by David Lockart, President-elect, DE ACDA
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.
Please visit http://www.deacda.org/resources.html to sign up for DE ACDA notices.
In the fall issue of ChorTeach (the choral director's online magazine of ACDA), you can find 119 different articles on many different topics (children's and church choirs to high school, middle school and professional ensembles). Check it out during your "lunch break" sometime.
One article in particular caught our attention, Sabbath Rest for Choral Directors by Jeffrey Benson. As Benson says in the article, "Most of us work long hours and dedicate our lives to this profession without stopping long enough to recharge our batteries." In the article, Benson gives 7 different ideas of ways to recharge your batteries, leading to a more inspired, renewed and rejuvenated person and choral director.
This year's DEACDA Rehoboth Beach Choral Workshop was a great success with more than 50 choral directors from the state and the region gathering at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Lewes.
With reading sessions for elementary, middle school, high school choirs and church musicians, the event strived to meet the diverse needs of choral musicians in Delaware. The headliner of the workshop, Stephen Holmes of the Maryland State Boychoir, focused on the developing mail voice, bringing six young male singers in various stages of vocal maturity to use as a demonstration ensemble. Even workshop attendees who don't work with singers of this age were able to learn methodologies to try with their choirs.
Next year's workshop dates with be June 11-12, 2015. Certificates for Clock Hours or PIP's are available upon request.
In the book, Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, author Stacy Horn shares her love of singing and how, in a way, it saved her life. In this 13-minute Ted Talk, Stacy shares about her experience and how singing together in a group physically alters your body in a good way, increasing Oxytocin and Dopamine while decreasing Cortisol levels. In addition, though, Horn talks about the transcendent nature of singing together, how "When you sing a great piece of music... you become that great piece of music." And she says of the community effort of singing, "The fact that a masterpiece, like the Bach B Minor Mass, can only be achieved by intense cooperation bonds you. That kind of sustained effort, week after week after week regularly working through mistakes together all to create something beautiful, is the ultimate communion." I have found her book and the Ted Talk to be quite inspiring. I hope you will as well.
The Eastern Division of ACDA presented their biennial conference in Baltimore, February 5 – 8. Whether you’re a director of children’s choirs, middle or high school choirs, collegiate ensembles, community choirs, church choirs, or some other choral configuration, this conference offered a tremendous wealth of resources.
I have been active at the division level for eight years, chairing Auditioned Choirs for the Hartford (’08) and Philadelphia (’10) conferences, and chairing Interest Sessions for the Providence (’12) and Baltimore conferences. Wonderful choral performances and fascinating sessions by choral experts have been centerpieces for each of these conferences, and Baltimore certainly did not disappoint.
On Thursday and Friday, thirty-one Interest Sessions were given by leading choral musicians from throughout the Eastern Division and beyond. Thursday’s highlights included sessions focusing on:
Friday provided an equally interesting and diverse array of sessions. Highlights included sessions focusing on:
There were sixteen other fascinating interest sessions, and though it’s impossible to attend them all, many posted their materials on the conference app for free download.
Almost all sessions were very well attended and both participants and presenters seemed to really value the experience. Presenter Amy Beresik, who presented a session on teaching sight-singing to middle school singers said, “I can say this was one of the most enriching experiences of my career to date!” Presenter Steven Russell, who lead participants in an early-morning yoga session said, “I thought the variety of interest session topics was great!”
Choral performances included concerts presented by auditioned choirs, invited choirs, and honor choirs. Approximately thirty concerts were given during the four conference days. Among them:
One of the delights of attending a conference, whether it is a state, division or national event, is making connections with our colleagues. In many cases, this includes reconnecting with college classmates and past co-workers. In other cases, meeting new friends and developing relationships, perhaps sowing the seeds for future musical collaboration or professional opportunities.
I feel that most attendees emerged from this 4-day choral immersion feeling refreshed, recharged, motivated, and full of new concepts, skills, knowledge and ideas to try with your choirs. I sure enjoyed it! --Dave Lockart, President-Elect, DE ACDA