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The CBDA Conference, Past, Present, and Future

By John H. Burn, Past-president

2013 marks the 56th consecutive year that band directors from all over California have come together for the primary purpose of creating an exceptional honor band experience for our students.

A brief History

The first two CBDA All-State Band Festivals were held in Tracy in 1958 and 1959. In 1960, CBDA went from one All-State band to two. Throughout the first four decades of our history, the CBDA Convention was held in different locations in an effort to encourage participation from all over the state. The CBDA Convention has been held in: Antioch, Bakersfield, Campbell, El Cajon, Fresno, Fullerton, Hayward, Modesto, Oxnard, Pasadena, Pittsburg, Redding, Riverside, Sacramento, Salinas, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Stockton, and Upland.

In 1997, due to a fiscal crisis, the CBDA board made the wise decision to stay in Fresno permanently. Fresno has been an excellent home for CBDA for many reasons. First of all Fresno is located in the geographic center of California. Second, the band directors in the Fresno area and the music students of Fresno State have provided an excellent, dedicated and reliable source of volunteers and equipment. Thirdly, the convention center and hotel has a fantastic concert venue right across the street. Finally, and most importantly, by negotiating and excellent multi-year contract, the cost of the hotels, convention center and theater has been affordable. Since we have been in Fresno, our organization has gone from fiscal uncertainty to our current healthy fiscal state, where we operate within budget, and continue to responsibly build our reserve.

The CBDA conference has flourished in Fresno. In 2002, CBDA went from two honor bands to three. In 2003, the Junior High Honor Band was formed. In 2004 a second junior high honor band was added. In 2005, CBDA agreed to partner with the California chapter of IAJE, and now CAJ, the California Alliance for Jazz, to host the All-State Jazz Band. In 2011, CBDA welcomed CMEA (California Music Educators Association), CODA (California Orchestra Directors Association) and CAJ to form CASMEC, the California All-State Music Education Conference. In 2012, the California chapter of ACDA (The American Choral Directors Association) also joined CASMEC.

The Present

The 2012 conference included three high school honor bands, two junior high school honor bands, the All-State Orchestra, the All-State jazz Band, the All-State Jazz Choir and the ACDA Choral Leadership Academy. In 2013 we are adding an All-State Junior High Orchestra, for a total of 10 ensembles which will serve 800 students! The Radisson and the Holiday Inn were completely sold out months before the 2012 convention. 303 rooms were used for honor group students, chaperones/staff, board members, and conductors. Using hotels all over the Fresno area, our total room count for the 2012 convention was 1,750 room nights compared to 1,147 room nights in 2010.

The Future

As the conference continues to grow and flourish by adding more honor groups and by partnering and cooperating with the other state-level music education associations, are we out-growing Fresno? Could we move the conference to a bigger, nicer hotel and convention center that has room for growth? Through steady, slow, responsible growth and improvement, could we, overtime, become a major music education conference like the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic or TMEA in Texas?

Members of the current CBDA board have been carefully and prudently looking into these questions and we are now ready to announce the following proposal:

The CBDA board is in favor of signing a 3-year contract to hold the California All-State Music Education Conference/CBDA Convention at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, starting in February of 2016.


California is a large and diverse state, and Fresno is near the geographic center, however, the San Jose Airport is only 3.8 miles from the Fairmont Hotel, and there are literally dozens of flights from Southern California to San Jose daily. Flying to San Jose not only takes less time compared to driving to Fresno, but can actually cost less than driving if booked far enough in advance.

One major reason for our success in Fresno has been our reliance on the Fresno area band directors and the awesome students and faculty at Fresno State. The greater San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area has many band directors, already active in CBDA, that are ready to support the conference. San Jose State, and their Director of Bands, Dr. Ed Harris, are anxious to insure success in San Jose. San Jose State is ready to open their doors to us and is 1.4 miles from the Fairmont hotel, literally walking distance!

The Fairmont Hotel, San Jose Convention Center, and the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts are nicer and larger venues compared to Fresno.

The Fairmont Hotel, a true “four diamond” property, is significantly nicer and larger than the Radisson and Holiday Inn combined. With over 800 hotel rooms, the Fairmont has plenty of room for the 300+ rooms needed for all our honor groups and staff, and still has plenty of room for our conference attendees all under one roof! The second floor is full of medium to huge sized banquet rooms that will serve wonderfully as the center of our conference. The industry exhibit hall, banquets, concerts, staff development sessions, honor group meals and smaller honor group rehearsals will all fit nicely on the second floor of the Fairmont.

The San Jose Convention Center is a three-minute walk from the Fairmont and will work perfectly for large honor group rehearsals to be held right down the hall from one another. We would use only a fraction of the space in the San Jose Convention Center, so there is plenty of room for future growth.

The San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, where the honor band concerts would be held, is 0.3 miles away (7 minute walk) from the Fairmont Hotel. It was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and has 2,665 seats; it is very similar in size and quality to Fresno’s Saroyan Theater, which has 2,353 seats.

Of course, the most important concern is cost. Can we afford San Jose? Thanks to a “slowly recovering” economy, and excellent bargaining by President Brandon Price, I think the answer to this question may surprise you.

Our contract for the Fairmont locks in the rate of $99 per hotel room, for all three years (2016-2019). The hotel room cost for the Fresno Radisson is $115 in 2012, $117 in 2013, $119 in 2014 and $121 in 2015, and remember the Fairmont is a nicer hotel!

We currently pay about $20,000 for rental of the Fresno Convention Center, Valdez Hall and the Saroyan Theater. This includes credits we get for documenting room nights, but does not include union or equipment fees.

Our contract to rent the San Jose Convention Center and the Center for the Performing Arts (CPA) is for about $17,500. This number also includes hotel room and other credits, but not union fees.

In conclusion: considering the viability of air travel, San Jose is actually one of the most convenient locations in our large and diverse state to hold the conference, the music education community surrounding San Jose is ready, willing able to provide the needed volunteer and equipment support, and even though the facilities are larger, nicer and have room for growth, the cost is actually less! San Jose also has a much more vibrant down town with dozens of restaurants all within walking distance.

We will not make this move without the support of the general membership of CBDA. This proposal will be voted by the general membership at the 2013 conference. Please take some time to think this through, and discuss this your colleagues near you. There will be links with more information about San Jose on the CBDA website. Change can be scary, though in this case, I believe we are looking at taking a wonderfully exciting and positive next step in the proud history of CBDA!


Click here for a promotional video of the Fairmont Hotel!

  FairmontSan Jose Conference Map

San Jose CPA