The 2018 All-National Honor Ensembles Conductor Spotlight: Todd Stoll

The 2018 All-National Honor Ensembles Conductor Spotlight: 
Todd Stoll

Throughout the month of March, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has shared profiles of the 2018 All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE) conductors, who will lead the nation’s most elite high school musicians in Orlando, Florida, November 25-28. These exceptional musicians will gather at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort to showcase their expert musicianship and perform a gala concert celebrating music education and the arts.

Todd Stoll

Todd Stoll will lead the 2018 All-National Jazz Ensemble. Todd Stoll has taught young musicians at every level, from elementary school through college. His impact on public music education can be seen in his legacy at central Ohio’s Westerville City Schools, where he served for 18 years as music teacher and for 10 years as music curriculum coordinator. He has also served as Ohio’s president of the International Association of Jazz Educators and the inaugural chair of jazz events for the Ohio Music Education Association. In 2011, Mr. Stoll became the Vice President of Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in New York City, which continues to afford him the opportunity to bring jazz education programs to thousands of people of all ages and socioeconomic levels. Since he joined the organization, JALC has produced more than 10,000 education events in the United States and around the world. Mr. Stoll holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from Miami University. He currently serves on the boards of the Jazz Education Network where he is President-Elect; the New York City chapter of Most Valuable Kids; and NAfME’s Music Education Policy RoundtableRead more about Todd Stoll here.

When did you first fall in love with music?

As a child, maybe 10 to 11 years old, my father (a good amateur trombonist) took me to many, many concerts: jazz, symphony, my church—music was all around me. When I started trumpet at age 10, I was hooked!

What inspired you to become a conductor? Describe the process in getting to where you are today.

That was more of a process of elimination. As someone who led a band, some of the music was complex enough that we needed someone to give cues . . . it was my responsibility. Most jazz bands don’t have conductors; we are more like traffic cops! 

Todd Stoll
Photo: Bob O’Lary

I taught public school for nearly 25 years, led a professional big band, contracted for shows and orchestras, and studied music constantly AFTER college. I sought out and spent time in serious study with some of the greatest minds in jazz, including Wynton Marsalis. Being serious about something allows one to focus and learn outside of an institution and regardless of financial motive.

Music is the art of the invisible. It puts one in touch with something bigger than oneself; it is a spiritual guide to who you are, and who you were, and who you may become. Jazz is the aspirational sound of our democracy, and speaks across generations and time. 

What are some of the greatest accomplishments, and challenges, you face as a conductor of a large ensemble?

Coordination of concept: It is difficult with acoustic, swinging jazz for young people to really have a concept of the music—unless they are listening and immersing themselves in it. In a limited amount of rehearsal time, it’s crucial for everyone to have objectives that are group-focused and consistent.

What factors do you consider when programming music for a concert or honors ensemble?  What are some of your favorite pieces of repertoire?

The music must be “worthy” of the students. It is important to program the very best and highest level of literature one can consider. It is also good to stretch an ensemble, program something just beyond their perceived abilities, and watch them take ownership of said piece.

Within jazz, nothing is as great as Ellington: He’s our Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky rolled into one. I also love the second-generation Basie writers like Frank Foster and Thad Jones. Carlos Henriquez from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is another favorite. 

Todd Stoll
Photo: Bob O’Lary

What excites you the most about the ANHE program? What do you hope your young musicians who attend will take away from their experience?

The opportunity for the kids to all hear each other across the ensembles. It’s always inspiring for kids to realize that they have serious colleagues across genres.

The music must be “worthy” of the students. It is important to program the very best and highest level of literature one can consider.

Why do you think music education is so important for all students?

Music is the art of the invisible. It puts one in touch with something bigger than oneself; it is a spiritual guide to who you are, and who you were, and who you may become. Jazz is the aspirational sound of our democracy, and speaks across generations and time. 

Read about the other ANHE conductors:

April is also known as Jazz Appreciation Month! Looking for ways to celebrate? Click here for classroom ideas, videos, and more: bit.ly/NAfMEJazz

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Elizabeth Baker, Social Media Coordinator and Copywriter. March 30, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)