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Music For All: A Vision To Ensure That Every Child In America Has Access to Music Making

Interview with Dr Jeremy Earnhart, President and CEO of Music For All, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022.  

Can you tell me about the beginnings of Music For All?

We started off as a marching band camp, as a for-profit company in 1975, and broke off into Bands Of America as a nonprofit a few years later. We began our national concert festival in 1992, creating a non competitive festival atmosphere with some of the icons of the industry; everyone from H Robert Reynolds to Bill Revelli, a storied name in the band world.

What is your primary mission as an organization?

In our 46th year, our mission is to create, provide and expand positively life changing experiences; we have a vision to be a catalyst to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to active music making in their scholastic environment. Essentially, we are a nonprofit scholastic music education advocacy and events organization, dedicated to building leaders, celebrating teaching and the art of excellence.

What are your major projects?

The Bands of America Marching Band Championship series, the Music For All Summer Symposium/ Summer Camp, and the Music For All National Festival, as well as the Bands of America Honor Band and the Rose Parade, comprise our anchor programming. Additionally, we have a newly minted program over the last four years called Advocacy in Action, which is designed to collect and share great advocacy methods at the local level, and that is all free. In fact, during the pandemic, we were forced to pivot from a music education events company to a music education institution, where events are part of what we do, and we have started an entire online and digital space on our education site and created programming that was asked for at the time during the pandemic, because we are not the type of organization that says “here’s what you should do”, we listen and ask and we try to respond and we always try to say yes, and two of the main programming modules that have come out of the pandemic, one is called “Mind The Gap” that is designed originally for student teachers whose student teaching experience was interrupted by covid, about what they needed to know to get into the classroom the next year, and then two is called “Teaching Music Through Social and Emotional Learning”, and Dr Scott Edgar is our clinician for that. There are hundreds of hours of online content that are free and available on our website, in fact some school districts use that to supplement their professional learning.
In additional to the national festival, we have 24 regional festivals that are run on the same model as the national one, a non competitive environment where the students are performing for each other, unlike many state festivals that happen during the day and bands don’t have an audience, we have a required audience participation time, so that everybody is able to experience the reward that comes from their live performance.

What are your plans for the immediate future?

Since the pandemic many events were put on hold, and we are working to gradually get everything back up and running again over the next year. In a normal year, we service 150,000 students with a live audience of over 500,000 and we are working to get back to that level, re-activating all of our programs and building on the work we have done in the past, providing positively life-changing experiences to students, teachers and parents across America.