In the late 1970’s, the idea of an association for New York State instrumental music teachers was conceived by a group of exemplary band directors who were concerned about the lack of quality professional development experiences for band directors in New York State. This group of educators, under the leadership of Richard Snook spent several years meeting on a regular basis debating how a new professional association might take shape and drafting a set of bylaws to govern the association. The founding primary goals and objectives were:
- To assist and serve the needs of band/wind ensemble directors in all areas of the profession and to encourage their professional growth and development.
- To advance the standards of bands by providing forums for the exchange of ideas and methods.
- To foster a spirit of friendliness and cooperation among symphonic band and wind ensemble directors in elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, as well as community (and military) organizations in New York State.
- To cooperate with: The State Department of Education, the New York State School Music Association, and the universities and colleges of New York State.
- To encourage and foster the development of community bands and community music programs.
- To encourage a genuine spirit of professional ethics and maintain a highly professional attitude in all meetings and functions of the association.
In 1981, at a summer music reading clinic in Rochester presented by Wendell Harrison Music, an organizational meeting of interested band directors in attendance was held and the association was officially established with Richard Snook as its first president. In March 1982 the first Symposium was held at Syracuse University, organized by then 1st Vice-President, Robert Spradling. The response by those in attendance at the first Symposium was very positive, that the Symposium was a great learning experience, and the word was quickly spread about what had occurred. With the exception of the 2nd and 3rd conferences held at college sites in Albany and Rochester, all remaining Symposiums have been held in Syracuse.
Throughout the years, NYSBDA has strived to maintain the original premise of its founding fathers, yet also grow with the changing times. Over time, several revisions have occurred in the constitution allowing NYSBDA to evolve as a professional association. In 1992, Edward Lisk, one of the founding fathers, developed a five-year plan that was endorsed by the Board of Directors of the Association. This plan incorporated many of the current projects sponsored and endorsed by NYSBDA currently. These include the establishment of statewide youth honor bands, composition commissions, and the presentation of awards in recognition of outstanding achievement in our fields. In 1994, the first Middle School Honor Band was formed under the chairmanship of George Smith and Robin DeSantis and directed by noted conductor and composer John O’Reilly at the 1995 Symposium. At the 2000 Symposium, the Senior High Band presented its inaugural concert conducted by Frank Battisti, and in 2006, the Senior High Honor Jazz Ensemble offered its first performance under the direction of Bill Katz.
Today, through the efforts of its officers, executive board, and advisory board, NYSBDA continues to grow in membership and responsibility, providing quality music education experiences for the students and membership it serves. We are grateful to our membership, past officers, and executive board members for the dedication and efforts they have put forth during the history of NYSBDA. Throughout the years, NYSBDA has earned the reputation of being the pre-eminent representative professional association for band directors in New York State and the Annual Symposium has come to be recognized as the leading professional development conference for band directors. We look forward to a successful and prosperous future.