Modern Band Journal came to life as a long talked about idea between publisher Mike Lawson and his friend, whom he calls “the father of modern band,” David Wish.

The pioneering work of David’s Little Kids Rock nonprofit put music education into the lives of over a million students the past two decades, serving school districts across the USA, from New York to California, and pretty much all points in-between. Lawson profiled Wish and his work early on in his career as editor-in-chief of School Band & Orchestra magazine, having visited the Modern Band Summit events in Colorado a few times and seeing the overwhelming enthusiasm the 800 teachers attending exhibited. A modern band column each month was soon started in SBO to seed the exposure of the category to the music education world, and start celebrating what it is, and its potential. 

Musician/publisher Mike Lawson, photographed for the Instrument Head series by Michael Weintrob

Like Wish, Lawson is a lifetime musician, the kid who started playing at nine, and took his guitar to school every day from middle school onward. In the early 1980s, there were no programs in music classes to encourage guitar playing, popular music, or hold his attention. He played guitar in jazz band for a year in high school, played guitar the next year in performing arts choir, but the instrument was ancillary to the programs. Soon he was out playing gigs in his beachside hometown, with education behind him, and letting that early love of music take him on a lifetime of adventures. 

Lawson first met Wish over two decades ago when he was at Winter NAMM and first involved with Technology in Music Education, TI:ME, and Wish was running around NAMM trying to get support for this crazy idea he had that modern band could someday be a “thing” in music education. Hearing David’s ideas, it was easy for Mike to agree, because he had been the very kind of student Wish was hoping to inspire. 

“From the moment I was able to make a chord ring out clearly on a guitar, music was my life. Modern band, technology in music classrooms, these things would have motivated me as a child at school in unimaginable ways. They would have been amazing carrots on a stick to engage me across all subjects, if for nothing else, fear of not having access to them.” says Mike Lawson. “If was told I had to bring grades up in other subjects to keep doing these things, I am certain I would have begged for help.”

In June 2021, Lawson’s artistpro LLC acquired School Band & Orchestra, JazzEd, Choral Director, and Musical Merchandise Review magazines. One of the company’s first moves was to finally establish a periodical for the modern band category. 

So, why a print magazine in the “modern era?”

Print is real. Print is validating. Print is not distraction upon distraction in social media and digital spaces. Print is highly targeted, and allows limited advertising space. 

And let’s face it, after the COVID-19 Zoom year+ of teaching, educators are Zooming out. 

Most importantly, when a music educator is published in a printed magazine, or their program is featured, print helps legitimize it all to administrators, parents, students, and supporters. Digital is real, and it has its place, but print is a little more real in the EDU world. Print is a commitment. 

At artistpro, LLC, the goal is to help all of the modern band pioneering educators put the term modern band into the lexicon of music education, to make it as recognizable as concert band, marching band, jazz band, orchestra programs and other longtime established categories.