Music for All (MFA) is fortunate to have the support of hundreds of volunteers each year. With events throughout the year that occur in multiple cities and venues, MFA relies heavily on volunteers to make our programs possible. While the level of involvement varies from person to person, some volunteers return each year and display an enduring loyalty to the organization.

Stu and Sharon Holzer embody the essence and importance of volunteerism that is exhibited by music boosters nationwide and helps bring Music for All’s mission to life. Stu and Sharon met while attending The Ohio State University. Stu was born in New York City and raised in Ohio. Active in ham radio since the age of 12, Stu worked in information technology, retiring in 2008 from the NCR Corporation after 32 years.

Sharon was born and raised in Ohio, played violin and sang in the school choir. She has been employed by Centerville City Schools for 19 years. Stu and Sharon served on the band booster board for Centerville High School in Ohio for six years while their daughter and son were in the Centerville Jazz Band, including in 1992 when the band won the Bands of America (BOA) Grand National Championships.

“Our daughter and son were in the Centerville Jazz Band from 1986 to 1993,” Stu and Sharon Holzer wrote. “During that time, we served on the booster band board for six years in one capacity or another…we served on many committees and traveled with the band when they went to Disney World in Florida and to all competitions and events.”

During this time period, Stu was in charge of the Pit Crew and transportation, and Sharon was in charge of fitting, altering and cleaning the band uniforms. In addition, Sharon made backdrops (screens) for the performance field, and she made and fit the color guard uniforms for several years. She even made a marching band and guard uniform for the special Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls that belong to the band.

“Our lives revolved around the band, and we looked forward to all the local contests as well as the BOA Regionals and Grand Nationals,” the Holzers said.

Through many years of involvement with the Centerville band program, the Holzers got to know some of the Music for All staff. This led them to begin volunteering for Music for All and its Bands of America programs. After their children graduated, they decided to share their love for the activity in order to help make possible the kinds of experiences they so valued for their own children.

“It just seemed like a fun thing to do, and we felt even though our kids graduated from band, we hadn’t!” the Holzers said. “After our band won Grand Nationals in 1992, Stu found Cam Stasa [former Music for All staff member] on the field and said, ‘We want to do this,’ and that’s how it started.”

Over the years, Stu and Sharon made many friends within the MFA organization and among the other bands that have participated in Bands of America programs. Their can-do attitude and enthusiasm for the activity have encouraged others to consider volunteering as well.

“We’ve encouraged other former band boosters from Centerville and other bands to join us in working with BOA, and our social life has expanded,” the Holzers said. “Over the years, a great majority of our social friends have come from band. BOA has been a great outlet to keep in touch with the friends we have made over the years, and we always look forward to the fall to get together with our BOA friends.”

Volunteering isn’t always easy though; especially during late fall in the Midwest when the weather can be quite unpredictable. At Bands
of America events, Sharon typically works on the sidelines and assists bands as they bring their equipment onto the field. Stu runs the bus and truck parking lot at BOA shows.

“Being outside in the wind, rain, snow or whatever isn’t always fun, but it is nice to know that we can help bring order and consistency to the activity,” the Holzers said. Sharon knows how nervous band students and parents are when they bring their shows, because we’ve experienced those same frightening feelings. She loves helping them relax, answering their questions and getting them on the field with no problems.”

Music for All is committed to increasing opportunities for volunteers in order to engage even more supporters and “alumni” music booster parents, like the Holzers. Studies have shown that volunteering is not only important to the success of arts organizations, but also to growth of individuals. “Certain arts activities promote growth in positive social skills, including self-confidence, self-control, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance,” according to S.S. Ruppert’s “Critical evidence: How the arts benefit student achievement,” National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

Over the years, the Holzers have reaped the benefits of the social aspect of volunteering, and they gained a social network of friends that have come from their experiences with the band world and volunteering.

“Since we’ve been part of BOA and MFA, our world of band has expanded,” the Holzers said. “We’ve gained an appreciation of the fact that band programs couldn’t exist without the support of wonderful booster organizations around the country, creative directors and teachers, and forward-thinking administrators.”

This year at the 2012 Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha, the Holzers were inducted into the Bands of America Hall of Fame in recognition of their positively life-changing impact on Music for All’s Bands of America programs and music education. But, perhaps the greatest honor the Holzers have received comes from the bands and parents they work with on the field.

“One of the greatest compliments Stu and I get each fall is that so many people from various bands recognize us and are so happy to see us,” Sharon said. “We’ve become a sense of security for them when they arrive with their bands to perform for a BOA Regional or Grand Nationals…numerous pit students have hugged me saying how exciting it’s been that I’ve been there all four years of their high school band [experience]. For both of us, it’s such an ego trip, seeing the appreciation in so many eyes.”

Music for All is indebted to the Holzers and our many other volunteers. Without volunteers, Music for All would not be able to carry out its mission to create, provide and expand positively life-changing experiences. On why they choose to volunteer, the Holzers said:

“BOA provides the stage for musicians and directors from all over the country to perform and witness music achievement at all levels. It’s a meeting place for showcasing talent, but also providing a ‘fraternity’ for school musicians. In many schools across the country during times of cuts and cost-saving, cutting fine arts programs seems the way to go. BOA makes a powerful statement about the value and importance of music education in all our lives.”

Each year, hundreds of volunteers, like the Holzers, register to volunteer at Music for All and Bands of America events using TRS (The Registration System). These volunteers step forward to help Music for All and other arts organizations host national events and to make sure these events are successful. Volunteers work tirelessly over the course of multiple shifts, and often multiple days, to ensure arts organizations have the support they need to put on world-class events. Florence May, President at TRS, has seen firsthand the importance and prevalence of volunteering for arts organizations.

“These people could spend their time earning a wage or on personal pursuits but choose to make a difference in the lives of thousands of young musicians,” May says. “The volunteers are not seeking our gratitude, but we feel tremendous appreciation for their efforts supporting high-quality music performances.”