Filtering by Tag: band

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia - Ten-Year Anniversary

Back in my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to find a group of guys to spend long nights and make some wonderful music with. I was initiated into the Xi class of the Zeta Mu chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity in 2008.

There’s certainly no way to say that the whole journey was easy. Learning how to be an adult, while beginning an intensive course study in college is difficult enough as it is. At the time, I was still a journalism major, and hadn’t yet decided to dedicate my entire life to music. I was still active in the marching band, writing music, and teaching as much as I could, though. Several of my close drumline friends were already members, and by my sophomore year, they had talked me into beginning the membership process.

I decided to go through with it mainly because it was an opportunity to learn how to sing, and to sing in an ensemble. Every meeting has a music rehearsal, and opens and closes with songs that Sinfonians all over the country know by heart. There’s not enough that can be said for how reassuring that is. Each year at the TMEA convention, the Step Sing is by far the most satisfying and endearing event. I got into music because I love making something with other people, and 100-200 men in a large room singing in four-part harmony is exactly what I wanted.

Though I was getting something, it’s also worth mentioning that it’s a great feeling to give back as well. Throughout my music travels, I have met some great folks. I’ve visited chapters in Virginia and Texas, as well as worked closely with Sinfonians on other projects outside of formal fraternity events. Whether it’s offering feedback, or supporting younger Sinfonians on their journey through Phi Mu Alpha, or guiding those young men into being better educators or musicians in general, the mutual trust that develops throughout membership is completely invaluable.

When I started graduate school, I had fallen out of favour with Phi Mu Alpha. The guys in the Zeta Mu chapter were kind enough to help me with the process of becoming reinstated as an alumni member. That meant the world to me. Though each chapter and each member goes through ups and downs, in general Sinfonians are compassionate, intelligent, and thoughtful guys. In my experience, this group of men has been one of few groups I can consistently rely on musically, and as a human.

This Spring, I was honoured with a ten-year membership pin. It had honestly slipped my mind how long I’d been a member. At conventions, I see other Sinfonians and wonder what it’s like to be in their shoes. I turned 30 this year, so I am kind of in their shoes. Guys in their sophomore year may benefit from my experience or expertise, and seeing that ten-year pin on my chest or collar hopefully lets them know that I’m there for them.

Young men, if you’re considering college, music school, or any opportunity to better yourself that has a chapter of Phi Mu Alpha available to you, I implore you to at least check it out. Even if it’s not for you when you first make contact, ask yourself if you’d benefit from an unrelenting network of support and musical experience that are hard to achieve otherwise. Collegiate or alumni Sinfonians, it’s our job to spread the word. Be a shining example of what it’s like to be a good man and a good musician.

Music Education in Chesterfield County - Summer 2018

    This summer, while in Chesterfield County, I had the privilege to spend time and work with some extremely dedicated and talented music educators. Virginia has always been an intriguing place to me. Most musicians that I've met that have come from Virginia all the way to Texas have been world-class people, performers, and teachers. It was extremely refreshing to learn that several folks over there share many of my philosophies and appreciate the validation that comes from someone that lives halfway across the country and has a completely different education and pedagogical journey.

    The idea that a student-centric approach to marching band design, planning, and implementation is reassuring; it's not secret that I've been a little bit disenchanted about how band program are put together and run, but being over here makes me feel so much better. The students are set up to get everything they need to succeed, and because of that, I've noticed a huge change in just the short time I was there. A month isn't quite long enough to completely change a culture, but empowering the students to create their own environment in which to grow is almost always my goal. The students I taught at Clover Hill and L.C. Bird high school are really taking charge to make band a more fun and fulfilling experience for themselves and their peers joining them over the next couple of years. This was a special month!

    Many thanks to Marcus Grant, Buddy Deshler, Brianna Gatch, Mason Gatch, Vincent Guzman, and Charles Brown for working with me this month and showing the students that they are worth our time.


    I look forward to working in Chesterfield County next year!


Check out the progress these young folks have made!

Episode 2 - Drew Karl

John talks with Drew about song-writing, inspiration, John Denver, and other intellectual and existential things!

Drew will definitely be on again!

Buy tickets to the Carthy show at Dosey Doe on 12 April 2017

Also, enjoy a John Denver song

Drew learned to play acoustic guitar in High School for the sole purpose of playing his favorite tunes. Soon after, he began experimenting with writing his own songs, mostly, he said, because at the time he “wasn’t good enough to play anyone else’s.” Drew eventually came to develop a knack for the melodic word, writing meaningful lyrics aimed at speaking to the mind and heart. His main musical inspirations are John Denver and Paul Simon. Other inspirations include Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Chris Martin, and Brandon Flowers. In addition, Drew enjoys all things tech, design, and making YouTube videos with his wife, Caitlan.