NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles Are 'Life-Changing'

Timothy Bakland

In 2014, Timothy Bakland and his student Audrey Buczko participated in NAfME’s All-National Honor Ensembles during the NAfME In-Service Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Bakland teaches at The Waring School in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Timothy and Audrey answered questions about their experiences:

Timothy Baklund

How did you hear about All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE)?

I have taught choral groups many years and have been chair of Performing Arts at Waring School for 2 years. So I’ve certainly known about All-National Honor Ensembles from reputation through my work.

How many of your students applied? Did you encourage them? How many were chosen?

Since I’ve been chair of Performing Arts at Waring, we have had 6-8 students audition for our MMEA Districts ensembles (as well as Jr. Districts ensemble) each year with good success. Audrey Buczko was 1 of only 3 of our students to make it to the ranks of All-State over these past 2 years. And then only she was accepted [for ANHE] (last year). Now, with her recent success, our school will have increased awareness about the program. News is spreading fast!

What do you see as the benefits of the ANHE program?

The ANHE program provides a way for young musicians to aim for excellence in their musical pursuits and to perform with equally talented peers from across the country. Even schools with especially strong music programs (increasingly rare) cannot match the quality of the ANHE ensembles; what’s more, small schools with smaller pools of musicians as well as schools with limited funding/opportunities for music lack venues for their top musicians. Having the ANHE program to aim toward gives our most talented musicians across the country the opportunity that cannot be found in any one school. For many, it is really the only place to find such a community of peers.

Did you see a difference in students when they returned to school?

Our student from Waring, Audrey Buczko, returned from All-Nationals with her eyes and ears wide open, ready to tell her story to all back home.

Since you were in Nashville, what were your impressions of the student musicians as a group? Any observations you can share?

I attended many rehearsals and interviewed students as a part of a documentary project which can be seen here. I think you’ll find that the students whom I interviewed — and the experiences they conveyed (and their excellence as players and singers) —  speaks for itself. Students (from Alaska to NYC) banded together, rose to the challenges and opportunities of ANHE, and did not take a moment for granted. I was especially impressed to see: students’ comportment in rehearsals, their comfort level with the music even at the downbeat of rehearsal 1, their respect for the conductors, and their mutual admiration as peers.

Voices from All-National Honors Ensembles (Nafme 2014) from Timothy Bakland Videography on Vimeo.

What were rehearsals like?

The rehearsals I sat in on were extremely well managed: very efficient (both as a result of the conductors’ work, and the diligence and attention shown by the students).

Please pass along any other comments you’d like to share about your experience.

The teachers and students at my school (Waring School) were so elated at having our first student be part of ANHE, that they put forth professional development funding for me to be part of the trip to Nashville. I cannot say enough about the opportunity to work with NAfME, to be able to make the short documentary film, and to have been able to help pass along the story of the 2014 Honor Ensembles. I cannot say enough about the program and experience. 


Audrey Buczko, 2014 NAfME All-National Honors Mixed Choir

 Audrey Buczko3

How did you hear about the All-National Honor Ensembles?

I heard about the All-National Honor Ensembles at Massachusetts All-States last March. A lot of the singers talked about applying for All-Nationals, which is considered to be the next step in the process. Since I learned so much from All-States, I decided that applying for All-Nationals would potentially give me another opportunity to grow as a singer and as a musician. 

How did you feel when you were chosen?

My mom was on an important conference call for work with a bunch of her colleagues and I started running and jumping around the house, unsure of what to do with myself. I think I was so excited that I didn’t even know what to do or who to call. I can’t use words to describe the way I felt when I got the email from NAfME. I was ecstatic to have another chance to surround myself with students who find the same joy and power in music that I do. I was honored to have the opportunity to represent my school, city, state, region, and country.

Which ensemble were you chosen for?

I was chosen for the mixed choir as an Alto Two. 

What did you think of the music selections you learned for the concert?

I loved the music selections I learned for the concert. They were very complex and varied in style. They were definitely hard to learn, but the work we all put into them absolutely paid off. My favorite song had to be “Where Your Barefoot Walks” by David Childs. The harmonies in that song were transcendent and the conductor’s interpretation highlighted this. This song was relateable and full of emotion — which is why I think it “clicked” with so many of us. I’ve listened to the recording of this song countless times at this point, and it hits me in a new way each time I listen to it.

What was it like working with your conductor?

Edith Copely was AMAZING. She was such a fierce and talented conductor. She knew how to bring out the best in the choir, and she pushed us as hard as she possibly could. I loved how the rehearsals were intense because by the time of the concert, I felt like we were ready to give the best performance we could. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling truly prepared for a performance. 

Was it difficult to work with students from around the country, who may have been taught to play music in a different way than you were?

Absolutely not. It was definitely interesting, but not at all difficult. Voice instruction varies so much that location didn’t really seem to play into it. It was great to meet musicians from all around the United States because I learned a lot about the differences between the place I have grown up in and other places in the country. It widened my view of the US and helped me develop my sensitivity toward things that are different from what I am used to. 

What was your favorite part of the whole experience? 

My favorite part of the experience was the rehearsals. During these blocks of time, we were able to both intensely prepare for the concert and connect with other musicians on a more social level. I loved the way t
he rehearsals were run because each thing we did had a purpose. There is nothing better than being surrounded by people who have the same passion that I do. We were able to come together to create something way larger than I could have ever expected. I was able to bring back so many things I learned to the choir at my school. I learned things from Edith, the conductor, AND the 200 other singers. I think this collective learning process is what brought the experience to a whole other level.

Your least favorite?

Nothing. Really can’t think of anything. Going home was the worst part. 

Are you still in touch with students you met last October?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! On the larger scale of things, there is a Facebook group for all of the musicians who went to Nationals (regardless of ensemble) this year. Many people have posted new projects they’ve been working on, memories from their experience in Nashville, and updates on college music admissions in the group. Everyone has been so supportive and responsive to all of these posts. People have also tried to coordinate reunions in different parts of the country! This captures the essence of what it was like in Nashville: everyone was really close and supportive. 

I have been in touch, on a more personal level, with a lot of the people I met in October. I’ve stayed in touch with friends from Alaska, New York, Michigan, Vermont, and Illinois. We’ve kept each other updated on our musical endeavors. I think we mostly talk about how much we miss Nationals though. 

There weren’t too, too many juniors at Nationals, but I have stayed in touch with one of my really close friends from Alaska, who is my age. We have been crossing our fingers that we’ll both be fortunate enough to go in 2015 because Nationals would be the only venue where we could see each other again! 

I think it is so cool that Nationals provides a network of student musicians. I have developed some strong friendships that I hope will last me a lifetime. 

 A program of the National Association for Music Education, the NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles represent the top performing high school musicians in the United States. In October 2015, the ensembles will perform in Nashville, Tennessee, under the baton of leaders in the music education field. The NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles include the following: 

  • Concert Band
  • Mixed Choir
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Jazz Ensemble.

The 2015 NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles Audition Site is open! The application deadline is May 8, 2015. Additional ANHE information

Photo of Timothy Bakland by Jeph Ellis Image Maker; Photo of Audrey Buczko, courtesy of Audrey Buczko

Roz Fehr,  NAfME Communications Content Developer, February 26, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (