From the President

AOA: From the President!

Dear Educators,

Welcome back to what I hope will be an exciting and successful year! The Alabama Orchestra Association is looking forward to serving the needs of our division’s teachers and students throughout the 2018-2019 school year. I would like to start by thanking Dr. Samuel Nordlund for his leadership and vision during his recent tenure as President of AOA. Since my arrival in Alabama only five short years ago I have observed first-hand the continued rise in talent, performance level and growth of traditional programs such as the Orchestra All-State Festival and the implementation of new ventures such as a dedicated Orchestra Music Performance Assessment event. It is because of the leadership of dedicated professionals such as Sam that the Alabama Orchestra Association is able to provide quality opportunities not only for string players in Alabama but for any instrumentalist that wants to experience the excitement and musical satisfaction that comes from performing in a symphonic setting.

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you the members of the AOA’s new executive board – President-elect Dr. Daniel Stevens (UNA), Secretary Rachel Christmas (George W. Carver HS), and Treasurer Jacob Frank (Decatur Youth Symphony). Along with myself (Auburn University) and past-President Dr. Samuel Nordlund (Samford), the new AOA board consists of a diverse group of educators and music professionals covering orchestral and string education from elementary through higher education and from school-based to community-based programs. Our mission continues to be to support and strengthen existing string and orchestra programs within the state as well as working to help establish new programs throughout Alabama to help meet the needs of underserved students.

Research shows us that Alabama, as well as some of our bordering states, continues to lag behind other regions of the country with regards to school-based string and/or orchestra programs. Currently, many of the students who participate in our programs must seek out and join one of the various community ensembles in order to participate in their desired musical ensemble as they are not able to participate in a school-based string/orchestra program at their local school. Many of these community-based ensembles meet once or twice a week during evenings or on weekends which can have a considerable impact on student’s schedules. As such, it is always with great excitement that we celebrate the news of a newly established school-based string or orchestra program, recognizing those school systems that are committed to providing their students with a comprehensive, well-rounded music program.

On a different note, as we begin a new school year I would love to hear from those of you currently teaching in a school-based or community-based string and/or orchestra program here in Alabama. We would like to publish a series of feature articles throughout the year on current teachers and programs via our social media pages and other available outlets. Stay tuned for more information!

The fall is an especially busy time for the AOA. The beginning of August will see excerpts posted for the upcoming Orchestra All-State Festival auditions. More information about audition dates, times and locations can be found on our website – As in previous years, students can take advantage of being able to audition in any district to help avoid scheduling conflicts brought about by football games or marching competitions. If you are a band director, we sincerely hope that you will encourage your students to audition for our All-State Festival. For wind, brass, and percussion students, the experience of performing with strings as well as the challenge of playing one to a part is second to none.

I am excited to announce that we have a stellar line up of conductors for our 2019 Orchestra All-State Festival which will be held from Feb 7-10, 2019 at the University of Alabama. Our Festival Orchestra will be under the leadership of Dr. Raphael Jimenez (Oberlin College), with Mr. Bryan Buffaloe from Clear Lake HS (TX) conducting our Sinfonia Orchestra, and Dr. Gail Barnes (USC) conducting our Consort String ensemble. Music being performed includes Manuel de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat Suite No. 2, Prelude & Mazurka from Coppelia by Delibes, Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave, Op. 31, Carmen Suite No. 1 by Bizet, and of course the winning entry from the AOA’s Annual Composition Contest.

The Alabama Orchestra Association always strives to find quality clinicians for the AMEA Professional Development Conference. We look for clinicians who will inform, educate, and inspire not only our state’s string teachers but music educators across all the divisions. The 2019 AMEA Conference (Jan. 17-19) will be no exception with a lineup of distinguished clinicians headlined by Bob Phillips who will present three sessions including a general session titled The Art & Science of Motivation. Bob, who currently serves as the Director of String Publications for Alfred Publishing, is renowned as an innovator in string education and brings a wealth of knowledge to his clinics drawn from his 27 years as a public-school educator.

We also expect to have several string vendors at the 2019 AMEA conference. As we finalize our vendors we will let you know who they are via our Facebook page so you can contact them with any specific needs you might have while you are attending the conference. Hopefully we won’t have any of the weather issues that forced several of our string-specific vendors to abandon their travel plans last year.

The 2018-2019 school year will also feature the 4th annual Orchestra Music Performance Assessment event to be held at Gadsden High School in the Spring of 2019. We are working on dates in April and should have those finalized and available to teachers soon. Please check our Facebook page and/or the AOA website for updates. We encourage all string teachers including those that teach guitar and non-traditional string ensembles from both school-based and community-based programs to plan on participating.

Lastly, the AOA is here to serve you. If we can be of any assistance to you or your program please reach out to us. We hope you have a successful and rewarding school year and look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events.

Guy Harrison, AOA President


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