EducationWatch: Music For All's National Festival

Annual festival provides young musicians from across the nation with educational performance opportunities
Laurel Fishman

Presented by Yamaha, the Music For All National Festival in Indianapolis recently gathered young musicians from across the nation to participate in the festival's various elements: the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival, the National Percussion Festival and the Orchestra America National Festival, with concerts by the Honor Band of America, the Honor Orchestra of America and the Jazz Band of America. The non-competitive events allowed student musicians to perform for a knowledgeable audience, receive input, attend clinics from a panel of leading music educators and experience master classes with professional musicians.

In March, Music In Our Schools Month launched the 2008 MusicFriends Challenge to raise funds for advancing music education. Select corporate members from MENC: The National Association for Music Education lent their support by donating $1 for every click on the MusicFriends logo displayed on participating companys' Web sites. Participants were: Drum Corps International, Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Jupiter Band Instruments, Kiddy Keys, Sam Ash Music, Soundwaves Recording and West Music Co. The proceeds will support advocacy, research and action to ensure children everywhere have access to music as part of a complete education. Through MusicFriends, MENC seeks to increase public awareness of the importance of music education at the local, state and federal levels.

Also during MIOSM, MENC produced The World's Largest Concert, a MIOSM highlight since 1985. The event was a sing-along concert linking students globally, and MENC members and their students concurrently made music with other students nationwide and around the world. Hal Leonard Corporation provided the vocal- and piano-accompaniment sheet music for the concert program, which included "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Music Rocks!" and "There's A Song In Me," among others. A free teacher's guide — including the WLC vocal and piano music, lesson plans, activities and more — was available online and Sibelius Music provided a component on its Web site allowing users to listen to songs and print the sheet music.

In his thought-provoking newest book Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, neurologist Oliver Sacks addresses music's extraordinary power, relating individual experiences of patients, musicians, composers and ordinary people. Sacks tells of an orthopedic surgeon who suddenly aspires to become a pianist after being struck by lightning, and children with Williams syndrome, who are hyper-musical from birth. Sacks also describes a man whose memory spans only seven seconds for everything but music, people with nonstop musical hallucinations, and others affected by Parkinson's disease, strokes, Alzheimer's disease and amnesia whose conditions are transformed by music. A book with content to capture the interest of all, Musicophilia … is a fascinating exploration of the profound relationship between music and the brain.

As a prolific composer of school band and orchestra music, the recently deceased Mark Williams created more than 200 published works and was an international clinician and conductor who left an enduring impact on music education. During his lifetime, Williams was committed to empowering teachers to give beginning music students their best opportunities for success, and his works and method books are used worldwide. In honor of his lasting contributions, Alfred Publishing has established the Mark Williams Memorial Fund For Educators, awarding scholarships to music educators to attend the annual Music For All Summer Symposium for professional development held at Illinois State University.

In related news, Alfred Publishing recently released educational titles spanning multiple musical instruments, genres and difficulty levels. A step-by-step approach for all beginners, Alfred's newly revised software for aspiring pianists, Teach Yourself To Play Piano, features an interactive song player with lessons in full-motion video and high-quality digital audio. Five new CD-ROM titles in the Teach Yourself To Play Guitar series cover several styles. Teach Yourself To Play Guitar: Deluxe Edition contains more than 60 popular songs, and three more specialized editions include more than 100 minutes of video instruction. Teach Yourself To Play Guitar: ChordXpress offers an expedient way to learn chords and has an iPod-compatible chord library. A sequential introduction of skills, techniques and knowledge, the Solo Expressions For The Beginning Percussionist book and accompanying play-along CD progressively guides the novice percussionist through developing individual and ensemble skills. With its companion CD, My First Note Reading Book playfully leads young violinists in lessons encompassing speech, clapping and motion games, note- and sight-reading exercises, and more. For effortless substitute-teacher preparation, Alfred's The Music Substitute Sourcebook (for grades 4-8) is a ready-to-use resource of quality, field-tested, standards-based lesson plans and activities, created to assist any person with stepping into the role of a music teacher.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for and is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)


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