Educator Anita Collins and animator/director Sharon Colman Graham recently released a TED-Ed video that highlights some of the actual neurological benefits to playing music. Spoiler alert: "Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once." The video is full of similarly powerful soundbytes about the unique and impactful mental benefits of playing music. 

Take a moment to watch it for yourself here:

Read more: How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain: TED-Ed

Yamaha Young Performing Artists Program Shines Spotlight on Nine Outstanding Young Musicians

At the 26th annual Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) Program, held June 21-23, 2014 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Yamaha Artist Services Indianapolis, in conjunction with Yamaha’s Band and Orchestral Division, announced the 2014 Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) Competition Winners. Since 1988, the YYPA Program has recognized outstanding young jazz, classical and contemporary musicians.

The 2014 YYPA Winners include:

Read more: 2014 YYPA Artists

We’ll never survive!” exclaims Buttercup in the light-hearted fairy tale classic, The Princess Bride, when she learns that she is about to enter the dreaded Fire Swamp. Unperturbed, Westley, her hero, glibly replies, “Nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one has.”

Although arts education may at times feel as perilous as William Golding’s Fire Swamp, where plumes of flame erupt with little warning and eviscerate anything in their path, every year countless daring teachers successfully navigate the seemingly endless array of pitfalls that can threaten to derail their curricular offerings. Still, funding, administrative and parental support, scheduling, and the many other logistical and bureaucratic details music educators face can be formidable challenges. When the outcome looks bleak or a particular problem persists, a bit of solid advice and know-how just might prove to be the difference between survival and, well, the less pleasant alternative.

Read more: Perspective: A Better Tomorrow

"This is the year that I’m going to…”

How many times have we said this to ourselves? At the beginning of each school year? At the beginning of each new year? Making these kinds of resolutions is part of what we do so that we can continue to grow as music educators, as well as to help our students grow not only as music-makers, but also as leaders. What is on deck for this new year? Here are a few items that you might consider for the 2014-15 school year.

Read more: MAC Corner: Goal Setting

Practice Software Roundup #1


"Practice makes perfect!" That’s what my fourth-grade band director said as I struggled to play a BH major scale on my trombone. Practicing was boring – and quite frankly, the only thing I wanted to do was play the glissando at the end of the song. Now that was fun! But practice I did. In between weekly lessons, I diligently went through the scales, exercises, and songs from the Rubank Method book each day, never really sure if I was doing anything correctly because I was too wrapped up in the process of playing; holding the horn, moving the slide, breathing, embouchure, and so on. This was way too much for a fourth grader to be thinking about, let alone evaluating what was coming out at the end of the bell.

Wouldn’t it have been great if there were somebody or something that could listen to me practice and at least tell me if what I was playing was correct? Well, today, with the ever-increasing power of computers, the patient “listener” can sit beside your students and let them know if they’ve played correctly – to a point. Let’s look at three software applications that purport to do just that.

Read more: Technology: Rehearsal Software

A conversation with the author of Habits of a Successful Band Director


In 2003, Scott Rush, then director of bands at Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and Tim Lautzenheiser, noted motivational speaker and music advocate, had a long conversation on student teaching while Lautzenheiser was in town to do a workshop on student leadership. That conversation continued between the two over the next few years, until Rush decided to put his thoughts to paper, resulting in the highly successful band director how-to manual, Habits of a Successful Band Director: Pitfalls and Solutions, first published by Focus on Excellence and later by GIA.

Under Rush’s leadership, the Wando Bands were state marching champs for nine consecutive years, from 2005 to 2013, performed at the Midwest Clinic in 2007, and were awarded the Sudler Flag for concert excellence.

In this recent conversation with SBO, Scott Rush discusses some of the key elements of building a successful career in music education.

Read more: UpFront Q&A: Scott Rush

Educators weigh in on the latest trends in professional development


From keeping up with the latest pedagogical trends to becoming eligible for career advancement and increased salary, there are a host of reasons why it is critical to continually engage in activities that will further professional development. Perhaps chief among those, though, is simply to become a better teacher, as indicated by more than two-thirds of the respondents in this recent reader survey.

Curious about where your peers are turning as they continue to build their careers? From training seminars and formal coursework to informal networking and blogging, read on to find out how your peers in music ed are approaching professional development, as well as some commentary on how to fit such endeavors into an already packed schedule.

Read more: Survey: Professional Development

Robbie Hanchey is breathing new life into the Valley Schools music department

Located between the small towns of Eden (pop. 400) and Hazelton (pop. 750), Idaho’s Valley Elementary, Middle, and High Schools occupy a single K-12 campus that serves approximately 600 students who hail both from the surrounding towns and the many farms in the area. When the previous music director left in the mid-2000s, the position went vacant for several years, decimating the school’s music offerings. Other than a paraprofessional who was brought in to provide some music instruction at the elementary level, there was no band or choir available to the students until 2011, when Robbie Hanchey, fresh out of Idaho State University and eager to make a difference, was hired on to revive the defunct music department. And after three years of hard work, creative recruiting strategies, and relentless networking, Hanchey’s music department is thriving.

Read more: UpClose: Robbie Hanchey

Lorin Maazel, an American conductor, composer, and violinist, passed away on July 13, 2014. Born in France, Maazel moved to the US early in life. He was recognized as a child prodigy and made his conducting debut at the age of eight, beginning a career that would see him leading many of the world’s great ensembles. His appointments included conductor or manager of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsch Oper Berlin, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France, and the New York Philharmonic, among many others.

Read more: Lorin Maazel: 1930-2014

The U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies has just approved a spending bill that includes cuts to valuable federal arts programs. The proposal, which allocates federal dollars for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, would cut $8 million from the National Endowment for the Arts and an equal amount from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This is a decrease of roughly five percent from current funding levels. 

Read more: Congressional Panel Proposes Cuts to Federal Arts Funding

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