Of the many benefits ACDA membership provides, I would like to reflect on ACDA’s mission to “inspire choral excellence,” and my experience with the finest choral conference I have attended.
Having spent the past two Eastern Division Conferences (Rhode Island and Baltimore) as the Interest Session Chair, I was delighted when Dr. Robert Duff, Director of Choral Activities at Dartmouth College, called and asked if I would take on the role of Asst. Interest Session Chair for the National Conference. For approximately a year, Bob and I organized the General Interest Sessions and, with leadership from composer Steven Sametz, the Composers Track Interest Sessions. We organized and edited over 70 presenters’ session information, photos, biographies, and session handouts for publication in the Choral Journal and on the conference app. During the conference, we coordinated the presenters, the session rooms and AV set-ups, pianos, risers, Session volunteers, presiders, and conference center personnel.
One of the best aspects of attending any ACDA conference or event is strengthening the connections made with our friends and colleagues. The Salt Lake City conference was no exception, as I enjoyed connecting with the ACDA leadership, friends old and new, and meeting new friends. The organizational meeting in ACDA President-Elect’s suite included Mary Hopper, ACDA President Elect, Executive Director Tim Sharp, Program Chair Mike Huff, ACDA Associate Director Craig Gregory, performance site chairs, and the leaders of the Honor Choirs, Hospitality, Interest Sessions, Auditioned Choirs, and Foreign Choirs.
Being from NJ, I was delighted to enjoy a dinner at the famous Red Iguana restaurant with Jack Hill, Chris Thomas, Laurie Lausi, Lori Lynch and the rest of the NJ delegate. It was a delight visiting with Joseph Flummerfelt, one of my most influential mentors, and reconnecting with some graduate school buddies including Andre Thomas and Anton Armstrong. I enjoyed spending time with our Delaware contingent, including Duane Cottrell, Cera Babb, Joanne Ward, Arreon Harley, Paul Head, Alexis Ford, Peter Solecki, Ned Perwo and Sara Gaines. Tom Sabatino was also on hand manning the JW Pepper booth.
Salt Lake City provided an excellent conference site. Several major hotels were within walking distance to the massive Salt Palace Conference Center, which housed all of the Interest Sessions, Conference Registration, Honor Choir rehearsal space, and industry vendor booths. Over 5000 choral directors attended. An additional 5000 choristers from invited, auditioned and honor choirs were present to perform at the many concert venues, all within easy walking distance. The venues included the Abravanel Hall (home of the Utah Symphony Orchestra and Chorus), the Mormon Tabernacle, the LDS Conference Center (whose 21,000 seats were full for the closing conference concert), and a nearby cathedral.
One obvious benefit of attending an ACDA conference is listening to excellent choirs – how they shape phrases, balance, blend, unify vowels, infuse feeling in their performance, and manage a variety of literature. Notable performances were given by our friend Stephen Holmes and the Maryland State Boychoir, the USC Chamber Singers, the Iowa State Singers, as well as some fabulous foreign choirs, The Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo, Sine Nomine from Cuba, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. The big evening concerts were phenomenal. On the opening night, the King’s Singers and the Real Group performed to a packed audience in the Tabernacle. The next night featured the Utah Symphony with combined ensembles of the University of Utah, featuring the Verdi Four Sacred Pieces and other selections. On the third night, I attended a flawless concert in the Tabernacle by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The closing concert in the LDS Conference Center featured the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sylvia McNair, Santino Fontana, the USAF Singing Sergeants, which were joined by all of the honor choir members for the final selection. After a poignant message from Sylvia McNair about how important we all are in the lives of our singers, there were few dry eyes.
I am hopeful that this article will inspire you to set aside the time and expense necessary to attend ACDA events, including our DE ACDA Choral Workshop in June, Voices United in August, the Division Conference (February 2016 in Boston), and the 2017 National Conference in Minneapolis. You will be inspired, and the singers in your choirs will benefit from what you have experienced. Mark your calendars and visit the DEACDA website frequently for new news and information.
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