Annual Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association Festival
The Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association Festival is an annual celebration of student musical talent in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. The acronym MICCA stands for Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association, you can see why most people chose to say MICCA. Either way, full name or abbreviation, this group of music educators has cooperated to offer an opportunity for musical enrichment across the state and across the ages and talents.
I first learned about the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association and its annual festival as a parent . With one daughter playing clarinet and the other bassoon, my husband and I found that there were lots of ways to get involved in the school music program. One of our favorite ways to participate was to simply be part of the audience at the annual MICCA festival each year. As attendees we got to see our own kids participate in their school wind ensemble playing 3 demanding pieces of music which in total could not last more than 30 minutes. But the fun began.
We got a chance to also see other school ensembles perform their half hour segments as well. Different groups of course chose different pieces from an approved list which for the audience simply means lots of good music played competitively. It was really interesting to compare and contrast the way different groups performed and to compare opinions after each performance.
For us it was a very entertaining way to spend the better part of the day.
Of course we knew that what we got out of our MICCA experience was only a small fraction of what school music conductors drew from their participation. Talking to our daughters’ conductor we learned that the festival gives teachers a chance to measure how their program is growing and developing.
The pieces that are selected for performance are at different levels of difficulty. Conductors can choose pieces accordingly and as a result challenge their students at progressively more difficult compositions as they improve from year to year.
Like any good teacher, conductors are always looking for ways to improve their teaching methods. Watching and listening to the conducting and performances of other school groups is rather like an informal conductors workshop. The festival helps to build supportive relationships between conductors from around the state. No compliments are perhaps better received than those from one conductor to another.
While the MICCA Festival offers entertainment for parents and friends and program building assists for conductors, at its best the festival is a program that helps to build student musicianship. We were pleased to see an auditorium filled with student musicians from a variety of school systems who all loved music and who appreciated the efforts required in order to perform well. No band geek problems here, just a day filled with solid respect and encouragement from one student to another.
A wonderful feature of the MICCA festival geared specifically to students is the mini-workshop conducted after each group performance has been completed. Each performing unit is taken to a separate rehearsal room to meets with one of the panel of judges which has graded their performance. This adjudicator then goes over the pieces with the group and points out the good and less than good aspects of their performance. The group replays some sections of the different pieces following the direction of the adjudicator and learning takes place.
The judges are obviously highly regarded conductors and music educators who take great pleasure and pride in their work.
Each festival is capped off by the announcement of performance awards. Not everyone gets a Gold Medal. There are also Silver and Bronze Medals and Festival Participation Citations. The interesting thing is that schools are not competing really against one another, as is the case at most athletic events. They are competing against a standard of music excellence. Every group that appears has the chance to win “The Gold” regardless of how many other Gold Medal winners there are. As a result the MICCA Festival is not about beating anyone else but rather about growing in the skill of musical performance.