In June, my son attended the Music for All (MFA) Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha Corporation of America. As a saxophone player and rising 8th grader, he signed up for the middle school concert band track. Other tracks involve marching band, color guard, percussion, drum majors, high school concert band, jazz, orchestra, peer teaching, and music production.
The nearly 100 middle school campers along with more than a thousand high schoolers convened on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
The middle school track split into two groups. My son enjoyed learning from conductor Chris Gleason from Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, composer-in-residence William Owens, and the saxophone section leader. In the culminating concert, the band performed several fun pieces including “Carpathia” by Owens and “Castles and Dragons” by Todd Stalter.
Here were my son’s major takeaways from the six-day camp.
- First of all, from a practical standpoint, the saxophone section leader helped correct his embouchure.
- Second, the ensemble learned how to effectively chunk and repeat the music.
- Third, the campers were advised to reach and strive for material just beyond their current capabilities in order to grow.
My son spoke enthusiastically to us about these ideas during the closing family picnic. He felt that the musical concepts could help him practice and perform better on all of his instruments, especially piano, which he considers to be his primary endeavor.
In my opinion, two aspects set apart the MFA Summer Symposium from other music camps.
The Summer Symposium includes an amazing lineup of concerts. This year campers heard Yamaha Young Performing Artists, Boston Brass, string ensembleQuattrosound, the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus, and the Drum Corps International Central Indiana competition.
My son’s favorite was the Yamaha Young Performing Artists concert. I believe that he could envision himself being an up-and-coming artist someday.
I was particularly excited for my son to be exposed to the leadership training built into the Summer Symposium. At the opening session, presenter Fran Kick urged attendees to “judge less and help more” as well as to think beyond the obvious in order to “understand, value, and apply” the learnings. Throughout the week, Kick interacted with students from each track. For example, the middle schoolers used beach balls, hula hoops, and pool noodles to develop cooperation, strategic thinking, higher-level performance skills, and personal accountability.
In the end, my son came home with some new friends, a greater appreciation for various genres of music, and new music techniques that will accelerate his learning.
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief