By DJ Corchin

Next year, Music for All will implement one of its biggest changes to the Summer Symposium since the addition of Orchestra. A new middle school concert division will be added to the life-changing music camp that has served tens of thousands of high school musicians over four decades. Thanks to a life-long friendship rooted in Music for All events, the idea was driven by two middle school band directors who share a passion for innovative, meaningful experiences.

Two Paths Connected

Keith Ozsvath and Greg Scapillato have known each other nearly 30 years. From attending high school and college together to being Best Man at each other’s weddings, their friendship is an important part of their lives.

It has also helped shape similar educational philosophies.

“I would like my students to get to the point where they no longer need me,” says Scapillato. “If they know how to teach themselves, a world of possibilities is open to them.”

The same humility is present in how Keith looks at his role.

“I try to give my students the necessary tools to be a successful musician. Success breeds success!”

Together they’ve participated in many Music for All events throughout the years, including being students at the Summer Symposium in its early days at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. Their time spent with faculty role models like Tim Lautzenheiser and the late L.J. Hancock remain with them today. “They left a lasting impression on me that influenced my personal and professional life,” says Ozsvath.

Volunteering as a Summer Symposium SWAG – the team of counselors and teaching assistants that are the heart and soul of the camp – was a pivotal point in each of their lives, and when they fell in love with being music educators. Ozsvath and Scapillato were both chosen to be part of the SWAG Team in the early 90’s (Greg later helping to lead the team from 1996-1998). It ignited a spark that inspired them to continue looking for meaningful experiences. Keith felt connected to the larger vision of the team.

“I had an enormous sense of pride being part of something bigger than me, but also felt a huge responsibility.”

It was their connection to the SWAG team that ultimately was responsible for the creation of the new middle school track at the Summer Symposium.

Revisiting Innovation

In 2012, Scapillato was approached by friend, former SWAG, and now MFA Board Member Anmol Mehra about helping with the first SWAG Alumni weekend. During this weekend, Music for All CEO Eric Martin expressed his desire to hear from alumni and constituents on ways the organization could better serve them. Greg, with the culmination of his experiences with MFA and as a middle school teacher, spoke up. “What about middle school students attending the Summer Symposium?”

A short time later, with additional interest from Martin and Richard Saucedo, a Music for All Educational Consultant, Martin charged Scapillato with putting together a team of passionate individuals to create a plan for the middle school track. The natural pick for a partner in such an endeavor was Ozsvath, Scapillato’s friend and colleague of three decades.

“Greg and I are the best of friends. Because we have both participated as students and SWAGs at BOA camps and are now veteran middle school music educators, these experiences have contributed to creating a solid vision for this camp,” Ozsvath says.

Technology allowed Ozsvath and Scapillato to connect over many hours in addition to their teaching jobs. Ozsvath, a director at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia, IL, and Scapillato in Northbrook District 28 in Northbrook, IL, found it difficult to meet on a regular basis. However, their love of technology allowed them to communicate multiple times a week, and often into the night. The fact that they saw this endeavor as a natural extension of their daily lives (teaching middle school band students) made it easy to remain focused on the larger picture: to create the best middle school camp in the country.

With some of the best minds in music education needing to sign off on the proposal, Ozsvath and Scapillato were able to show how Music for All can provide a positively life-changing experience to middle school students at the Summer Symposium. Ultimately the panel of top music educators, board members, and staff, all with the needs of the students in mind, agreed that Music for All is uniquely positioned to foster the middle school students’ desire to perform in high school and continue their music education – and the Middle School Summer Symposium Division was born.

Full Circle

Throughout their 30-year journey, they kept focused on their simple and thoughtful educational rules.

Scapillato says, “Put your students first and everything else will follow.” Ozsvath shares, “The knowledge and skills your students can or cannot demonstrate is a direct reflection on your teaching. Work hard and reflect often.”

Growing up together, it’s appropriate their rules compliment each other: finding a balance between taking responsibility for yourself, and putting those you care for before your own needs.

As Ozsvath and Scapillato prepare for the inaugural year of the Middle School Track at the 2016 Summer Symposium, they continue to leverage their friendship and shared life experiences to foster a fun, engaging collaboration. Since their days in high school together, they have held music education and their time spent attending MFA events close to their hearts. Those events have connected Ozsvath and Scapillato in powerful and deeply meaningful ways through their combined 33 years of teaching. It’s only fitting that connection be responsible for creating an experience that will help young adults find a similar passion for experiencing with the world through Music for All.

Keith Ozsvath is passionate about teaching music, professional development, and integrating technology. He joined the music faculty at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia, Illinois, in 2000 and teaches the 8th Grade Band, Jazz Ensemble, and the Symphonic Band. Mr. Ozsvath is an active adjudicator and clinician in the Chicago area. He is a member of the American School Band Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, been recognized twice by “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” and is an Eagle Scout. He has been an Illinois Summer Youth Music conductor at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Additionally, he has presented sessions at the National Middle School Association Conference, Illinois Music Educators All-State Conference, and at VanderCook College of Music.

Keith currently teaches two VanderCook MECA classes: Tech Tools for the Music Educator and an online class, You Made This! Website Design & Creation for Music Educators. Mr. Ozsvath also authors a blog,, which provides practical teaching ideas for music educators.

Greg Scapillato teaches band in North- brook District 28 (IL), conducting the Wind Ensemble and teaching lessons grades 4-8. Mr. Scapillato strives to create meaningful musical experiences for students in his care. While teaching the Beginning Band, he introduced a demonstration concert designed to improve parent investment and engage- ment. The NBJH Wind Ensemble, under Mr. Scapillato’s direction, has benefitted from special performance opportunities, including joint concerts with professional ensembles and service-based performances such as the local Vet- erans’ Day Ceremony. Mr. Scapillato also initiated a biennial alumni concert to connect students to those with a life-long love of music performance. In addition to music-related pursuits, Mr. Scapillato enjoys developing his expertise with technology and its integration to accelerate student learning.

Success is not a solo adventure: Mr. Scapillato is grateful for supportive colleagues, friends, and family. He calls Arlington Heights, Illinois, home with his wife, son, and an incorrigible Golden Retriever.