News

Make Music Day

March 21, 2024

The NFHS: Supporting Performing Arts Activities In Schools Across the US for Sixty Years

The Make Music Alliance met with James Weaver, Director of Performing Arts and Sports for the National Federation of State High School Associations, to discuss his work and the newly commissioned composition that will be premiered on Make Music Day 2024, June 21st.

MMA: Thank you so much for meeting with us today! We would like to start by asking you to tell us a little about the work you do with the NFHS.

JW: My position at the NFHS is Director of Performing Arts and Sports, so I oversee the activities of music, speech, debate, theater, academic competition, cheer dance and boy’s lacrosse. Most of my time is spent in the music, speech, debate and theater realm, so that is what makes the Make Music Day project so exciting for us. The NFHS has been an organization since 1920, so we have been around for a long time. The performing arts were added onto the NFHS world in 1964, so we have been building up over the last sixty years or so, putting our footprint where it needs to be in the school and state activities associations space. 

MMA: Are you personally a musician, and did you come to this work through music?

JW: I am, yes. I was an orchestra director in northwestern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa when I first started my career out in the world, so I’ve got an education degree in music and all my other degrees are in educational administration. But I am very much a musician and an arts person at heart. 

MMA: Obviously you are super busy, but do you still maintain a personal music practice? 

JW: I wish I did! As far as my kids’ development goes, my son is in orchestra and playing cello so I’ll play the cello with him, and those kinds of things. Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow me to play in a setting for myself. I’ve been asked several times to play for our county symphony, but the rehearsal schedule and my travel schedule just don’t mesh very well. I would love to if I could. 

MMA: Do you see yourself getting back to a personal musical practice at some point?

JW: I think so; right now I’ve got two kids in high school and one about to go to middle school, so life is extremely busy, and hopefully when they are all done and work slows down a little bit, someday I can get back to it. That would be great. However, I still get in a lot of musical practice, as I do a lot of music adjudication at several different states, and then I do clinics for honor ensembles. I really enjoy that, and that is what’s keeping me grounded in the activity right now. 

MMA: This year, the NFHS collaborated on a commission of a piece by Randall Standridge for high school bands to premiere on Make Music Day; we would love to hear some more about this piece, and what your hopes and goals are for the premiere. 

JW: This is a really exciting project. We worked together with Make Music Inc and the NAMM Foundation to put together a free offering for all high school ensembles to be able to perform during Make Music Day, which is really exciting for me. I think it would be great if we can get kids playing in the summer and realizing how good it is to play music every day, so they don’t just walk out of the classroom and forget about playing for the summer—we don’t want that to happen. So, luckily through the connections of Make Music Day, we were able to secure an original composition for this year called “Earthgroove” by Randall Standridge. He is a phenomenal composer in the education space, so this allows for a flex arrangement for any ensemble type at any skill level to be able to participate in Make Music Day. And so, where the NFHS comes in is supporting the administrative aspect of this, with the schools; how do we communicate with the states, how do we communicate with the schools, and how do we really start getting this piece out there to be played in what I hope will be thousands of schools across the country. 

MMA: We are very excited to see how many schools participate, even though of course many schools are already closed for summer by June 21st. How do you see this working?

JW: The nice thing about this is the way the piece works; it’s not going to take a whole lot of effort to really get the kids back in. They can rehearse it during the school year, finish it up, and then the teachers can invite everyone; they could say for example we are going to come in, have a pizza party, play the piece and have a great time playing music together on Make Music Day. So I think there are some easy incentives that can be built in for kids to want to come back, and I also think, with my own kids for example, they like to say “let’s get together and play music on this day; that sounds great’, and we can just do that on Make Music Day. 

MMA: That really sounds like fun. I know it’s early at this point in the year, but I’m curious to know if you have any idea of how many might participate? 

JW: My hope is that we have no fewer than one thousand schools that participate, but my own personal goal is much higher than that. 

MMA: That would be amazing! What resources are available to participating schools for promotion and sharing of their event on Make Music Day? 

JW: We have a suite of packages that will be rolled out over the course of the next few months as we register everybody. Each group will get two things as they register their ensemble: They will get the music for free, which is a huge benefit of being a part of this program, and then on top of that from our office we will start rolling out social media posts and ideas, and templates on what they can do for the social media aspect and for local media. We don’t want to forget about local newspapers, because that gets a lot of positive traction going in communities, and is a great way to get those messages out there. All of that will be coming out in the next couple of months, and that will be shared with everybody who registers for the program. 

MMA: That’s a very valuable resource to provide for registrants. And this is for high school ensembles?

JW: Actually it will also work for middle school students; it’s a flex band arrangement, so you can really do whatever you need to do to make it work for your ensemble. 

MMA: Great! And the music will be available through the Make Music Inc cloud?

JW: That’s correct, it will be available from the Make Music cloud; when they register they will get an email from my office when the music is completely done, which should be any day now (as of March 4th), and we will also email it out to everyone who has registered. They can register on our Arts Advocacy website which is arts advocacy.nfhs.org, and from there they will get all the materials they are going to need between now and June 21st. 

MMA: How do you see this piece living on after its premiere on June 21st this year?

JW: So, the people who register for this first go round will have access to the music for three years, so they can play it in their fall concert if they want, or in the next spring concert for example. After that it will be published, and will be available for purchase moving forward. It is a very cool sounding piece that I think a lot of students will be excited to play, and with the Earthgroove idea behind it it’s going to be one of those evergreen pieces that will be available for a long time. 

Register here to join in the June 21st premiere of Earthgroove by Randall Standridge.

December 24, 2023

Make Music Winter – thank you!

Selected Press Coverage:

Santa, Snow White pitch perfect in holiday fete,” by Lance Masterson, Polk County Itemizer-Observer, December 27, 2023
Flatfoot Flatbush celebrates arrival of winter,” by Julia Joseph and Adolfo Carrion, News 12 Brooklyn, December 21, 2023
Make Music Winter,” The Isthmus, December 21, 2023
Harbor Happenings: Make Music Day celebrates start of winter,” by Charlee Glock-Jackson, Gig Harbor Now, December 19, 2023
Montclair Make Music Winter: A Day of Music and Community,” Montclair Local, December 19, 2023
Make Music Winter Event: Radiant Revelry,” Mommy Poppins, December 15, 2023
What’s Happening: Jane Austen, Framing the Female Gaze, Hip-Hop Exhibit, and parrandas,” by David Garate, Bronx Times, December 13, 2023
Things To Do: Flatfoot Flatbush,” by Christina Izzo, Time Out New York, December 12, 2023
Depot Green to light up for the holidays on Thursday,” by Cathy Spaulding, Muskogee Phoenix, November 28, 2023

December 14, 2023

Next week: Make Music Winter!

Make Music Winter is just around the corner, with 33 cities joining to create a musical winter solstice on Thursday, December 21!

Just-announced events include:

As always, Make Music Winter events are 100% free and open to all. Visit makemusicwinter.org for the full schedule, and then join a music-making event near you!

November 21, 2023

Make Music Winter: the complete 2023 schedule

We are thrilled to announce this year’s lineup of 40+ free, participatory parades and performances for Make Music Winter on Thursday, December 21.

Across the country, join a unique participatory event to celebrate the first day of Winter!

Of course, there is so much more, from ukulele jams to caroling parties. Not to mention cities like Montclair, NJ, New York, NY, Ossining, NY and Salem, OR that go all-out with winter revelry all over town.

Visit www.makemusicwinter.org to see it all!

November 3, 2023

Featured Nonprofit Partner: Music Performance Trust Fund

This past June 21, for the 9th year in a row, the Music Performance Trust Fund supported dozens of special initiatives for Make Music Day across the U.S. These events, ranging from songwriting workshops to West African drumming sessions, gave professional musicians the chance to mentor up-and-coming players while providing a high-quality concert to the public.

The MPTF contributed to an astonishing 51 Make Music programs in 2023, more than double the number in 2022! Our deepest thanks go to the MPTF for supporting so much music.

November 3, 2023

Make Music Winter – next month!

As we speak, dozens of projects are in the works for Make Music Winter on Thursday December 21!

Among the many creative music-making opportunities, we are especially excited to see Roomful of Pianos return this winter in Charlotte NC, Crystal Lake IL, Duluth GA, Phoenix AZ and more, uniting the piano community in colossal multi-piano events that anyone can join. (Roomful of Pianos originated at the NAMM Show, where it will return once again in January!)

All details of Make Music Winter will be announced later this month. If you have an event in mind, it’s not too late to add your own participatory event to the program! Just click the registration button and we will get in touch right away.

September 12, 2023

Featured Nonprofit Partners: Hyperscore and Musicians On Call

If you’ve been part of Make Music Day before, you might want to know about two other nonprofits with interesting opportunities to get involved throughout the year.

Hyperscore is an innovative, game-like music composition tool originally developed at the MIT Media Lab, that allows anyone to compose music by drawing dots and lines on a screen – no musical knowledge is needed, just your imagination.

This academic year, Hyperscore is offering free accounts to anyone who would like to join; there are monthly Zoom tutorials to help you with your work, and a challenge to complete a piece and share it online or at an in-person performance on Make Music Day 2024.

Sign up here to set up your free account and start composing!

Musicians On Call is a nonprofit organization that brings the healing power of music to patients, families and caregivers in healthcare environments across the country. By delivering the benefits of music, we aim to lift spirits, reduce anxiety, and create a positive environment for healing. MOC is look for volunteers to help us continue to make a difference:

To apply, visit musiciansoncall.org/get-involved.

September 12, 2023

Announcing Make Music Winter 2023!

The winter counterpart to Make Music Day returns on Thursday, December 21!

Make Music Winter is a series of free, outdoor musical celebrations, taking place last year in 30+ U.S. cities. People of all ages, musical abilities, and backgrounds meet up to promenade and play participatory music for bells, electric guitars, voices, gongs, and more.

It’s a joyful way to ring in the longest night of the year, and celebrate the end of 2023.

For December 21, we are looking for events that turn audiences into music makers, in a true “make music” spirit!

Some popular initiatives will return from previous years, including String Together, Roomful of Pianos, Bell by Bell, and The Resonant Path. We can help you bring one of these ideas to life in your community, or you can come up with something completely new! 

For more inspiration and guidance for what Make Music Winter can look like, visit makemusicwinter.org and check out the photos, videos, and handbooks.

Have an idea of what you want to do? If you’re interested in leading an event for Make Music Winter on December 21, just fill out this form. We will get back to you right away.

June 29, 2023

Mark your calendar for Make Music Winter: December 21, 2023!

June 29, 2023

Thank you to our national sponsors!