From the President
Paraphrased from AOA’s bylaws, this title exemplifies the message that our organization attempts to spread throughout our musical, and non-musical community. Despite the state of our country and politics, AOA seeks to be an inclusive organization striving to support Alabama’s existing string and orchestra programs, teachers, and students, and helping nurture new ones into existence. There is no room for discrimination. In our state, we are the musical minority, the red-headed step-child, if you will. Therefore, we are constantly seeking to gain equal recognition in the public eye.
Paraphrasing further in our bylaws, the AOA seeks to stimulate professional growth and advance standards of achievement in the string and orchestra communities. I believe we have had remarkable success in raising the standard of string and orchestral playing in the state. Alabama All-State Orchestra now has three highly competitive orchestras, where twenty years ago, we only had one. AOA will host our third MPA in April 2018, a tradition we hope to continue and expand upon. New school programs have sprung up in Tuscaloosa in the past fifteen years thanks to Dr. Anne Witt and Birmingham city programs are starting to make a come-back. Just this year, Norwood Elementary in Birmingham started a new program, feeding into the middle and high school programs that already exist. In time, this system will be musically strengthened.
Despite the positive news and trends, I am very frustrated by the refusal of administrators in the wealthy “Over-the-Mountain” area south of Birmingham, my own home base, to support string and orchestra programs. I’m also frustrated by accounts from parents of band directors refusing to sponsor students to All-State Orchestra when the schools do not have an orchestra program or director to sponsor them. Another complaint is against administrators who view All-State Orchestra as akin to a “baseball travel-team,” and not an excused absence. Attitudes like this are what our community deals with frequently in Alabama, if you were unaware. In other states, school orchestra is viewed as an essential and beneficial offering.
With the mixture of public and private programs (youth orchestras, string projects, and programs that serve the economically disadvantaged), Alabama is on a positive trajectory, however slight. Bringing in top notch clinicians and conductors is one way the AOA strives to foster growth and excitement in our state. At the 2018 AMEA conference in January, our headline clinician will be world-renowned pedagogue and educator, Dr. Robert Gillespie, Professor of Music at The Ohio State University. At the conference, we will have the opportunity to learn teaching methods and techniques to improve ensembles and students in both the classroom and studio settings. We will also have the opportunity to learn about physical and mental wellness, and how it can affect our performing and teaching. A new addition in 2018 will be chamber music performances and masterclasses, an element that will show off our top students, and increase AOA’s presence at the conference. Besides these sessions, there will be many other topics discussed, and professional opportunities that I hope you will be as excited as I am to experience, including the outstanding Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
We are honored to have Norman Huynh direct the 2018 All-State Festival Orchestra. Norman is Associate Director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. Leading the Sinfonia will be Dr. Perry Holbrook, Director of Orchestras at Walton High School north of Atlanta, and the Consort String Orchestra will be conducted by Dr. Andrew Dabczynski, Professor Emeritus at Brigham Young University. I hope to see you in Birmingham at the conference, and again in February at UA for All-State Orchestra!