at camp, but the people who truly matter… the students! We are here to brighten their musical education experience and push their passion of music and the arts!

Matt Mackowiak
Marketing Assistant
Twitter: @MFAmatt

BershThe Music for All Summer Symposium is an awesome opportunity for directors, both seasoned and new to the profession, to come together and share perspectives about the art of teaching music. In particular, Summer Symposium can be a great resource for band directors just starting out or those that are within their first years of teaching.  

This week I had a chance to catch up with Brian Bersh, a band director from Yorktown High School in Virginia. This is his first time at the Music for All Summer Symposium and I wanted to see how the experience has been so far.

How did you hear about the Summer Symposium and why did you decide to come? 

Brian: A mentor teacher of mine introduced me to the   National Concert Festival. I actually applied to and attended the Festival this past March with a percussion ensemble from my school and thought that the festival was very well organized and run. It was the best festival experience that I have ever been to. Once I heard about the camp, I figured it would be an equally wonderful experience. 

What do you hope to get out of the experience at camp? 

The main reason I came was to seek new methods to communicate with my students. There are many great method books out there and I’ve have a lot of great teachers in the past, but it’s a totally different thing to see teachers who are at the top of their game and how they communicate to their students. I want to see how what they say and do resonates with my teaching style and what I can do to incorporate that into my method to make myself a better overall teacher.

Did you bring any students with you? If not, do you intend to bring students in the future? 

Brian: I did not bring any students this year, but definitely plan to in 2016. After observing the Leadership Weekend, I feel that my students could only benefit from having that awesome experience. Particularly seeing how intimate that experience was for the students that participated and the bonds that made with each other, not to mention the wealth of knowledge they gained was great. There is no way they could go back to our home program and not be better leaders for the entire band.  

What have been some of the highlights of camp? 

I highly value the opportunity to connect with other educators from around the country. There are tons of different perspectives and different situations that directors are in and the ability to share the positives, negatives and how to deal with those situations is invaluable. Also I feel that everyone including the faculty and clinicians are on the same “level” and are accessible. It is not like that at other events like this. 

See a clip from the video below: 

Jerome Horne
Participant Relations Assistant

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DSI Surprises Color Guard Campers

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Music for All Sponsor, Director's Showcase International (DSI) surprised our Color Guard students (and instructors!) on Tuesday.

DSI gave each student in the Color Guard division a silk and t-shirt for their final performance (and as a keepsake to take home after camp!)

Our students who auditioned and were accepted into the master class received a rifle and gloves, and our instructors in the Color Guard Instructor Academy received a complete equipment bag with rifle, sabre, flag, weight system, and ever-dri gloves! 

These gifts were beyond gracious and we are all so thankful for DSI's generosity and support! We know all of the Color Guard students and instructors were absolutely thrilled!

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Wednesday night’s concert at the Music for All Summer Symposium could be described in one word: eclectic! 

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The concert began with Jazz Band Division campers playing upbeat music while marching down the center aisle of Emens Auditorium onto the multi-color lit stage. The crowd went wild while fog filled the air and musicians from Voices from the Soul appeared from backstage and into their positions. These Jazz Band campers had the opportunity to play solos during the performance and experience what it was like to play with professionals. 

Tad Robinson, a jazz vocalist who matriculated at the Indiana University School of Music, led the next set. Other members of the band included Sammy K on drums, Mark Buselli on trumpet and Joel Tucker on guitar. With a blues tune, the band played notes that made me want to close my eyes and feel the music with my whole body. It was easy to see that the group was having the time of their lives and this made the performance even better. 

Following, Soul Purpose, a gospel facet of the group, sang the classic “At Last,” originally sang by Etta James, with an original performance twist. Students and other audience members took out their cell phones to use as modern day lighters and sway to the music.

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Later in the concert Joyce “Peaches” Faison really got the crowd moving with her breathtaking vocals and energetic dance moves! She waved her scarf like a flag (though it was a little different from color guard) and used her movement to tell the visual story of the song. 


The last part of the concert was interactive! Joyce invited students to join her on the stage to dance to sing to "All About that Bass" by Meghan Trainor! The crowd roared and once again our campers had a chance to participate in music.

Overall, this concert hit many decades, styles, and genres of music, including blues, jazz, soul, and pop. Featuring marching band elements, jazz improvisation skills, and even a harmonica, Voices of the Soul was an all-inclusive musical experience. 

Continue to follow camp coverage at http://www.musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp/2015-symposium-coverage.

Check out the photos from the third day of the Music for All Summer Symposium!


If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link http://on.fb.me/1eJhqwM.

Every evening Music for All puts on a concert for students, faculty and the community. Tuesday night we had the honor and privilege of having the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus put on a spectacular concert. The repertoire for the concert ranged all over from traditional Sousa marches, movies scores and even classic Motown hits.


The evening started with the best rendition of our National Anthem I have ever heard as six French Horns took center stage. The crowd gave a standing ovation at the conclusion and I had chills running through my body. Something about that instrument and the emotion it portrays. Then again, I will admit that I have a soft spot for French Horns. Pure magic!


Speaking of magical, there were a handful of students that had the opportunity to perform on stage with the band. These talented students had little, if no, prep time for the concert. However, you could not tell as these kids played their hearts out. I could only imagine what was going through their heads being on stage with such a astounding ensemble and I bet this has to be a top highlight of their camp experience.


There was one piece that brought the house down as the U.S. Army Field Band played “Georgia on My Mind”. The saxophone soloist was the most talented artist I have ever heard. The range was phenomenal and the raw emotion ended up having the biggest standing ovation of the evening.


The overall theme for the evening was that music can take you anywhere in life. You don’t have to be a music educator to still carry on your passion for music. The men and women we saw on stage last night still get to enjoy and express that passion of music, but at the same time serve our country. That is one thing I love about music and our activity as we have such a wide range of opportunity to include it in our daily life.

And one last thing, I want to give a giant thanks to the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus for the concert! It was definitely a highlight of my week and it was truly positively life-changing not only for me, but for everyone in attendance.

Check out the photos from the second day of the Music for All Summer Symposium!


If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link http://on.fb.me/1CtWtuU.


I spent yesterday morning with the Jazz Band Track watching a Master Class session led by Sammy Kestenholtz.

During his session, he surprised his students by Skyping in Rich Redmond, Jason Aldean’s drummer. To no surprise, Redmond has studied both jazz and classical music most of his life and holds a Master’s degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas. Sammy Kestenholtz thought Redmond would be a good role model to our campers here at the Summer Symposium since he took the time to become a trained percussionist and is now famous all over the world. 

Redmond was so full of energy and you could easily recognize his passion for music education. During the session Redmond gave advice to the Jazz Band Track drummers to “take the gig,” because learning to play with other people will only make you better. He told the kids that even with a Master’s Degree he played for tips when he first started out. Redmond emphasized that he got where he was today from hard work, a sincere personality, and an original style. 

After Redmond was done speaking about his experience, the students attending had the opportunity to ask him questions and interact with him, making this master class truly unique. From music questions to advice about the personal life of being a professional musician, Redmond made sure to provide some invaluable insight.

Sammy Kestenholtz does a great job relating to his student campers. Hopefully the kids understood the message to “take the gig” and to let very few opportunities to play pass them by.

Thank you, Sammy and Rich! You are truly making this camp a positively life changing experience for our campers!

Keep following our camp coverage at http://www.musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp/2015-symposium-coverage.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Yamaha Young Performing Artists

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For the past couple of days I have had the pleasure of following around the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) as they prepared for their performance on Monday evening.

The Yamaha Young Performing Artists Program (YYPA) recognizes outstanding young musicians from the world of classical, jazz, and contemporary music. Winners of this competition are invited to attend a weekend at the Music for All Summer Symposium, receive a once in a lifetime performance opportunity in front of thousands, national press coverage, receive a recording and photos of the live performance, and participate in workshops designed to launch a professional music career. Winners also  enjoy many of the privileges of a Yamaha Artist, including services and communication with Yamaha's Artist Relations department.

I was lucky enough to sit in on sessions with the YYPA winners and Jeff Coffin, a Yamaha Artist and current saxophone player for Dave Matthew’s Band. During this session the YYPA winners were very engaged and enthusiastic about being able to get advice from Coffin, hear about his experience of taking his career to the next level, and what to work on to make themselves a better solo artist through being more marketable and authentic.


I also was able see the Jazz YYPA winners' rehearsal for their final performance that included Jeff Coffin and other Yamaha sponsored faculty at the Music for All Summer Symposium, like Sammy Kestenholtz who is on our Jazz Faculty! The energy in the room was amazing and I could not wait to hear how everything would come together on stage.

All of the YYPA winners also got to do a round table session where they got to talk to more directors and artists about their experiences. Some of the winners asked questions like "how do you learn other types of influences to make your own sound" or "how do you balance family and your love for playing" and "when do you find time to practice." The Staff really gave some great answers to how they balanced their lives by having a plan on what you are going to work on each day in advance so you are getting things accomplished.

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Later that day I was fortunate to be able to sit back stage and interact with the Yamaha Young Performing artists and watch their final performances in front of more than 1,200 Summer Symposium Campers. The students got to see what the next step could be for them and some of the opportunities there are to take their careers to the next level as young artists. The YYPA Winners were both Classical and Jazz artists.

The final performance was the first time I had heard the classical winners and they were amazing. I do not come from a musical background and from listening to the YYPA Winners, I have found a new appreciation for music that I would have never had without this experience. I am very curious to see where the love of their instruments and determination takes these young artists in their careers. I also loved watching the young artists support each other before and after their individual performances.

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The final performance "Move Your Rug" by Jeff Coffin was a mixture of artist with the jazz winners, two of the classical winners, Jeff Coffin, as well as Luke Gillespie, Jeremy Allen and Sammy Kestenholtz from our Music for All Jazz Faulty. It was one of the most fun and energetic performances of the night.

I think the Yamaha Young Performing Artists concert was a really cool experience for the YYPA Winners and our Summer Symposium Campers. It's a great opportunity for our campers to see what kinds of opportunities are out there for them and it really showcases Yamaha's commitment to education. 

Check out the photos from the first day for full week campers of the Music for All Summer Symposium!


If the photo stream above is not viewable for you, try this link http://on.fb.me/1IeGuXN.


 TG20558How lucky we’ve been as staff to have two first days of camp - it’s like Christmas came twice! 

Today was day one for our full-week campers and just seeing the joy on their faces as they picked up their binders and name tags made my heart warm and full. 

As leadership campers made our newcomers feel a part of the MFA family at registration, I felt compelled to yell and high five with them too, proving that the enthusiasm of the Music for All Summer Symposium is truly contagious. 

As we all loaded into Opening Session and the auditorium lights were lowered, it felt like room was still lit, but by the students and directors faces in the crowd. The energy that radiated from the room was like standing in the sun on the beach, but positively comforting and unique!

After Music for All CEO, Eric Martin took the stage, he invited Ball State University President, Paul Ferguson to talk about the value that the Summer Symposium adds to this university. He talked about how, though Music for All is always very appreciative to be able to take advantage of such a safe and friendly campus, Ball State also benefits from the opportunity to be a part of so many students’ learning experiences outside of their usual realm with collegiate students. 

The day was full of contagious energy though. Through the busy and sometimes crazy runs between different tracks, buildings and sessions, the smiles, laughter and optimism shared among everyone here helped us all focus on what we all came here to focus on, the music.


When observing the color guard and marching band welcome sessions, it showed that the attitudes among campers and faculty truly set the tone for everything that happened and set a pace for the week.

The day was also filled with clinician and keynote sessions for both students and directors with nationally recognized musicians and directors such as Richard Floyd, Richard Saucedo, Ian Grom, and Deborah Price. 

One session that I found eye-opening both musically and intellectually was the “Getting to the Art of the Matter” with Richard Floyd. This directors’ session didn’t apply to me directly, since I am not a director myself, but it spoke to me in the sense that sometimes we get caught up in the clutter of life, the little stresses that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but often distract us from the things that really matter, like our motivators and goals. For band directors, Floyd talked about how the focus that sometimes gets lost is, ironically, the growth and learning of the kids. There’s always so much behind the scenes work that bogs us down that when there’s face time with students we can feel tense or distracted. If we let go of that, we can do our jobs better.


This really came full circle to the attitude lesson that I learned earlier that morning. If we stay focused and have a positive attitude about what really matters, we can tune out the distractions that are getting in the way of us doing our jobs in the best possible way. When we spread that outlook to others, it’s like putting a whole rest on anything that’s getting in the way of our life missions. 

I'm confident that the others in this session walked away feeling recharged and only hope that they can bring back this message to their colleagues. 

Continue to follow Music for All Summer Symposium Camp Coverage at http://www.musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp/2015-symposium-coverage

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