The Music for All Blog
The Music for All Blog

Here at Music for All, we recognize that our programming would not be possible without the support of our hard-working and dedicated volunteers. "Spotlight on Volunteering" is an on-going blog post series that highlights one of these superstar volunteers each month.

Interested in volunteering? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to see how you can get involved!

This month's superstar is.... Nicole Presley!

Nicole Presley

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What's your background with Music for All?

In high school, I played mellophone in and was drum major of the Milford (OH) High School Marching Band. We participated in a few BOA Regional and Grand Nationals events each year. I was also a camper at the Summer Symposium in 2008 and a member of the 2009 BOA Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses parade. Up until my senior year, Music for All was just the organization that organized all of the big competitions that my band went to, but after attending the drum major track at the Summer Symposium and marching in the honor band, I began to see that MFA was so much more than that. Both experiences taught me more about leadership and teamwork than I ever imagined that they would.

Q: When was the first time you volunteered with Music for All? Why did you decide to volunteer?

My first experience volunteering for Music for All was as a SWAG at the Summer Symposium in 2010. I wanted to be a SWAG because I wanted to give back to the wonderful experience that I had as a camper in 2008, and to be honest, I wanted to be back in that environment again. There aren't many places where so much focus is placed on the importance of being your best self, treating others with care and respect, and putting others' needs before your own. The importance of those values makes the Symposium a very safe and positive place. I think that's something that makes the Symposium a place that people want to return to.

Q: You've been a SWAG and a Regional Key Volunteer- which was your favorite volunteer experience and why?

Although I've enjoyed each of those volunteer experiences, being a SWAG is definitely my favorite. I love meeting the campers at the beginning of camp and watching them grow throughout the week. At floor meetings every night, I always ask the girls if they want to share something they learned that day. It's so cool to be able to see their learning experiences deepen as camp draws to a close. After a week of working with incredible instructors and students that share their passion for music and the marching arts, those high schoolers say some pretty profound things. I've been fortunate enough to be a SWAG for a few years now, so I've also be able to see campers grow up from summer to summer, which is just as neat.

I think being a SWAG has also been one of the biggest contributors to my personal growth. I know that I've learned more about leadership and service as a SWAG than I did as a camper. It's always interesting to come back to camp each year and see how I've grown since the last summer, and what growth is still is store for me.

Nicole Presley

Q: Our Indianapolis Super Regional is a huge event and you got to be right down in the action at Pit/Prop Entrance this past year. What was the coolest thing you got to see while volunteering down in the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium?

Working at the Pit/Prop Entrance was definitely an exciting experience! I think the coolest thing about it was to see the dedication of the parents in the pit and prop crews for each of the bands. Although there were some pretty cool and impressive props, they wouldn't have come into being without the help of those parents. Every school had parents that knew exactly what they had to do, and wanted to do it to the best of their abilities so that their kids' could have a great experience on the field. Marching band as we know it couldn't function without the support of parents, and it's so cool to see that in action.

Q: Many of our volunteers are recent alumni of our programming, like you. What was the best part of your band experience with Milford High School?

That is a hard question to answer! I have so many wonderful memories of my experience with the Milford Bands that it's hard to choose the best part! One thing I will never forget from my experience with marching band is the feeling of standing on the field right after finishing a performance, exhausted and fighting for breath, but feeling so excited and proud for my band. You don't often get to experience accomplishing something so beautiful with over a hundred other people who have all been working towards the same goal for months like you can with marching band.

Q: Would you recommend volunteering with us to other Bands of America/Music for All alumni?

Of course! Volunteering at Music for All events has allowed me to give back and stay connected to something that was such an important part of my time in high school. Not only that, but each time I volunteer is a such a positive learning experience. You get to work with great people for a great purpose. MFA really does provide postively life-changing experiences, and as a volunteer you get to help create them and have a positively life-changing experience of your own.

Published in Volunteer Spotlight

Check out the photos from Summer Symposium Day 1! (Day 3 for our awesome Leadership students!)


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Published in Stories

registration photoIt’s been a busy day at the 2012 Music for All Summer Symposium! I had hoped to blog a bit earlier today, but with registration and our Opening Session for camp participants, today kept not only our campers but also our staff busy as well.

Today was the first full day of Symposium, and I started my day at registration. As I walked to the registration room at Park Hall around 7:30 this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a line of students was already winding around the corridor, ready to get started with their day. When the registration doors opened, students were greeted with a wall of applause from the SWAG Team. SWAGs gave students a warm welcome and helped them get registered for the week.

After hanging out in the registration room for a bit, I decided to walk to the front of Park Hall where the MFA info table was located today. I was surprised to see Leadership Weekend Experience students lined up and welcoming the full week campers with applause, high fives and handshakes. It was truly wonderful to see how welcoming the students were, and it shows the leadership lessons they learned this past weekend.

yypa jazzBefore I knew it, it was time for the Opening Session. Students heard performances from Yamaha Young Performing Artists Jazz Winners to start things off. Kevin Sun, Jazz Tenor Saxophone; Josh Shpak, Jazz Trumpet; and Chase Morrin, Jazz Piano performed at the beginning of Opening Session.

After this fantastic performance, students were introduced to Norm Ruebling (Camp Director), Jamie Weaver (Camp Director of the SWAG Team), David Starnes (Educational Consultant for Music for All and Camp Director), Gary Markham (Senior Educational Consultant for Music for All and Camp Director), William Galvin (Music for All Educational Consultant), Dean Westman (Orchestra Division Coordinator), Stan Schoonover (Music for All Educational Consultant), Bob Buckner (Director of the 2013 BOA Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses® Parade), Fran Kick (Leadership Division Coordinator), Dr. Tom Caneva (Concert Band Division Coordinator), the Camp Medical Team, and Eric Martin (President and CEO of Music for All). The SWAG Team also contributed some helpful tips about staying energized, hydrated, well-rested and sunscreened up for the week!

color guardAfter the Opening Session, students began their classes. Admittedly, I had to assist with some tasks in our headquarters and around campus this afternoon so I didn’t get to attend any full sessions. However, as I walked around campus today, it was wonderful to see activity around every corner as students attended their sessions. I look forward to attending sessions this week so I can fill you in on what students are learning.

After classes tonight, students attended the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) concert. The Yamaha Young Performing Artists Program (YYPA) recognizes outstanding young musicians from the world of classical, jazz and contemporary music. Winners of this competition were invited to attend an all-expense-paid weekend awards ceremony at the 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. Finalist performances and a selection of one winner occurred at this evening's concert.

I’m eager to see what else this week has in store and attend some sessions tomorrow. Summer Symposium is off to a great start!


Published in News

Opening SessionVisit the 2012 Music for All Summer Symposium online coverage page for more information and camp highlights throughout the week.

Welcome to the 2012 Music for All Summer Symposium! My name is Kristin Conrad, and I’m the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Music for All. I will be blogging throughout the week to keep you informed about the activities students will be participating in at Summer Symposium. Unfortunately, I won't be able to be in two places at once, although I wish I could since I would enjoy seeing everything happening at camp. But, I'll do my best to keep you in the loop throughout the week and help provide an insider’s look at the Symposium experience. You'll also see posts from other MFA staff members this week as they attend sessions and experience camp.

If you followed the Summer Symposium blog last year, you may remember that last year was my third year at camp as an MFA staff member. This is my fourth camp, and it’s so nice to be back on campus at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. This is the second year Summer Symposium has been held on the campus of Ball State University.

The MFA staff moved into our headquarters this past Wednesday, and we've been hard at work setting up and prepping for the week. The SWAG Team is also on site, working hard already to help make sure your children have a great experience. The SWAG Team plays a major role in the Summer Symposium, serving as counselors, staff assistants and role models to the 1,000+ student participants.

Even though I’ve been to camp before, I’m still always amazed that this is an all-volunteer group! Dedicated band directors, college students, graduate students, directors and others interested in music education volunteer their time – over a week out of their busy lives – to provide a positively life-changing experience for each and every student participant. But, it extends even beyond this. Every time I have encountered a SWAG this week, he or she has either offered to help me with something I was working on, asked how my day is going, or simply smiled and told me they’re here if I need anything. It’s that compassion, dedication, responsive attitude and friendliness that truly sets this amazing group apart from the crowd.

The Leadership Weekend Experience is now under way, and I spent most of my morning over at registration in Park Hall. SWAGs helped students register, passed out their notebooks with materials for the week and provided them with a namebadge. They also chatted with them about what they can expect this weekend. I snapped a few photos while milling around registration, and you can find them here.

After registration, it was time for the Leadership Weekend Experience Opening Session in Pruis Hall. All participants attended this session, and they heard from Norm Ruebling, Camp Director of the Music for All Summer Symposium; Eric Martin, Music for All's President and CEO; and the Camp Medical Team. Then Leadership Division Coordinator Fran Kick presented a session that provided helpful tips for the weekend (or week ahead for full week campers).

Music for All recently adopted a new vision, and President and CEO Eric Martin talked about this at the beginning of the Opening Session. Music for All’s vision is to be a catalyst to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to participate in active music making in his or her scholastic environment. MFA will use our resources to provide national programs that recognize and support music students' performance and success, offer music educator training and professional development, and deliver tools and resources to participants and their communities that will assist them in supporting music education by promoting awareness of music’s impact on student growth and achievement.

Martin discussed how student campers here at Symposium can help advance Music for All’s mission and vision by simply passing along the message that music education is important and telling their story. Tying in to Leadership Weekend, students can be effective leaders and help by acting as “foot soldiers” for music education by telling others about their own positive, musical experiences.

“I believe in music education. I believe in Music for All. I believe in you,” Martin said to close his speech. Powerful words. If you’re interested in learning more about Music for All’s “I Believe” advocacy awareness campaign, you can read more on our website. And, check out this video in which music educators, student musicians, conductors and composers share why they believe music education is so important.
Fran Kick began his session with the students by discussing the concept of rules versus expectations.

“We need to make sure that one of the expectations, in fact, traditions of Music for All, is an attitude of gratitude,” Kick said.

Kick encouraged students to “thank everyone you see” and tune in and pay attention to the clinicians and faculty they’ll hear throughout the week. He also encouraged students to “pay attention, respond appropriately and be involved in what’s going on.”

These are serious and important lessons, but Kick delivered this message in a way that was fun and engaging for the students, joking here and there and incorporating team-building exercises. He had the students laughing, listening and also paying close attention to these important leadership lessons.

I left thinking about the concept of “actions speaking louder than words.” Kick told a story about students in a college lecture hall. Picture your typical college lecture hall, and then also picture it littered with trash left over from a class. Papers on the floor, empty soda cans, etc. As students attending the next class in the hall file in, most simply take their seats and go about their own personal business. But, one person begins picking up trash in his area and then sits back down. Immediately, others follow suit and do the same, cleaning up near their respective areas. Were any verbal instructions given? No. Actions speak louder than words. A simple, easy gesture from one student led to action from several others. Interesting.

Attitude really is everything, and I was reminded of that as well. As Kick discussed that “you get what you give,” I was reminded of a quote from John Horn that I truly love. “Anyone can be cranky or unkind or mediocre. Being positive and kind and excellent takes a lot more discipline and power."

At times when I’m feeling tired and unwilling to give any more of myself, I try to remind myself of this quote. I’m, admittedly, not perfect and sometimes forget this. But, it’s a quote that has stuck with me, and Kick’s session reminded me of this concept.

Leadership Weekend continues tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing what happens next!


Published in News

SWAG scholarshipThe SWAG Team is a special group of volunteers who give their talent and time at the MFA Summer Symposium to ensure the best possible experience for students and directors. The Inaugural SWAG Scholarship was awarded at the 2011 Summer Symposium to Fiona McGowan, a senior music education and German major at the University of Dayton. McGowan has served as a SWAG for the last three years and was a student participant at the 2006 Symposium. Anmol Mehra, SWAG alumnus, created the $1,000 scholarship to support an exceptional SWAG with college tuition. The scholarship recipient was chosen based on exemplary leadership skills, academic excellence, service to others and a commitment and passion for music and arts education.

Congratulations, Fiona and thank you, Anmol!

Learn more about the SWAG Team.

Published in News