History of Music Festivals in Indiana
Music festivals for students in Indiana secondary and elementary schools began in the mid 1920’s, when a small number of bands and orchestras participated in national playing events. Under the sponsorship of band instrument manufacturers, these events provided an opportunity for a number of Indiana groups to gain national recognition. During the 1930’s, the Hobart High School Band, directed by William Revelli, the Hammond High School Band, directed by Adam Lezinsky, and the Crawfordsville High School Band, directed by Joseph Gremelspacher, were among the top ranking concert bands in the nation.
In the early 1930’s, state music festivals were expanded to include, not only bands and orchestras, but marching bands, small ensembles, and solo performances. By 1935, participation had grown to a point that it was necessary to create a formal association. Due to geographical considerations two associations were formed; one being the Northern Indiana School Band, Orchestra, and Vocal Association (NISBOVA), and the other, the Indiana School Music Association (ISMA Central-Southern). For the next 46 years, the two associations developed and sponsored all music festivals for bands, orchestras and choirs. During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) sponsored the State Solo and Ensemble auditions for students who had qualified at earlier NISBOVA and ISMA district events. In 1973, the two associations joined together to sponsor the first Indiana All-State Marching Band Contest.
A few of the known Executive Secretaries of the NISBOVA and ISMA associations include the names of George Myers, Al Stodden, and Robert Sohn of NISBOVA and Lincoln Northcott, Joseph Gremelspacher, Don Marketto, Ralph Chandler, and Fred Niemeyer of ISMA. Many other music educators have made significant contributions to the music associations as they served in their elected positions.
In July of 1981, the Indiana State School Music Association was created as a merger agreement with the two state associations. At the same time, ISSMA became a division of the Indiana Secondary School Administrators. In the summer of 1999, ISSMA became an independent, not-for-profit corporation.
William G. Fread served as the Director of ISSMA from its inception in 1981 to his retirement in 1991. Peter L. Strodel was appointed to succeed Mr. Fread and assumed his responsibilities in July 1991. Following the passing of Mr. Strodel in April of 2000, Charles R. Briel was elected to lead the Association and began his tenure on July 1 of that same year.
Mr. Ronald Bell joined the ISSMA staff in 1985 as Assistant Director of the Association. He continued in that capacity until his retirement in June of 2007. Michael K. Bridgewater was named Assistant Executive Director in July of 2007 after having served as the ISSMA State Show Choir Coordinator since 2005.
Charles R. Briel retired from ISSMA in July of 2015, after 15 years of dedicated service, and Michael K. (Mick) Bridgewater was appointed to succeed Mr. Briel as the Executive Director. As part of an internal ISSMA restructuring, the past Assistant Executive Director position was divided into two new positions: In August 2015, Mr. Mark A. Middleton joined the Association as the ISSMA Instrumental Education Director and Scott A. Bradford as the ISSMA Choral Education Director.
The duties of the ISSMA Directors include securing approximately 120 sites for the various events during each school year, contracting over 1,000 judges for those events, which involve an estimated 200,000 students throughout the state. In addition, the Directors serve ISSMA and all music teachers in carrying out the rules and regulations of the Association and serving ex officio with various committees and organizations pertaining to music education.