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Ask Mr. Case
Regarding the MSBOA - Part 2 (2014) | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:50

I recently received an important question from an HSMA parent:

"I heard we are no longer participating in the MSBOA. Is that true? If so, what should we do if we still want to do S & E and All State Honors Band?"

The short answer is that we are no longer participating in the MSOA, but we are excited to roll out a viable, credible alternative for things the MSBOA used to offer us for the 2014-2015 season. The new things we are doing will be similar enough to what we have been doing to be familiar, yet different enough to provide exciting opportunities that did not previously exist.

In May 2014, we and all other home school music groups who had been members of the MSBOA were informed that we were no longer eligible for membership. To be fair to the MSBOA, the leadership makes decisions that they believe to be in the best interest of the organization. However, we believe the MSBOA leadership made this particular decision based on misconception, innuendo, and in some cases willful ignorance, rather than on facts. There is some controversy within the MSBOA on this issue, with many in the membership supportive of our continued membership in the MSBOA.

My counterpart in Oakland Homeschool Music and I have seen this coming for some time. In 2011, I wrote a preliminary plan for how we might deal with this type of situation, and he and I are now busy improving upon and implementing this plan.

This year, we will have the following activities available that the MSBOA used to provide. There is a LOT of detail behind each of these activities . . . more at the end of this article on where to obtain additional information!

  • Solo & Ensemble Festival – we will have Jr. High and Sr. High S&E (including proficiencies). Rather than District and State, we will have a single festival. This festival will replace BOTH the MSBOA S&E festivals and the Spring Arbor festival.
  • Band & Orchestra Festival – As we have the last couple of years, we will be joining other home school groups (and a few others!) in our own B&O festival. This replaces the MSBOA B&O Festival.
  • Honors Programs – We will have All-Michigan Honors Band and Honors Orchestra and a Concerto Competition, to give outstanding students a MYAF-like experience. This Honors Program is very different from what we used to have with the Home School Music Network in the past. We adapted the MYAF model, where proficiency scores determine participation. In addition, we will have an Honors Recital (separate from the HSMA Honors Recital) where some of the best S&E events will perform.

Two important caveats to the above:

  • Initially, this will only apply to instrumental students. We do not currently have a problem with the MSVMA. Our motto is that we need to get this right before we get it big, and so we will be adding features and services in the near future, including provision for vocal S&E and honors programs.
  • HSMA will continue to hold a separate, in-house S&E program for our younger and least experienced students – and it will continue to include Mr. Case’s Pizza Party!

These activities will be under the umbrella of the Youth Arts Coalition, which will be made up of not only home school groups, but to schools as well. We have already identified a few schools to help pilot this program, so that we can be as meaningful and inclusive as possible as we roll the program out.

These activities are not just “ideas” – we have been working hard to make them a reality this year. At the October 13 rehearsal, this will be the topic of the Monday Night Q&A (6:45, Fireside Room). I would encourage everyone to attend this session to get the details of this new, exciting program!

“No Cowards!”

Mr. Case

The Meaning of "No Cowards!" | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:48

Someone asked a great question recently:

"I see you use the phrase "No Cowards!" frequently. What does it mean, and where did it come from?"

General George S. Patton once said, "Courage is fear hanging on a minute longer." That sentiment is as applicable to musicians as it is to soldiers. Being a musician takes courage. You perform in front of an audience. When things do not go well or the unexpected happens, you cannot just "stop." You have to stick it out and keep going with grace. Often - particularly in smaller ensembles like those that we have - you will be covering a part by yourself. You cannot give in to fear and be successful by any measure as a musician.

Musicians must overcome fear in many areas. Auditions cause stress for any musician - from the least experienced to the professional. Some struggle with anxiety when performing - either by themselves or in a large group. My daughter's former flute teacher - who has a PhD in flute performance - struggles with this and actually did her dissertation on overcoming performance anxiety! Whether you are auditioning for an All-State ensemble, or for a side-by-side concert, or simply for placement in an HSMA ensemble, auditions can be a fearful time for many students.

Competition is another area where musicians have to overcome fear. Performing at a Solo & Ensemble event, or something similar, provides a lot of pressure on a student. Performing in the face of these fears is what musicians do, on a regular basis.

Timid musicians do not do as well. They tend to be out-of-tune. Their tone does not blend well. They actually make more mistakes. And guess what? A wrong note hit timidly . . . is still a wrong note. If you do hit a wrong note, at least make it the best-sounding wrong note you can!

At HSMA, we have a saying: "We don't expect more of you than you are capable of. But, we do expect all you are capable of." Sometimes that is actually more than you think it is. If you give in to fear, you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing.

You can be a "No Cowards!" student by putting to use the following techniques:

  1. Be as prepared as possible. When someone is in a stressful situation, training, conditioning or habits tend to take over. The better you have prepared yourself, the more likely you will do well. Make use of all the resources available to you to help you prepare – your private teacher and your HSMA conductors, for example.
  2. Understand that, when you have done your best, there is no more. Many musicians are perfectionists who will dwell on the one note that was out-of-tune rather than the 300+ that were exquisite. Clearly, we want to perform as flawlessly as possible. Nevertheless, if you have done your best, do not be consumed by what did not go as you wanted it to. Use those things as opportunity to improve for the future rather than feeling defeated about them in the present.
  3. Motivation is everything. We have another saying at HSMA: We strive to do the right thing, the right way, for the right reason, and leave the results up to the Lord. Are you performing for the acclaim of your peers, or judges, or parents? If so, you have a right to be fearful, because that can be a fickle standard. If you are motivated to do the very best you can as a testimony to the gift of music that God has given you, He will honor that.
  4. Become acclimated to handling the stress of performing by . . . performing a lot! Participate in various competitions and festivals. Take auditions. This will not make these situations any less fearful, but you will learn how to deal with the stress and fear in a way that will allow you to perform at your best under all circumstances.
  5. Recognize that everyone else is just as nervous as you are. Some have learned to deal with it better than others, but they are still in a fearful situation. You are not the only one who is concerned with doing their best.

At HSMA, we do not want you to give in to fear, nor do we advocate that you avoid fearful situations. Rather, we encourage you to "[hang] on a minute longer."

"No Cowards!"

Mr. Case


Re-Launched Blog: Ask Mr. Case | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:48

Are there things you wonder about regarding HSMA? Maybe you are curious about HSMA history or trivia. Perhaps you are interested in why we do something the way we do. Possibly, you would like a better sense of who HSMA is and how we became who we are.

This blog was inspired at an HSMA board meeting. Occasionally, as we are discussing an issue I will take the opportunity to talk about how we got to the point we are at on the issue, or why HSMA has not adopted a certain approach in the past, or some philosophical underpinning of HSMA. Sometimes the board will respond to my interminable rambling with, “I never knew that,” or “I never looked at it that way” or “I wish everyone in HSMA knew that.”

Here, I will share with you some things that they or I consider important or special about HSMA. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to ask me questions as well! What would you like to know more about? My goal is to post something at least once a week during the regular HSMA season – so check back often!

If there is something that you always wondered about, you can email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Who knows? Your question may be the topic of my next article!

“No Cowards!”

Mr. Case


Regarding the MSBOA - Part 1 (2012) | Print |
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Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 12 January 2012 14:44

I think it important to address a question that has not been asked, and that is our position on the current situation with the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA).

First, a little background. The MSBOA has been around for more that 75 years, with a goal of assisting public and private schools develop instrumental music instruction, and providing various festivals to assist individual students, small ensembles and large ensembles in achieving excellence. For a long time, the MSBOA has been highly regarded nationally as one of the best organizations of its kind, and music students in the state of Michigan often have an advantage over other students in terms of the quality of music education and experience they receive.

HSMA was the first home school music group admitted to the MSBOA. Membership in this organization was a goal we had, hoping to attain that by our tenth anniversary. We achieved that goal in eight years. Since then, several other home school music groups have joined the MSBOA.

While there are individual directors here or there who have an issue with what we do, the MSBOA as an organization has been nothing but supportive. But the nature of what we do and how we do it causes some issues. Many of these can be readily addressed.

In order for a home school music group to participate in the MSBOA, they must meet certain criteria:

  1. They must have a state-certified teacher. Apparently, this has been a rule for years, but it is not made clear on any of the membership information I have seen. When we joined, we were never asked about that. For reasons completely unrelated to home schooling, the MSBOA ran a check of all member directors through the Department of Education database. ANY director who was not certified was denied membership this year. The only directors in HSMA that hold current state teaching certificates are Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Benson. As you know, Mr. O'Donnell teaches our beginning band students. Mr. Benson is sacrificially stepping up to make sure that HSMA is able to meet this requirement for MSBOA membership. However, both his and Mr. O'Donnell's certificates lapse at the end of this year, so we are working on options for next year.
  2. The performing ensemble must receive full academic credit. Our ensembles meet that requirement. In our case, we do issue grades for students whose parents have requested it. Some home school organizations issue grades regardless of whether they have been requested to or not.
  3. The class must be part of the curricular day. In public schools, this means as part of the regular school day. As we all know, the "curricular day" for home educated students is a little less clearly defined. We do not expect problems with that.

Briefly, here are some of the other issues not related directly to MSBOA Membership:

  1. Because of their enrollment, all MSBOA-member home school music groups are classified as Class D. Generally, a Class D school will have smaller ensembles than other classifications. Some of our larger home school music programs (not us, but West Michigan and Oakland, for example) may show up with an 80-piece band. Other Class D schools with, say, 30-member ensembles do not want to be scheduled near the larger home school ensembles. More on that later.
  2. Class D ensembles also generally perform easier music. There are a variety of reasons for that, one of which is instrumentation issues. Home school ensembles have a tendency to play more difficult music than many other Class D schools. For that reason, other Class D schools do not want to be scheduled next to - "compared" - to home school ensembles.
  3. There is a perception that home school ensembles have an unfair advantage over their public school counterparts. We all know that this is patently not true. However, the perception remains.

Now, back to the "more on that." Festivals in the MSBOA are designed to be non-competitive. That is, rather than comparing ensembles with each other, ensembles are compared to a standard by the judges. However, festival results have over time become an important part of how a director is or isn't doing his job. They are concerned that when Sr. Orchestra plays Class A music among other Class D ensembles, that the judges will compare them to Sr. Orchestra. That's is not what is supposed to happen, but that is the fear that many of them have. "I'm a Class D orchestra with limited resources and play Class D music pretty well, but really can't go above that. I'm stuck in a schedule following a Class D ensemble that is performing - well - Class A music. No matter how well we do, we're going to get a II or a III for sure, and my principal or superintendent will be displeased that we got a II - again - and my job may be in jeopardy."

To correct for this, HSMA has offered - and for the 2012 Festivals actually registered - at classes higher than Class D. In the festival schedule, this will put our ensembles with Class B (Jr. Orchestra) or Class A (Sr. Orchestra) ensembles. Although we are almost certainly smaller than these other ensembles, that is the level of music we will be performing.

In summary:

  • We support the MSBOA. The leadership is in a difficult position, and have been nothing but supportive.
  • This current situation is not an anti-home school vendetta. As a matter of fact, it was occasioned by an issue with a public school.
  • HSMA strongly discourages families from talking about this on social media or contacting the MSBOA. The more families that do discuss it on social media or protest to the MSBOA, the harder it is on us to work things through. As a matter of fact, HSMA has been in the forefront of encouraging other home school music groups to ask their members to refrain from these counter-productive actions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Parent Rep (Band: Marilyn Frazee, Choir: Heather Miller, Strings: Scott Smith) and they will be happy to discuss it with you.

"No Cowards!"

Mr. Case