Due to necessity and as an expansion of its mission, Music for All shifts gears to provide new educational resources and interactive activities online.
In April 2020, Dr. Jeremy Earnhart became the new president and chief executive officer of Music for All (MFA) when Eric L. Martin resigned after more than 25 years of leadership at the organization. Though the COVID-19 pandemic caused the organization to shorten its 2020 National Festival and cancel its Summer Symposium camp, MFA quickly transitioned to online educational opportunities and continues planning for a modified Bands of America (BOA) fall marching band season. Earnhart shares the progress of Music for All during these uncertain times.
Halftime: Tell us about your history with Music for All.
Earnhart: I was a board member with Music for All three, four years back. Prior to that, I had been a competing band director since 1998 and an adjudicator since 2005, so I was very familiar with the organization. And when the opportunity was presented to take a leadership post [as chief operating officer] with Music for All, given our mission and vision, [my wife and I] relocated about two and a half years ago with our … daughter.
Halftime: What changes and additions to the organization have made you the proudest?
Earnhart: One of the things … was our continued communication with the … Indianapolis public school administration. … Prior to the pandemic, we had actually initiated a curriculum review or a program review of fine arts that was to be transformative for the [kids] in Indianapolis.
Halftime: What are your goals for the future?
Earnhart: When I came to Indianapolis and relocated my family, the goal was—and remains—to shift … Music for All from an event-based music education company to a music education institution where events are part of our portfolio. And out of necessity during the last 15 weeks, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We have started a partnership with an online one-way video lessons company called MusicProfessor, which I used to use when I was a fine arts administrator … during the late 2010s.
Halftime: How else has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Music for all?
Earnhart: So the Monday after COVID-19 [started], when we had to cancel our National Festival, … we immediately began work on our [resources page]. … That is work that will never end. … This is the most important thing right now. This is how we can reach our constituency and meet our mission.
We began immediately posting videos [and] online resources in terms of newsletters or articles, etc., that had all been lying dormant for years. … Probably at the same time, [we began] to produce live events. … Our very first drum major seminar had [more than] 700 [kids] logged on.
Our first COVID Zoom session, [“What Now and How? Delivering Solutions for Instrumental Music Education During COVID-19”] with the American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, American String Teachers Association, [and other groups] had … 4,000 people logged on, and there have been [about] 9,000 that have viewed that video since then.
[MFA continues to offer several online educational series, including “With a Little Help From My Friends,” which provides conversations with master teachers, “Mind the Gap for Young and Future Music Educators,” as well as “Summer Sessions” and “Leadership Lessons” from coursework adapted from the Summer Symposium.]
Halftime: What is the status of the fall Bands of America competition, in light of COVID-19?
[Music for All provided Halftime Magazine with the following update on July 21: “After thoughtful conversations over several months with enrolled directors, educational consultants and advisors, and several state associations, Music for All announced that it is unable to present its 2020 Bands of America Championships due to the many challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Music for All is committed to providing educational opportunities this fall. We are offering virtual performance and remote evaluation opportunities in order to provide quality feedback from Bands of America adjudicators and MFA evaluators and goal-oriented experiences to motivate and inspire students during this unusual time.”]
Halftime: What advice do you have for marching band directors as they go through band camp and prepare for a possible fall season and/or continued virtual learning?
Earnhart: The best advice that Music for All can offer at this point is to continue to talk with the folks that you talk to and keep the conversation going because things are going to be so different from district to district. …
Our mission is to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through Music for All. And we have a vision to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to active music making in his or her scholastic environment.