Reflection:  29 Years of M.U.S.E.

A Busy Weekend

Today I was reminded how far M.U.S.E. has come over the years. As I was busy conducting an early morning Honor Band session up here in Portland, teachers were busy at work down in the San Francisco bay area rehearsing the east bay Honor Band for their upcoming participation in the San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade. In general, a busy weekend with teachers also rehearsing the San Francisco and south bay students on Sunday for their participation in the parade.

It's hard for me to believe looking back twenty nine years ago, that I would take M.U.S.E. from two schools in the east bay (St. Jerome and St. John) to over 45 schools in both the bay area and Portland and employing 14 teachers. As I conducted my 35 piece group this morning through the great music of 007 Skyfall by Adele, I couldn't help but to feel the same excitement I had 29 years ago when I first started this adventure. It's not hard to be excited and inspired when you are surrounded by the young sprit and love that these serious students have towards music (and their busy parents who are dedicated to bringing these kids across town to rehearsal). I never thought I would be teaching young students as a career after graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.  I was going to be a player, a jazz musician of all things!! Fortunately, one night when I was playing a jazz gig at local Burrito joint in Berkeley, I met a fellow who had a program in the schools and he asked me if I'd be interested in doing some teaching. Long story short, I LOVED it!!  I also got a quick lesson in "What not to do in business" and one year later started my own program. This was 1986. 

I love what I do and I have never looked back. I enjoy a great career teaching young students, running my own business, and playing professionally. I have developed over the years a successful "formula" for M.U.S.E. The key is having great teachers (not easy to find), giving them guidance (and listening to their suggestions), and offering the students as many performance opportunities as possible. I think this weekends activities reflect our vision of the program. It's a lot to keep track of and yes,  I do get tired, but it's a "good tired".  I still get up the next day ready to do it all over again. 

My only discouragement comes when I see first year students (and parents) who don't really give it a good chance and drop before the year ends. Learning an instrument isn't done overnight or within 3 months. It takes some time to learn an instrument. The key of course is practicing. Some students love to practice and do it without anyone saying anything. For others, it takes some encouragement and a more structured regiment in order to get it done.  I think our required 3-4 day minimum is a fair compromise knowing how busy these students are. If students do the minimum and come to class regularly, they will succeed but parents have to give us a chance. I understand that after a year, if a child really isnt into it, it may be best be to move on. Even then, I think parents should push them a little to see if they can continue into Intermediate band. There is so much to look forward to. We have parades, our solo and ensemble festival, high school visitations and band festivals, school concerts, M.U.S.E. Multi-school Winter and Spring Concerts, Summer Band camps, Honor Band, and free workshops. 

My hope is that you will keep your child continuing with their school band program. All of my teachers are working hard to build a strong foundation at each school. I know it can be a struggle sometimes getting them to practice but there are so many opportunities down the road. Music is extremely important to a child's general education. I know you have heard about these studies that have been published on this subject.  However, one study that I never knew about before says playing an actual instrument stimulates the brain more so than just listening to music or singing. The actual motor coordination skills and the aural training does wonders for our brains(not to forget just the mere pleasure of playing great music-like 007 Skyfall!!).  

I hope all of you have a great year and we look forward to many years more of music from your children.  We have summer band camps if you are interested in something for your child over the summer.  We highly encourage all parents to keep renting their instruments over the summer. Teachers will hand out some music to play and they can keep on working on music in their books. Beginning band students will move up into Intermediate band next fall. 

If you ever have any questions or concerns,  please don't hesitate to contact me personally at


Bryant Allard

Director of M.U.S.E.


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