by Bruce P. Hicks - Director of Music, Archbishop Beck Catholic College
TEXAS, SAN ANTONIO
12TH - 15TH FEBRUARY 2014
The Texas Music Educators Association Convention 2014 was held in San Antonio, Texas.
Founded in 1920, T.M.E.A. has become the largest and most successful music organisation in America. This year's convention was rich in musical offerings from Texas, all State musicians, honour groups and invited ensembles, all of whom delivered inspirational performances.
Some of the most knowledgeable clinicians in America presented workshops which motivated, stimulated and were full of great ways to teach. There were so many opportunities for professional growth.
We enjoyed seeing some old friends and making new ones. We came away with a new sense of energy and many innovative concepts and ideas that will further enhance our music programme.
THE TOUR BEGINS!
After an unexpected enforced delay at Manchester Airport we finally boarded our plane to carry our group to the U.S.A.
Trepidation combined with excitement awaited as we meet the challenge of making the connecting flight from Philadelphia to San Antonio. Little did we know that, due to the weather the connecting flight would be delayed? However, Emma Haughton must have looked suspicious as she was selected for a pre-boarding search!
Once on the plane we settled into a 7 hour flight. I noticed that on our T.V. screen was the quote 'Everyone comes to America with a dream! What's yours?'
Well, ours was to see, hear and learn about the best that music Education has to offer
We were greeted, on landing at Philadelphia Airport by a glistening blanket of snow. After a long connecting flight to San Antonio we arrived at the Menger Hotel, a historic and beautiful setting, and we knew our group was in for a magical week in San Antonio.
After a restful night, weather wise a dull day dawned, but warm weather was on its way. A feast of pancakes started our first full day in San Antonio, also followed was a visit to Denny's Restaurant. Aaron Barker, an ever inquisitive young man, managed to have a full 20 minute Lecture by the Director of Public Relations, Mr Ernest Malacara, on the resident "ghosts" that haunt the Hotel, in particular Sally the maid who was murdered at the Hotel in the 18th Century. Mr Malacara also produced some very captivating photographic evidence.
Clear skies above, an excited mood descended on the day. We made our way to the "Henry B Gonzalez Convention Centre". What awaited, we were unsure but, if excitement was anything to go by, we were in for a mind blowing musical treat of huge proportions. (Everything is bigger and better in Texas!). We saw on news reports that much of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.A. was about to have some of the worst snow storms in history, but not here in San Antonio.
We had a chance to explore the area and had an excellent visit to the historical Alamo site. The Tower of the Americas, which provided, panoramic views and a historical display of San Antonio.
The Conference now opened to visitors and we enjoyed an afternoon looking at the vast array of Exhibits. Our group was then treated to an amazing evening meal, courtesy of the Northeastern Music Publishing Company. Serenaded, 'wined' and dined in an authentic Mexican restaurant, aptly named the Don Pedro (highly recommended).
However, on the lighter side, we can now laugh at the logistical mess that ensued beforehand in attempting to get our group to the Don Pedro. Somehow, Liverpudlian accents sounded as if they were from another planet and it was lost on the native San Antonian TAXI DRIVER!
Thursday came and a sunny Texan morning dawned. Off to hear the Keynote Address by Tim Lautzenheiser, a motivational speak of international repute and highly regarded in Texas. Dr Tim gave many insights into the world of music education and the importance of it to a young person's development. A few key phrases were: "Argue for limitations and you will get it" and "Positives come and go, negatives accumulate".
It was great to meet up with Dr Craig Hamilton, a recent visitor to Liverpool (a colleague of our visitor a few weeks ago, Professor Sim Flora,) both from Ouschita Baptist University, and also our friends from Northeastern Music Publishing, Dr Randy Navarre and Charlie Battista. Our day had been 14 hours long, filled with workshops, training and concerts.
We were privileged to attend the University of Texas Symphonic Wind Orchestra's concert. This is the premier University Ensemble in the world. Certainly a day to remember, to reflect on and to cherish for many years to come.
Another new day, but would it be as good as the day before. In one word it was AWESOME! Outstanding Clinics, Outstanding Musicians, Outstanding Learning. Our students were immersed in a sea of opportunity. Some more time to reflect and network. Break for tea with our friends from Northeastern. The best steakhouse in Texas.
Saturday, the final day, and we know that this part of the conference schedule is when concerts form a major part of the programming, as distinct from clinic presentations.
These concerts are called the "All State Performances" by the elite of the school system in Texas. Over 60,000 students audition for a place in the top rated ensembles, with less than 3% gaining a place. On the days of the conference they are auditioned and rehearsed by the very top music educators, each of the many Groups, Bands, Orchestras and Choirs are working to prepare a planned programme for performance during this day.
We bid farewell to our friends from Northeastern Music as they pack everything away now that the Exhibition programme has come to an end. They have been very impressed with our young people, as Dr Navarre said of them "a mature, sociable and committed group". As team leader I fully endorse this view and congratulate each and every one on how they represented themselves, the college community and the U.K.
One music company had as a strap line on their merchandise "We go the extra mile" and "Music is forever".
I began to reflect how this philosophy is so prevalent at Archbishop Beck Catholic College. We can certainly be very proud of the fact that we take our students the extra mile in whatever we do at the College, and that music is certainly a high profile, important part in the life of our college community.
We sat back, and enjoyed the outstanding musicianship. Outstanding music performed and conducted by outstanding people.
The performances were evocative, emotional and truly reflected the amazing standards of music. We were so impressed with the knowledge, expertise and passion shown by all the music students and their teachers. Truly inspirational!
Sunday, our final day, gave us time for a late start Having fully found our feet, we took the local transport out to the Historic Mission area.
Our point of call was the Mission "San Jose", founded in the 1770s by the Franciscan Fathers. We were able to attend Mass and became completely mesmerised by the Mariachi musicians and choir, who led the singing.
The philosophy running through the convention was the importance of music education to our young people and we finish this part of the report with some of the thought provoking quotes heard during the convention:
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today. (African Proverb)
Some student reflections:
"Raise your hand if you are here because of a music teacher" This quote has stuck with me throughout my time in San Antonio as it was all made possible through the help of Mr Hicks. This week has been an incredible journey of musical development for me and it has been a truly amazing experience. The highlight of the week for me was when we all gathered in the Lilly Cockrell Theatre for Tim Lautzenheiser's opening keynote address. This address allowed me to truly understand the role that music can play in a persons life. His speech came to a close after he conducted the audience in a performance of Amazing Grace. This well-known piece erupted from the audience and ended in harmony singing. The conference was filled with inspiring musicians that held lectures and concerts throughout the week, this was all brought to a close with a couple of concerts featuring the All-State ensembles. Students from all over Texas grouped together to create the All-State groups, thus creating an ensemble that was clearly "the best of, the best of, the best" A concert conducted by Frank Tichelli brought the conference to a close and brought us all to tears. Throughout the week we also were able to see some of the City and in true tourist fashion we bought Stetsons, took a boat along the river walk, visited the Alamo and climbed up to the top of the Tower of the America's. After a busy week we somehow managed to find time to do some shopping as well as enjoy a picnic in Hemisfair Park on Valentine's Day. On our final night we all gathered in the Hard Rock Cafe, this gave us all some time to reflect on the week and receive our 'Little Miss' Books, the group then presented Mr Hicks with his custom Baton that we had bought at the conference for him. Tears were shed as we said our goodbyes to San Antonio. The trip to San Antonio was a complete success and was truly a week filled with music and laughter. I feel that the trip has allowed me to pursue my career in music with a better understanding of how it can change a person's life and also brought me closer to the other students on the trip.
Rachael Patterson (1st Clarinet)
San Antonio,Texas was fantastic! The TMEA conference really opened my eyes and re-affirmed my appreciation and love for music. The conference started with a Keynote speaker, he asked us to stand up and hum 2 verses of Amazing Grace. The first verse in unison, the 2nd in harmony. Over 3000 people sang. It was so inspiring, I was in awe. My highlight of the conference was getting the amazing opportunity to see a variety of high standard jazz ensembles. I have always held jazz very close to my heart and, after seeing world class musicianship I aim to continue practicing to achieve a standard just as high as those students.
Sean Sweeney (Year 10, Trumpet)
Texas was an amazing place for opportunities and I was fortunate to have been able to go on this trip. We visited Texas for the TMEA conference in which we were immersed in different styles and varieties of the teaching and performing of music. There was a particularly inspirational moment in which Dr Tim Lautzenheiser had every single person in the auditorium singing Amazing Grace in 4 part harmony, without any practice. He then went on to say that without a particular musical person in your life, you would not be where you are today. Also, I found the tour to be very beneficial in that I got to know everyone better. Not only music sharing music experiences but also through touring around and sight-seeing together, such as the Tower of the Americas which was 750 feet tall from which I could see the surrounding area and what it represents - Culture! The beauty of the river walk was exceptional. We travelled through the water passages, taking in the history of this city. San Antonio was very picturesque and very informative. Memories of this trip will stay with me for a long time. It really has been a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Megan Jones (6th Form, Clarinet)
I was given the amazing opportunity to go to San Antonio, Texas to attend the TMEA Clinic/Convention 2014. I thought the whole experience was magical, inspiring and motivational. Apart from browsing the exhibits and stalls constantly, I was lucky enough to go to a few live performances, including one conducted by Frank Tichel. This was truly amazing. His composition, Angels in the Architecture is a pure masterpiece as a contrast between good and evil, and received a standing ovation. Apart from the Convention, I took a boat ride along the river and a bus tour around the downtown area. I also was able to go shopping and eat some excellent food, including steak, burgers, Mexican and breakfast at Denny's. To finish the week off we paid a visit to, now my favourite place, Hard Rock Cafe. This week has been fantastic and I have had the best time ever! It has really made me determined to continue my music studies and to continue playing even more.
"I want everybody to stand up and hum Amazing Grace, add any harmony you wish". 3000 people sang, and there was not one man or woman without a tear in their eye. This is how the Conference in Texas began. This is why music is the most powerful tool in the world, and this is why every child needs to receive an effective music education. I aim to enrich my life with a variety of aspects of music and am always striving to better myself as an educator, performer and communicator. The TMEA Conference, in a very short space of time, has provided me with a plethora of inspirational ideas, tactics and techniques. I know this will feed into, and guide me, in my vocation. Texas is rich with high standards in music education and aims for perfection. I attended clinics that would better my instrumental playing, alternative workshop methods and effective band direction and rehearsal technique. What was most compelling was the well thought out methodologies for a consistent music education, and simplistic but effective rehearsal techniques. I feel I have the tools to pass onto my students (and to use in my own rehearsal playing as well), to ensure each and every individual can assess their own progress and make the most of every rehearsal. Overall, I have been deeply moved and encouraged by my time in Texas. The hard work and dedication from tutors, clinicians and students have warmed my heart and confirmed why I fill my life with music.
Emma Haughton (Woodwind Tutor)
- There are many who have made this trip possible and we extend our thanks and appreciation.
- To the parents of our students who supported and raised funds for the Tour
- To the Trustees of the Margaret Bryce Scholarship fund, we extend our deep appreciation
- To the College P.T.A. - you help so many activities at the College
- To Club Europe our ever helpful tour company
- Our friends at North Eastern Music Publishing for your friendship, fellowship and for sharing your love of music with us
- Paul Dickinson, our Headteacher, who always makes sure that students of the College have opportunities way and beyond the classroom
- To our partner Primary schools we thank you for all the support and encouragement give to the young musicians in our programme - "Small acorns grow into large Oak trees"
- To the group of students who travelled to Texas - you represented yourselves with distinction
We thank you one and all for your support in this amazing journey. We have much to reflect on from the Texas Music Educators Convention, this was a life enhancing experience for one and all.
Bruce P Hicks, Director of Music (February 2014)