Thursday, October 29, 2020

MFA's Impact - Breanne St. Martin

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Our new Music for All Impact series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In today’s spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce you to Breanne St. Martin.

BreannePhoto4Breanne pictured left with a fellow swag.

How did you become involved with Music for All?

My high school required our band/color guard members to attend the Music for All Summer Symposium in order to hold a leadership position. I attended my first Summer Symposium the summer before my junior year, and loved it so much I went back the next summer too! And then I came back for four more summers to serve as a member of the SWAG team :)

What attracted you to the cause?

That first summer I wanted to be a color guard captain so I wanted to attend camp for the leadership skills, but I quickly learned that camp was so much more than that. I kept coming back to summer symposium (twice as a camper and 4 times a SWAG) because every summer I was given opportunities to grow as a human, as a performer, and as a member of a team. 

What is your favorite Music for All memory?

There are honestly too many to pick just one. My favorites span from my first opportunity to spin with and meet members of a DCI color guard (Blue Coats 2007), to my first humbling day of SWAG team building, to watching a camper I taught become a SWAG herself, and of course Tutu Tuesdays!

Breanne Photo 1

What impact has music education had on your life?

I will always cherish the lessons I learned from music/marching band, attending the Summer Symposium gave me opportunities in leadership beginning in high school that extended far beyond a football field. From there it opened up doors for me to march 3 summers in DCI and those experiences taught me so much about myself, about being independent, and some major life skills including budgeting and time management.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?

The mission statement to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music was actually my life between the years 2007-2015. From the moment I was a camper to current day, the most cherished memories and experiences I had all in one way or another come back to MFA. 

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What compelled you to be a donor?

I wanted to make sure that the “for all” in the mission statement came true. It can be expensive to participate in a marching band or experiences like the Summer Symposium, and I will never be able to fully give back any amount equal to what I got out of my time with Music for All. 

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?

It brings students from all across the country (and the world!) together to create opportunities for them to share their passion with others who love music just as much as they do. 

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

Music for All as an organization is so much more than marching/concert band, winds, strings, color guard, and drumline. Music for All is an organization that takes students and provides them with opportunities and connections that will change and mold their lives for many years to come.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Do it! You have the ability to create a positively life-changing experience for someone and there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you’re able to provide that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

MFA's IMPACT: Ric and Jeannette Coons

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Our new Music for All Impact series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In today’s spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce you to Ric and Jeannette Coons.

 Ric Coons Photo 3Ric and Jeannette distributing "Team Texas" shirts before CTJ's 2019 Grand Nationals trip.

How did you become involved with Music for All?

My first introduction to Music for All (MFA) was in 2011. Our oldest daughter was a freshman guard member in the Claudia Taylor Johnson H.S. band program. The program competed in Houston and made their first trip to Grand Nationals in Indy and my wife and I followed the band there to watch them compete and make finals. That was when I realized that this was far different than the marching bands I grew up with in the 80’s in California.

What attracted you to the cause?

Music was a very important part of growing up for me. It was what kept me engaged in school from 4th grade through high school and taught me life lessons that I have used in my adult life and career for the past 35 years. The more I learned about MFA outside of just the marching arts with the Summer Symposium and National Festival as well as the music advocacy programs that work to ensure that every child has access and opportunity to have music education as part of their scholastic environment, I felt the need to support it.

What is your favorite Music for All memory?

While there are many, the 2019 Grand National Championships were special to my wife and me. We attended in 2011 with our freshman daughter competing. We returned in 2019 with our freshman son competing and our adult daughter getting to experience the event as a spectator cheering for her brother. Announcing our program as the Esprit de Corps award winner – it just reminds us of the lessons that our kids are learning as part of their programs and the life value it brings to our kids and families.

What impact has music education had on your life?

Friendships that we have made in our programs, as well as in programs from across the country, have been amazing. The process of learning to be a part of something bigger than yourself has been impactful, as well as learning the passion and dedication required to reach a purpose or goal.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?

The statement of providing “positively life-changing experiences for students” means a great deal to my wife and me. I experienced this growing up and I have seen it with my children and so many children that have had the access to music education in middle school and high school.

Ric Coons Photo 1Ric, Jeannette, and their son at the Urban Farm for the San Antonio Food Bank with the Claudia Taylor Johnson Band 

What compelled you to be a donor?

We have seen music programs and fine arts across the country lose funding over the years. My wife and I have seen the value of music education and we are fortunate enough to have a phenomenal group of music educators that support our kids. We have been fortunate enough to be in a position to support our middle and high school programs here locally. But we also feel the need to support the mission of MFA outside our local community and are proud to do so.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?

Music advocacy – your ability to bring so many national sponsors together and provide outstanding opportunities for our kids to perform in such a positive way that will touch their lives forever. They carry that with them and it leads them to want to give back so that others that do not have access can be supported.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

There is no other organization in the country that provides the ability to bring young people together for the sole purpose of promoting the musical arts in a positive manner and in world-class venues and that promotes access to music education within our youth communities - from BOA events to the honor brands that allow individuals from across the country to grow together. MFA uses its platform to support areas that do not have access to music education.

Do you have an anecdote/story about Music for All or a Music for All event that really moved you?

Grand Nationals 2019 – I arranged a gathering with parents/alumni from 8 different bands that we have gotten to know from across Texas – and Avon, our honorary Texas band after their 2017 appearance. While we had some great conversations with the MFA team prior to that event, the event was just to watch the live feed of the announcements of the finalists. Eric Martin, MFA’s President and CEO at that time, took time out of what has to be one of his busiest days to speak to the members that were assembled to do a Q&A on the direction of the organization. It was touching that he would take the time to join us.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Look at the entire scope of the organization, its mission, and the performance of that mission over the years. If you have a family that has been involved in music education and have seen what it has meant to them, then reach out to support this organization. It is a worthy mission and our kids across the country need the arts.

Ric Coons Photo 2The Coons Family

Monday, September 21, 2020

MFA's IMPACT: Dr. Christopher Protho

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Our new Donor Spotlight series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In the second spotlight of our series below, we are thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Christopher Protho.

Chris and Eric EditedPictured left to right: Eric Martin, President & CEO Emeritus of MFA, and Dr. Christopher Protho

How did you become involved with Music for All?

I started when I volunteered in the bus parking lot at the Morgantown, WV Regional (known as the Eastern Regional) in 1990. As a freshman in the WVU band, it was not like I had much of a choice. I had no idea what Bands of America was. I barely understood that marching bands competed against each other. 

The real connection came in 1991, at the end of my freshman year. I was a few minutes late for the Wind Symphony’s commencement rehearsal in May. I was asked to see Dave Satterfield (WVU Asst. Director of Bands and Cadets staff) after rehearsal. Dave was generally responsible for discipline, so I spent the rehearsal preparing myself for a well-deserved tongue-lashing. Instead, he asked me if I could work at a camp in Wisconsin, the 1991 BOA Summer Workshop [now the MFA Summer Symposium] held in Whitewater, WI. BOA needed a clarinet SWAG to fill a last-minute vacancy. Just like that, I was an 18-year-old SWAG who had never been to Wisconsin, never worked with so many students, and (like most of the world) didn’t know what SWAG meant. (Heck, I didn’t know that SWAG was an acronym and I really didn’t know how special it was to be one.) In those days, the whole camp participated as the “Pick ‘n Save Band of America” in a Milwaukee parade. 1400+ kids marching in an enormous band in the rain. The band was so big that, although the picture covers what looks like a mile, the whole band’s not in the picture because the back half of the guard hadn’t turned a corner. An old friend of mine still has my red SWAG shirt. I worked Grand Nationals that year and my thank you note was hand-signed by all FIVE staff members.

 Protho 1991 SWAG

What attracted you to the cause?

The people and the scale of the experience. I met so many great people – students, SWAGs, volunteers, staff, clinicians. It felt then (and feels now) that there’s this giant positive energy created through music - all moving in the same direction. Everyone wants to help; everyone wants to contribute; everyone wants to get their own piece of MFA awesomeness by giving some away to someone else. Everyone was helped to feel and be special – every band on the field, every kid at camp, every fan, every pit dad. It has never been just about the official-looking people – kids in their uniforms or judges and staff in their polo shirts. At an Orlando regional, there was a woman who had pulled up a chair to a pond outside the stadium. I remember sitting next to her, listening to her talk about her life’s journey while she was fishing, yes, fishing outside the stadium. It felt like that in 1990 and every year and every event since.

As for the scale, I am beyond amazed at the replication of this feeling and this experience. It is often said that it would be great if something positive could be bottled. Marching Bands of America, Bands of America, and Music for All have found the magic to do just that. In the last thirty years, I have worked in about 50 or 60 venues, from tiny high school fields to NFL stadiums and complete college campuses. The magic is not just in the mission; it’s in the tens of thousands in the MFA family that replicate the mission everywhere for everyone.

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What is your favorite Music for All memory?

Most MFA events I attend are part of the fall marching championships, so most of my stories come from that part of the year, but I’ve had great memories at the Summer Symposium, the MFA National Festival, and several events that have evolved into other student opportunities in my years between BOA’s 15th Anniversary and MFA’s 45th Anniversary. NOT FAIR. This would be like picking my favorite child. (Editor’s note: Chris provided ten amazing memories, I chose five of my favorite stories he shared for you all to read here.)

5. Atlanta, GA – While problem-solving at the loading dock of the Georgia Dome, the Western Carolina University marching band walked by. From out of the mass of WCU humanity, I hear, “Hey, Mr. Protho, is that you?” A student from my middle school moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, finished high school, had joined “The Pride of the Mountains,” and six or seven years later, we unfathomably found one another in one of the most unlikely places.

4. Charleston, WV – Due to a late scheduling change, the Morgantown, WV Regional was moved to Charleston. Additionally, we needed to do the regional without a volunteer site staff (as the WVU “Pride of West Virginia” stayed in Morgantown for the rescheduled game). It became an “all-hands-on-deck” event. We ran that show with about 15 people, with everyone chipping in wherever they could, including Scott McCormick, BOA President, selling programs until he threw his back out and Eric Martin, BOA’s new Vice President, guiding bands from warm-up to the stadium (across a set of active railroad tracks). 

3. Indianapolis, IN – At the RCA Dome pre-Lucas Oil Stadium renovation, buses and trucks needed clearance from a BOA volunteer (designated “Check Point 1”) before driving around the stadium to unload on the tarmac and at the loading docks. One snowy Grand Nationals, I was working on the tarmac as a form of “traffic cop” to help Check Point 1 know when there was sufficient space for the next band to come around. I got a radio call from Jenny Ridge at Check Point 1: “Chris, there’s a band that has to unload NOW!”  I replied, “What is so urgent?”  Jenny said, “You’ll see.”  A truck came around the stadium with virtually no roof.  It had hit a train trestle that was too low and that had peeled the top of the truck back like a sardine can, allowing it to snow on the band’s equipment.

2. Massillon, OH – During this show I was assisting in keeping trophies and medallions straight during awards ceremonies. One year, Mars High School won Class A and was, therefore, entitled to medallions, including medallions presented on-field during the Finals Awards Ceremony. As the director at Mars Middle School, I was extraordinarily proud of my former students. As I prepared to hand several medallions to a VIP to be presented to Mars’s drum majors, I was asked at the last second to present the medallions myself. My pride for my students went off the chart as I had the honor of looking my past students in the eye as they received the highest honor the band had ever received. (Just writing about this moment has me in tears.) My photo of that moment is one of my greatest treasures.

1. Indianapolis, Indiana - I was serving as Contest Director at Grand Nationals and was taking a break, having a conversation with Eric Martin (MFA’s previous President & CEO). A reporter from a major national newspaper entered the room for a scheduled interview with Eric. As I tried to do the polite thing by gathering my belongings so the two could have the room to themselves, Eric invited me to stay. I listened to Eric go further than share a recitation of what MFA does; he shared the core of the mission, why we do what we do, and how what we do impacts people, schools, communities. It wasn’t an interview; it was a sermon. It was an MFA TedTalk.  After decades of seeing, hearing, and feeling the embodiment of love and care through what was known (at the time) as Music for All, I thought I understood it. After listening to Eric, I instantly knew I had a way to go to really know what was going on and why. It was like climbing a mountain, looking up, and realizing I had thousands of feet left to climb.

What impact has music education had on your life?

I am who I am and how I am through music education. Through mentorships lasting seconds to decades, I have learned my part in the lives of young people, the people that support them, and all the people whose paths cross mine over time.  Learning to play the clarinet has, over the years, become a means to an end.  First, I learned to play, then I learned to lead, to follow, and eventually, through music education, learned what my path was meant to be. Internalizing the process of developing and sharing artistry and creativity with others is something that I no longer need an instrument or a baton to achieve.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you? 

I’d like to address this question rather literally. For grammar fans, the mission has two broad parts: the verbs “create, provide, and expand” and the noun “positively life-changing experiences”. For some time, I focused exclusively on the noun. I gave so much thought to what “positively life-changing experiences” look to our larger music community.  I have come to believe that understanding the noun through J.K. Rowling’s adaptation of Louis Armstrong’s famous quote, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Just picking up an instrument, listening to the radio or your local symphony, coming to an event, or saying “thank you” to a volunteer takes one down the path to a positively life-changing experience. 

The verbs have had a more profound effect on me lately. It speaks to the universality of human connection. Creation, provision, and expansion are all methods to extend the beauty of music into the universe, even that little piece of the universe we get to call ours, whether it’s associated with a mascot, identified with zip code, or measured in light-years. The mission is beautifully interminable. There is no end to expressing and serving the mission; there is no point at which one can say, “OK, I’m done. I’ve achieved the mission. I can sit down now.”

What compelled you to be a donor? 

Donating is a small act of giving back and helping to make the creation, provision, and expansion expressed in the mission statement happen. Since I was a toddler, MBA, BOA, and MFA, have continued to find ways to extend the beauty of music into universes large and small, into genres new and traditional, into communities seeking to maximize the excellence to which they have become accustomed and communities who require assistance and support to take the next step toward excellence.

To the friends and family who haven’t been on my journey, it could be easy to misconstrue our relationship. “Chris, they put you on an airplane and send you to here or there and you get to see the best bands in the country and rub elbows with the most talented music educators.” It can sound like Music for All has given me so much over the years. Through one lens, that may be true. What is far more true, is that while I’ve had experiences at the events I attend, is that those experiences cause one to give that experience to one more person, one more community. If my few meager dollars can make that happen, then all the moments will have been worth it.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does? 

Persist. Making MFA’s various events happen on simply the logistical level (that leads to the personal and emotional levels) requires an inordinate amount of time, effort, and resources. Being blessed to have had opportunities to serve in leadership at events from time to time, incrementally learning what happens behind the curtain to allow the magic to happen in front of it is truly mind-altering. Without time, effort, and resources, events simply don’t happen. MFA has been able to put those pieces together for generations, and hopefully for generations more. Your homework should be to go to the MFA website’s staff page to see the names and faces of those people you may never see and may never meet but are indispensable to MFA’s events. Imagine Grand Nationals or the Summer Symposium being planned by this small, dedicated group ranging from interns to executives. That’s where we come in as donors and volunteers.  Whenever and wherever you can add to the pools of time, effort, and resources that allow MFA to persist in order to reach out to just one more child, one more program, one more community.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

How few full-time employees actually work for MFA. (See the homework assignment above.) For years, I thought there were hundreds; dozens would be generous. 

Do you have an anecdote/story about Music for All or a Music for All event that really moved you? 

At the 1991 Grand Nationals, the process for presenting medals is different than it is now. Then, volunteers individually presented a medallion to each student. As I was presenting a class champion medallion to a young lady from (what was then) Plymouth Centennial High School, they were announced as the National Champions. She removed her hat so I could get a medallion around her neck. As the announcement was made, she broke out in tears as I presented her medallion. I wanted to cry with her.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Think about the next step MFA can take because of your donation. Over the years, MFA has developed different dimensions to meet its mission, expanding its geographic footprint, recognizing more student-musicians in more musical genres, extending its reach into underserved communities, recognizing the impact of supporting the growth of young educators, and more. Your donation helps MFA take that next step and helps you take that step along with MFA.

Join Dr. Protho in making a gift in support of Music for All's impact here.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Changing Trends in Collegiate Music Recruiting

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Students with an entrepreneurial vision, songwriting and composing skills, are as highly recruited as those with advanced music theory knowledge. Students are becoming more aware of the many career paths available to them in the music entertainment industry: movies, television programs and commercials, podcasts, video games, streaming content, and recordings. And high schools are finding they need to incorporate instruction in composition, orchestration, arranging, and songwriting into class curriculum to help the student make college and career decisions. So what does that mean for the scholastic music educators?

Scholastic music educators--choral directors, band directors, and orchestra directors—now need to incorporate arranging and songwriting in their curriculum from early grades through high school to give their students a competitive edge in the collegiate application and audition process. Students with these skills are in high demand, and in fact, several Schools of Music over the past five years have offered scholarships to songwriters and rappers because of their potential ability to bring copyright and publishing royalties into their coffers. Several universities have stated that a student’s advanced placement theory credits are weighted less in the admission decision process than a songwriting submission, especially if the song follows proper song structure.

Additionally, many School of Music and Music Department recruiters are looking for students with an entrepreneurial mindset. Recruiters have realized the US media and entertainment industry is the largest in the world and there are now over 20 colleges or universities offering an undergraduate degree in Music Entrepreneurship. At $717 billion (in 2019) in the US alone, music represented 1/3 of global media and entertainment. This industry includes motion pictures, television programs and commercials, broadcasts, radio, video games, and ancillary services and products. In 2019, the music industry was ranked 11th in the US economy and it is predicted the industry will reach more than $825 billion by 2023.

Collegiate music education is a business. Colleges, universities, and conservatories must make a profit. A growing trend among many Music Departments is to have publishing and recording companies within the department, where they publish new music from professors, students, and alumni, as well as educational resources and curriculums. Music Departments also depend on tuition and student fees, such as lab fees and tutoring fees. And they sell services—master classes, camps, symposiums, and ensemble weekends—as well as showcasing seniors in musical theatre before Broadway producers, opera singers in New York for talent agencies, and instrumentalists before the American Symphony League.

The face of collegiate recruiting has changed and will, in light of COVID-19 and its repercussions, continue to evolve. Scholastic music educators will find themselves with new challenges as they strive to help students and their parents navigate the collegiate music application and audition process. is the premier site for resources for teachers, parents, and students to help in this new, evolving world. And we are proud to announce that Eric Martin, former CEO of Music for All, has joined as its President. Mr. Martin and Randall Bayne, founder and CEO, are committed to assisting students, along with their teachers and parents, navigate these ever-changing and somewhat treacherous waters to find the scholarship opportunities best suited for their career goals. Visit today and explore the possibilities and connections available to help you and your students, especially during this challenging year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Virtues of Virtual Acoustics

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Many schools built in the 60’s and 70’s have music rooms that resemble typical math or science rooms: small cubic volume, low ceilings, poor soundproofing and inferior or no acoustical treatments.

That was unfortunately the case at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minnesota. Knowing that there were no plans for new construction in the near future, Choir Director Philip Brown pleaded with the school administration to improve the room.

“We talked about options and our superintendent said, ‘Let’s do it right the first time.’ He asked what the best solution was, and we liked the idea of virtual acoustics,” Brown says.

A virtual acoustics system includes an array of microphones and speakers placed strategically in the music room to digitally alter and improve the acoustics of a space. These systems can also go beyond that capability and mimic the acoustics of a broad range of performance venues — from a large recital hall to a cathedral to a small auditorium. The goal is to help performers hear what they’ll sound like at a venue they’ll be performing in. It helps them hear themselves and each other and know when and how to adjust to improve the overall performance.

Hearing is Believing

Brown had experienced virtual acoustics firsthand at the national American Choral Director’s Convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center. He watched a demonstration of Wenger’s VAE® (Virtual Acoustic Environment) Rehearsal System and quickly realized how much it could help solve their acoustical problems.

“It was fascinating to see how the singers made modifications using the VAE system versus not having anything at all,” Brown says. “That was the biggest thing to me as a music educator. How are the singers responding to it?”

“The power of the system comes in so many angles,” he explains. “It heightens everything to a different educational and performance level.” He was able to convince school administration and the system was installed.

Custom Installation

Jefferson’s virtual acoustics system was made specifically by Wenger for smaller settings, such as classrooms. The system isn’t a new concept, but it’s nimble enough – and affordable enough – that classrooms in colleges and high schools across the country are finding that it’s a solid solution to help their students get more out of their rehearsal time.

“The Wenger Acoustic Team came in and explained what they would do to work with the low ceilings and two different ceiling heights and how they would make it work,” Brown says.

He describes the old room as “dead.” He says singers would overcompensate, push too hard, and get tired, affecting their technique. “Virtual acoustics increase your sensation of what’s coming back to you, so you can stay with a healthier technique for a longer period of time,” Brown says. “The system adds energy back into the room and provides a teaching tool for the instructor,” says Matt Hildebrand, Acoustics Product Manager at Wenger Corporation. “When the system is off, the classroom is quiet and perfect for verbal instruction or teaching theory.”

The Benefits of Better Sound

Users frequently site these three things that they enjoy most about the system:

  • It’s easy to use. The environment can be changed with the touch of a button, even from the podium where the control panel is positioned.
  • The different acoustic environments are preset and offer flexibility as well as custom settings. The nine settings include studio, baroque, medium recital hall, large recital hall, medium auditorium, large auditorium, cathedral and a custom setting.
  • Digital record and playback capabilities work with any of the nine acoustical settings for immediate listening in rehearsal, archiving or creating an audition recording.

Before the system was installed, Brown says his students did not enjoy singing in the choir room.

“After adding the system, we did a total flip and the kids were very excited to get in here and experiment with it,” Brown says.

There is a custom setting that mirrors the acoustics of the school’s auditorium which helps them practice without having to occupy the performance space.

“We only get so many rehearsals in our auditorium before our concerts because it is a space that gets reserved for a lot of events and activities,” Brown explains. “Now, they walk into the hall and there are no surprises, so it takes us less time to acclimate.”

Using the system during rehearsals, Brown likes to sample different settings. If they are practicing a baroque piece, they can use the baroque setting and transcend the class into a different time period.

Brown says the system helps eliminate the unknowns and builds confidence in his students.

“There’s an arena setting to prepare us for a national anthem stadium performance. We can actually rehearse in an arena setting so the kids will know how much feedback they’re going to get and how much echo there’s going to be so they can respond to it. When we arrive, the group is prepared and can sound their best.”

Record, Listen and Learn

For both teacher and student, the record and playback functions allow for learning and adjustment. Brown says it gives the students more ownership of the performance and constant reflection about what they are hearing. They can perform something two different ways, listen to both and decide which they like better.

They can use the VAE Rehearsal system with the entire choir working together, or in small groups. If students are not in class at the same time, they can record their session and the second group can use their recording as an accompaniment.

It has also come in handy for submitting competition and scholarship recordings.

Worthwhile Investment

With every “wow” moment that students experience when hearing the system for the first time, Brown’s decision to install the system is solidified. As he sees each class of students learn, grow and improve, he knows that students for years to come will reap the benefits.

“The students can now go so much further. They know how to listen and improve. It allows them to have flexibility so whatever environment they play in they can be comfortable and feel successful in those environments. It really makes a difference at an incredibly high-quality level.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Patrick Mainieri

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More often than not, when you ask someone what makes Music for All special, they talk about the people, and we couldn’t agree more. “People” is one of Music for All’s core values and we are incredibly fortunate to have many committed supporters of our mission to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all. We hope that our new Donor Spotlight series will introduce you to some of these incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well.

Maineri DSBlog

How did you become involved with Music for All?
I was a participant as a drum major my senior year of high school. It was the first year in our school’s history that our band performed at BOA events. We performed at the St. Louis Super Regional and Atlanta Super Regional that fall. I got reengaged with MFA during the Fall of 2015 as the assistant band director of a program that participated in fall events. In Summer of 2016 I became a SWAG for Summer Symposium and have enjoyed that role each summer since. In March 2017, I attended my first National Festival with our Wind Ensemble students. After building relationships with many of the amazing MFA staff, I began helping on the Events and Participant Relations teams, now regularly assisting at Fall events, Festival, Tournament of Roses, and Summer Symposium. I also enjoy serving on the Advocacy in Action committee, as I get to have amazing conversations about the trend-setters in the music education profession. There is an incredible amount of creativity among music educators!

What attracted you to the cause?
Hands down, the mission and the people. There is an amazing ‘energy’ around everyone at a MFA event. Every person affiliated with MFA is mission minded and focused on the experience. I have taken much of the "vibe" from a MFA event and used it to guide my work as I create experiences for students and families at the school level.

What is your favorite Music for All memory?
There are too many to describe...but if I had to pick one, I'd say watching nervous campers become confident in their leadership over the week at Summer Symposium is always the best. Many kids “find themselves" at camp...because they get to BE themselves.

What impact has music education had on your life?
Music education has impacted almost every aspect of my life. My mom took me to my first trumpet lesson on February 1, 1996. I still remember the room upstairs in the music store. That lesson teacher inspired me from day 1 to love the process of making music. My junior high and high school band directors taught me the value of supporting and defending music education. I married my high school sweetheart, who I met through band. College revealed the network we have in our country to amplify music education. I learned a lot about the value of music education on our society through my work with my collegiate chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, Sinfonia and NAfME Collegiate. Now, as a school administrator, I find myself using many skills learned in my music classes and coursework - leadership, patience, attention to the smallest details, teamwork, listening, communication with varied stakeholders...the list goes on and on – in my daily work with the full school population and supporting teachers and parents.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?
The word that I take from the mission is 'experience'. Everything in life is an experience and I want to ensure that my interactions with others, as well as the experience they are having holistically, are enjoyable and positive, for them. My personal gratification comes from observing others enjoy the experience.

What compelled you to be a donor?
My wife and I value donating, both financially and through service, with organizations that are meaningful to us. MFA is at the top of our list. Our donations to MFA became amplified when we saw we could make a difference in a child's experience at summer camp. Our focus started with helping get kids to camp, as we feel Summer Symposium is one of those 'once in a lifetime' experiences that could change the entire trajectory for a student.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?
I feel the most important work that MFA does is when it is centered on the student experience. Without students, we don't have music classes. Without music classes, we don't have music directors. And, without those students, MFA would no longer be needed in the capacity it serves. MFA does a lot of things REALLY well, but when the students and their experiences are front and center, I see MFA staff and programming reach new heights.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?
I wish people FULLY understood that MFA is working, relentlessly, to better diversify its programming by adding more opportunities for all types of music education while working to reach those communities that have a higher need for advocacy and support.

Do you have an anecdote/story about Music for All or a Music for All event that really moved you?
After working on Event staff at the Bowling Green, OH Regional in Fall 2018, a few of us headed to Waffle House to get a late night snack. There was a teenage boy in a band shirt sitting at the table next to us and we began a conversation with him and his parents about the regional. The kid, Max, was a sophomore and that regional was his first MFA event – he loved every second of it. I told them about Summer Symposium and percussion track. Fast forward to summer…While working registration at the percussion track table, Max's mom says, "You may not remember us, but we met you at Waffle House in Bowling Green and you told us about this camp." I had one of those, “is this really happening?” moments as we registered Max for camp. Max enjoyed the 'best week of the summer' as he honed his snare drum skills and grew his leadership skills. It was awesome seeing Max, a nervous 10th grader at Waffle House, enjoy every second of camp that summer. Max is now a section leader for his high school program. I guess the anecdote is – Informing people of the opportunities MFA provides is often times the tipping point for them to have the experience. People can’t experience what they don’t know about. But, once they know, if it matters to them, they will make it a reality in their life.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?
Do it. When we donate to MFA, we give based on the trust and knowledge that our donation is going to support music students and advocacy across our nation.

Join Patrick in making a gift in support of Music for All's impact here.

The University of North Texas (UNT) College of Music has the largest enrollment for public university music programs in the U.S. and is one of the world's most respected comprehensive music schools.

Its Bruce Hall dormitory is home to the Music & Jazz Living Learning Communities and cultivates a rich, creative environment for all its residents. Since 1964, 100 UNT College of Music alumni have worked on projects nominated for Grammy Awards, and an incredible 53 of those have won the prestigious award.

One of the secrets to student success is supplying them with the equipment necessary to succeed. First-rate practice rooms with advanced acoustical technology fall into that category. To make sure students could get the most out of their practice time, the school partnered with Wenger to install brand new Wenger SoundLok® Sound-Isolation Rooms with the latest Virtual Acoustic Environment (VAE®) technology in Bruce Hall, home to hundreds of student musicians.

Remove and Refurbish

UNT was one of the first schools in the country to install Wenger sound isolation practice rooms. For 45 years, those rooms served thousands of students well. But the rooms were in need of repairs. The college was interested in learning about new features and new technology that new rooms could provide.

“The design had changed significantly over the years, so we couldn’t make repairs in a cost-effective way,” explains Neal Jorgenson of Wenger Corporation. “The fans also weren’t working very well anymore, so it was uncomfortable for the students in the rooms. UNT agreed to install new rooms to give the musicians a much better place to play.”

Records indicated the old rooms had been used 6,700 times in the 2016-2017 academic year alone. It was no wonder they needed replacing.

The process began with a site visit so that Jorgenson could see the existing practice rooms. Right away, he noticed a big problem.

“There were some 9-foot high beams in the rooms that we needed to tear out,” Jorgenson says. “We need at least ten feet of height, so we drew up the plans, got some feedback from UNT, and had to vet everything through the fire marshal. Then we began tearing out the old rooms and making room for the new.”

Install and Instruct

Jorgenson’s team installed 13 Wenger SoundLok® Sound-Isolation Rooms with built-in VAE technology.

VAE technology offers more realistic acoustical simulations, creating the sensation of being enveloped by the sound. This innovative approach enables musicians to hear themselves in various performance venues, from a large recital hall to a cathedral to a small auditorium. VAE allows the musicians to record and play back their practice sessions, helping them adapt and improve their performance. Those recordings can also be downloaded to other devices for sharing or performing accompaniments.

The sound isolation rooms are quieter than any other on the market. They’re also strategically located in the basement of Bruce Hall, allowing its residents to practice at any time of day without disturbing anyone nearby.

VAE technology also allows teachers to follow the assessment strategy recommended in the National Standards for Music Education, and increase their ability to evaluate the progress of more students in less time.

“The students were very excited to explore this technology,” explains Penny Gustafson, Assistant Director of Housing and Business Operations at UNT. “Given the creative drive of our typical music majors, we were confident that these rooms would be beneficial.”

The final step was for a team of acoustical equipment experts to show the students and teachers how to use the system to maximize its benefits.

New Rooms, Clear Sound

The new rooms were a big hit.

“The students love the VAE technology,” Gustafson says. “They particularly enjoy being able to record themselves and track progress over the course of the semester or year. Music professors were also eager to listen to their students’ recordings and offer feedback.”

Gustafson says students have also found the spaces useful for recording podcasts, music for personal projects, or sound clips for film. The rooms are used an average of 500 hours each week. Because of their popularity, UNT had to implement a one-hour limit per person to give all residents an opportunity to use the rooms.

The practice rooms are also used as a recruiting tool, providing a major draw for prospective freshmen music majors and their families when considering their options for undergraduate music studies.

Throughout the process, Gustafson appreciated the customer service Jorgenson provided.

“Neal has been extremely informative, patient, and supportive,” Gustafson says. “When we hit bumps in the road with project management, we called on him to intervene, and he always took care of us.”

Long List of Wenger Products

The SoundLok practice rooms join other Wenger Corporation products elsewhere on campus. The auditorium boasts a beautiful Diva® Full Stage Acoustical Shell to help both performers on stage and audience members hear the best possible sound. The rooms also contain StageTek® seated risers, as well as musician and cello chairs and Wenger’s Classic 50® Music Stands.

Wenger Corporation’s hallmark is to build quality, durable, lasting products that stand the test of time.

SoundLok rooms that lasted 45 years prove the point. And now, the new and improved rooms will serve thousands of future students for many more years to come.

Susan L. Smith, Music for All Educational Consultant, kicks off a new live webinar series exclusively on BAND, the mobile app in the Director Hub.

The webinar will focus on concert festival preparation for young or small bands. 

This FREE Webinar will include tips for success for the concert band conductor with a small or young band. The first half of this online clinic will be informative with suggestions that have worked for the clinician in the past.

The second half will focus on specific questions or needs of the attendees.

Fill out the form below to ensure your questions get answered! The webinar will be available in the Director hub at the conclusion of the event.

Join the hub and RSVP here:

Question form:

Stop by the Music for All booth and talk with the following members of our Education team

Susan Smith will be in the booth on Wednesday, 12/18 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. to talk about the National Chamber Music Festival and small band initiatives for marching bands!

Come meet Music for All Educational Consultant Zachary Harris, adjunct professor at William Carey University. Zachary will be in the booth each daydiscussing our urban education initiatives and the I-65 Corridor Collaborative.

Wed. 12/18 - 9:30 a.m. – Noon
Thurs. 12/19 - 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Fri. 12/20 - 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Let’s talk about the Honor Band in the Rose Parade®! January 15, 2020 is the application and audition deadline for students.

Meet with Richard Saucedo on Thursday 12/19 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. to learn more.


Want to learn more about Music for All Affiliate Regional Music Festivals and the Directors’ Academy at the Music for All National Festival?

Scott Casagrande and Stan Schoonover will be available on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – Noon to talk with you.

David Starnes, our Summer Symposium Camp Director will be available on Thursday 12/19 from 9:00-11:00 am to talk about summer camp and the many opportunities for students and directors.

Having worked with Fran Kick for over two decades, Music for All shares in his passion and mission to develop student leadership in all students, rather than just let it happen with a selected few. Come by on Friday 12/20 from 9 a.m.-Noon to talk about student leadership opportunities at the Summer Symposium!

Check out the following Music for All master educators and clinicians at the 2019 Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic!

Bobby Lambert, Wando H.S., SC: Wind Symphony Performance; Thursday, December 19, 8:30 a.m. Skyline Ballroom W375E

Cheryl Floyd, Hill Country M.S., TX retired: “Once More with Feeling: The Music Really Matters”; Friday, December 20, 8:30 a.m. Ballroom W183

Daniel Malacon, Timber Creek H.S., TX: Timber Creek Saxophone Ensemble Performance; Thursday, December 19, 4:30 p.m. Ballroom W190

Dave Gerhart, Yamaha Corporation of America: “Percussion Methods 102: Revisited”; Thursday December 19, 4:30 p.m. Meeting Room W186

Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Music for All Senior Educational Advisor: Music Parents Sessions, Wednesday December 18, 4:30 p.m. and Thursday December 19, 2:00 p.m. Meeting room W193 and “It is Better to Illuminate than to Shine: A Credo for All Teachers and Conductors”, Thursday December19, 3:00 p.m. Meeting Room W185 Moderator for “An Interview with Julie Giroux” Friday December 20, 10:30 a.m. Ballroom W183

Freddy Martin, Westminster Schools, GA: “Go Play Outside! A Contextual Discussion on the Benefits, Drawbacks, and Stigmas associated with Outdoor Brass Playing”; Thursday December 19, 11:30 a.m. Meeting Room W184

H. Robert Reynolds, Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California Chat Room “The Two Kinds of Knowledge and the Two Kinds of Conductors” Wednesday December 18, 11:30 a.m. Meeting Room W193 2nd Annual Midwest Clinic Reynolds Conducting Institute Thursday December 19, 10:00 a.m & 2:30 p.m. & Friday Decmeber 20, 9:00 a.m. Meeting Room W178 Open Rehearsal with the University of Texas (Austin) Chamber Winds; Thursday December 19, 1:30 p.m. Meeting Room W178 Guest conductor, Players from the University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble; Saturday December 21 10:00 a.m. Ballroom W183

Jarrett Lipman and Alan Sharps, Claudia Taylor Johnson H.S., TX: Wind Ensemble Performance;Thursday December 19, 1:00 p.m., Skyline Ballroom W375AB

Jeffrey Grogan, Oklahoma City University, OK: “Leading Rehearsals that Inspire”; Wednesday December 18, 10:30 a.m. Ballroom W183

Jerrell Horton, Vestavia Hills H.S., AL: “Relationships that Resonate: Creating a Culture of Leadership and Inclusion through United Sound”; Wednesday December 18, 3:00 p.m. Meeting Room W186

John Phillips, University of Western Ontario retired: “The Concert was Great! But What Did They Learn? Using Reflective Practice to Support Student Achievement”; Friday December 20, 10:30 a.m. Meeting Room W186

Jon Gomez, East Valley Youth Symphony, AZ: “Changing Classroom Management Struggles into Successful Results”; Thursday December 19, 1:00 p.m. Meeting Room W185

Julie Duty, United Sound: “Relationships that Resonate: Creating a Culture of Leadership and Inclusion through United Sound”; Wednesday December 18, 3:00 p.m. Meeting Room W186

Julie Giroux, Clinician/Composer/Conductor: “An Interview with Julie Giroux”; Friday December 20, 10:30 a.m. Ballroom W183

Matt McCready, Union Public Schools, OK: “Teaching through Poverty: Removing Barriers for Participation and Performance”; Thursday December 19, 11:30 a.m. Meeting Room W179

Richard Floyd, UIL Director Emeritus, TX: “Once More with Feeling: The Music Really Matters”; Friday, December 20, 8:30 a.m. Ballroom W183

Richard Saucedo, Carmel H.S., IN retired: Rehearsal Lab – Small School High School Band; Thursday December 19, 4:30 p.m. Ballroom W183

Robert T. Herrings III, Artie Henry Middle School, TX: “Slow and Steady Wins the Race”; Thursday December 19, 3:00 p.m. Meeting Room W181

Mast had been through numerous rounds of buying music equipment for his students at Klein Cain High School and other schools in Houston, Texas: from chairs to stands to storage - and everything in between.

He had always turned to Wenger Corporation, a single-company solution for his music education and performing arts needs.

Klein Cain was no exception. Built in 2017, the school had a variety of equipment requirements for its band, orchestra, and choir rehearsal rooms, main theatre, and black box theatre. Wenger Corporation’s Wenger, J.R. Clancy, and GearBoss brands were the preferred solutions.

“The district saw the advantage of buying quality Wenger products to avoid problems later,” Mast says. “We do it right the first time.”

Quality Investment

In the music education department, Mast and his team selected Wenger’s Student Chairs and Classic 50® Music Stands. Both are durable and the chairs are comfortable and support good posture.

UltraStor® Instrument Cabinets were chosen in the Band and Orchestra rooms to keep the students’ instruments protected, organized and safe when not in use. The bolt-through Wenger design provides increased durability for long-term use.

The StageTek® risers in the rehearsal rooms provide a strong, yet lightweight solution for the band, orchestra, and choirs. The refined, smart design is the product of extensive research, engineering, and technical advancements in materials and manufacturing. The result is a lighter, stronger staging system that’s easier to handle and faster to set up.

Elevated Performance

To enhance the school’s performing arts infrastructure, Wenger designed and manufactured a Diva® Full-Stage Acoustical Shell, enabling them to make acoustic adjustments to best suit each ensemble.

“The Diva shell enables our auditorium’s acoustics to complement and support band, orchestra, and choir, who all require different configurations,” Mast says.

One of the primary benefits in addition to superior sound for the performers and audience is the shell’s versatility. During busy months, it’s often set up or reconfigured every other day. Striking the nine towers and three clouds takes only thirty minutes.

J.R. Clancy provided a full counterweight rigging system in the auditorium. This one-stop solution simplifies coordination for the general contractor and gives the customer a cost-saving package discount. It also means a single point of contact for the school.

Finally, a black box theatre was designed for more intimate performances. Crews included StageTek® risers and chairs for audience seating, which are durable, lightweight, and easy to configure. Move & Store Carts enable the space to be cleared quickly. An adjacent dressing room with Wenger make-up stations and Rack n’ Roll Garment Racks give performers the perfect space to get ready and store costumes or concert wear.

Lighting Integration

In both the auditorium and black box theatre, Wenger Corporation provided lighting integration. Theatrical spotlights, utility lighting, and the integration of emergency lighting with the controls system were an integral part of the auditorium’s hybrid lighting system. In the black box theatre, Wenger implemented power, networking, and controls for a separate hybrid system for ease of use and control.

“We can really shine when a school needs quality equipment in their music education and performing arts spaces,” says Stacy Hanson, Marketing Communications Director at Wenger Corporation. “Our proven solutions offer limitless options, integrated solutions, and outstanding service and support – all of which help students and staff operate efficiently and effectively.”

“Wenger Corporation is always looking forward, listening to customers, and improving their products,” Mast says. “We’re proud to partner with them and include their products in our schools to help our students perform to the best of their abilities.”

To learn more about Wenger Corporation, please visit