From the President

AOA: Springing Forward from #AMEA2018

Sam Nordlund

Right now it doesn’t really feel like it, but Spring is right around the corner.  What better way to launch us toward warmer weather than a fantastic AMEA Professional Development Conference in the middle of a polar vortex!  Despite typical first-year obstacles presented by the move to Birmingham, AOA’s clinicians and performers were first-rate.  Although we missed the intimacy of Montgomery, the Birmingham Sheraton and BJCC offer the potential for our division to grow significantly.

Dr. Bob Gillespie, our headline clinician, presented three outstanding sessions.  As a co-author of the Essential Elements method books, his introduction into the new technology options was extremely informative.  Likewise, his demonstration of teaching bowing, from the basics to more advanced techniques, was spot-on, and demonstrated his decades of experience as a leading pedagogue.

What was most exciting to me, though, was his session on motivating students.  Unfortunately, I didn’t hear a word of it, because our session room became so packed that I was unable to even crane my neck through the door.  But I could hear the excited response from the standing room only crowd.  I heard from AOA members who have been involved much longer than me that this was by far the highest attendance at an AOA specific session.  The reason we drew so many from across the other divisions (especially collegiate) is that the session title was not string or orchestra specific.  It didn’t hurt that we had a world-class clinician who has been a keynote speaker at conferences around the world.

I should not neglect the other AOA clinicians, as Joe Brennan, Travis Baird, and Anne Witt all presented fascinating sessions.  Besides his session on technology in the classroom, Brennan also gave a public masterclass with performers from the Alabama School of Fine Arts.  The involvement of performing groups from ASFA was a welcome addition, and the AOA will involve more student groups at future conferences, both as chamber groups and orchestras.  Speaking of orchestras, I was thrilled to present the outstanding performance of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.  As the only premier, full-time orchestras in the state, they really do represent us well, and give inspiration to students all over Alabama.

The first four months of the calendar year are incredibly eventful for AOA.  By the time this is published, we will have (hopefully) wrapped up another highly successful All-State Orchestra Festival at UA, February 8-11.  We had the largest number of auditions ever, and the largest number of accepted students.  All-State Orchestra is consistently improving in not only quantity, but quality, thanks to music educators all over Alabama.

On April 6, AOA will hold our 3rd annual Orchestra MPA at Samford University in Birmingham.  Registration forms and information are available at  We hope to grow this event, supporting the visibility and viability of orchestra programs across our state.  After this busy Spring, I will hand off the Presidency of our organization to Dr. Guy Harrison on June 1.  His vision and experience will lead to continued growth, and take the AOA to even greater heights.  Orchestra in Alabama is trending upward, and I like it!


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You don't want to miss some of the finest talent in Alabama! Concert begins in 15 minutes at the Moody Music Bldg of the UA campus! 2018 Alabama All State Orchestra ... See MoreSee Less

You dont want to miss some of the finest talent in Alabama! Concert begins in 15 minutes at the Moody Music Bldg of the UA campus! 2018 Alabama All State Orchestra