By Michael Boo

On the evening of Thursday, March 19, 2009, thousands of high school attendees of the Music for All National Festival descended upon the sparkling new confines of Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium to partake of the Music for All National Festival High School Student Social. A separate social was held for the Middle School National Music Festival attendees.

Dramatically overlooking the field of the NFL stadium, (set up for the NCAA Mens Basketball Championships Division I Midwest Regional), the social venue allowed the students to dance to music, enjoy refreshments and to sit at tables and chat. It also allowed for Music for All to talk to a cross-section of students and their parents/chaperones.

Ellen Loran and Liz Montgomery are students of Rocky Mountain H.S. in Fort Collins, CO. Both were selected as members of the Honor Orchestra of America, Ellen as a cellist and Liz as a percussionist. Ellen enjoyed coming to the festival because, “It’s a national festival representing a bigger group of people than we would normally play for. Larry Livingston takes a different approach to music, offering more of a perspective of life. He cares about people in general and the vehicle he uses is music. He compliments us a lot, giving a lot of positive interaction. I want to be engaged because what’s going on is so interesting.” Liz concurs, adding, “Everything he talks about is related to music, but every once in a while he’ll spout off something about life and the members really care about what he says. His expectation is one of excellence.”

Ellen appreciates the commitment it took to personally make it to Indianapolis. “This is my spring break trip and to afford this, I’m not going to music camp this summer, which I normally would attend. My mom is a professional violinist, so I played weddings with her to make money to come here. Performing for the weddings raised me up to a whole higher level.”

Liz also made sacrifices. “I stayed at school every day until about 7:30 to practice for the audition pieces, which was incredibly time consuming as the pieces were hard. I didn’t have the percussion instruments at home and didn’t have access to them during the winter break, so once school started up, I had less than a month to perfect the pieces.” The dedication of Ellen and Liz is reflective of so many of those who participated at the festival, whether they were in any of the honor groups or came with an ensemble from their school.

Miami Killian Sr. H.S. is located in Miami, FL, a southwest suburb of Miami. The band used the recording they made while playing in Chicago’s Symphony Hall the year before. Chris Miyares plays French Horn in the band. He remembers well what the band had to do to be selected for the festival. “To prepare ourselves for our audition, we played more literature than we had ever played before. To raise money, we sold chocolates and held hand-wash car washes.

“To save money, we took a two-day bus ride as it would cost each of us $100 less than if we flew from Miami. At first, coming up here didn’t mean anything to me, but as the festival came closer, I became more expectant of the bus ride. Imagine thinking about being on a bus for 26 hours with grumpy band kids! “We left at 10:00 pm after a full day of school and a water polo game, so I was already exhausted. I had to leave in the 2nd quarter to be at school. It was easy to fall asleep. Most of the band members had blankets and pillows. I heard few complaints. “A high point of the trip was stopping at Lassiter H.S. outside Atlanta and rehearsing in front of Alfred Watkins and some of his band kids. It was one of our best performances. He had a smile on his face that was uplifting.

“I was astounded by the beautiful scenery in Kentucky and elsewhere. I had never ridden north of Florida before. Many members hadn’t been out of Florida and were amazed at the scenery out the window, especially with the roads carved through the mountains. It was all worth it to know we were coming to the most prestigious festival in the country.”

Nina Becerra accompanied the Miami Killian Sr. H.S. Wind Ensemble as a parent chaperone. She noted how hard the members worked to prepare for the festival and to raise money to attend. “The kids and parents raised all the money. Due to budget cuts, no money came from the school. Music for All offered helpful fund-raising ideas and assistance. “It was amazing to see the kids work so hard to get here and to play the music that they play.”

Ryan H.S. from Denton, TX sent two bands to the festival: the Wind Symphony and the Symphonic Band. Ben Dossett is a trumpet player who worked the concession booth at University of North Texas basketball games to cover $200 of his $800 expense for the trip, adding, “I thought everything would be high-class and sophisticated, and it was. I’m pretty psyched to be here.”

Chris Hoye plays clarinet. He worked 16 hours at the UNT concession booth and sold more candy bars “than I thought was possible.” Valerie Coronado is a flutist who sold pies and candy bars to more than cover her expenses. She considered it an honor to be at the festival “because not every high school group can come here and we were chosen.”

The social event allowed the members of all the participating high school ensembles to mingle and discover the joy in the one thing they all had in common: a love of music making. Just a few hours later, they were all once again practicing their instruments in preparation for their time on the stage.