MLHF banner

Middle Level HonorFest

Middle Level HonorFest

September 28, 2019

At Middle Level HonorFest, advanced middle school musicians spend a day working with a master clinician in a higher education setting. This one-day festival is designed to give your best students an opportunity to perform in an honor band environment early in the school year. 
Middle Level HonorFest is a great way for your students to meet and make music with advanced musicians from other schools. Students will perform quality literature, practice in small group sectionals, and spend the day on a college campus.
The HonorFest bands, choir and orchestra will rehearse during the morning and afternoon, and conclude with a performance in the early evening. The HonorFest concert is free of charge and open to the public.
Participation in Middle Level Honor Fest is determined by director nominations. Directors may nominate up to eight students grades 6-8; selection is based upon your nomination as well as instrumentation.
Completed nomination forms must be received no later than Friday, September 13, 2019. Participating students and directors will be notified of final accepted rosters by Tuesday, September 19, 2019.
There is no cost to nominate students, but a $45.00 per-accepted-student participation fee is due no later than Friday, September 27, 2019.

Band Clinicians: Wendy Higdon, Alex Kaminsky
& Stacey Larson Dolan

WendyHigdonWendy Higdon is the Director of Bands and Unified Arts Department Chair at Creekside Middle School in Carmel, Ind. She began her career as director of bands at Lebanon Middle School (Ind.) in 1991 and came to Carmel Clay Schools in 1999, where she taught band at Carmel Middle School until joining Creekside in 2004. Under her leadership, the performing arts programs at Creekside have grown from to nearly 900 students this year. Under her direction, the Creekside Wind Symphony was honored to perform at the Midwest Clinic in December 2013. The Creekside Wind Symphony was also a featured performing group at the Indiana Music Education Association Conference in January 2013. Her bands have consistently earned high praise from judges, clinicians and guest conductors, including 25 consecutive Gold Awards at the Indiana State School Music Association Organizational Contest and many Best in Class and Overall Grand Champion awards at competitions around the Midwest. The Creekside Wind Symphony has also served as a rehearsal clinic band for Linda Gammon at the 2013 Midwest Clinic and for Chris Grifa at the 2015 Indiana Music Education Association Conference. Higdon performs frequently with bands and orchestras in central Indiana, and is often called upon as an adjudicator, clinician and guest conductor.
In 2013, she received the Fifty Directors Who Make a Difference award from School Band and Orchestra magazine. She has had articles appear in The Instrumentalist, Bandworld, and Carmel magazine. She has been a frequent presenter at the Indiana Music Education Association Professional Development Conference. Higdon earned her degree in music education from Ball State University Honors College, graduating summa cum laude. She also holds two masters degrees from Butler University: one in clarinet performance and the second in education administration. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, as well as holding memberships in the National Association for Music Education, the Indiana Music Education Association and the Indiana Bandmasters Association. She currently serves on the Indiana Music Education Association Board.
Alex Kaminsky
Director of Bands
Alexander Kaminsky was appointed director of bands and associate professor of music at VanderCook College of Music in 2019 after a highly successful tenure at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. Kaminsky holds degrees from the University of Florida and Indiana University, is active as an adjudicator, and is in demand as a guest conductor/clinician across the country. Throughout his 30-year career as a high school band director, Kaminsky’s ensembles have consistently earned superior ratings at all levels of evaluation. In addition to earning superior ratings at the Florida Bandmaters Association (FBA) State Concert Band Assessment for an unprecedented 23 consecutive years, he is the only director in the history of the FBA to have had three concert bands from one school earn straight superior ratings at state (2009, 2018 and 2019).

Kaminsky’s bands have performed at the Midwest Clinic, ABA Convention, CBDNA/NBA Southern Division Conference (2004 and 2014), FMEA State Convention (2014), Music for All National Concert Band Festival (2002 and 2012), and the National Wind Band Festival at Carnegie Hall (2009 and 2018). In 2018, the Stoneman Douglas Wind Symphony was named a Mark of Excellence National Wind Band Honors winner as one of only 10 6A bands in the nation. His marching bands consistently placed in the Florida Marching Band State Championship Finals, twice winning consecutive FMBC State Championships (2013 and 2014, 2017 and 2018) as well as being named a finalist band at BOA regional competitions.

Kaminsky has presented his clinic “How Can I Get My Band to Sound Like That” at various conferences and workshops, and his annual “How To Fix It” series at the FMEA Convention has received high acclaim, with over 900 attendees in 2019. He has been awarded the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence numerous times and has been recognized with several achievement awards for education, including Florida’s 2019 FMEA Secondary Music Educator of the Year Award, FBA Oliver Hobbs Award, FBA Andrew J. Crew Award, National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teacher, Nobel Educator of Distinction, and Teacher of the Year.
He is also listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Kaminsky is a Conn-Selmer Educational Clinician, an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and the American School Band Directors’ Association, and also holds memberships in CBDNA, NBA, NAfME and Phi Beta Mu. He has served on many state and national committees, and currently serves on the ABA Sousa/Ostwald Award Committee and the ABA School Bands Task Force. Kaminsky is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been featured in several periodicals including The Instrumentalist, Teaching Music, Halftime Magazine, School Band & Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” and Home Magazine’s “12 Exceptional Educators.”
To visit Professor Kaminsky's web page, please click here.
Stacey Larson Dolan (MMEd ‘98)
Undergraduate Dean, Associate Director of Bands


Dean Stacey Dolan teaches music education courses, conducting courses and band at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dolan enjoyed success teaching elementary, middle and high school music before joining the faculty at VanderCook in 2004.

She earned a Bachelor of Music Education (BMEd) from Millikin University and her master’s from VanderCook.

Dolan served on the design and teaching staff for the National Champion Lake Park Marching Band for 12 years, and was the creative director and conductor of the Bensenville Young Musicians Mentor Band from 1995 to 2007.

She has conducted honor bands and presented workshops at MEAs and festivals in China and throughout the United States. She has taught tens of thousands of middle school and high school students through her work as a clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor. Her professional affiliations include NAfME, Phi Beta Mu, NBA and CBDNA.

Choral Clinician: Dr. Robert L. Sinclair

Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Robert L. Sinclair has served VanderCook as Director of Choral Activities since 2001. His educational background includes three years at Luther College, where he sang in the Nordic Choir under the direction of Weston Noble. After transferring to Sam Houston State University, Sinclair completed his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees with B.R. Henson. In December 2000 Sinclair completed a PhD. in curriculum and instruction (music education) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he worked with Drs. David Rayl and Wendy Sims.

Sinclair has 10 years of public school teaching experience, and presented sessions to the Music Educators Associations of Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Texas; the Illinois Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), as well as the Southwestern and Southern Divisions of ACDA.

He continues to work as an active choral clinician and adjudicator for junior high and high school students from across the nation and abroad, including honor choirs in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, and Japan in addition to all-state choirs in Illinois and Wisconsin. Sinclair is an active member of ACDA, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity, Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honors Fraternity and the National Association for Music Education.  


Orchestra Clinicians: Carrie Provost
& Dr. John-Rine Zabanal

Carrie Provost earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. Mrs. Provost is a recently retired member of the string faculty in Wheaton-Warrenville School District 200, teaching at Franklin Middle School and at four feeder elementary schools for thirty years. She served as the co-director of the Naperville Youth Symphony Orchestra from its inception, growing the program to 150 musicians over three years. Mrs. Provost occasionally teaches summer graduate classes in String Pedagogy at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. Mrs. Provost was a finalist for the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award in 1999, was awarded the Illinois ASTA School Teacher of the year in 2010, and received the Distinguished Teacher Award from the New 200 Foundation for 2011-2012. She was named a Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator from Quinlan & Fabish Music Company in 2016. She has served on the conducting faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Summer Music Clinic. Mrs. Provost is a frequent adjudicator at contests, as well as a guest conductor for orchestra festivals. She served on the board of the Illinois Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, and is a violinist in the DuPage Symphony Orchestra. She is a certified yoga teacher, and teaches yoga classes at the Wheaton Sport Center. She is married to Bob, a retired orchestra teacher, and they have three daughters and three grandchildren.
IMG_0298_CROPDr. John-Rine Zabanal recently joined VanderCook's faculty as the Director of String Music Education. As an adjunct assistant professor at Florida State University, Dr. Zabanal worked with both undergraduate and graduate string students, making him a great resource for all VanderCook students. He has additional experience with music technology, psychology of music, and research in music.
Prior to his work at FSU, Dr. Zabanal was the Director of Orchestras at Riverbend High and Ni River Middle Schools in Virginia, where his students consistently earned Superior Ratings at VBODA District Orchestra Assessment.
Beyond the classroom, Dr. Zabanal has involved himself with a number of programs that provide elementary-to-high school aged students the opportunity to build positive musical foundations. These include the FSU Strings Orchestra Camp, Rappahannock Summer Music Camp, Tallahassee Youth Orchestra and the Rappahannock Youth Orchestra.
Like many of us at VanderCook, Dr. Zabanal is a strong advocate of music education. He has held memberships with organizations such as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the American String Teacher Association (ASTA). Currently, Dr. Zabanal serves as the Vice President of the FSU chapter of ASTA and is the Media Specialist and Editor for the Florida chapter. He holds a Ph.D. in Music Education and a master's degree in music education from FSU, and a bachelor's degree in music education from The Ohio State University.
To learn more about Dr. Zabanal, visit his website at
Date: Saturday, September 28, 2019
Registration opens August 9, 2019
at 12:00 p.m.

Nomination Deadline: 
Friday, September 13, 2019

Online Nomination Form

Fees cannot be refunded once a student is selected, so please nominate wisely. This fee includes a performance t-shirt and lunch. Music will be issued on the day of the festival.
For any questions, please contact:
Patrick Benson, Director of Continuing Education & Outreach



VanderCook College of Music

3140 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60616-3731
(312) 225-6288

Stay Connected


Continuing Education  




Powered by Website design and development by, Inc