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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.

Faire la fête: 40 years of making music!

In the 40 years since it began on June 21, 1982, France’s Fête de la Musique has become one of the country’s most important cultural events, with millions taking to the streets to make music on the first day of summer. Ever since, countless other countries have been inspired to do the same.

To honor the Fête’s 40th anniversary and its French origins, the Make Music Alliance announces a special international series called Faire la Fête – 40 free concerts in 40 countries on June 21 featuring the music of French songwriters and composers.

Among the dozens of Faire la Fête events already announced, the grandest is in New York, where more than 100 American musicians will perform French music at seven outdoor locations at Liberty Island, Ellis Island, and The Battery, all within view of the Statue of Liberty (another great example of French-American cultural exchange)!

Check out the New York program here, along with the full Faire la Fête website!

Create your own Make Music Poster

Sample social media poster of "Make Music At The Lake"
Just a reminder that you can create your very own Make Music Day poster for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and let everyone know your June 21 plans!

Share your posters on social media using the hashtag #MakeMusicDay and don't forget to tag @makemusicday so we can repost! You'll also find lots of pre-made marketing materials in our Media Resources section, to make it as easy as possible to get the word out.

And if you can't wait until June 21, take part in our social media challenge! Use #MakeMusicDayChallenge and play the song that best represents what music means to you.

Make Music Partner of the Week: Hohner

Make Music partner Hohner has long been a leader in the harmonica field.

In 2022, for the tenth straight year, Hohner is generously providing thousands of free harmonicas going to over 40 harmonica events around the country for Make Music Day, allowing countless first-time players to start developing the skills to make music throughout the year. (This is part of Make Music Day's "Mass Appeal" initiative… more on that later.)

Thank you to Hohner for this incredible gift!

Make Music City of the Week: Yonkers

The third-largest city in New York State, is getting into the Make Music Day spirit!

After a pilot program in 2021, Yonkers NY is coming back strong on June 21, 2022 with a full 18-piece big band, specializing in Count Basie arrangements, a 13-piece "Funk Shui" ensemble, the Carlos Jimenez Mambo Quintet, and many participatory events, all spearheaded by the Yonkers Public Library and partners around the city.

Website: Make Music Yonkers

DCI: Bringing the Marching Arts to More People Worldwide

Interview with John DeNovi, DCI’s Senior Director of Global Business Development, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022.

Can you tell me about the beginnings of DCI?

DCI dates back to 1972, when it was formed as a way to bring a number of different competitive associations that were in existence at the time under a single set of rules and governance. There was the American Legion, the VFW, there were contests being held by the Catholic Youth Organizations, and there were a lot of independent events. Groups that were performing in a lot of those events wanted to form a league to look after themselves and help plan a national tour and a championship. So, DCI was founded, and set out to help those groups market themselves and to come together and have competitions and train judges and put a rules system in place so that they could have consistency coast to coast.

Can you tell me a little bit about your goals as an organization, and how you grow and reach out to get more people involved? 

Our mission statement is to bring the marching arts to more people worldwide by creating a stage and creating the environment for that to occur. 

When DCI was founded in 1972 there were a number of small, independent corps that would literally take kids off the street, put an instrument in their hand and teach them by rote, and it served that purpose of getting kids off the street and doing positive things. As DCI progressed through the years, and became more and more developed, it started to really gravitate towards the elite end of the spectrum. In the last 10-15 years DCI got so elite that those kids that we used to take off the street were being left behind. So, we backfilled and created some new opportunities and new programs to identify ways that we could continue to bring as many people as possible into the activity, regardless of their economic status or skill level, or the time commitment that they could put forth. We created two programs, one was called Drum Line Battle, the other was called Sound Sport, and both of those are designed to give young people, and kids of all ages access, so anybody of any age on any instrument or economic status can participate in a DCI program, and do it in a much more affordable way.

That is fantastic! Do people move from these programs into other groups in DCI, if they become serious about playing music? 

Absolutely. It has become an on ramp. If your goal is to one day be at the elite level, you can go and get the training at one of the smaller developing groups, work on your skills, and then progress to the higher ranked competitive groups. We have already seen some groups who started several years ago and have graduated and are performing very competitively in DCI’s open class. We are really excited to see that ability for us to plant seeds and grow roots with groups that don’t have to have such a financial commitment from the outset.

What is your vision for DCI in the next few years? 

We are celebrating our 50th anniversary season in 2022. With all of the momentum that we had prior to covid, we then hit a speed bump; the 2020 season was completely cancelled, 2021 was a return to the field but with a limited tour schedule, so we took a cautious approach to coming back. This year we are pretty much back, so we are ready to move forward, to continue to look for ways we can provide more diversity, equity and inclusion, and that is going to come from sharing our stage and reaching out to groups within the HBCU world, which we have successfully done this past summer. We will continue to work on that, and we are continuing to expand our international reach.  

Make Music Champions: Hydro’s goal in music is to connect people around the world

Hydro is a hip-hop singer-songwriter from Connecticut. He has been immersed in music since a young age. He discovered his love for music at a school talent show, and since then has developed his love for hip-hop and what music represents. Currently, he is mainly dedicated to composing original songs and organizing musical events in his local area.

How did you start making music?

I started making music as a child. When I was in sixth grade, I entered a talent show at school with a group of friends. At first, one of my friends and I were going to do comedy in collaboration with other friends who were going to do music. But, as soon as I saw my friend rapping, I knew I wanted to do that. I didn’t want to be on stage to be funny and tell jokes, I wanted to be out there rapping. I just fell in love with it. My friends helped me write my first verse, which we played together as a band and then recorded. We had a live hip-hop moment and, being a young boy in sixth grade, I just fell in love with the music, with making it and listening to it.

You’re a songwriter, do you also like making covers?

I’m mostly into songwriting, rather than covers. But what I do like to do sometimes is to write new verses to old popular songs in freestyle. It’s not a cover as such, it’s more like going with the music and what’s behind that song, and paying homage to the author of the original piece.

Are you a full-time musician? 

Right now I’m a full-time musician. I’m a truck driver by trade and for a long time, I was delivering goods around different states like Connecticut, and Massachusetts, among others. I delivered Amazon packages and worked on my music on the side. Then when the covid pandemic hit, it changed the way people worked to make money, so I decided to work more independently in the driving business. Music has always been a passion and something constant in my day-to-day life, and in the last couple of years, I have been concentrating more and more on making and working on the form of my art and how to get it out to more people.

That’s awesome. And what types of things are you doing to get your music out there?

One of the main things I do, in the spirit of Make Music Day, is to generate musical experiences in places where people can come and listen to music. I love doing community based events and shows. Working with Make Music Day in my local community has put me in touch with other people and some organizations, whose connection has allowed me to work on other events and projects where I bring the energy of Make Music Day, which inspired me because of its history and the synergy between people around the world, which is something I think should happen more regularly. My goal is to bring music to people in new ways, live and in amazing venues that are easily accessible to the public and are not normally stages.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I found out about Make Music Day through the Greater Hartford Arts Council, which is a local organization that aims to support and empower artists in the area, as well as connect with others nationally who are doing the same thing they are. They do a great job creating opportunities and making artists aware of opportunities, which is really important, especially in the hip-hop world, as we’re not in big market areas and a lot of times artists here are just doing what they think they should be doing or copying what other famous people are doing. It can be very competitive and very stressful to run a music career, find opportunities to work on your art and connect with other people in your community. For that reason, I really value the mission of organizations like Make Music Day.

How has your experience at Make Music Day been?

It’s been amazing. I’ve made great connections with other artists, and Make Music Day has helped me find my voice as well. Being someone who expresses herself through art, Make Music Day allowed me to learn how to organize events and work with others, and recreate their unique spirit in new musical environments.

How would you describe what music means to you?

For me, music is life: an ever-changing experience that is different from day to day. Music is a very powerful art form and I love it. It’s peace, it’s love. I think it’s one of the greatest things we have.

Finally, what would you say your goal in music is?

To bring more music to people all over the world and use it as a unifying element. The beautiful thing about people is that we are all different and unique in our own way. I love the way music brings people from different places and cultures together. My goal is to connect people.

Americans For The Arts: Supporting Artists and Creating Community

Interview with AFTA Chief of Staff Daniel Fitzmaurice, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022.

Can you tell me a little bit about AFTA, and what the organization does?

We are a national arts service organization, really focused on building visibility and recognition about the value of the arts. Sometimes that manifests itself in the advocacy space, learning and training, research is a big area of our work as well, and perhaps most uniquely we work across the whole country and for any type of creative practice, artists or arts workers. There is no disciplinary boundary, no geographical boundary, it’s all in! 

How did this organization begin? 

AFTA in its present form represents a couple of organizations that came together in the late 90s. Together, they’ve been around for well over 60 years, about the same time as the local arts agency movement in this country. Part of it was to say that we need a national outlet to serve all of these local arts agencies that were forming, and then the other was this idea that we needed a national voice to speak for the arts in the political arena across the country. We have also added a business and arts component over the years from another organization that came in and nationalized with us, so it has very much evolved as the ecosystem has evolved, and the infrastructure of the ecosystem has evolved in this country.

What kind of training do you do?

We have an online platform called “Arts U” that provides a lot of online training and webinars for arts workers, which is very broadly defined as far as people’s levels of their career goes, or the types of engagement they have as creative workers. And, a lot of those resources also just live on our website, so they might not be an active part of the video experience, but the database of materials that you can access and pull into your own practice. So you could find a study or a report or a framework or a template and bring it to you.  

What is next for AFTA, given the changes that have happened in the arts landscape in recent years?

The evolution is key; the organization is actually in a process because of covid, because of racial justice, because of our own desire to evolve and serve the needs of our country better. We operate under a value that everyone is an artist; just as, from my own experience in political organizing, everyone is a voter, even if you don’t vote; in the same way, everyone is an artist. Even if you don’t have an active practice, you have creativity and self expression inside you, and that is a big piece of connection between all of us. And again, as an organization that works across all those disciplines, that’s what we have in common, even as artists, that we have our own ways of connecting with that or of engaging with that. Audiences are also artists in their own ways. The whole ecosystem has many parts and everyone plays a unique role; there is a whole universe of different responsibilities and opportunities and not one is more important than the other, we need each other in that. Of course that is true all across society, but it is in creative contexts that I think it is extremely relevant. This is one of the challenges that an organization like AFTA faces, building work and building services and providing leadership that can contain multitudes; developing this work and supporting artists is the goal.

Keep Music Alive: Helping Kids and Adults Access the Benefits of Playing Music

Interview with Keep Music Alive co-founder Vincent James, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022 

How did Keep Music Alive begin?

My wife and I founded it. It started as an informal organization back in 2014, when we launched a story search for a book series that is called “88 Ways Music Can Change Your Life”; it’s like a “Chicken Soup for the Music Lover’s Soul”, with inspirational stories about how music impacted different people’s lives. The concept for keep Music Alive organically grew out of that.

What are the main activities of Keep Music Alive?

In March of 2015 we started Teach Music Week, where we work with music stores and schools  to offer a free music lesson to kids and adults, to inspire people to get started on their musical journey. There are now over a thousand schools and store locations in about a dozen countries that participate each year. About a year after that we started Kids Music Day on the first Friday in October; for this, we partner with the same locations around the world to offer some sort of event or promotion that benefits or celebrates kids playing music. That could be an instrument petting zoo, kids open mic, a student performance in house or in the community, an instrument donation drive, pretty much anything they can think of that benefits or celebrates kids playing music. In addition to these two major programs, year round we do Musical Instrument Petting Zoos.

How did you start playing music?

When I was in elementary school we were offered a chance to play a musical instrument; first I wanted to play guitar and drums, but guitar wasn’t offered, and my parents said no to the drums. So, I picked up the trombone and played in bands all the way through school, which was an awesome experience. When I was about 10 or 11, my mom convinced my dad to bring a piano into the house, because she had always wanted to learn the piano. I saw her learning and I was drawn like a bee to honey, asking when can I start. I took classical piano lessons for about 3 years and then I taught myself to play pop music, took a few lessons on guitar, and I’ve been writing and playing ever since. I think of myself as a semi professional musician. I have a full time unrelated job, but music has always been an extremely important part of who I am.

What are your goals and visions for Keep Music Alive?

We want to continue growing the organization, working on our fundraising to be able to support a small staff so that we can support 100-120 instrument petting zoos per year, and we also hope to do some sort of local grant program where we have grants to award instruments to schools or students that have a specific need. We want to continue to live in that space full time.

It’s wonderful that you include adults as well as children in your beginner music programs; how do you invite adult beginners to get involved?

That is very important to us. For Teach Music Week, our partners offer a free lesson to anyone who is interested, kids or adults. The Instrument Petting Zoos are generally geared toward kids, but we often have parents come in who are interested in learning, so we talk to them and give them ideas about getting started and point them in the right direction. I can’t count how many people come up to me and say “I always wished I had learned to play the piano” or guitar, whatever instrument they are interested in, and we always tell them it is never ever too late to start. One guitar student I had didn’t start playing guitar until he was 80 years young! He worked with me for 5 years until the pandemic came, and then we had to stop, but it was a great experience for him. His wife would talk about how it was so valuable, he got so much joy out of it and it helped to keep his mind clear. There are so many benefits to playing music for adults as well as for kids.

The Return of Sousapalooza

Since 2011, Make Music Chicago has pioneered the “Sousapalooza” – an invitation for hundreds of brass, wind, and percussion players to come together and sightread the music of The March King, John Philip Sousa.

After a couple of years off during the pandemic, Sousapaloozas will return in 2022 in cities around the U.S. from Portland ME to Wichita KS.

Want to bring Sousapalooza to your town? All you need is a bandleader, a location, and a way to spread the word to local brass and woodwind players.

Then just sign up here!