Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The First Year: Anything Can Happen

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Every band director aspires for success, especially in the early years of our careers. Far too often, I see that directors doubt themselves and don’t reach the level of achievement they yearn for. In no way, shape, or form, do I consider myself to be an expert, but I do say this: whatever it is that you want for your program, is possible.

Growing up in the Harrison County school system in Cynthiana, KY, there were always high expectations for the success of our music programs. We were consistently state finalists on the marching field, and had distinguished concert and choral programs. Occasionally, we fell short of our goals, but the early-learned expectations stuck with me.

Chris Hedges’ (one of my high school band directors) words always stuck with me: “If you choose to compete, then you have to choose to accept the results.” He was so right. The only thing that I had to do, was decide what I was willing to accept.

Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a fresh-faced, right out of the gate educator. I began my career in 2014 at Harrison County High School, where I worked for a year and a half as the choral director and assistant director of the marching band. With all of the excitement of beginning a career came a countless number of mistakes. Instead of allowing situations to just be mistakes, I began to turn them into learning opportunities. Needless to say, I became well-educated in this area.


During this time in my career, I began to understand exactly which types of results I was willing to accept. Our marching band was in a state of regrowth. We placed in the state semifinals during those two years. It was not a high placement, but we made it. My choirs grew in number and received proficient ratings at our performance assessments – not “bad,” but it wasn’t something that I was willing to accept.

In the winter of 2015, I accepted the job as the assistant band director at Bourbon County with Eric Hale – a legend in my eyes and one of my former band directors. In the two years that he and I worked together, I truly learned what it meant to make the results you want happen. Due to the band’s historic success, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase: “there is something in the water in Bourbon County.” Despite these rumors, it isn’t magic or super powers that have led to our triumphs. There is just a lot of hard work paired with smart decision-making taking place.

I know everyone reading this must be thinking, “I thought this article was about their success this year?” It is. All of these moments led to the possibility for this success. The 2018 school year was my first shot at being a head director after Mr. Hale retired, and I decided that I wasn’t going to blow it. I don’t think there is a single person who is familiar with our program that didn’t expect things to decline. Those expectations gave me a challenge, and as a fan of challenges I was happy to accept.

Previously, I mentioned smart decision-making as being an integral part of our success. If I’m being totally honest, by most people’s standards, there wasn’t a lot of that taking place on my part. Throughout my recruiting process, I decided that I wanted to have a 120-member band – the biggest in our school’s history – another challenge. I made it happen. The largest hurdle on that path, was the fact that having a larger band would mean having a larger class of new marchers (43 to be exact). In Kentucky, some schools choose to utilize 7th and 8th grade students for marching band. Bourbon County is especially known for doing this. I made the decision to have thirty-two 7th graders and nineteen 8th graders. Overall, I had around 70 kids that were freshman and below. At an early competition, W. Dale Warren served as a clinician. There aren’t words to describe the look on his face when I told him about the makeup of our band. All he said was that there was a lot of work to be done. He was beyond correct.


Due to budgetary restraints, Eric Hale always wrote his own drill and arranged his own music at Bourbon County. I chose to continue this tradition. When constructing the show, I had several colleagues listen as I arranged, went through an editing process, and made sure that the music was coming across how I intended. The first draft of the show seemed like it was going to work.

This season didn’t start off strong. We spent our first local competition in 3rd place at a show we had won in 2017. We were 12th place at the BOA Oxford regional. I believe this may have been the first time that our band sat out of finals competition in at least 11 years. We were class champions, but there was still disappointment. Our in-state rival, Russell County, was over 5 points ahead of us. We decided that we weren’t able to accept these results. I wasn’t going to let my kids experience failure, so we pushed forward. We went back and took a closer look at the construction of our show and made changes accordingly, adjusted practice schedules, and focused on the minute detailing of every moment – basically, we worked harder. Throughout the season, my goal was to teach my students that the band who worked the hardest would gain the biggest payoff. They bought in to the concept, and it paid off.

We ended our season as the Class AAA Kentucky State Champions and the BOA Grand National Class A Champion.


Personally, it was a great accomplishment in my “first year” as a director. I loved that my kids were able to experience performing at that level. In our pre-semifinals performance at Grand Nationals, I told the kids (while fighting back tears) that they had truly made all of my dreams come true. Growing up, I watched my friends at Bourbon County win state and national titles. All I could do was dream about being at that level. Becoming a band director, I sought to give my kids everything that I didn’t get to experience. I can say that I’ve done that now. KMEA and BOA will forever have my gratitude for giving educators the chance to highlight just what these young people can do.

Close colleagues ask me what’s next for Bourbon County and Michael Stone. Other than spending some time with my partner, Josh, and rounding out the concert program, no one knows. When we figure it out, we’ll be sure to let each of you see.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday!

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During my nine years with Music for All, I have had the absolute pleasure to witness over 1 million students go through Music for All programming. Their experiences with Music for All have been part of their journey for excellence in personal development, ensemble achievement, leadership, teamwork, and the creation of art.  

In my current role at Music for All, I work to raise money through sponsorships, grants, and through donations from individuals like you. Thanks to you, we are able to help support and sustain our current programming, but even more importantly, to further Music for All’s vision to ensure that EVERY child across America has access and opportunity to engage in active music-making in their scholastic environment. 

I’m here, not only as an employee of Music for All but as an active donor myself, because I believe 100% that the experiences and life skills that students receive through music education (and Music for All programming) are not only important, but essential in helping to create a better world full of people who have empathy for each other and know how to work together toward a common goal. 

On #GivingTuesday, and throughout the end of this year, I urge you to consider showing your support of Music for All through a donation to the 2019 Music for All Summer Symposium Scholarship Fund.

I’d like to share an excerpt from a "thank you" letter that we received from a past Summer Symposium Scholarship recipient. Trinity is able to put her experience into words in a way I cannot of why these experiences are so important.

“I’d like to thank you for the Scholarship to Summer Symposium. I learned many valuable things. Not only did it provide me with the opportunity to have an insight into college life, but I also was provided with lessons that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. The teachers and even the SWAGs inspired me to pursue what I want in college. They taught me that it’s okay to be different and that no matter where you go, there will always be someone to challenge you.

I was also having trouble deciding what colleges to apply for. Seeing the Ball State campus and students enjoying their time there makes me want to apply even more. Going to Summer Symposium helped me stop being afraid of college and learn to embrace the opportunities that come with it.

Not only did I discover all these things, but I also discovered myself. When I came to the Symposium for the first time I was very introverted and insecure. This place and all these people helped me come out of my shell, to become more confident in myself and my decision-making. The people taught me many valuable things, but out of everything, the most valuable concept I learned was to be a leader. 

Being a leader has helped me become more than just a listener. It has taught me to follow what I believe, speak my opinion, and be committed in every aspect of life. This leadership is a skill that is helpful in school, but in real life as well. Leadership has assisted in overcoming my anxiety. I don’t let anxiety hold me back anymore. For this, and for everything else, I thank you." 

 - Trinity, Summer Symposium Scholarship Recipient 

Please help us ensure that even more students, like Trinity, can have these types of experiences that will set them up for success for the rest of their lives. 

In 2018 alone, Music for All programs reached more than 144,000 participants. If even 25% of those who participated this year each donated $5 that would be $180,000 that we could raise to help provide access and opportunity to more students across the country.   

If music education has been an important part of your and your family's life… pay it forward this holiday season. $5, $10, $15 – any amount can make a difference and help make sure someone else has the same opportunity that you did.   

If you can’t give monetarily this year, you can still give. I’d love to hear from you about how being involved with Music for All has impacted your life. Email me and share your story! Even better, consider sharing that story online as well and encourage your friends and family to donate this holiday season.

Wishing you the very best this Holiday season,


Erin Signature


For #GivingTuesday 2018, all donations received from 8:00 a.m. ET (5:00 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 through Facebook Fundraising will be matched by Facebook and Paypal. The matching offer will expire when $7 million in donations is reached or at 11:59 p.m. PT on November 27th. The button above will take you to Music for All's Fundraising Page on Facebook.

If you would like to support Music for All, but do not want to use the Facebook platform, you can also make a donation directly through Music for All's website  (this will not be counted toward the Facebook/Paypal match but is certainly appreciated).


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Music for All is proud to be a part of this global celebration of giving. 
Join us in supporting the 2019 Summer Symposium Scholarship Fund on #GivingTuesday 2018!

Created by New York’s 92nd Street Y and United Nations Foundation in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a global holiday that celebrates generosity and kindness by giving to nonprofit organizations all around the world. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday start off the buying season, #GivingTuesday starts off the giving season. 

Please consider joining Music for All this year on #GivingTuesday, November 27, with a donation to support 2019 Summer Symposium Scholarships.

Because of our generous supporters, we were able to award 194 scholarships for students to attend America’s Camp last year leveling the playing field for young musicians with financial need to be part of a truly life-changing experience!

Still, countless students each year are unable to attend due to their financial situation. At Music for All, we believe that every student deserves to have access and opportunity to participate in active music making. That is why we provide both full and partial scholarships to support deserving students.

This summer, America’s Camp celebrates its 44th anniversary! That will be 44 years of giving student musicians and music educators an opportunity to be part of an invaluable weeklong immersive learning camp that prepares them for the future.

The 1,700+ students and educators who attend camp this year will leave with heightened…

  • Leadership skills
  • Confidence through meaningful music creation
  • Instrumental knowledge
  • Performance skills

Our programs are making a difference, but there are more students for us to reach.

It is my hope that you will join me and give your most generous gift today so we can achieve our mission and support more students this summer than ever.

We hope that everyone will be joining us on Thanksgiving Day by watching the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! We cannot wait to watch and support all of the amazing marching bands that will be featured throughout the parade. Some of the nation's finest will come together for the 92nd Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and we are so excited to see them all in this legendary event.

Make sure you tune in on NBC and join us in supporting these incredible ensembles as they perform for nearly 50 million television viewers nationwide! The parade steps off at 9:00 AM on Thursday, November 22 and will conclude at 12 PM in all time zones.

Below is a list of all of the marching bands you will see in the parade:

Cicero-North Syracuse H.S. Northstars Marching Band
Cicero, NY

Grants Pass H.S. Marching Band
Grants Pass, OR

Homewood Patriot Band
Homewood, AL

James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes
Harrisonburg, VA

Keller H.S. Marching Band
Keller, Texas

Lafayette H.S. Mighty Lion Marching Band
Lafayette, LA

Ohio State University Marching Band
Columbus, OH

Park Vista H.S. Marching Band
Lake Worth, FL

Riverside City College Marching Tigers
Riverside, CA

Woodland H.S. Wildcat Marching Band
Cartersville, GA

Macy's Great American Marching Band

NYPD Marching Band
New York

For more information about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade visit

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America Southern California Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website:

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America San Antonio Super Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website:

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America Powder Springs Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website:

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America St. George Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website:

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website:

Check out the awards photos from the 2018 Bands of America Northern California Regional Championship!

High resolution awards photos (as well as additional action photos of each band) can be viewed and purchased on the Jolesch Enterprises website: