The Music for All National Festival fills professional music halls in Indianapolis with the sounds of beautiful music. Backstage and in the hotels and social events, one can hear an equally beautiful sound – the sound of students finding common interests and passions, forming lifelong friendships and a renewed commitment to music.

Students involved in Music for All’s Orchestra America National Festival ensembles and the Honor Orchestra of America grow from performing in the regal Hilbert Circle Theatre, home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The Honor Orchestra of America shares two concerts with the Symphony, while Orchestra America National Festival ensembles and the Honor Orchestra members enjoy master classes led by prestigious orchestral musicians and music educators, focused on each instrumental area.

Ellen Loran and Liz Montgomery are students of Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colorado. Both were selected as members of the 2009 Honor Orchestra of America under Conductor Larry J. Livingston, who also will conduct the 2011 Honor Orchestra of America. Ellen performed as a cellist and Liz as a percussionist.

Ellen enjoyed 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.”

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.”

That excellence is reflected in each of the Orchestra America National Festival ensembles, which perform in front of an appreciative audience and receive a thorough evaluation during a post-performance clinic led by an esteemed orchestra clinician.

At the 2010 Music for All National Festival, the Honor Orchestra of America performed Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Tableaux d’une Exposition” (“Pictures at an Exhibition”), orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

Reviewer Michael Boo said the Honor Orchestra brought “a euphoric energy” to their performance. “It was thrilling to hear what Maestro Anthony Maiello (George Mason University) coaxed from his youthful musicians,” Boo wrote. “The sparkle of the Shostakovich shone amidst the deft flurry of the avalanche of runs that seemed to continually build up intensity on its way to the sprint to the finish. And the Mussorgsky… well, the rafter-shaking power of the brass and the soulful depth of the strings provided a wonderful counterpoint to the playfulness of the woodwinds and the emphatic exclamation mark of the percussion.”

Boo commented on the nearly professional nature of the young orchestra. “The musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra commented on how astounded they were of the quality of the music-making they observed from the Honor Orchestra of America,” he said. Audiences are moved by Orchestra America National Festival performances, but it is the students and conductors who truly benefit. “To sit in a first class concert hall and be part of a subscription concert with a first class professional orchestra,” says Professor Larry Livingston, “lifts their sense of accomplishment and inspires them to go further. It says, this is what I imagined might happen when I started in fifth grade on the oboe.”

“Because of the professional atmosphere created by Music for All, my kids now approach our program with more maturity, poise, and leadership. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!” said Jason Seber, conductor of the Youth Performing Arts School Philharmonia of Louisville, Kentucky, a former festival ensemble.

“Nothing compares to this experience for the students,” agreed Eric Steven Gray, Director of Orchestras at Alan C. Pope HS, Marietta, Georgia. “They perform for a packed house of other musicians and learn from the very best. I don’t think there is anything that compares to Orchestra America.”

Beth DeHoff, Music for All, Community Relations Manager. Thank you to Michael Boo for his reviews of the 2010 honors concerts and contributions to this story.