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Middle School Honors Band Festival

November 17, 2023 November 19, 2023

UWM Music Wind Ensemble Band CAL PLACEHOLDER
November 17–19, 202311–13Zelazo Center for the Performing Artsms-honors-band@uwm.edu

The UWM Middle School Honors Band Festival is one of the longest standing events of its kind. Our festival provides the region’s most motivated and accomplished middle school instrumentalists an opportunity to work with each other and with regionally and nationally recognized wind band conductors. In addition, students interact with UWM performance staff and experience performances by UWM ensembles.

Director Nominations

Only students who are nominated by their band director are eligible to attend. Nominations are open to all band directors. If you or your organization plan to pay for some or all student fees, please contact us during the director nomination period.

Students will be notified via email of their acceptance to the festival, or their wait-list designation, after being processed by UWM Bands staff.

  1. Please download the nomination form and use any spreadsheet software to edit. Be sure to fill in your director information in the header portion.
  2. Review nomination data formatting as organized by column headers and the first-row sample. Afterwards, please delete the sample row.
  3. Enter student data for each nomination. Remember to assign a rank that represents their overall ranking among ALL of your nominees, regardless of instrument or grade level. NOTE: Each rank number should only appear once.
    • We will use this data to form three equal and randomly assigned festival bands and create chair rankings within each band. Please consider the data you provide on each student carefully. 
  4. Once all nominations have been entered, save the file with this filename format: “DirLastName_SchoolName.” Email the file to ms-honors-band@uwm.edu prior to the October 15 nomination deadline. 
  5. If you need to revise nominations after you have submitted them, please notify Dr. Corley directly at scorley@uwm.edu
  6. Directors will be notified of their nominees’ festival status (accepted or wait-listed) around October 23. The accepted students’ pre-registration period is October 25-November 8. Separate information regarding this process will be sent directly to those families/homes.  

Only students who were nominated by their school band director by October 20, 2023 are eligible to attend the festival.

Students are notified via email of their acceptance determination, and if accepted, their individual honor band assignment (state name). Students notified as alternates are added to a wait list and will be notified if an opening occurs.

Special note to Directors: If you or your organization plan to pay for some or all student registration fees, please contact us during the Director Nomination Period.

Student Registration

Accepted students will be emailed around October 23-25 and should complete registration using the link found in their acceptance email. If assistance is needed, please contact the Box Office at (414) 229-4308.

Registration is $95 per student, which includes all instruction, rehearsal spaces, music, and administrative fees. It also includes admission to the final concert for the students’ family and other supporters (no physical tickets necessary). All Festival registration payments are non-refundable.


Eric Songer
Eric Songer HEADSHOT

Eric Songer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in nearby Wales. He began playing trombone in fifth grade and was always really into pop music. He enjoyed listening to American Top 40 in order to learn what the top songs of the week were. In high school, Eric was involved in band as well as many other activities including golf, bowling, drama, and the school newspaper.

Eric attended college at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire where he earned his degree in music and math education. He participated in many performing groups including Jazz Onethe symphony orchestrathe brass choirthe wind ensemblethe symphony bandthe trombone choirthe Singing Statesmen, the Blugold Marching Band, the Andante Brass, and various jazz combos. Highlights of his college days included going to England with the jazz ensemble, organizing the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Festival, forming the nation’s largest collegiate chapter of International Association of Jazz Educators, performing officer duties in MENC and Phi Mu Alpha, and even DJing on the collegiate radio station. Eric completed his Masters in Education at the University of St. Thomas in 2004.

During the summers of his college year, Eric performed in groups such as the Kids From Wisconsin, a performing group at Great Escape Fun Park in New York and the Beach Band at Valleyfair! Amusement Park in Shakopee. 

This will be Eric’s 27th year teaching at Chaska Middle School.  He was named Teacher of the Year in District 112 in both 2007 and 2021 and was a semifinalist for 2008 Minnesota Teacher Of The Year.  He was named Young Band Director of the Year in 2008 by the American School Band Directors Association.  The Chaska Middle School-West Band Department was featured in the February 2009 issue of “The Instrumentalist”.  Eric has also written articles for “Music Education Journal” and was featured in the first issues of “Modern Band Journal” in 2022. Eric was the runner up for Minnesota Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2009 and was inducted into the Kettle Moraine High School Hall of Fame in March 2010.  In 2013, Eric was awarded the ing (now Voya) Unsung Heroes Second Prize Award for his project Music Education for the Next Generation which was a grant for $12,000 to his school music program.  In 2014, Eric was named a quarterfinalist for the Music Educator of the Year Grammy Award.  In 2015, he won a $5,000 grant from Century Link Foundation.  In 2019, he was awarded a Give A Note Innovator in Music Education Award and presented at the NAfMe National Music Education Conference with his co-award recipients. In 2022, he was named Schmitt Music’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. In 2023, he was named one of 10 National Music Teachers of Excellence by the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation. He has presented on music education at many conferences and colleges across the country.  Most notably he presented “The Next Generation of Music Education” at the National Association of Music Educators National Conference in Dallas, Texas in November 2016 and at the Association of Popular Music Education National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts in June 2016, Denver, Colorado in June 2017, Nashville, Tennessee in June 2018, New York City in June 2019, Chicago, Illinois in 2021 and Detroit, Michigan in 2022.  His modern band program has performed at the Minnesota State Music Education Conference in 2017 and 2022.  Eric has also guest conducted for many district band festivals as well as regional and state honor bands.  

Eric directs the 6th, 7th and 8th grade bands and elective course Wide World of Music at Chaska Middle School-West.  He has implemented elements of modern band, songwriting, music production, guitar and improvisation into traditional large ensembles. Eric also takes pride in running many co-curricular activities which benefit the students’ love of learning music.  In his district, he directs and teaches jazz ensembles, the the middle school marching band, the middle school honor bands, the Latin/Mariachi Band, the Garage (rock) Bands, student and adult guitar courses, Music Production, Country/Bluegrass Ensemble, Movie Band, Pop Ensemble, and School Of Rock.  Eric also organizes the CMSW Talent Show and his district’s middle school Solo/Ensemble Festival.  

Eric served as the secretary of the Minnesota State Unit of IAJE (now JEN) from 2005-07 and also belongs to APME, ASBDA, MBDA, NAfME and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He is on the board of the South Central Chapter of MBDA (Minnesota Band Directors Association). He started and co-organizes the Minnesota Modern Band Festival which takes place every year for K-12 music programs that run modern bands.   

Outside of teaching, Eric still loves to perform. He plays in the C5 Brass; Rank & Style Brass Band; Exodus Jazz Combo; Brass Menagerie; Power Tap, And Then There Were Eight (Genesis tribute band); subs in various popular and jazz ensembles; and has played in the BellaGala Big Band, The Wolverines, Kev’s Cool Gospel Orchestra. Along with his wife Heidi, Eric leads worship and plays at many churches around the Twin Cities.  Eric also loves to bowl, golf and play volleyball. He loves to watch the Packers and Badgers, read, Disney, be outside, do anything related to technology, compose and arrange music, spend time with his lovely wife Heidi and his children Caleb and Abby and be with friends and family.

Chris Gleason
Chris Gleason HEADSHOT

Chris Gleason is the Art and Creativity Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. He recently concluded twenty-five years as an instrumental music educator in East Troy, LaCrosse, and most recently Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He is the 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, 2017 and 2022 semi-finalist for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award and the first Wisconsin teacher to be named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year in 50 years. He was recently selected as one of five educators for the prestigious 2022 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence by the NEA Foundation as well as a Top 50 Finalist for the 2021 Global Teacher Prize sponsored by the Varkey Foundation and UNESCO. Mr. Gleason was selected from 8,000 nominations from 121 countries around the world. He was recently honored with the Wisconsin Badger’s Outstanding Educators Award and the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award from his alma mater, UW-Eau Claire where he earned his BME degree in 1997. Gleason earned his Masters Degree from UW-LaCrosse in 2002 and is a Conn-Selmer Education Clinician. 

Mr. Gleason’s bands have performed at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda, the “New Wisconsin Promise Conference”, and the 2006 and 2009 Wisconsin State Music Conferences. The Patrick Marsh Middle School Band has commissioned composers in its ComMission Possible Project such as Samuel R. Hazo (Blue and Green Music -2009), Brian Balmages (Sun Cycles – 2012), Michael Sweeney (Particles – 2013), Erik Morales (One Giant Leap – 2014), John Mackey (Lightning Field – 2015), Alex Shapiro (Rock Music- 2016), Brian Balmages (Twittering Machine – 2017), Andrew Boysen Jr (Tales of the Headless Horseman – 2018), Michael Markowski (Drawing Mars – 2019), Erika Svanoe (A Journey In Time – 2022), Viet Cuong (Inland Oceans -2023), Kelijah Dunton (Master Of My Fate -2023). In 2024 he will commission four composers – Jodie Blackshaw (band), Brian Balmages (band), Alysia Lee (choir), and Jessica Meyer (orchestra). 

In 1992 Mr. Gleason was selected as the Wisconsin Governor’s Scholar to Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan. Mr. Gleason has performed professionally at Disneyland, Valleyfair, and the Mall of America. He has been guest conductor of numerous camps and festivals including the Music For All National Band Camp, Tarleton Invitational Band Festival (Texas), National Band Association –Wisconsin Chapter Junior High All-State Band, Tri-State Honors Band, UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic, UW-Milwaukee Honors Band, UW-Whitewater Band Camp and numerous regional honor bands across Wisconsin, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota and Mississippi.  

He is the chair-elect of the Wisconsin Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) Committee, the past chair of the Wisconsin State Middle Level Honors Band and the Wisconsin State Middle Level Honors Project. He has taught workshops at VanderCook College of Music, the Los Angeles Unified School District in California, The NAfME National In-Service Conference, numerous school districts in the Midwest, and Hong Kong. He has presented clinics at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic as well as the Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin State Music Conventions. 

In 2020, he was selected for the Music for All’s Advocacy in Action Award as well as the 2019 “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” School Band and Orchestra Magazine Award. He has also been recognized with the UW-La Crosse Distinguished Alumni Award (2017), Melvin F. Pontious Sparks in Music Education Award (2016), Michael G. George Distinguished Service Award (2016) and the Vi Miller Award for Excellence (2013) by Dane Arts and has been featured in the March 2015 Instrumentalist Magazine, and books: Think Like Socrates: Using Questions to Invite Wonder and Empathy Into the Classroom (Shanna Peeples, 2018) and Rehearsing the Middle School Band (Stephen Meyer, 2018). He was a 2018 National LifeChanger of the Year Award nominee. Mr. Gleason is the founder and organizer of the Beyond The Notes Music Festival Inc. in Wisconsin Dells which has to date inspired more than 44,000 young musicians and 85 future music educators.   

In 2017, Mr. Gleason also held a position as Engagement Specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction delivering presentations at universities, school districts and conferences across Wisconsin. Mr. Gleason also assisted TED-Ed with the development and launch of an online course that teaches educators how to identify, record and share their ideas in the form of short, TED-style talks. Mr. Gleason recently presented his own talk at 2019 TEDxOshkosh entitled, “Lighting a Fire in Kids”. He has worked with Teach Plus in a national effort to support Title II funding as well as preventing gun violence in U.S. schools.  Mr. Gleason was selected as a 2018-19 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow and recently traveled to South Africa. He currently serves as a mentor on the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship Team and as an Advisor for the NEA Foundation.. Mr. Gleason is a representative for the Sun Prairie Education Association and a member of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA), National Band Association (NBA), Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), National Educators Association (NEA), Wisconsin Educators Association Council (WEAC), Wisconsin Teachers of the Year Network (WTOYN), Wisconsin Bandmasters Association (WBA) and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY)

Rachel Maxwell

Rachel Maxwell currently serves as the Director of Bands at Traughber Junior High School, SD #308 in Oswego, IL. She has taught music education courses at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago and North Central College in Naperville, IL. In addition, she serves on the editorial review board of NAfME’s Teaching Music magazine. Mrs. Maxwell has been invited to be a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator at a number of music camps and festivals including the Music for All National Summer Symposium, the California JH All-State Band, the NC All-State Middle School Band, ISYM at the Univ. of Illinois, Il State Univ. Junior High Camp, and several ILMEA District Level Festivals.  

Mrs. Maxwell has degrees from Illinois State University (BME), The University of Illinois (MME), and Aurora University (MAEL). She is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at Boston University. Mrs. Maxwell taught band in the West Aurora School District (1993-95) and in the Oswego School District (1995-present). 

A proponent of new music for young bands, she is part of the team from Oswego SD #308 that commissioned and premiered Sheltering Sky by John Mackey, Sol ye Sombra by Donald Grantham,  Atmosphere by Scott McAllister, Our Cast Aways by Julie Giroux, Dream of  Ember, Dream of Star by David Biedenbender, and an upcoming work by Omar Thomas (2024). She has independently commissioned several works and is also involved in several consortium commissions including those with composers Dana Wilson, The N-BEAM Group, Randall Standridge, Roy Magnuson, Brian Balmages, Katahj Copley, Aakash Mittal, Alex Shapiro, Haley Woodrow, Joni Greene, Ivette Herryman Rodriguez, and Aaron Perrine. She is also a founding member of The Kneel Consortium.  

Under her direction, the bands at Traughber JHS have received national acclaim and have performed at The Midwest Clinic (two clinic presentations and one rehearsal lab group), the Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conference (three formal concerts and four clinic presentations), the University of Illinois Super-state Festival and at the ASBDA National Convention.  

 Rachel Maxwell is a member of The National Association of Music Education, Illinois Music Educators Association, American School Band Directors Association, National Band Association, National Council of Supervisors of Music Education, Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Beta Mu, and a number of honor societies. She is a multiple-year nominee for the Music Educator Grammy Award, 5-time recipient of the National Band Association Citation of Excellence, Chicago-land Outstanding Music Educator Award, National Recipient of the Jim Ott (Drum Corps International) Scholarship, ASBDA/UMI Outstanding Young Band Director Award-Junior High Division for the North Central Region of the United States and a Golden Apple nominee.


Friday (Nov. 17)Saturday (Nov. 18)Sunday (Nov. 19)
No dinner break – be sure to eat a snack before arrival9 a.m.–12 p.m. – RehearsalsMorning – Final dress rehearsals
4–5 p.m. – Registration12:30–1:30 p.m. – Lunch *Students are responsible for their own meals.Lunch*Students are responsible for their own meals.
5–8 p.m. – Seating for ensembles and first rehearsals1:30–6 p.m. – Rehearsals, sectionals, performances1–4 p.m. – Festival Finale Concerts (see below)
6–7:30 p.m. – Dinner *Students are responsible for their own meals.
7:30 p.m.UWM Wind Ensemble & Symphony Band performance. Free for Honors Band participants and one guest using the code in your acceptance email.
Participating students must commit to the full duration of all activities. A more detailed schedule will be available to students prior to the festival.
*UWM Bands staff releases custodial care to parents/guardians during all meal breaks.

Festival Finale Concerts

These concerts are free and open to participating students, their families, and band directors – no tickets necessary.

Minnesota Honors Band

Performance time: 1 p.m.

Illinois Honors Band

Performance time: 2 p.m.

Wisconsin Honors Band

Performance time: 3 p.m.

Special Instrumental Needs

  • Flute Students: Should bring a piccolo if you have access to one and want to be considered for piccolo parts. Piccolo assignments will be made under the leadership of the guest conductor/clinician.
  • Brass Students: Trumpet and trombone students should bring straight mutes. Other mutes may be requested during the weekend.
  • Percussion Students: Please bring the following four items. If borrowing instruments from school consult your band director first.
    • A pair of general-purpose snare sticks
    • Keyboard mallets
    • Timpani mallets
    • Either a triangle with beater or a tambourine


Casual school clothing is appropriate for festival rehearsals and other activities. For the concert, please wear what you would wear for your own school band concerts. Other suggestions are:

Option 1

  • Top: White button-down, long-sleeved dress shirt (a tie is optional).
  • Bottom: Black dress or dark chino-style pants and belt, dark (black) socks, black dress shoes (no sneakers or athletic shoes).

Option 2

  • Top: White long-sleeved top/blouse with a close neckline.
  • Bottom: Black skirt/dress with a hemline at the calf or to the floor and black socks/hosiery. Black dress pants are also acceptable. Black dress shoes (no sneakers or athletic shoes).


Limited UWM Union dining facilities will be open during the festival to attendees and to the public. Other restaurants near campus are also available within a four-block walk. Students and parents are free to make meal arrangements that fit their needs. UWM Bands staff releases custodial care to parents/guardians during all festival meal breaks and participants will not be accompanied during this time.  


Office staff is available at (414) 229-5641 during the festival schedule in case of emergencies. UWM Police Non-Emergency line is (414) 229-4627.


UWM has many parking options, including metered street parking, university parking structures and lots. Participants and patrons are responsible for following posted parking regulations. Students are responsible for arranging prompt pick-up and drop-off plans. For campus details please see the campus map.

Parent/Guardian Information

  • The UWM Honors Band Festival releases participants to the custodial care of their parent/guardian during non-instructional times (see schedule above).
  • Parents are not required to stay with students during Festival activities. When students are released from UWM’s custodial care (during any non-instructional time), parents may wish to designate another adult for their supervision or make arrangements with a “carpool” group to help facilitate mealtime plans and/or commuting to/from campus. 
  • Meal and lodging plans (if necessary) are the responsibility of each participant’s family. Food and lodging are not provided by the Festival. 
  • All UWM Honors Band Festival rehearsals are open, public events. All interested parents and teachers are welcomed to observe.