First Year is Free! Hal Leonard launches MuseClass, an advanced, all-in-one education solution for grade 6-12 music educators

The first major software release since Hal Leonard joined Muse Group includes world-leading music and method books, assignment features, and AI-powered practice tools. 


Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music and music education publisher, and music innovators Muse Group, launch MuseClass, an assignment, grading, and music content platform set to transform instrumental teaching (grade 6-12) in the U.S.

MuseClass allows music educators and band directors to share, collect, and grade assignments on an easy-to-use platform, which also contains a curated library of educational content. Students receive assignments through the MuseClass app (available on iOS, Android & Chromebook), and can submit their progress as video or audio recordings, or upload worksheets.

One notable MuseClass feature is AutoGrade, the AI-powered practice tool. This pioneering technology listens to a student’s performance and provides immediate feedback on timing and pitch, even for polyphonic instruments like piano or guitar. The tool can inspire students to repeat their practice sessions, or a teacher can set an AutoGrade challenge as an assignment.

At launch, MuseClass includes free digital content from Hal Leonard’s iconic Essential Elements, the gold-standard curriculum for bands and strings in the U.S. now available in concert with next-generation digital tools for the first time. The content library is set to rapidly expand in the coming school year with pedagogical scores and method books drawn from Hal Leonard’s exclusively licensed, premium arrangements — current titles span everything from Taylor Swift and The Beatles to John Williams and Disney soundtracks. Teachers can also compose their own exercises or worksheets with MuseScore Studio, Muse Group’s award-winning, intuitive notation software.

The platform is completely free for all schools in year one and will continue to be developed with close feedback from music educators. In year two, MuseClass remains free for teachers, with a $15.99 annual cost per student and bespoke offerings for school districts.

MuseClass marks the first major release since Hal Leonard joined digital-content and technology leader Muse Group last year, with a shared vision to provide unparalleled access to the best resources to music makers worldwide. The new MuseClass reworks a Muse Group prototype, which is transformed with the addition of Hal Leonard’s content catalog and unparalleled 70 years of experience collaborating with U.S. educators.

The AutoGrade tool within MuseClass is the next step in the evolution of Muse Group’s machine learning listening technology. In September 2023, the iPad app StaffPad launched ‘Piano Capture,’ a feature that hears real piano performances and converts them into readable sheet music — technology recently spotlighted in Apple’s M4 chip launch.

In January 2024, the same capability was deployed in Ultimate Guitar’s Practice Mode, extending this breakthrough technology to millions of digital music makers. Now in MuseClass’ AutoGrade, a whole generation of young learners can enjoy the benefits of practicing and improving instrumental skills with AI-guidance.

In the future, the MuseClass feature set and content library is set to expand based on the evolving needs of U.S. teachers — including print offerings for band leaders and Google Classroom integration. MuseClass software for Kindergarten to Grade 6 educators and for regions outside the U.S. is also coming soon.

MuseClass is available now, and completely free to get started in 2024.



About Hal Leonard:

Hal Leonard, which joined Muse Group in 2023, is the world leader in sheet music publishing and music education, enjoying a storied history of providing music learners with the very best arrangements of popular music for over 70 years. Hal Leonard also supplies books, instruments, gear, and software to millions of educators worldwide.

About Muse Group: 

Muse Group is a visionary, international team of music lovers and audio obsessives, empowering millions of creatives to play, produce and compose every day. The company began life in 1998 as Ultimate Guitar, a tab sharing site that grew into the world’s most popular online musician community.

Muse Group now includes beloved products such as MuseScore, Audacity, StaffPad and more. Hal Leonard, the world leader in sheet music publishing and music education, joined Muse Group in 2023.

Summer PD? Alan Parsons launches Music Production Workshops!

Looking for intensive professional development? Got a tech-loving music student who needs something fun to do this summer? Check THIS out!

After more than a decade of sold out Master Classes held in studios from Buena Park to Bogota, Alan Parsons wants to shake up the music production learning space with new hands-on Music Production Workshops where attendees get to be part of the recording and mixing process.

At the inaugural event being held at Parsons’ beautiful studio in the hills above Santa Barbara, students will be able to sit behind Alan’s Neve 5088 and try their hand at EQ-ing, processing using outboard gear including UnFairchild, DBX, SPL, Zulu and more plus the studio’s virtual basket of plug-ins.

Alan and his assistant engineer Noah Bruskin will be ever present guides and advisors but the idea is for everyone can experience working with top quality equipment, even if it’s just pushing up faders to create a unique balance.

A variety of exciting musicians including American Idol star James Durbin will record using different instrumental and vocal recording techniques, taking advantage of Alan Parsons’ classic mic collection built from his days at Abbey Road. There’ll also be a field-recording sortie using 3Dio binaural mics!

The second of this two-day event focuses on mixing, with look at the current state of spatial / immersive audio with ASSR Immersive Audio course author and expert David Reyes. Throughout the day attendees will not only be able to mix music recorded the previous day, Alan promises to have some truly classic recordings – now being mixed in Dolby Atmos – for everyone to not only experience but literally get their hands on.

Ticket prices include gourmet food and wines and the chance to hang with one of the most iconic music producers of the past fifty years, both in the studio and at the event’s after-party where you’ll be able to take photos and get memorabilia signed.

Early booking is advised to ensure a place at these perennially sold-out ASSR events. For full details and ticketing visit the website at or call ASSR at 1-800-852-2570.

ASSR’s Music Production Workshop:

ASSR’s online recording courses:

Alfred Music Launches Choral Connect—An Online Professional Summit for Choir Directors and General Music Teachers

Alfred Music is thrilled to announce Choral Connect, an online professional development event designed specifically for elementary through high school choral directors and general music teachers. This event offers an incredible opportunity to network, learn, and be inspired by a diverse lineup of renowned clinicians—all at no cost. Clinicians include Andy Beck, Stacey V. Gibbs, Ruth Dwyer, Dr. Suzanne Hall, Anna Wentlent, Sally K. Albrecht, Mark Burrows, Robert T. Gibson, Jack Zaino, Sophia Miller, Ruth Morris Gray, and many others. The event kicks off with an energizing session presented by educator/choreographer/author John Jacobson and closes with a motivational message from 2023 GRAMMY® Music Educator of the Year, Pamela Dawson. 

These respected teachers, composers, and performers will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics, including storytelling through song, ear training, music and social justice, new music reading sessions, and so much more. Attendees will take away useful teaching strategies, creative resources, fresh repertoire, teacher wellness practices, and more.

Key Highlights:

Choral Connect represents a unique opportunity to connect with peers, gain fresh insights, and elevate your choral or general music program. 

For more information and to register, visit

Alfred Music and MakeMusic Present MESA: Music Educator’s Summer Academy 

Together, Alfred Music and MakeMusic are excited to present MESA, the Music Educator’s Summer Academy. MESA is a professional learning academy for music educators. With courses developed by expert educators, opportunities to network, and the flexibility to complete on your schedule, it is sure to be a summer event to positively influence the music education profession!

Over 22 hours of professional development credit are available through two types of learning—Self-Paced courses and Mastermind sessions. Twenty expert music educators have collaborated to build each course and live discussion to allow for diversity of thought and content. 

In addition to the provided PD certificates, attendees are invited to complete at least 15 contact hours (of their choice) to attain MakeMusic Thought Leader Certification. Additionally, those in need of graduate credit can add on one graduate credit hour through Baldwin Wallace University—at an incredibly low price! 

MESA runs June 17–August 2, 2024, and offers great flexibility for completion on one’s own schedule. 

Learn more about the variety of courses and discussions and register by visiting: 



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 06: GRAMMY Camp participants perform on stage during GRAMMY Camp final open house at Ronald Tutor Campus Center on August 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

The GRAMMY Museum® announced today that 83 talented high school students from 76 U.S. cities across 22 states have been selected as participants in the 20th annual GRAMMY Camp® program. Blu DeTiger, Maren Morris, and Jeremy Zucker will be this year’s guest artists; they will discuss their career paths and help students prepare for the music industry. The signature music industry camp for U.S. high school students will be held from Sun, July 14 to Sat, July 20 at The Village Recording Studios.

“Over the last two decades, GRAMMY Camp has served as the heartbeat of the music world for high school students aspiring towards a career in music, offering an authentic immersion into the music industry and life itself,” said Michael Sticka, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Museum. “We’re thrilled for the continued support from Hot Topic Foundation, enabling us to expand the Camp’s duration from five to seven days once more this year. We look forward to commemorating this milestone at The Village Recording Studios alongside Blu DeTiger, Jeremy Zucker, as well as, Maren Morris, a distinguished alumna from our inaugural GRAMMY Camp.”

Morris added: “GRAMMY Camp will always be one of those formative memories in my career. I was 15 years old when I went back in 2005 and remember it cementing my dreams of being a songwriter. Being involved with the organization still to this day is such a unique pleasure I have.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 04: atGRAMMY Camp Lunch And Learn With LA Chapter Board at Ronald Tutor Campus Center on August 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

This GRAMMY In The Schools® program is presented by the Hot Topic Foundation with support from the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation. Additional scholarship and program support is provided by the Aufmann Family, BeatHeadz, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Natalie Cole Foundation, Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation, and the Recording Academy®.

GRAMMY Camp will focus on all aspects of commercial music and provide instruction by industry professionals in an immersive and creative environment. The program features seven music career tracks: Audio Engineering, Electronic Music Production, Music Business, Music and Media, Songwriting, Vocal Performance, and Instrumental Performance. All tracks culminate in virtual media projects, recordings and/or performances.

Applications for GRAMMY Camp 2025 will be available online in September at

2024 GRAMMY Camp Selectees and Tracks (In Alpha Order by First Name)

Addison Dwelly Prospect, N.Y. Instrument – Guitar
Alexander Kamara Laurel, Md. Music & Media
Alina Khangura Granite Bay, Calif. Vocal Performance
Andrew Tran Round Rock, Texas Music Business
Anjali Agneshwar New York Audio Engineering
Aryana Booker-Gamez Pittsburgh, Pa. Songwriting
BoJameson Ebeling Venice, Calif. Audio Engineering
Brandon Goldman Alhambra, Calif. Instrument – Drums
Brooke Murgitroyd Raleigh, N.C. Vocal Performance
Buchanan Beauboeuf Las Vegas, Nev. Music Business
Camden Creel Phoenix, Ariz. Electronic Music Production
Cassandra Menacker Bristow, Va. Instrument – Bass
Charlotte Milstein La Jolla, Calif. Instrument – Guitar
Chase Swain Houston, Texas Instrument – Keys
Coco Benedetti Westminster, Calif. Instrument – Keys
Cooper Holloman Pearland, Texas Instrument – Bass
Cora Reardon Chatham, N.J. Music Business
Daniel Nientimp Nashville, Tenn. Electronic Music Production
Denver Humphrey Oviedo, Fla. Music & Media
Elle Reisman Lafayette, Calif. Songwriting
Emilio Abdelsayed Middletown, N.Y. Audio Engineering
Emily Roth Los Angeles Music Business
Esther Cho Fullerton, Calif. Music & Medi
Evan Hummel Bethesda, Md. Electronic Music Production
Francesca Casagrande Alpine, N.J. Music Business
Gael Chica Elizabeth, N.J Instrument – Guitar
Gavriel Shohet Zabin Evanston, Ill. Music Business
Grace Percival Southington, Conn. Vocal Performance
Grant Harriman Marina Del Rey, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Isabella Worden Omaha, Neb. Vocal Performance
Jacob Egan San Rafael, Calif. Music Business
Jaiden Meltzer Northampton, Mass. Songwriting
Jillian Ritter Swansea, Ill. Vocal Performance
Jordan Hall Grand Prairie, Texas Vocal Performance
Joshua Jongejan Sugar Land, Texas Songwriting
Julian Chua Short Hills, N.J. Music & Media
Justice Crittendon New Orleans, La. Audio Engineering
Kaleo Abadam San Ramon, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Kalyssa Ro Simi Valley, Calif. Music & Media
Katalina Kaminsky Miami, Fla. Music Business
Krista Warner Santa Ana, Calif. Music Business
Lauren Hunter Hinsdale, Ill. Instrument – Guitar
Leo Cheng Claremont, Calif. Songwriting
Maddox Balloon Alpharetta, Ga. Electronic Music Production
Mady Lubavin Newport Coast, Calif. Songwriting
Magnolia Collins Pacific Palisades, Calif. Music Business
Manasvini Kasagani Frisco, Texas Audio Engineering
Maryn Randall Plainwell, Mich. Songwriting
Matheson Hall Princeton, N.J. Electronic Music Production
Maya Ixta Delgado Encino, Calif. Music Business
Maya Ray Los Angeles Music Business
Mayah Board Santa Clarita, Calif. Music & Media
Mia Sophia Perdomo Chattanooga, Tenn. Music Business
Miranda Aquino Los Angeles Music & Media
Mitchell Haugsness Aurora, Colo. Audio Engineering
Nathaniel Arnold Encino, Calif. Audio Engineering
Nicholas Yiakoumatos San Gabriel, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Noah Schlondorff Bexley, Ohio Songwriting
Odelia Elliott Baltimore, Md. Songwriting
Olivia Wang La Canada Flintridge, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Paul “Gus” Dent Santa Cruz, Calif. Audio Engineering
Puru Dogra Westford, Mass. Songwriting
Rohan Agneshwar New York Audio Engineering
Rose Morris Los Angeles Songwriting
Ryan Witt Horseheads, N.Y. Electronic Music Production
Samantha Murano Levittown, N.Y. Vocal Performance
Sarah Al Mazrouei San Diego, Calif. Audio Engineering
Sarah Mullen Whitesboro, N.Y. Electronic Music Production
Sarah Parkinson Oak Park, Ill. Songwriting
Sarah Parmet Sherman Oaks, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Sawyer Mitchell San Marcos, Calif. Instrument – Keys
Seble Lopez Brooklyn, N.Y. Music Business
Sofia Cianciolo Pacific Palisades, Calif. Music Business
Sofia Erskine Upland, Calif. Vocal Performance
Solea Novelo Castaic, Calif. Instrument – Drums
Summer Brennan Newport Beach, Calif. Electronic Music Production
Sydney Kassekert Incline Village, Nev. Songwriting
Talia Silver La Jolla, Calif. Music Business
Toby Whitley Dallas, Texas Songwriting
Tyler Awosika Maricopa, Ariz. Music & Media
Walker Lewis Berkeley, Calif. Electronic Music Production
William Barsam Belmont, Mass. Instrument – Drums
Zia Brooks Rockledge, Fla. Instrument – Bass
The GRAMMY Museum, currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating and exploring music from yesterday and today to inspire the music of tomorrow through exhibits, education, grants, preservation initiatives, and public programming. Paying tribute to our collective musical heritage, the Museum values and celebrates the dynamic connection in people’s diverse backgrounds and music’s many genres, telling stories that inspire us, and creative expression that leads change in our industry.

For more information, visit, “like” the GRAMMY Museum on Facebook, and follow @GRAMMYMuseum on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

Choral Music Editor Jamey Ray Joins Excelcia Music Publishing Full-Time

Excelcia Music Publishing is elated to announce the new full-time status of Choral Music Editor Jamey Ray. A beloved composer of Choral music as well as an accomplished singer, arranger, teacher, producer, and founder of the a cappella group Voctave, Jamey has served Excelcia Music Publishing in a part-time capacity as Choral Music Editor since 2018. The Excelcia Music Publishing Choral Music catalog, now in its sixth year of publication, boasts a stunning collection of music by an ever-growing roster of composers. The future is bright for the publisher, as there will be an increased emphasis on musical accessibility at different levels within the catalog and further meeting the needs of Choral students and educators.

“I am thrilled to transition into a full-time role at Excelcia Music Publishing,” says Choral Music Editor Jamey Ray. “After 14 wonderful years at Rollins College as a music professor, I am excited to dedicate myself fully to this new chapter. I look forward to ushering in new developments with the advent of my full-time position, as well as increasing the momentum we have been building in the Choral department for the past seven years. The possibilities are endless when it comes to what our skilled team and imaginative composers can accomplish together.”

“I am incredibly excited to have Jamey Ray with us full-time,” says Larry Clark, President. “Jamey is already a star in the Choral music field through his work as the founder and arranger of Voctave. With our renewed focus on Choral music at Excelcia Music Publishing, Jamey will have an even bigger impact on educational Choral music as our full-time editor and as a composer and arranger. I can assure you that Jamey will further elevate our expanded Choral music catalog through his expertise.”

Originally from Clearwater, Florida, Jamey served as a professor of music at Rollins College for 14 years.  A well-known arranger and composer of choral music, Jamey’s pieces have been top sellers and featured on many state festival lists. His contemporary arrangements have been performed by members of Pentatonix, Avalon, cast members on 30 Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, American Idol alumnae , and hundreds of Broadway performers. As a performer, Jamey has worked with artists ranging from the London Symphony Orchestra to Disney’s Voices of Liberty. In 2015, Jamey formed the well-known a cappella group Voctave, which has multiple #1 songs and albums and has ranked in the top 25 of Billboard Magazine’s charts. In addition to singing with Voctave, Jamey produces and arranges its music. He grew up singing from a young age with the prestigious Florida Boychoir and went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Computer Science, specializing in voice and piano, from Rollins College and a Masters in Music Technology from New York University.

The SBO+ 2024 Student Essay Contest Winners

Sponsored by the NAMM Foundation, Alfred Music Publishing, MakeMusic, Hal Leonard, Yamaha Corporation of America, Sweetwater, Adam Audio, and Focusrite.

We asked students to tell us about a music teacher who has changed their lives. What was it about them that had an impact on you? How did their teaching, personality, or actions differ from other good teachers?

Students will receive $1,000 courtesy of SBO+ Magazine and the NAMM Foundation. Teachers will receive $1,000 worth of products from each of these sponsors: Alfred Music Publishing, MakeMusic, Hal Leonard, Yamaha Corporation of America, and Sweetwater. They will also receive one pair of ADAM Audio – TSV Active Studio Nearfield Monitors and the 4th Generation Focus Scarlett 212 Studio.

Eva Badgujar, 3rd Grade, Current Teacher: Clifford Burden –  Basis Austin, Austin, Texas
In the magical world of music, I have a hero, and his name is Mr. Clifford Burden. He’s not just any music teacher; he’s like a wizard who turns every song into an adventure filled with joy and inspiration. Allow me to weave the tale of this enchanting maestro and his magical impact.

Mr. Burden, with his guitar, is like a friendly sorcerer guiding us through the enchanting tunes of songs like “Lean on Me.” Each note feels like a warm hug, and he teaches us not just to play the right notes but to feel the magic of music in our hearts. What makes Mr. Burden extra special is how kind and encouraging he is. When life gets tough, he reminds us that every melody has its own beauty, and he becomes more than just a teacher – he’s a friend cheering us on in every musical journey.

His personality is like sunshine on a cloudy day. Mr. Burden’s positivity makes everything bright, and he shares stories of resilience that show us, just like in music, life has ups and downs, but with a positive attitude, we can conquer anything. He teaches us to believe in ourselves, be kind, and find joy in every note.

In this magical symphony called life, Mr. Burden is a hero who changes lives with the magic of melodies and the power of positivity. I feel lucky to have him as my teacher, and I’m grateful for the music he brings to my world.

Lily Do, 3rd Grade, Current Teacher: Christopher Kimball –  Mary Marek Elementary, Pearland, Texas

Cooking With Music – My name is Lilly Do and I am eight years old. I first met my music teacher, Mr. Kimball, when I was five years old. Mr. Kimball has changed my life because he taught me the meaning of music. Wonderful music helps with my emotions when I am cooking yummy food.

When I was younger, I did not like eating vegetables because of the yucky taste and crumbly texture. Now, I listen to music while I am cooking because it makes me relaxed and happy. As a result, delightful music makes my vegetables taste delicious. Music increases my confidence in cooking, and now I can cook vegetables much faster. Now, I can eat all kinds of vegetables like carrots, corn, peas, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, broccolini, green beans and onions.

Thank you, Mr. Kimball, for teaching me about how music influences my daily life in cooking. I love music and I enjoy cooking and eating my favorite vegetables. I wonder how else amazing music can change my life.

Bhavagna Thumbeti, 6th Grade, Current Teacher: Emily Anderson – Chippewa Middle School, Shoreview, Minnesota

Ms. Anderson was the best orchestra teacher I have ever had. I loved orchestra because 1: It was right smack dab in the middle of math so I got to miss most of it (but I only missed one day’s worth of math a week). And 2: Ms. Anderson was THE MOST funniest, silliest, craziest, insane, bonkers, hilarious, fantastic teacher I have EVER had. (by the way, the list goes on forever. 🙂 For me, the only way that you learn is Ms. Anderson’s way. Everyone in the orchestra gave her crazy potatoes with faces on them, and she put all of them on her desk, but when they started to rot, we would hold a funeral for each and every potato. Ms. Anderson was a HUGE part of my orchestra career. At my last orchestra concert with Ms. Anderson, we played the Star Wars theme song, and put glow sticks on our bows, but we had to memorize the whole song, and it was really amazing. I hugged her and cried when we got home because I would most likely not get to see her again. Thank you, Ms. Anderson, for being the best orchestra teacher in the Multiverse.

Abigail Shipley, 6th Grade, Current Teacher: Conner Smith – Omar Bradley Middle School, San Antonio, Texas

Every day I look forward to my band class because it keeps me in an upbeat mood for the rest of the day. My instructor’s positive approach motivates me to continue playing the clarinet, which is why I’m sharing my experience.

Mr. Smith goes above and beyond to keep the class engaging. He believes by working together and supporting one another, we can successfully achieve the goals we set up individually and as a group.

One of the things that makes him stand out is his encouragement to communicate between us and ask questions no matter how silly they may seem, especially when we struggle mastering challenging music. He lightens the mood by joking about our mistakes, lifting our spirits. His cool and energetic personality creates a relaxed learning atmosphere for us.

Mr. Smith is also a fun person. To make fundraising events exciting, he gives us goals with corresponding rewards. This year he dressed up as Ken from Barbie and wore the famous dinosaur inflatable costume!

On another occasion, he invited parents to join us at our concert by learning a few notes and playing them before our performance. It was hilarious to hear them play out of sync but the purpose was to show everyone what it is like to be in our shoes and how much we have accomplished. The spectators’ energy changed from previous ones, sounding more delighted with our music. This is why I consider my music instructor outstanding for his hard work.

Julia Herstein, 7th Grade, Current Teacher: Stacey White – Noblesville West Middle School, Noblesville, Indiana

Introduction, paragraphs, conclusion. First the draft, then the editing process, and lastly the final essay; a product of hard work and dedication. As I sit at the piano, looking at the unfamiliar notes flitting across the page, I repeat the process. I learn the notes, improve my technique, and add dynamics. Then, I perform the piece. This process takes a lengthy amount of time to perfect, as well as my teacher. Mrs. Phoenix remains the one person I turn to throughout my musical journey and she has helped me effectively learn and play multiple pieces. 

Draft. The beginning of a new piece. I divide the piece into sections, learning and understanding the notes. Mrs. Phoenix helps me, teaching me new methods to improve my skill. I work on a section, learn a new one, and piece them together with her help. 

The editing takes time. I incorporate more dynamics to make the piece interesting, using the techniques I was taught. I run through the passages over and over again, getting rid of the mistakes. Mrs. Phoenix guides me, patiently pointing out my mistakes throughout the piece. She helps me understand the feelings behind the notes and encourages me to understand what I am playing. 

The conclusion is the most important part of the journey. It brings together all my efforts throughout the entire piece. The true goal is to gain more experiences with both pieces and essays, and to get a little bit closer to the music and words.

Lukas Tokarczyk, 9th Grade, Current Teacher: Kevin Longwill – Abington High School, Abington, Pennsylvania

My music technology teacher, Kevin Longwill, is the founder of Abington High School’s music industry program, M3. Because of him, I’ve learned about the modern band dynamic, including preparation, time, and equipment needed to produce a professional concert. This program shows how to attain a music career and has given me exposure to performances at several different venues. I look forward to practices, since M3 offers opportunities to play in touring bands and start bands with friends who have similar goals and interests. Mr. Longwill is an excellent leader and exceedingly qualified to shape aspiring musicians. Not only is he an expert in every part of our program, but he excels at teaching us the ins and outs of every piece of equipment he provides for us. His supportive and charismatic nature inspires our group in any decisions we make as artists and leads us to make improvements in our projects. I realize the odds of becoming an actual rock star are slim, but he constantly gives us confidence and support as we pursue our passions. I know even if I don’t become “the next big thing,” there are many music-related careers I can pursue. Mr. Longwill has given all his students the confidence and support to chase our dreams. I hope one day I can inspire future generations like he has. I don’t know how to begin to thank this amazing leader who has given his students so many opportunities while encouraging us to be ourselves.

Sierra DiMare, 11th Grade, Current Teacher: Cameron Pruett – Mohave High School, Bullhead City, Arizona

In 2017, I auditioned for my first musical (Sound of Music) when I was 10 years old. The music director, Mr. Cameron Pruett, decided to take a chance on me and give me a supporting role; I guess he saw potential. After the show, I started taking singing lessons from him and eventually joined his choir when I got to high school. Six years after my first musical, he picked me to be Donna in our production of Mamma Mia this year. The day the cast list was posted, Pruett pulled me into his office and gave me a hug while he told me how proud he was of me. He explained that I had worked hard for the role and “deserved a big kid role.” I’ve always been on the younger side in choirs or musicals so hearing him say that meant a lot to me. 2017 was not only the year I met my choir teacher, but it was also the same year his first daughter was born. Since I spend so much time in the choir room and on the stage, Mr. Pruett is basically my second father and is more of a friend or a parental figure than a teacher. Mr. Pruett helped me become more confident and has given me life advice more times than I can count. That’s what sets him apart from other teachers.

Elise Gaspar, 11th Grade, Current Teacher: Ellen Chmura – J. J. Pearce High School, Richardson, Texas

“Take a deep breath, Elise. You can do this.” 

There I stood, staring into a sea of kids. Freshman year, new school, new state. It was my first day of summer band, and I was scared out of my mind. I walked into rehearsal and met my teacher, Ms. Chmura. Over that year full of firsts, she created an environment where I would grow as a musician, marcher, and later, a leader.

My sophomore year, after her encouragement, I auditioned for drum major. She helped me prepare, shared tips and critiques, and gave me confidence to step into the audition room. She saw something in me I didn’t completely see in myself, and I was selected.

Throughout my junior year, she spent countless hours investing in the drum major team. We learned to conduct, but also to lead our peers and establish a positive culture of excellence. 

On senior night, the graduating drum majors were being recognized on the field. As the only junior, I was left alone to lead the band. I stood on the center podium, again staring into this sea of kids. Only now, these kids were my friends, and instead of being afraid, I was confident. Ms. Chmura climbed the side podium and nodded to me. She paused, waited for my cue, and followed my lead as we conducted.

True leaders identify future leaders, help them grow, and then let them lead. That is what my director did for me, and I am grateful.

Madison Karan, 12th Grade, Current Teacher: Jaron Cox – Falls Lake Academy High School, Creedmoor, North Carolina

When I graduate this spring, I’ll wear a golden pin, the symbol of the Tri-M honors society and the memory of how I fell in love with music. I began middle school with the notion that band was an obligation; now I end high school with plans to major in music.

I owe this to my music teacher, who introduced me to percussion. The influence of good teachers I’ve had only reached as far as the classroom walls, but his went further, impacting the trajectory of my life itself. He was supportive, listening to my barrage of musical questions without fatigue, always honest in critiques but still pointing out the good of a performance. During the early years of high school when I felt alone and unsure of myself, I found refuge in the variety of percussion and marimba performance; there’s always something new to learn. Even after I left for another school, he supported me through the college audition process. 

He always put the needs of others first and never hesitated to help someone out, be they student or peer. Someone to aspire to be like. Someone who, though I was a sophomore leaving for the School of Science and Math, gave me the honor of being in Tri-M and the pin that normally only seniors receive. 

Now, I hear his influence in the lullabies of marimba and the ferocious precision of snare drum music. 

I, like the pin, will wear it with pride.

Diego Rodriguez-Trejo, 12th Grade, Current Teacher: Ramon Rivera – Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, Washington

The music teacher who changed my life must be my Mariachi Teacher, Mr. Rivera. He not only made me the guitarist I am today, teaching me chords, rhythm, and following with a group performance, but also who I am outside of music. He must be the most positive person I know. Not overly positive where there is a need for constructive criticism, but positive of always improving. I remember one time I had an upcoming solo to perform for the song we were practicing called “El Cascabel.” I was unsure of myself because I thought my solo wasn’t good enough and I should let someone else take it. Mr. Rivera, however, ignored and completely disregarded every little bit of negativity I said about my “would be” performance for he really believed in me. He knew what I was capable of and had no problem pushing me to this uncomfortable position of playing in front of all these people when I couldn’t even imagine going up there in fear of embarrassment. While other teachers did care about me, there was always something they would say about me that could go wrong (like not trying hard enough, not studying), but Mr. Rivera would only say what could go right. I smashed that solo switching from different paces of strumming and mixing chords from the correct note. This teacher taught me a mindset to go past my limits and to look towards the next positive step in improving instead of always fearing failure.

Special thanks to the NAMM Foundation, Alfred Music Publishing, MakeMusic, Hal Leonard, Yamaha Corporation of America, Sweetwater, Adam Audio, and Focusrite for sponsoring this year’s essay contest.

SBO+ congratulates these fabulous students and their teachers! Look for the 2025 announcement in the fall!

From Overwhelmed to Fulfilled in Music Education

Mental health is a serious concern for educators in general and music educators specifically. With that in mind, this spring, NAfME embarked on a new health and well-being series for music educators titled “From Overwhelmed to Fulfilled: Cultivating Resilience for a Sustainable Career in Music Education.” The content of the three sessions aimed to destigmatize mental health issues particular to music educators and connect them with resources to support their mental and physical health and well-being. When music educators have skills and strategies to be their best selves both personally and professionally, they can enjoy long, healthy careers while thriving in today’s educational landscape.

Session 1 included a phenomenal panel with information on topics such as experiencing overwhelm; the intersectionality of trauma, including secondary traumatic stress (STS); and how to recognize and avoid burnout. Panelists included Rebecca Jonas, Counselor, MA, LPCC, and former music educator; Dr. Diona Shelton, DSW, LCSW; and Dr. Abigail Van Klompenberg, NBCT. Participants were able to learn the definition and key signs of overwhelm plus strategies for handling it; dig into the concepts of compassion fatigue and post-traumatic stress; and understand how music educators are susceptible to secondary traumatic stress and how to get help. Overwhelm can appear differently in all of us. Often, it includes emotional dysregulation, difficulty focusing and concentrating, low energy, headaches and stomachaches, and lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. Some ways to combat overwhelm include practicing mindfulness, somatic stretching, grounding work, and identifying what is in your circle of control or influence. Music educators are often susceptible to secondary traumatic stress and compassion fatigue as a unique form of burnout simply due to the caregiving nature of our profession. Being aware of these stressors, seeking professional support, and working on our self-regulation skills are three great strategies for staying healthy when we are faced with these heavy challenges. 

Our guest presenter for Session 2, Dr. Amelia Nagoski, dove more deeply into recognizing and avoiding burnout, as our profession is certainly ripe for passionate but often overworked music educators. Dr. Nagoski drove home the idea that when we are feeling like we “need more discipline,” we actually need SUPPORT. When we wish we “had more grit,” we need more SUPPORT. If you are interested in the topic of burnout, we highly suggest reading her book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, co-authored with her twin sister, Emily Nagoski, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology.

Session 3 focused on developing healthy work habits and coping strategies, advocating for individual needs, and finding sustainable balance and fulfillment in work and at home. The presenters—music education professor Dr. Christian Bernhard II and school counselor Dr. Beth Ruff—shared tools and ideas for cultivating a state of wellness, peace, health, and joy. Some key takeaways for music educators from Dr. Bernard included understanding the absolute importance of basics like sleep, healthy eating, and physical movement. When we focus on these basics, we bring stability and health to our personal and professional lives. In addition, fostering positive emotions through engagement, relationships, finding meaning, and accomplishment all support the retention of music educators. We must lift one another up through our relationships with colleagues, celebrate small and large accomplishments, and practice gratitude for daily actions. Dr. Ruff, who infuses music and the arts into her elementary counseling instruction, took us on a musical journey of joyfulness that culminated with a fantastic collaboratively constructed “hype-song” playlist to access on Spotify whenever we need a boost. Do you have your own personal theme song or hype playlist? If not, you need to create one today! Even better, grab your music colleagues and do it together! 

NAfME is grateful to provide resources for music teachers in need. “We were astonished at how many educators signed up for and accessed these webinars,” said NAfME staff member Laura Reed. We hope to provide more health-focused offerings for members.

NAfME members and non-member subscribers can find the health and well-being series, “From Overwhelmed to Fulfilled: Cultivating Resilience for a Sustainable Career in Music Education” by going to our website (below) and entering “NAfME Academy” in Search.

Music educator health and wellness is critical. We urge you to take care of yourselves and each other so you can sustain a long, healthy, satisfying career as a music educator! What are some ways that YOU support your own personal mental health? Share them with fellow music educators in the Amplify Online Community on the NAfME homepage. 

Annamarie Bollino is NAfME Chair of the Council of Music Program Leaders and Beth Fortune is NafME Chair of the Council of Orchestral Education

K-12 Resources – 12 Podcasts for Choral Music Educators

Podcasts can be a great way to fit in professional development while you are on the go. 

1) Afternoon Ti. A music educator and lifestyle podcast. Host Jessica Grant is a middle school music educator certified in Orff-Schelwerk, Kodaly, and has some training in Dalcroze. Most of the topics focus on ideas for the general music classroom, but Jessica features specialized episodes for choral music educators. Many of the ideas in the general music podcasts can be applied to the chorus classroom. Jessica published a book called The Afternoon Ti Guide to Teaching Music with an accompanying journal you can purchase at F-Flat Books or Amazon. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 30 minutes 

2) The Choir Chronicles. Two middle school choral directors, Clinton Hardy and Jodi Coke (The Choir Queen), inspire other middle school choral directors. Conversations and advice stem from their personal experiences in the middle school classroom. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 40 minutes 

3) Choir Director Corner Podcast. Matt Walker’s podcast is only one facet of his community-based approach to choir director support and training. Matt gives strategies you can apply directly to your choral classroom. In addition to the podcast, there is a Facebook page and group, Choir Director Corner, and a website, Matt’s website offers a “Community Membership” that features access to online courses, group coaching calls, and a private Facebook Community. Average release schedule: two episodes per month Average episode length: 30 minutes 

4) Choral Catalogue. Host Matthew Van Dyke is a high school choir director. He highlights choral repertoire for high school and middle school choral directors. The episodes bring in a variety of composers and choral directors to discuss pieces and teaching tips. Average release schedule: two episodes per month Average episode length: 50 minutes 

5) Choral Connectivity: A People-First Approach to Singing. Kirsten Oberoi interviews choral composers, conductors, authors, entrepreneurs, internet influencers, and professors, opening conversations about choral ensembles that prioritize people. Kristen believes beautiful music comes from people who feel connected. New episodes have not been released in a few months (as of this writing) Average episode length: 50 minutes 

6) Choralosophy. Chris Munce has an impressive lineup of episodes featuring some of the most well-known composers, conductors, and pedagogues in choral music education. With over 100 episodes, a wide range of topics within choral “philosophy” are discussed. Each of the conversations is summarized in a newsletter sent to subscribers bimonthly. Visit for more information. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 60 minutes 

7) Conduct(her). Sisters Kyra Stahr and McKenna Stenson interview various female teachers, conductors, and composers in the music world with a mission of “amplifying female voices on the podium.” Most guests are choral conductors such as Dr. Amanda Quist and Dr. Brittney Boykin. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 60 minutes 

8) Early Music Monday. Host Kameron Kavanaugh is the artistic director and founder of the professional chamber choir, Sound of Ages, which focuses on performing early music. With the chamber choir and this podcast, Kameron hopes to make historical music relevant to both singers and audience members. It features interviews with conductors, educators, and musicologists discussing why early music is important to them. Each episode features a composer profile and music accessible to choirs of all skill levels. New episodes have not been released in a few months (as of this writing) Average episode length: 45 minutes 

9) Music (ed) Matters. Dr. Emily Burch brings her enthusiastic and bubbly personality to this podcast made for “music lovers, educators, and choir members.” Emily is primarily a choral conductor, but with this podcast, she takes a general approach to music education, appealing to music educators of all types. Her book with Alex Gartner, The Business of Choir: A Choral Leader’s Guide for Organizational Growth, is available from GIA Publishing. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 45 minutes 

10) Music Mindfully Podcast. Aliah Elliot, a Canadian voice teacher, focuses on mindfulness for musicians. Some topics discussed are performance anxiety, self-doubt, burnout, and rejection. This is a podcast that can benefit both your choir members and yourself. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 30 minutes 

11) Rhapsody in Black. In these short episodes, choral conductor Tesfa Wondemagegnehu explores classical music that is “aesthetically and uncompromisingly Black.” Each episode dives into history discussing Black musicians’ impact on the classical music genre. Episodes can be found on YourClassical MPR and all major podcast platforms. Average release schedule: weekly Average episode length: 5 minutes 

12) The Score. Describes itself as an “urban music education podcast.” Hosts Eric Jimenez and Justin McLean, high school band directors, have conversations about compassionate and culturally responsive music education. While some episodes are specific to band, many others have broad topics with experts from other fields in music education. Most of the conversations are important and relevant across all sects of music education. Some topics include identity in music education, redefining success, avoiding burnout, white fragility in music education, and anti-racist teaching. Average release schedule: two episodes per month Average episode length: 60 minutes

Reprinted from ChorTeach with permission from ACDA

Sometimes Fairy Tales Come True

With Renee Fleming, fellow Crane School of Music grad

The nine-year-old nervously walked into his first trumpet lesson with six other classmates. Within a half hour, they had mastered the art of making awful sounds with no discernible pitch. A year later, the now ten-year-old walked into his first band rehearsal and there was a brand-new teacher. Mr. Maiello was intense, no, make that terrifying. His rehearsals were high energy and he demanded we actually play well and sound good! When you didn’t, you got a frightening glare that made sure you practiced before the next rehearsal.

Two more years of band went by and despite his best efforts, the boy started to slip lower and lower in the trumpet section. He just couldn’t play the increasingly higher notes and was destined for a lifetime of third trumpet parts. One day, the band director pulled him aside and told him his trumpet days were over. That afternoon, he struggled to get off the bus with a full-sized sousaphone and a sousaphone chair. The teacher didn’t have time to give him lessons so he handed him a Rubank Elementary method book and said, “I think you can teach yourself; it’ll be fun!” Thankfully, his family lived in the country with no close-by neighbors to wonder why elephants were mating in the boy’s bedroom.

Two years later, the boy auditioned for the all-state band and won first chair. At the first rehearsal, the band met Dr. William Revelli. Within 30 minutes, and regularly for the next three days, someone left rehearsal crying due to the pressure-filled rehearsals. Having survived the Maiello glare at a young age, being raised by a WWII combat veteran, and belonging to a high school band with a “high demand” director, the boy thought, “Why are they leaving, this is what band is like and we sound great?!”

Still trying to play tuba

Having “conquered” the all-state band, the next year he auditioned for the all-state chorus and arrived to find Howard Hanson on the podium. What an experience! The next year, he scored the all-state trifecta by winning the only tuba chair in the orchestra.

College auditions followed and, in the fall, he entered the Crane School of Music as a music education major. He walked into his first band rehearsal and on the podium was….. Mr. Maiello in his first year of college teaching. The other musicians weren’t ready for the pace and intensity of the rehearsal. Ha-ha!!

That semester he learned the most important lesson of his professional life. Show up on time and ready to work and you’ll often succeed when your more talented peers don’t. The Crane Wind Ensemble was in their final rehearsal for a performance at Eastman Hall. At 7PM sharp, the rehearsal room door was locked. Several minutes later, a senior tuba player came running down the hall and knocked on the door. Professor Elliott Delborgo opened the door and asked if the student was alright. After ensuring there was no life-threatening injury, he told the senior he could go home because he was out of the group. I was standing there to listen to the rehearsal through the door and had my tuba. Prof. Delborgo asked if I owned a tux and when I said yes, he said, “Go sit down, you’re playing the concert.”

Also, during that semester, a senior walked up to the freshman and asked if he was a tuba player. After he answered yes, he handed him an electric bass and said, “I think you can teach yourself; it’ll be fun!” That led to a way to pay for school because a bass player who can read and play by ear and sing will always find work.

After three years at Crane (yes, a degree in three years) and two years in graduate school, the search for a job was on. Sure that there would be a multitude of colleges and universities longing to hire him as a tuba instructor, he soon learned the harsh realities of the music business. Way too many talented people chasing too few great jobs.

The prospect of unemployment led him to a recruiting station with all four services represented. He went to each one to see who had the best deal and enlisted in the Army for three years as a private with the goal of saving a little money, getting educational benefits, and then getting a doctorate to win that coveted college teaching job.

What he discovered was an organization that was looking for hard workers with talent. They didn’t care if your family was wealthy, didn’t care where you went to school, and didn’t care “who you knew.”

So, over the next 37+ years, the fairy tale came true. The struggling fourth grade band kid from a rural school and a blue-collar family eventually met seven U.S. presidents, countless members of royalty and heads of state, and even a pope. He performed in 56 countries and all 50 states. Oh, and the scary Mr. Maiello is one of his dearest friends. So, for all the music kids out there; work hard, show up on time, always do your best, and your fairy tale may come true as well.

Tone Deaf Comics

Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?

SBO+: The regular author of Leadership Tips, Dr. Matthew Arau, is taking the month off so Tom is filling in.

I’m not questioning your leadership ability! This is the title of one of my favorite books. When I am doing leadership coaching, this book is usually the one I start with because it begins with the premise that anyone can be an effective leader if they are willing to be truly authentic.

The authors aren’t just writing random opinions, they base their work on extensive research which found leaders can use their own unique leadership assets while managing the inherent tensions at the heart of successful leadership: showing emotion and withholding it, getting close to followers while keeping distance, and maintaining individuality while conforming enough.

As a teacher, you must maintain a professional distance from your students while at the same time, showing “who you are.” This takes practice, introspection, and sensing what others need of you, but most importantly, it requires you to have a good understanding of who YOU are.

If you want to be a better leader, put Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?: What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader on your summer reading list!

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