AOA: Strike up the… Orchestra!

What a wonderful AMEA Conference! As physically exhausting as these conferences can be, I for one, am feeling professionally refreshed and primed for the year ahead. The AOA made a point to sponsor sessions that not only spoke to our membership directly but also touched on topics that are relevant to all music educators, both seasoned and novice alike. Our headline clinician, Bob Phillips (Alfred Music), was inspirational with his sessions on beginning strings, the art and science of motivation, and his session on transforming the tone of your ensemble. We were also fortunate to have Dr. Jason Sulliman (Troy University) inform us about the importance of wellness and injury prevention and Dr. Anne Witt (University of Alabama) discuss classroom management strategies. Joe Brennan (Haverford High School, PA) joined us again this year with tips on how to improve ensemble skills and Dr. Thomas Brough focused his attention on our pre-service teachers with tips and advice on things young educators need to know. Finally, our colleagues at the University of North Alabama – Dr. Tracy Wiggins, Dr. Meghan Merciers, Sam Merciers, and Dr. Whitney O’Neal joined us for an early session on Saturday morning on teaching improvisation in the ensemble setting. It was a great way to end the conference!

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Greg Gumina for providing the opportunity for the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra to perform at the Keynote address. Greg’s support of the AOA is very much appreciated. Having the ASYO perform highlighted the wonderful opportunities that could exist for ALL of our students with the establishment, growth and strengthening of string programs around our state. I encourage everyone to seek out those students that are not participating in your school music programs because they don’t have an ensemble to join and consider advocating for those students with your local school boards. The AOA is here to assist in any way we can to help give those students the same opportunities as their peers in band, choir and other school-based arts programs.

A big shout out also has to the go to the Alabama School of Fine Arts String Ensemble for their lobby performance. Directed by Kim Strickland the ensemble played an eclectic program that was very well received by those that attended. The AOA would like to encourage more of our state string/orchestra programs to consider applying to perform in 2020!

By the time this edition of Ala Breve arrives in your mailbox or inbox the AOA will have concluded its annual All-State Orchestra Festival. We would like to thank the University of Alabama for once again hosting the festival! As in previous years the AOA held a Composition Contest with the winning piece receiving its premier performance by the Festival Orchestra. This year we will feature Discord by Nabil Abad. Mr. Abad’s work was chosen from more than 30 entries from all over the world. In case you missed it in a previous issue, our clinicians this year are Dr. Raphael Jimenez, Director of Orchestras at Oberlin College, Mr. Bryan Buffaloe, Director of Orchestras at Clear Lake High School (Houston, TX), and Dr. Gail Barnes (University of South Carolina), Professor of Music Education and Director of the USC String Project. We are excited to have such a talented line up of conductors to work with our students! I also need to take this opportunity to thank the members of the AOA Board for all their hard work in bringing our All-State festival to fruition. Without such a great team effort we would not be able to put forth this opportunity for the students in our state. I would also like to thank all of our District Chairs for their work in recruiting students and running the auditions for this year’s festival.

Last, but not least, the AOA will be hosting our 4th Music Performance Assessment event on April 5 at Gadsden City High School. I would like to thank Keith LaBenne and the Gadsden City High School administration for their willingness to host us this year. More information about the event can be found on our website –

I hope that your year is filled with great music making, student success, and professional satisfaction. Please reach out and let us know how the AOA can better serve you and your students. I look forward to seeing you at one of our remaining spring events.


Guy Harrison
Alabama Orchestra Association

Important Spring Dates
Registration Deadline for MPA – Orchestra: March 1

MPA – Orchestra Event: Friday April 5
Gadsden City High School