This has been a year of profound and enduring challenges for so many of us. And yet, we have come up with so many new ways to continue doing what we love with our students. In this spirit, the 40th annual NYSBDA Symposium will take place virtually on March 5-7, 2021 (Friday-Sunday), and it will be FREE to anyone. While this format necessitates several new approaches, many of your favorite Symposium traditions will continue, including our Honor Bands, clinics from our colleagues, and a truly fabulous Keynote speaker. This year’s Symposium will focus especially on issues of equity and inclusion, topics that have become all the more relevant in our new, COVID-altered world.

Friday begins at 4pm with Armand Hall from the ROCmusic Collective and Leah McGray from SUNY Geneseo discussing how to authentically represent diverse cultures and perspectives in our ensembles. Miles DeCastro returns at 5pm to offer an unusually up-close look at some common instrument repairs. After a dinner break, we have the first of two Performance Showcases at 8pm. These will feature one recorded piece each from several different ensembles from around the state. We would like to include groups at every level, size, type, and circumstance, so that we can all show each other how we were able to perform amidst the challenges of the pandemic. So if your band has been able to perform in any way at all, please submit your best piece for consideration. The application is at, and is due on February 1. In keeping with tradition, this and the Saturday Performance Showcase will both be followed by a Happy Hour.

Saturday is the most extensive day of the Symposium. At 9am, NYSSMA Manual chair Kathryn Struzik will lead a panel discussion about what to expect from the Virtual Evaluation Festivals coming this spring. At 10am, Frances Flancbaum and Jenna Stango will walk us through their rural music programs and the challenges and successes of bringing them to life. This session will be particularly valuable for those of us in any sort of community who are looking to rebuild our programs after the shock of COVID. Our Middle School Honor Band conductor, Cheldon Williams, will then help us find artistry in our teaching. After lunch, the Honors Jazz Band conductor, Steve Wilson, will join his manager, Laura Hartmann, in discussing how to involve guest artists with band programs at any level. This will be followed by our general membership meeting at 2pm, which is not to be missed!

This year’s keynote speaker is Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, and that organization’s first ever African-American principal player. He is also an international soloist and a vocal advocate for justice. He and I will engage in a wide-ranging conversation about race and equity in classical music, his strategies for staying active as a musician during COVID, and more, with time for questions. This will be followed by a discussion with NYSBDA’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, led by committee chair Sarah Wolff.

Saturday evening will focus again on performance. The Honor Band concert at 5pm will feature all three of our usual groups (High School Concert Band, Honors Jazz Band, Middle School Honor Band) in pre-recorded, virtual band performances. These are being rehearsed and assembled starting this month, with help and input from their conductors, the NYSBDA board, and a great many volunteers who are leading virtual sectionals, not to mention the Honor Band students who are adapting their considerable talents to this new format. After a dinner break, we will feature another Performance Showcase, followed again by a Happy Hour.

Sunday will be a day to relax and focus on our physical and mental health through movement. The day will begin at 9:30am with Erin Tapia leading a health and wellness session for band directors that will include discussion, breathing, and stretching. Make sure you dress comfortably! Our final session will feature High School Honor Band conductor Bradley Genevro helping us translate our artistic interpretations of music into movement. As a coda for our newest members, we will end the Symposium with a Young Teachers’ Forum, an extra chance to reflect and connect.

We look forward to seeing you in a glowing Zoom box at the Symposium!

Andy Pease

NYSBDA First Vice President


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