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Ask The Board
Suggestion Box | Print |
Written by Phil Benson   
Wednesday, 12 September 2018 00:00

Have a question, concern or suggestion?

Submit it to the HSMA board here.

The Meaning of "No Cowards!" | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:48

Someone asked a great question recently:

"I see you use the phrase "No Cowards!" frequently. What does it mean, and where did it come from?"

General George S. Patton once said, "Courage is fear hanging on a minute longer." That sentiment is as applicable to musicians as it is to soldiers. Being a musician takes courage. You perform in front of an audience. When things do not go well or the unexpected happens, you cannot just "stop." You have to stick it out and keep going with grace. Often - particularly in smaller ensembles like those that we have - you will be covering a part by yourself. You cannot give in to fear and be successful by any measure as a musician.

Musicians must overcome fear in many areas. Auditions cause stress for any musician - from the least experienced to the professional. Some struggle with anxiety when performing - either by themselves or in a large group. My daughter's former flute teacher - who has a PhD in flute performance - struggles with this and actually did her dissertation on overcoming performance anxiety! Whether you are auditioning for an All-State ensemble, or for a side-by-side concert, or simply for placement in an HSMA ensemble, auditions can be a fearful time for many students.

Competition is another area where musicians have to overcome fear. Performing at a Solo & Ensemble event, or something similar, provides a lot of pressure on a student. Performing in the face of these fears is what musicians do, on a regular basis.

Timid musicians do not do as well. They tend to be out-of-tune. Their tone does not blend well. They actually make more mistakes. And guess what? A wrong note hit timidly . . . is still a wrong note. If you do hit a wrong note, at least make it the best-sounding wrong note you can!

At HSMA, we have a saying: "We don't expect more of you than you are capable of. But, we do expect all you are capable of." Sometimes that is actually more than you think it is. If you give in to fear, you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing.

You can be a "No Cowards!" student by putting to use the following techniques:

  1. Be as prepared as possible. When someone is in a stressful situation, training, conditioning or habits tend to take over. The better you have prepared yourself, the more likely you will do well. Make use of all the resources available to you to help you prepare – your private teacher and your HSMA conductors, for example.
  2. Understand that, when you have done your best, there is no more. Many musicians are perfectionists who will dwell on the one note that was out-of-tune rather than the 300+ that were exquisite. Clearly, we want to perform as flawlessly as possible. Nevertheless, if you have done your best, do not be consumed by what did not go as you wanted it to. Use those things as opportunity to improve for the future rather than feeling defeated about them in the present.
  3. Motivation is everything. We have another saying at HSMA: We strive to do the right thing, the right way, for the right reason, and leave the results up to the Lord. Are you performing for the acclaim of your peers, or judges, or parents? If so, you have a right to be fearful, because that can be a fickle standard. If you are motivated to do the very best you can as a testimony to the gift of music that God has given you, He will honor that.
  4. Become acclimated to handling the stress of performing by . . . performing a lot! Participate in various competitions and festivals. Take auditions. This will not make these situations any less fearful, but you will learn how to deal with the stress and fear in a way that will allow you to perform at your best under all circumstances.
  5. Recognize that everyone else is just as nervous as you are. Some have learned to deal with it better than others, but they are still in a fearful situation. You are not the only one who is concerned with doing their best.

At HSMA, we do not want you to give in to fear, nor do we advocate that you avoid fearful situations. Rather, we encourage you to "[hang] on a minute longer."

"No Cowards!"

Mr. Case


Re-Launched Blog: Ask Mr. Case | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:48

Are there things you wonder about regarding HSMA? Maybe you are curious about HSMA history or trivia. Perhaps you are interested in why we do something the way we do. Possibly, you would like a better sense of who HSMA is and how we became who we are.

This blog was inspired at an HSMA board meeting. Occasionally, as we are discussing an issue I will take the opportunity to talk about how we got to the point we are at on the issue, or why HSMA has not adopted a certain approach in the past, or some philosophical underpinning of HSMA. Sometimes the board will respond to my interminable rambling with, “I never knew that,” or “I never looked at it that way” or “I wish everyone in HSMA knew that.”

Here, I will share with you some things that they or I consider important or special about HSMA. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to ask me questions as well! What would you like to know more about? My goal is to post something at least once a week during the regular HSMA season – so check back often!

If there is something that you always wondered about, you can email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Who knows? Your question may be the topic of my next article!

“No Cowards!”

Mr. Case


The Importance of Uniforms | Print |
Written by Paul Case   
Friday, 08 July 2011 14:09

Many of you have heard me say, “Uniforms are not just articles of clothing.” Some have asked why I care so much about uniforms. Here is why I care about uniforms, and why you should, too.

I have been around uniforms most of my life. When I started Jr. High band, we had uniforms. We had them in Sr. High band. I wore a uniform in college. Same thing when I marched with a bugle corps. And in the military. Why are uniforms so important?

There are three answers to that question. Uniforms are important because:

1. They give you confidence and a positive self-image

2. They provide a positive impression of you and your organization

3. They stand for something bigger than you

Did you know that many professional people who work from home would dress up as though they were going to an office somewhere else? Shirt, tie, shined shoes – the whole works. If you were to ask them, they would tell you that how you act or how you feel about yourself starts with how you look. If they dress professionally, even though only the dog is around, they look sharp and feel sharp. They are more productive. They sound more professional on the phone. It gives them confidence. Experts call it “dressing for success.”

If you have ever been to Band & Orchestra Festival, you have seen the middle school band who wears white shirts (or, mostly white), and black pants, slacks or skirts. You know the ones I refer to . . . they are mostly unkempt, and no one really comes close to matching his or her neighbor. What was your impression of that group when they walked on stage – before they ever played a note? Have you ever seen a marching band pass by, each uniform identical to the next, band members perfectly in step with straight files and rows? What was your impression of them, before they ever played a note?

The military uniform carries with it all kinds of symbolism. All uniforms have some historical elements to them. They identify the service member to varying degrees. To people in the armed forces, the uniform is much more than just clothing that matches everyone else. It is a symbol of their country, which they are proud to serve.

In the early days of HSMA, we did not have uniforms. We would wear black and white. For a while, that was fine. However, Mr. O’Donnell and Mrs. Simpson both realized that an important element to the continuing improvement in our ensembles was uniforms. HSMA needed some espirit. Uniforms were the way to get it.

By the time we we started interacting with other organizations, we had uniforms. Every year, we get comments on how great our groups look and sound. They look confident. They sound confident. The two go hand-in-hand.