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      “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1 
 
Today—Ash Wednesday—begins another season. If we are church musicians, Lent begins today….ready or not….even if we have not recovered from the Christmas Season. If we are not church musicians but in academia, we are probably preparing for contest season (junior high and high school) or tours (college, university and some high schools) or getting ready to go to our ACDA division conference. If we are in the professional or community sectors, it might be one or some or all of the above!
 
All of us are in some sort of transition during the month of February. I begin another rehearsal cycle the beginning of March and am holding auditions until then. I don’t always do well during transitions, feeling stressed with uncertainty and lack of completeness. I want things to get going, rehearsals to begin, and the snow to melt so it’s easier for my singers to get to rehearsal and get to rehearsal on time. I want all of the music folders to magically get put together and handouts collated and concert details finalized. If only it was so! Sometimes, I feel like Sisyphus, never completely finishing anything before I am forced to begin the process all over again. This year, I’ve vowed to take a moment to be aware of the small joys of doing those things I need to do during the transition period.
 
It wasn’t always this way for me during transitional times. When I had my church positions, I loved Lent.  I loved the minor mode music and the grayish skies leading up to the promise of Easter and spring. I knew I had to get through Lent and Holy Week to arrive at Easter and I looked forward to my Lenten journey every year. My choirs would occasionally complain we never sang anything “cheerful” during Lent. One of my tenors (it’s always a tenor, isn’t it?) would ask what the “dirge of the week” was as he walked into our weekly rehearsal. I would reply, “Its ‘Sacred Head,’ now get over it!” and we would laugh. And eventually Easter would come and we would all sing Alleluias and have Easter lilies and chocolate eggs and all would get back to normal.
 
In order to get to Easter (or whatever your end point), we must get through our own Lent. We must get through the snow and ice for us to appreciate the sun. We need to rehearse our students for the contests, prepare for the tours, and make arrangements for those ACDA conferences. We need to hold auditions for the upcoming concert cycles or the next academia year before we can begin the next round of rehearsals. We need to begin another repertoire search, do some in depth score study and get music ordered before those rehearsals can start. We don’t often think about the joy in that process, the joy in the transitions, the joy in getting there from here because it’s always about the destination and not the journey, isn’t it?
 
When I started my work as Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association in 2008, I began with a vision for ACDA I have not varied from since the start: I envision an ACDA that establishes the opportunity for every child in the United States to sing in a choir; I envision an ACDA that is fully engaged in world choral initiatives; I envision an ACDA that utilizes the full extent of technological communication and other technologies for the benefit of our membership; and, I envision an ACDA that sets the research and publication agenda for the best thinking, past and present, in choral music.
 
In 2012, I entered what I consider the second phase of my work, beginning a period of strategic planning with our Association in order to discern the kind of ACDA our membership wanted to be in the twenty-first century. That process touched on planning that started with our national leadership, continued with a national survey of our membership, was followed by a period of reflection and refinement of the survey results, was distilled into ACDA’s first-ever Mission Statement, and finally culminated in reforms that were ratified in January of this year by our entire membership that will reshape the way ACDA does its work to fulfi ll its mission.
 
I now enter what I consider my third phase as ACDA’s Executive Director, looking to the next four years and the work that lies ahead for us. In this extended blog (spoiler alert!), I would like to reflect on what I know now that I may not have known as clearly earlier in my work, where I think we are as an Association at this point in time, and where I see my work headed in the years to come.
 
The American Choral Directors Association is a not-for-profit association of choral music educators, conductors, performers, students, composers, music industry members, and others involved in choral music performance, education, composition, and advocacy. The mission of ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music education, performance, composition, and advocacy, and our twelve purposes are always printed in the sidebar of my monthly column in Choral Journal. ACDA is the world’s largest professional choral music association. Through its membership of more than 21,000 active, retired, student, international, and industry members, and hundreds of thousands of choral music performers, ACDA serves millions of singers of all ages and of all levels of performance. There are ACDA state associations in all fifty United States, which we organize into seven geographical divisions. ACDA provides a wide array of services to support choral music education and performance, including print and web-based media, professional development conferences and workshops, collaborative partnerships with similar associations, and a growing number of benefits to its members (see my editorial in the January 2016 edition of Choral Journal). ACDA is recognized as the national voice for choral music education and performance, and as such represents the field in national initiatives and advocacy. ACDA has an office staff of fourteen, with additional contract labor staffing.
 
My organizational leadership is characterized by innovation, collaboration, discipline, and mentorship. In order to meet the challenges of a twenty-first-century not-for-profit voluntary membership organization, today’s leader must be innovative. Strategic planning takes place in every area of an organization’s work to assist in charting a course of action pursued to address a mission and vision. Collaboration unifies stakeholders in the ownership of that vision and the pursuit of the mission. Discipline is required in order to provide stewardship in the directed use of the Association’s resources. Mentorship throughout this process creates a sustainable environment for the plans implemented and for the never-ending task of strategic planning. My professional experience over the last eight years in leading the world’s largest non-profit professional organization for conductors, combined with my earlier work as associate dean in higher education, teaching and research experience, and experience running my own successful corporation, has allowed me to work and lead in environments motivated by different action perspectives and motivations. Non-profit associational work, higher education, denominational church life, and my own for-profit corporation have each offered insights into the motivation for different aspects of our mission. All of these experiences have taught me a great deal about leadership, budgeting, management, human resources, business analysis, legal procedures, strategic planning, operational finance, technological systems, data systems, social media, and a number of other practical aspects of business and academic work, work within a faith community, and work motivated by profit. It is my desire to continue to channel this knowledge and experience for the benefit of ACDA and our mission. The greatest opportunity of all in the coming years for the work of ACDA will be to cultivate the resources necessary to accomplish our Association’s mission and vision. Strategic planning will be called upon again to develop the resource and financial architecture needed by ACDA. I am pleased that my interest, expertise, experience, and energy collide with this moment in the life of our Association. The guiding principles necessary for a successful development plan will again be in the areas of innovation, collaboration, discipline, and mentorship. A widening circle of stakeholders is involved in the development of the resources that will advance ACDA in this area, including partners representing both individual philanthropy and institutional philanthropy. These partners include current members, retired members, friends and donors, regional and national institutions, and others desiring to share in the mission and vision of ACDA. I am pleased we have had success in the areas of strategic planning, enrollment management, philanthropy and fundraising, conference planning, talent recruitment, and other areas. I am also pleased that I approach this work with a trajectory that offers confidence within my own scholarship and pedagogy but excited about directing my eff orts toward a worthy pursuit such as our Association’s mission.
 
The further development of the financial architecture of ACDA will be one of the greatest intrinsic rewards of my work with our membership and leadership in the years ahead. As Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association, my official contractual duties are as follows:
 
1. Coordinate and communicate with the National Executive Committee to supervise all operations of the ACDA organization.
2. Supervise the programs, projects, and activities of the ACDA staff.
3. Direct and coordinate development activities of the ACDA organization, all endowments and all entities, and the programs and events related thereto.
 
Practically speaking, these duties are worked out in the daily and ongoing responsibilities described by the following tasks I have identified over the last eight years. This list is developed to inform and guide the work of my position now and in the future:
 
• Fiscal management of the ACDA budget and staff .
• Communicating clearly and listening to members, including the ability to clearly articulate ACDA’s message and to command the respect of the ACDA audience.
• Building relationships within a diverse membership organization and with other organizations, business groups, and coalitions.
• Negotiating and building consensus.
• Building teams, including the recruitment, development, and supervision of staff .
• Developing sources of non-dues revenue.
• Understanding business issues as they affect ACDA, knowledge of how associations can work most effectively, and a familiarity with the legal issues related to association management.
• Developing a global vision and an ability to understand and anticipate emerging needs as they might affect ACDA.
 
In addition to the effective performance of the above responsibilities, I have concluded that the Executive Director of ACDA should demonstrate the following personal attributes in the accomplishment of the duties of this position:
 
• Strong personal character, a keen sense of protocol, and respect in the discipline.
• Proven leadership ability and demonstrated business management skills.
• Strong strategic-thinking and listening skills.
• An entrepreneurial spirit.
• Sufficient self-confidence to place service over ego.
• Diplomatic skills necessary to reach common ground and build alliances without compromising ACDA’s interests, and the ability to command the respect of colleagues and political communities.
• The ability to build and maintain key relationships through networking.
• An understanding of the role of Executive Director that supports the policy-making role and responsibilities of elected leaders.
• An understanding that the Association belongs to the members and a willingness to put members and mission first.
• An ability to work in a decisive manner in a results-oriented, decision-making environment.
• A reputation for being energetic, intelligent, hard working, enthusiastic, and willing to offer opinions and judgments. Further, the Executive Director of ACDA will be responsible for the following as we look to the future:
• Implementing the vision of the Association.
• Managing the operations of the Association.
• Providing leadership to the staff , including responsibility for hiring, training, supervising, and evaluating staff .
• Providing advice and counsel to the appointed and elected
officers and members to ensure the achievement of the Association’s mission and goals.
• Managing the strategic planning process in conjunction with the Executive Committee.
• Overseeing and managing the development of the budget of the Association while identifying new sources of revenue.
• Developing and implementing a robust membership retention and attraction program, and ensuring that the Association’s offerings are aligned with the needs of the membership.
• Building and enhancing relationships with the Executive Committee, the National Board, and with state and division leadership.
• Demonstrating responsiveness to the needs of the division and state ACDA chapter leadership and membership.
• Ensuring compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements applicable to the operation of the Association.
• Leading a results-oriented, responsive, and well-integrated senior management team focused on goals and objectives designed to meet the needs of ACDA’s growing membership.
• Articulating clearly the issues of concern to ACDA and the choral music profession and serving as an effective advocate for the interests of choral music education in interactions with other associations, business groups, the music industry, government policymakers, and other organizations.
• Advocating for the visibility of the organization with all of its publics.
• Overseeing and participating in the implementation of ACDA’s governance structure.
 
Goals for the Next Four Years
 
Utilizing my ongoing study and evaluation of the work of ACDA, along with the evaluation data collected over the last four years, I have developed the following goals for my work in leading the Association in the years ahead in three key areas:
 
1) Association Strategy and Planning
To lead the Association in its first-ever study of the financial architecture at work throughout the Association and, after a thorough study of the findings, develop a plan for addressing the interrelated financial needs of the Association as we move into the future.
 
2) Program Management
To lead the Association in staffing and engaging our new program structure, a process that began with the final constitutional vote of the membership in January 2016. The initial program and committee staffing aspect of this goal will take place in the spring of 2016, and engagement will begin with the gathering of the leadership at the National Leadership Conference in June 2016. Further engagement will take place as agendas are carefully built by the Standing Committees, and Committee Chairs are motivated to lead the work and achieve the outcomes defined.
 
3) Personnel Management
To continue the development of a professional staff in the National Office, aligning current and future staff with new structure (as of February 1, 2016), program, and financial requirements identified in the ongoing process of strategic planning.
 
It is with a sense of excitement and humility that I anticipate the coming years of serving the American Choral Directors Association as Executive Director.
 
Tim Sharp
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(The Composition Showcase is a unique resource for conductors.   Choral composers are allowed to share only a few of their best works.  Each week we offer you the best of the best on a silver platter.   The Silver Platter Award winners are works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear)
 
Silver Platter Award Winner:
O sacrum convivium by Cyrill Schürch SATB/SATB a cappella (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert
Program Themes:  Easter, Body of Christ, Transcendent Chorals
This Piece Would Program Well With:  O Sacrum Convivium! by Oliver Messiaen available from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
 
Master composer Cyrill Schürch sends the audience to new heights with this beautiful choral duet between two SATB (non divisi) choirs.   If you are in a hurry, start listening at 1:47, though I’m sure you will go back to hear the whole work.   The short length of the work is an asset to aspiring choirs ready to sink their teeth into a true gem.   Inspiring!
 
O sacrum convivium is available through the composer’s website: http://cschurch.net/en/order-music/
It is my pleasure to introduce 2016 ICEP Conducting Fellows, Dr. Timothy Westerhaus, Director of Choral Activities at Gonzaga University, and Dr. Kee-Tae Kong, Conductor of the Joyel Choir and Joyel Master's Ensemble. Please help me congratulate these two outstanding representatives of our international exchange program and welcome them to our division conferences this spring.
 
Dr. Timothy Westerhaus
 
Dr. Timothy Westerhaus is an active conductor, educator, tenor, and pianist, and he seeks to combine musical scholarship, technical excellence, and expressive artistry in performance. He has conducted collegiate and professional ensembles in the United States and Europe; his teaching activities span from universities to national music organizations; and his solo appearances as tenor and keyboardist encompass music from the Baroque to modern eras. As a conductor, Dr. Westerhaus is the director of choirs and vocal studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. In October 2014, he was appointed music director of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and directs the St. John’s Music Series. He has served as assistant chorus master of the Oregon Bach Festival, and he conducted a variety of choral ensembles at Boston University from 2005 to 2010. He has founded professional ensembles, including the Boston-based chamber orchestra and choir Bridge Ensemble and the Incendo Music Ensemble, a chamber orchestra in Spokane. He has led tours in Austria, Germany, Colombia, and the United States. Dr. Westerhaus received his bachelors degree from the University of Saint Thomas, and he received his masters and doctoral degrees from Boston University.
 
Dr. Kee-Tae Kong
 
Dr. Kee-Tae Kong currently holds positions as the conductor of the Joyel choir and Joyel Master's Ensemble, the CBS Daegu Joyel Worship Orchestra, the KBS Women's Chorus, the Daegu Father's Chorus, the Daegu Teacher's Chorus and is the General Secretary for the Korea Federation for Choral Music. His past appointments include conductor and music director of the Korean Choir of Greater Kansas City, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conductor's Ensemble and the University of Missouri-Kansas City University Ensemble. Dr. Kong received his bachelors degree in Composition and Choral Conducting from Keimyung University, his masters degree in Choral Conducting from University of Missouri-Kansas City, and his DMA in Choral Conducting from Arizona State University. Dr. Kong is the 2016 ICEP Conducting Fellow from South Korea and his residency will be centered in the Southwest Division. For more information regarding his time in the US, please contact the ACDA Southwest Division Liaison, Dr. Jim Davidson at: jdavidson005@drury.edu.
“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” Washington Irving
 
Ten years ago, I founded the community chamber choir I direct. Developing into a solid core of singers, we have experienced much together. We have been through all sorts of life events; marriages, births (of children and grandchildren), retirements, illnesses and deaths of parents and spouses. But it wasn’t until February of 2015 we experienced the death of one of our singers, alto Elaine S.
 
Elaine was special for many reasons.  She was a Genius and an Odd Duck. She played the ukulele. To say she was a “character” is too mild a way of putting it; she was a kooky character!
 
When she called our choir phone to set up an audition, I didn’t think it could possibly be her. She stated her name—Elaine S. (I had grown up with a family with this unique long ethnic name)—and wanted to know if I was THAT Marie Grass. Returning her call, I told her I was Marie Grass Amenta now and she said, “well, la-de-da”…it was that Elaine! She had been a classmate of one of my sisters, from grade school through high school, and I had been a classmate of one of hers. Elaine and I had sung together in high school; mixed chorus, Madrigals and musicals. She had studied voice with my opera singer Mom when she was in college. In our phone conversation, she thanked me for graduating so she could finally get the parts I had previously (she had been my understudy for more than one role) and we set up an audition.
 
Elaine had one of those creamy, contralto voices that just get better with age.  Her voice was wonderful but her musicianship had slipped… but I couldn’t turn her away.  She agreed to be coached by our accompanist, Ben, who is also my son.  When Ben asked what he should call her, she told him to call her “Crazy Aunt Elaine” and since she knew his Actual Aunts, she assured him she was every bit as crazy! When Elaine auditioned, she shared with me she was a two time breast cancer survivor. I told her Mom was a two time cancer survivor as well.
 
She attended her first rehearsal, and I dragged out an old yearbook to show everyone our high school chorus picture.  Thank goodness we were wearing robes! From that moment on, Elaine fit in. The altos loved her and the rest of the group found her funny and quirky.  If she had any musical problems, she asked Ben for help or the altos would have impromptu sectionals before or after rehearsal. Elaine was Greek, had sung for many years in Orthodox Church choirs and would joke about Kyries being Greek so finally she felt comfortable with something.
 
After she sang her first concert, Mom and Elaine held hands during the reception and compared chemo war stories. It was so touching. Unfortunately, Mom’s cancer reoccurred and she was again on the Chemo Train, as those two called it. Mom lost her battle that summer and when I called Elaine, she wept. She wasn’t feeling well enough to attend Mom’s wake or funeral even with us offering to take her. I should have known something was up.
 
Rehearsals started in fall and Elaine looked like (her word) “crap.” She told me her cancer had reoccurred and had a drain in her lungs so her breath control was “nada.” If I didn’t want her to sing for that concert, she would understand. Of course I wanted her! She missed only one rehearsal due to a treatment leaving her “high as a kite.”
 
After the concert, we had two break-out gigs and she wasn’t able to sing. She left a message on my cell phone, “Now don’t have a cow Marie, but they say it’s no use. I’m done for. How can that be?” Days later I got a call from one of her friends.
 
As I put folders together for this spring, I think of Elaine and what an honor it was having her sing with us. I miss her!
It is official! As of today, February 1, 2016, the American Choral Directors has changed the way it will do its work as we move forward. By an approval rate of 98%, the membership of ACDA has determined we will do our work of "inspiring excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy" through seven new or restructured Standing Committees. These Standing Committees replace the former Constitutionally established Standing Committees, and signal a new grassroots approach to accomplishing our mission and the purposes of the Association.
 
These new Standing Committees are the following:
 
International Activities--This Standing Committee oversees international programs (e.g., ICEP, National Youth Choir, communication with ACDA International Chapters to be developed in the future, and present and future international collaborations), and develops international programs and collaborations that advance ACDA's mission.
 
Research and Publications--This Standing Committee oversees all research and publication activities (e.g. Choral Journal, ChorTeach, IJRCS, Monographs, Herford Award, Publications Awards), and develops research projects and publications that advance ACDA's mission.
 
Composition Initiatives--This Standing Committee oversees activities dealing with ACDA choral composition commissions and awards (e.g. Brock Commissions, Honor Choir Commissions, Consortium Commissions), and develops choral composition criteria, educational programs, and projects that advance ACDA's mission.
 
Advocacy and Collaboration--This Standing Committee oversees programs and activities related to collaborations with other organizations, and programs and activities related to choral music advocacy.
 
Education and Communication--This Standing Committee oversees ACDA's professional and social networking site to advance the educational programs and offerings of the association (e.g. ChoralNet and ACDA.org), and oversees and develops programs that assist in the education of the membership and the communication of these resources (e.g. ACDA Mentoring Program, Musica Database).
 
Diversity Initiatives--This Standing Committee oversees programs and activities that serve a greater population of choral singers and conductors than those served through the other Standing Committees (e.g. Outreach and collaborative projects directed toward under-served populations, programs developed for under-served urban and rural settings, programs directed toward inclusion offerings, programs that speak to the diversity found in society in general).          
 
Repertoire and Resources  (This Chair is a Nationally elected position)--This Standing Committee provides support, vision and resources for every major area of choral work. Committee members (National R&R Chairs) play an important role in serving their respective choral genres and promote excellence in literature and performance standards.
 
As we move forward, we now seek leaders for these Standing Committees. This is a call for leadership, and a call for innovation. If you are interested in being considered for one of the above committee chairs, the following application process has been established. All Standing Committee Chairs will be appointed in the coming months, and Standing Committee Chairs will assist in the staffing of each committee (with the exception of the Repertoire and Resources Committee, which will follow a different staffing process during this transitional period.)
 
National Standing Committee Chair Application
 
1.  Letter of application including a vision statement and resume submitted to Mary Hopper, ACDA President (by March 15)  mary.hopper@wheaton.edu
2.  Review of applicants by the Executive Committee (March 15-April 1)
3.  Appointments made (April 1)
4.  Chairs will attend the National Leadership Conference June 3-4, 2016
 
National Chairs of Standing Committees are appointed for a four-year term by the ACDA Executive Committee. A National Committee Chair may be reappointed once, for a maximum of eight years. The National President or National Standing Committee Chair may recommend removal of a National Standing Committee member from office to the Executive Committee for action.
 
Criteria For National Standing Committee Chair And Committee Members
 
The National Standing Committee Chair should have extensive experience and expertise in the focus area along with a vision for advancing the goals of the focus area.  The applicant should have successful leadership and strong communication skills. The applicant must be willing to work to fulfill the mission of ACDA in a positive and professional manner.
 
Each National Standing Committee shall consist of three to five members, including the Chair. Each National Standing Committee will liaison with the ACDA Executive Director, a National Staff Member, and a member of the ACDA Executive Committee, who will serve in an ex-officio capacity. 
 
Committee members shall be recommended to the Executive Committee and Executive Director by the National Chair to serve as project managers in each focus area.  These individuals should have experience and expertise in the Standing Committee focus area and must be willing to work to fulfill the mission of ACDA in a positive and professional manner.  Standing Committee member recommendations shall be approved and appointed by majority vote of the Executive Committee. Standing Committee Chairs may appoint sub-committees to execute more complex projects. Committee members serve four-year appointed terms that may be reappointed once for a total of eight years or until the project is completed.
 
I hope many of our members will consider joining the leadership team as we renew our efforts of inspiring choral excellence and innovation through this new approach to our work.
 
 
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(The Composition Showcase is a unique resource for conductors.   Choral composers are allowed to share only a few of their best works.  Each week we offer you the best of the best on a silver platter.   The Silver Platter Award winners are works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear)
 
Silver Platter Award Winner:
Firelight by Braeden Ayres SATB a cappella (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert
Program Themes:  Songs Without Words, Vocal Effects
This Piece Would Program Well With:  Vocalise  Rachmaninoff arr.  Prokhorov available from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
 
Singing on vocables is a great way to get your singers thinking about the different ways music can be expressive.  Vocal musicians sometimes get in a rut of depending on lyrics to drive every emotion.  Firelight by Braeden Ayres can help expand understanding of expression for your audience and singers alike. 
 
 
Firelight is available from the composer at http://www.braedenayres.com/contact/
I am delighted to introduce 2016 ACDA ICEP Conducting Fellows Mr. Patrick Quigley and Ms. Hye Kyoung Yoon. For more information regarding the ACDA International Conductors Exchange Program please refer to the most recent Choral Journal article (February 2016), Choral Connections with the Republic of Korea (Land of the Morning Calm) or join us on Facebook.
 
Patrick Quigley
Mr. Quigley was nominated for two 2012 GRAMMY® awards for his work with Seraphic Fire: Best Choral Performance for Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, and Best Small Ensemble Performance for A Seraphic Fire Christmas. Under his direction, Seraphic Fire has released eleven recordings on the Seraphic Fire Media label, with two additional recordings forthcoming this year. In the past three years, Seraphic Fire has had albums enter the top ten on both the Billboard and iTunes classical charts—including the ensemble’s 2010 release of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610), which reached the number one position on the iTunes classical music charts. Quigley is the recipient of the 2004 Robert Shaw Conducting Fellowship, given annually by the National Endowment for the Arts and Chorus America to one conductor between the ages of 25 and 40 who demonstrates the potential for a significant professional career. Patrick received his M.Mus. in conducting from the Yale School of Music, his B.A. in musicology from the University of Notre Dame, and is a graduate of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy’s Fundraising School.
 
Hye Kyoung Yoon
Hye Kyoung Yoon is the conductor of the Agathos Chamber Singers, the CTS TV Gangseo Children's Choir, and the Seoul Ladies Singers. Her past appointments include engagements with the Asia Pacific International School, the FEBC Hak Won Yoon Chorale, and the Incheon Women's Seminary. Ms. Yoon is currently pursuing completing the DMA in Choral Conducting at Hansei University in Gunpo, Korea. Her Master's degree is in Organ Performance from Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea and her Bachelor's degree is in Piano Performance from Seoul National University. During her time in the United States, Ms. Yoon will be a guest of the ACDA Northwest Division. For more information regarding her ICEP residency please contact the ACDA ICEP Western Division Liaison, Dr. Timothy Westerhaus at westerhaus@gonzaga.edu.
Zeroing in Your Sound
By Chad Steffey, DMA Choral Conducting Student, George Mason University
 
We’ve all said or heard it, probably in your last rehearsal: “Let’s sing with taller vowels” or “please darken your tone.” But what does this really mean, and what do we expect our singers to do? I admit I am guilty of overusing such phrases.
 
From this recent semester of teaching high school choir, I am thinking more critically about my instruction. How can I get the singers to feel and hear their own sound in such a way they have a clear reference point for adjustment? My solution: Get them to see it. Not with an oscilloscope or measuring instrument, but with a conceptual visual aide. One day in an “a-ha” moment, I drew a four-quadrant grid with an X-Y axis on the whiteboard and we began to plot our sound in terms of comparative weight and tone color. With the students’ help and experimentation, we came up with the Vocal Placement Grid (Figure 1).
 
We may often present concepts for which young people have no reference point. Lifelong choristers are likely familiar with a “tall vowel” concept as it relates to pharyngeal placement, resonance, raising the soft palette, and a slight modification of pronunciation. For students, and amateurs, all this physiological jabber makes their eyes roll back in their pharynx. They are probably thinking, “Just sing it the way you want and I’ll imitate it.” At some point in their vocal training they will need to grasp these concepts, but on a day-to-day basis, how might we better help our choirs find the sound we are looking for in a given work?
 
You likely use descriptive words like bright, pure, warm, velvety, pingy, bell-like, open, resonant, etc. Some terms are visual (bright), some are tactile (velvety), and some have audible analogues (bell-like). This certainly helps singers relate, and it also utilizes different sensory experiences that can be referential.
 
After several weeks of trying to describe/demonstrate how the choir could refine their sound, I stumbled upon a thought – in order to change or modify the way they are singing, they not only needed a target for what it should be, but a reference point for how they were currently singing. Furthermore, we weren’t just developing a singular sound concept (I’ll save discussing “But my choir has a signature sound” for another day), we needed to find an appropriate sound concept for each piece of a repertory that spanned several centuries and languages. Hence, the Vocal Placement Grid (Figure 1).
The horizontal axis (X) is a spectrum of color that can generally correlates to vowel placement – forward/bright on the far right and back/dark on the far left. I also include the descriptors “ring” and ping” to retain the concept of resonance no matter the placement or color. The vertical axis (Y) refers to the weight of the voice – I am hesitant to use the word “heavy” as the opposite of “light” as to not encourage throat tension.
 
Figure 1. Vocal Placement Grid
 
 
Before asking the singers to plot themselves on the grid, we had to establish some parameters for the spectrums. Rather than discerning color and weight at first, singers can usually relate to head voice and chest voice. Even if they don’t, some simple vocalizations make them aware. To do this, concentrate on the upper right and lower left quadrants.
 
I prefer to start warm-ups with easy and relaxed sounds (staying well above the X axis at a soft dynamic), like gentle humming in the midrange on 5-note descending scales. To get the choir oriented in the grid, I had them make light un-pitched cooing sounds in their head voice, suggesting they imitate baby owls that are just waking up. This sensation would be the extreme upper right of the grid. Now by easing that sound into pitch, with only the head voice and essentially no vibrato, we could plot it as [4:4]. I continued vocalizations, working from the head voice lightness and bringing that sensation down into the tessitura, working toward more flexibility in the voice. Naturally, this adds weight and the singers will continue to fill out their tone. When I felt they were sufficiently warmed up, I had them find [4:4] again as a point of reference, then asked them to imagine and feel what [-4:-4] would be on the complete opposite of the spectrum. Without prompting, they suggested imitating an operatic bass or mezzo-soprano singing some dramatic aria. Bingo! I said, “Ok, now sing that way on the first phrase of ‘My Country Tis of Thee.’” Not surprisingly, they launched into a fortissimo/chesty/full-vibrato rendition that made them giggle after my Bugs Bunny release (Don’t judge me, you’ve all done it!). I had them do it again, but asked them to cover the tone as much as possible; unquestionably, they now knew what [-4:-4] was.
 
Having established these extreme limits, the choir now had some tangible references for beginning to adjust their sound. To further refine it, I asked them to sing the same “My Country Tis of Thee” phrase, placing it in the middle of each of the four quadrants. Predictably, the lower right quadrant had a nasal quality and the upper left sounded like an elocution exercise for a British accent.
 
Using the short “My Country Tis of Thee” passage (you can use one of your own choosing) starting in one quadrant, we began to move the sound vertically and horizontally around the grid to get the idea of mixing weight, tone color, and vowel colors with specific coordinates in mind.  Ultimately, we came to a collective (albeit very subjective) agreement on what a neutral [0:0] felt and sounded like. Now each singer could add/subtract weight and color in their voice with nuance and some degree of reference.
 
Feeling confident about that, it was time to put the grid into practice. For the rest of the rehearsal we sang passages from our upcoming concert program, they would discuss where they thought it sounded, and then assign coordinates. From this, I asked them to exactly replicate the sound so they would consciously sing to their own reference point. Here is where the critical listening and thinking came to life – the singers then discussed whether this was the best sound concept for a passage; they collectively assessed the merits of their tone, vowels, weight, and even blend as appropriate. We then adjusted the coordinates toward a new ideal and continued to refine the process. Having zeroed in our desired sound for a given piece or passage, they marked their scores with a coordinate, confident of the specific vocal sensation that would produce that sound.
 
As a subjective tool, any specific grid coordinate is only meaningful to the choir in front of you, because they are the ones who chose it. The coordinate represents what they happen to sound like with that collection of voices and with their own reference for replicating such a sound. Even though it is subjective, the Vocal Placement Grid is a tangible way for singers to adjust their sound. Using this tool, they can place abstract concepts into a framework that is likely familiar to them from math and science courses. Most importantly, they can see, feel, and hear how vocal placements compare.
       "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Harry S. Truman
 
Four years ago, Jay’s* partner was accepted to medical school in a university town with a great music school and many fine community music organizations. Jay was very happy. He got a job as the music director at a church with a wonderful organ and choir and was soon hired as the assistant music director for the premier community chorus with many university faculty members as members. He wasn’t called the “assistant music director” to begin with since Felicity*, the music director (a retired director of choral activities from the university), felt he was “only” accompanying, and should be called the “pianist” of the group, not the “accompanist” or even the “collaborative pianist” but the plain, ‘ol pianist. Felicity’s attitude then should have tipped him off.
 
At the end of his first year with the chorus, he made a bit of a stink. It was after he threatened to resign they agreed to a title change and a slight raise. He was doing all sorts of things besides accompanying, so was made assistant music director much to the displeasure of Felicity. She didn’t want to give up one bit of prestige being Music Director but was fine with Jay doing portions of her job without recognition. Jay does respect Felicity and her body of work but she has become difficult in the last few years. She is not always on top of things musically or administratively, so the bulk of those things have fallen to him.
 
It’s been almost four years of cleaning up after Felicity and doing the dirty work of the chorus; with more details left to him as the years go by. By rights, Jay thinks he should be called the Executive Director or the Music Director de facto and not the assistant M.D. but to convince the chorus board would take far longer than he intends to stick around. Felicity does choose the chorus repertoire—and has good taste—and waves her arms around a bit but the old girl is slowing down. This means, a LOT of details are left to him. He hires the musicians for any work with orchestra they perform. He schedules auditions twice a year and plays for them while Felicity watches, usually without comment. He often runs rehearsals by himself because of her mounting health problems. He double checks any music folders going out to the singers, even though they do have a music librarian because Felicity insists. He writes the PR for auditions and concerts and keeps the chorus website and Facebook page up to date. There are many other details too numerous and silly to mention he is expected to complete because the chorus management now expects him to do so. He has mentioned in confidence to the Executive Director and board president it might be time for Felicity to retire. THAT suggestion was met with horror!
 
The reason Jay wrote to me was because he wanted assurance he wasn’t over-reacting to the latest issue. After the most time consuming and detail bogged down holiday concert he has ever worked on, his name was COMPLETELY left off of the program and he wasn’t given a bow during the concert. He thinks Felicity did it on purpose because he is taking over much more of her Music Director’s job….and not by choice. He has two more concerts to oversee before the end of the subscription year and isn’t sure he will be able to do them without blowing up. I told him he can do anything if he knows it will end. And it will end if he wants it to.
 
Jay is moving on this year when his partner graduates from med school. He is so fed up with not getting credit for all the crappy work he does for this chorus, he and his partner are moving, no matter what. The chorus management doesn’t know yet nor does the music director or the singers but rest assured he is encouraging his partner to apply to residencies in other states. He can’t wait to get out!
 
*Name Withheld
 
As we embrace this new year, I would like to invite and encourage you to take full advantage of the benefits of membership in the American Choral Directors Association. These benefits continue to grow for all our members, and it is my hope that more and more of our seasoned members discover what our new members have already discovered, which is there are many more advantages to being a professional citizen of the choral art through ACDA than ever before.
 
#1       ACDA’s signature publication, Choral Journal, has been our instrument for communicating scholarship, pedagogy, announcements, news, conference information, membership news, and all aspects of our work in the choral art through ACDA from our beginnings in 1959. This flagship monthly periodical keeps you connected to every aspect of our professional choral work.  Go to http://acda.org/cj.asp
 
#2       ACDA’s online app and electronic version of Choral Journal keep you connected to ACDA throughout the day, at any time.  ACDA’s app is available for downloading at your online app store. The online version of Choral Journal is also available through ACDA’s website.  Go to http://acda.org/cj/Dec2015/index.html
 
#3       This January 2016 issue of Choral Journal is one of the largest single volume issues in our history due to the greatly expanded offerings of our seven Division Conferences. Don’t miss attending one or more of these great conferences beginning next month.  In addition, our State ACDA Chapters offer excellent conferences, reading sessions, retreats, and symposia throughout the year. Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=divisions ;  and http://acda.org/conferences.asp
 
#4       Vote for your next ACDA National President. Two exceptional leaders are running for another great benefit of ACDA membership, and that is for a leadership position in our Association. Be a professional citizen by voting in this election that closes at the end of January.  Voting in your state, division, and national elections is an important benefit of professional citizenship.     Go to  https://acda.org/page.asp?page=news&id=1975
 
#5       Also be a part of history and vote for the Constitution and Bylaw changes that are now online. These changes will restructure the way ACDA does its work at every level of our organization by creating new Standing Committees and reforming existing working groups.   Go to  https://acda.org/page.asp?page=news&id=1975
 
#6       Add a new discipline to your professional life by becoming a mentor in ACDA’s national Mentorship Program, or find a mentor in the program by signing up to be a mentee in the program. Start giving back to your profession from your bank of knowledge and experience.   Go to   https://mentoring.acda.org/
 
#7       Take advantage of ACDA’s practical online publication, ChorTeach. This publication was created to offer practical ideas and resources to assist us in our pedagogical work as choral directors.   Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=chorteach ;
 
#8       Broaden your choral outlook to include international choral perspectives by reading the International Choral Bulletin, the official publication of the International Federation for Choral Music. As an ACDA member, you automatically become a member of IFCM. Take advantage of your IFCM membership by reading and participating in international offerings such as the World Choral Music Symposium in Barcelona in 2017.   Go to  http://icb.ifcm.net/en_US/
 
#9       Use the Musica Database, free of charge, as an ACDA member. Your membership in ACDA gives you free access to the more than 140,000 choral literature entries in the Musica Database. In addition to finding choral literature, you will find many additional resources related to your literature search such as pronunciation guides, videos, translations, and more.  Go to  http://acda.org/musica.asp
 
#10     If you haven’t used the Search capabilities for Choral Journal, you will be delighted to discover the speed at which your search will take place. In addition, all volumes of Choral Journal are now available online for your search. For those of you that teach, this is a great resource covering a world of choral topics.  Go to  http://acda.org/archivecj.asp
 
#11     The latest addition to the National ACDA archives is a large set of scores as marked by Robert Shaw. The ACDA archives hold many treasures for the interested researcher, and you can discover finding aids to these holdings by visiting the archives pages on the ACDA website.   Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=FindingAids
 
#12     ChoralNet is ACDA’s professional and social networking site. ChoralNet, along with ACDA’s other social and professional networking connections through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, will connect you to classified ads, announcements, daily blogs, forums, an international chorus directory, choral networks, membership communities, and many more areas of practical choral information that are added by the minute, in real time, as well as archived for search capabilities. You can also get ChoralNet in a daily feed by registering for this free service. Go to  http://www.choralnet.org/
 
#13     The ACDA Career Center offers news about professional choral positions that are opening or available throughout the United States and the world. Positions and vacancies are posted daily and cover a wide variety of types of jobs.   Go to  http://acda.careerwebsite.com/home/index.cfm?site_id=18712
 
#14     Repertoire and Resources is the proposed name to one of ACDA’s longstanding working areas. This proposed title is replacing the name Repertoire and Standards to more accurately reflect the work of this area of ACDA, and to more accurately reflect our intentions. No matter what type of choir you direct, ACDA has a category of help for your particular area through our Repertoire and Resources Standing Committee.  Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=repertoire
 
#15     State Chapters of ACDA exist in order to make our association relevant to your career at the grassroots level of work. Our ACDA State Chapters are designed to engage members in the activities that matter most to you where you live. As a member of ACDA, you are automatically a member of your state chapter (a few states require additional dues). Leadership opportunities expand when you take advantage of your own state’s activities.   Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=chapters
 
#16     ACDA.ORG  is the virtual location for the American Choral Directors Association. Every benefit listed above can be found on ACDA’s official website. In addition, ACDA.ORG can be your gateway to your State Chapter and your Division Chapter’s offerings through their own websites and newsletters. Take time to explore and become familiar with all of the tabs and dropdown menus of our website, and those of your Division and State.   Go to   ACDA.org
 
#17     ACDA Radio provides a streaming source of the best and latest choral recordings from a large variety of sources and recording labels. Thanks to our collaborative partner Naxos, ACDA is able to offer a non-stop source for choral listening. You will find new releases streaming at “First Listen”, and you will also find choral music stations by period and style.   Go to   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=acdamusicradio
 
#18     The International Journal for Research in Choral Singing is ACDA’s scientific professional online journal. Scholarly articles appear in this electronic publication intended to bring you the latest scientific research related to choral singing. These peer reviewed articles come from scholars in the United States and around the world.   Go to  http://www.choralresearch.org/
 
#19     The ACDA National Staff is located in Oklahoma City, OK, at your National Headquarters. If you are passing through Oklahoma City, you are invited to stop by and visit our staff, the McMahon International Choral Museum, and our national archives, all located in our offices at 545 Couch Drive, OKC. If you have a question or a membership need, you are very, very welcome to call us at 405 232 8161, or email us.  We close the office at noon (CST) every weekday, but otherwise, you will find a friendly voice on the phone.  Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=contactus
 
#20     Insurance, car rental discounts, industry offers, and other special promotions and offers are regularly presented to our membership, and are particularly helpful to individuals who are not already connected to an institution or other source for such resources. The list of additional personal benefits to you are regularly updated on the ACDA website.   Go to   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=memberbenefitcodes
 
#21     As a member of ACDA, you have the benefit of being able to sponsor your students for one of our many Honor Choirs offered at the State, Division, and National levels. Member sponsors are the only way our young singers can apply and audition for these life-changing events, and most teachers take personal and professional pride in helping their students qualify for these excellent and one-of-a-kind ensembles.  As students continue their education, ACDA members are able to sponsor students for the ACDA Student Conducting Prize, the Raymond Brock Student Composition Prize, and the Herford Dissertation Award. Go to   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=memberbenefits    and   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=awards
 
#22     As a member of ACDA, you have the opportunity to attend the event that professional choral directors around the world know as the best of its kind, the biennial ACDA National Conference. The next ACDA National Conference will be March 8-11, 2017, in the choral city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Conference Committee for this event is in full gear right now, and registration will open this October. You will not want to miss this event as one of the greatest benefits of memberhship.  Go to http://acda.org/conferences.asp
 
#23     An important benefit of ACDA membership, but one that is hard to qualify, is the professional networking benefit that takes place as you engage your professional Association. As you add a thread to a Forum, enter a discussion Community, or Reply to a Post or Blog, you are networking. This networking only intensifies as you attend State, Division, and National Conferences, Symposia, Retreats, Workshops, Reading Sessions, and the great variety of professional gatherings that take place through ACDA.  Go to   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=special-events
 
#25     As a student, membership in ACDA is easy and a significant start to professional citizenship. Many of our colleges and universities throughout the USA have ACDA Student Chapters as part of their understanding of the full pedagogy that builds the choral professional. Increasingly, high schools are starting ACDA student chapters.  Go to   https://acda.org/Editor/assets/Youth%20and%20Student/StudentChapter%20Listforwebsite10-12-2015%20%287%29.pdf
 
#26     One of the four pillars of ACDA’s Mission Statement is ACDA’s work toward inspiring excellence in choral composition. Hundreds, if not thousands, of choral compositions have been commissioned by ACDA, its chapters, and its members. Choral compositions for all voicings, at all levels of application, and at the very highest level of accomplishment, have been brought to life because of ACDA’s commitment to inspiring excellence in choral composition. This is a benefit to ACDA members as well as the choral profession.  Go to   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=awards
 
#27     And speaking of ACDA’s Mission Statement, as a member of ACDA you are a part of the professional choral community that has adopted the purpose of “Inspiring excellence in choral education, performance, composition, and advocacy.” You can display your Certificate of Membership proudly as a statement of our collective mission.   Go to   http://acda.org/   and   http://acda.org/page.asp?page=acda_history
 
#28     ACDA is a part of a world choral community, and through our International Conductor Exchange Program, ACDA is able to  endorse and sponsor conductor exchanges with countries throughout the world. This program now has ACDA alumni who have been a part of national exchanges with Sweden, Cuba, China, and South Korea. In August 2016, ACDA will host the choral event of all the Americas, America Cantat VIII, in the Bahamas. This festival is for choirs as well as individual singers and directors.  Go to   http://america-cantat.org/
 
#29     If you are an Industry Member of ACDA, ACDA gives you the opportunity to present your products and services to the greatest pool of choral leaders throughout the world. Industry Members of ACDA are themselves a benefit to all categories of ACDA membership. Go to http://acda.org/page.asp?page=mediakit
 
#30     My first leadership position outside of my teaching institution was as a State Chair for Music in Worship in ACDA’s Repertoire and Standards structure. One of my first articles to appear in a professional forum was in an ACDA state newsletter. One of my first juried article publications was in the Choral Journal. My first contribution to a book publication was part of a project that began as an ACDA Research and Publication monograph. For me and hundreds of others, ACDA has provided the membership benefit of leadership opportunities that helped build our careers.    Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=leaderinfo
 
#31     As I have reflected on my professional work, I have come to realize the incredible benefit of giving back to my profession, both in terms of service and in terms of money. Becoming an early contributor to ACDA’s Fund for Tomorrow gives me the satisfaction as an ACDA member of contributing to the ongoing choral work that ACDA is all about.    Go to  http://acda.org/page.asp?page=Fund4Tomorrow
 
And finally, we are all a benefit to other ACDA members as we individually engage in any of the benefits of our Association, and as we advance our collective choral mission. My hope for this New Year is that all of us discover new ways to engage in professional citizenship at a deeper and more meaningful level.
 
 
 
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(The Composition Showcase is a unique resource for conductors.   Choral composers are allowed to share only a few of their best works.  Each week we offer you the best of the best on a silver platter.   The Silver Platter Award winners are works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear)
 
Silver Platter Award Winner:
To Reach Them My Hand by Travis Ramsey SATB divisi and piano (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert
Program Themes:  Labor Day, Workers, Walt Whitman
This Piece Would Program Well With:  John Henry  arr. by John D. Miller available from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
 
The Walt Whitman poem used here honors workers of many types.  This piece would be excellent for a Labor Day concert.  There is some simple divisi that would make it an excellent learning piece for a smaller ensemble.  Enjoy!
 
To Reach Them My Hand is available form the composer tramsey(at)kenmorestudios.com
In May 1959, the very first Choral Journal mentioned then ACDA Vice President Elwood Keister in a short paragraph encouraging ACDA members to participate in choral music exchange. At the time, the scope of this nascent exchange program was fairly limited compared with today's standards, but the implications for future growth and sharing were quite broad.  By 1975, the ACDA Constitution and Bylaws would reflect this ever-growing focus and appreciation for choral music exchange beyond the borders of the United States. Today, ACDA continues to support this legacy of exchange with the International Conductors Exchange Program through the creation of meaningful opportunities to connect conductors and choral communities from all corners of the world. In this, our fourth ICEP ChoralBlog for the 2016 exchange with South Korea, I am very pleased to introduce ICEP Conducting Fellows Dr. Matthew Ferrell and Dr. Jin Soo Kim. 
 
Dr. Matthew Ferrell
 
Dr. Matthew Ferrell is associate professor and Director of Choral Activities at St. Cloud State University. In this position he conducts the SCSU Concert Choir and Chamber Singers and teaches courses in conducting and musicianship.  Prior to his appointment at SCSU, he served as Director of Choral Activities at Brooklyn College, Conservatory of Music and previously taught high school choir in New Lebanon, NY.  Dr. Ferrell has studied under many renowned conductors including Dale Warland, Helmuth Rilling, Robert Porco, Weston Noble, Charles Bruffy, James Jordan and Marin Alsop. Dr. Ferrell received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami (a student of Jo-Michael Scheibe). He received a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Temple University and Bachelor of Music in Music Education from The Hartt School.
 
Dr. Jin Soo Kim
Dr. Jin Soo Kim is the conductor and artistic director for the Mapo Municipal Women's Choir, the Yang-Ju City Children's Choir, the David Male Choir, and the Kang-Seo CEO Choir. His teaching appointments include DGIST University, The Korean National University of Arts, Seoul Jang-Sin University, Jeon-Ju University and Han-La University. He recieved his DMA from Hansei University in Choral Conducting, his Masters degree from from The Korea National University of Arts in Choral Conducting, and his Bachelors degree from Seoul Jang-Sin University in Church Music and Vocal Performance. Dr. Kim will be a guest of the ACDA Western Division during his residency in the United States from February 24 to March 5. For details regarding his time in the US, please contact the Western Division ICEP Liaison, Dr. Steve Hodson at hodson@westmont.edu.
       "The buck stops here!" Harry S Truman
 
When we first dream of becoming a choral director, we think of the music. We work hard to become good musicians; we practice, learn repertoire and practice some more. And we imagine our life will be all great masterpieces and singing and working with great people and…..it is. But it’s also making sure details are taken care of, either by us or someone else, or there will be problems.
 
When Joanie* called me right after Christmas, I thought she wanted to have lunch. Turns out, my young friend wanted to talk to me about a Choral Ethics problem. Joanie had just resigned from her first church job and had just accepted a new (and better) position. Joanie wanted me to help her understand why she had problems in her old job so she could avoid doing them in the new position. She told me the reason she finally left was because the choir blamed HER for not getting their choir robes cleaned. It wasn’t until I started asking some very pointed questions I began to suspect where the problem was.
 
I asked Joanie to tell me about the things which bothered her most about her former church job. She told me she had been initially enchanted by the choir, great organist, congregation and the wonderful pastor. It all started to go south right before her first Advent with the congregation. She had been told she would need to do some recruiting and she was perfectly willing to do it, however, she got no help. No one put her recruiting information in the church bulletin or newsletter or on the Facebook page or asked her to speak during announcements. Oh. I asked Joanie whose job it was to submit recruiting notices to those places…she didn’t know.  The choral library was a mess and she couldn’t find anything she was scheduling. Um, oh. Again, I asked her whose job it was to file music and….she didn’t know. Every Thursday morning, the church secretary would call and ask for the title of the anthem and would often be miffed for no reason.  I asked her why she thought the secretary would be miffed and, she didn’t know. Uh, oh. I had a feeling I knew why. Trying to be kind, I asked her “who was doing the towels?” She stared at me blankly, and am sure you are wondering what I mean as well.
 
When my boys were teenagers, they decided they needed a fresh bath towel for every shower they took, often taking several showers a day. One day, not only were there no clean towels in the house but the towel bar in their bathroom fell off the wall! It was then I introduced the concept of doing their own towels to my little darlings. To this day, our family refers to the tasks no one wants to do but must as “doing towels.”
 
This situation was not totally Joanie’s fault. It was her first job; she was unfamiliar with this particular denomination and had always been a paid soloist in other church positions. She didn’t understand the nuts and bolts part of being a church choir director. But it was her job to understand what was expected of her besides the music. As I told her at lunch that day, the music is the easy part!
 
I explained to Joanie there seemed to be a total lack of communications as to who did what. She didn’t understand the non-music parts of her job and no one told her what was expected of her, assuming she knew. So no one said anything and there were bad feelings all around. The irony of course was no one said anything because they didn’t want to cause bad feelings. Instead, the bad feelings grew from nothing. Taking the initiative and asking questions about who does what seems so simple but Joanie didn’t want to appear naïve, she tells me. There is no harm asking a question, I told her, when there will be a simple answer. Appearing naïve is preferable to what happened, so she will be asking many questions of her new choir members, new pastor and new church secretary in her new job.
 
*Name Withheld

Musica: A Great Benefit for ACDA Members

ACDA Executive Director Tim SharpACDA Executive Director Tim Sharp

If you are searching for choral repertoire, and the fact is, we are indeed searching for choral repertoire all the time, your membership in the American Choral Directors Association offers you the entire Musica choral database to track down repertoire throughout the world.

Why would you use Musica rather than a Google search? Great question! Here are some answers I think you will find compelling:musica-international1

  1. The Musica database references the score for the choral piece you want to find and does not drown in all other areas that you will encounter in a typical Google search;
  2. Music is a structured database, which means there exists a specific field for each type of information describing a score—composer, title, voicing, number of voices, key center, genre, style, form, instrumentation, liturgical use, and much more (for example, try searching in Google for Swiss choral scores for mixed voices in French, for a harvest festival, lasting about five minutes….Good luck with that! But in Music, your search can be pinpointed with these criteria.)
  3. With Musica, fields of a search are grouped, making the search much more friendly and faster;
  4. In Musica, several search forms are available for the user who can choose the one that is best suited to the research desired, or to the one that is most comfortable to the user;
  5. Musica automatically translates the important data into four languages, allowing access to all data, even those introduced in Musica in a language other than that used by the visitor;
  6. A Musica record includes all the information about the score into a single entity; you will find the bibliographic description, but also the multimedia links (video, audio clip, translations, pronunciation of the text, image of the page, and more);
  7. The information is monitored constantly and checked and improved (in other words, it is trusted) by the Musica coordination team, which is a team of choral conductors and music librarians (in other words, this is a trusted site, avoiding the negative aspects of Wikipedia and Google searches);
  8. The videos selected for the choral works sought are only the good performances, unlike Google and YouTube that mix the best with the worst;
  9. In the composer’s file, nearly 11,000 composers have one or more links to detailed biographies, again checked and monitored by the Musica team;
  10. Musica offers “favorite pieces of the month” for additional exploration and interest;
  11. Musica offers an “auditorium” where you can browse through the vast compilation of all audio and video links;
  12. Musica allow you to interact with the data by using a Musica Wiki or Facebook page;
  13. Musica offers a list of important anniversaries for composers.
  14. Musica can be used to manage your choral holdings without need of doing your own database, by benefitting from private fields to input for instance your location.

Musica has developed into THE choral music research and teaching tool for the benefit of conductors, musicologists, music conservatories and schools, music federations, and choral music industry members, worldwide. For the experienced choral musician, it is the source for discovering literature from around the world. For the student of choral music, Musica is a keen way to discover and learn about the world of choral repertoire.

Music comprises four databases that can be consulted separately: choral scores-170,000 records; choral composers-30,000 records; authors of texts-13,000 records; choral publishers-2,200 records. These databases are interlinked so that it is possible to navigate directly between them.

The database of scores comprises a series of records yielding as many as 100 different types of information about the score, including composer, arranger, publisher, title, genre, form, difficulty, type of choir, language, musical period, instrumentation, etc. About 20 fields are translated automatically through several multilingual thesaurus developed by the Musica International team. As a result, information is automatically and immediately available in the different languages.

Musica currently contains more than 200,000 multimedia links. The multimedia fields are designed to provide a fuller understanding of the piece: image of one page of the score, the text, its translation in several languages, a sound clip of a good interpretation and/or a video, a sound file of the correct pronunciation by a
native speaker of the language, a midi file, and links to pages external of the project. By the end of 2015, the Musica database contained more than 170,000 records, making it the leading virtual library of choral music in which all possible information about a score is available.

Since 2011, Musica has concentrated on the development of features allowing full interactivity with the actors of choral music. The choral world is able to contribute actively to its development through the linked online Musica Wiki, allowing every composer, publisher, conductor, musicologist, or choral music lover to leave comments, additional information and reports of experiences with the music, and to directly input their favorite pieces.

Musica is now a benefit of membership in ACDA. At the Eastern Division ACDA Conference in Boston in February, 2016, I will be joined by the Musica Board to present an Interest Session on the use of the Musica database with all of the features mentioned in this blog. I hope many of you will come and learn from the Musica team as they unfold the richness of this choral repertoire search engine and learning resource.

Greetings Friends! Now that we are all back following the winter holiday, I hope you are all finding early success and reasons to love your singers (and your conductors)! This is an extremely busy time for all of us and with the ACDA Division Conferences beginning in just about three weeks, there seems to be added urgency and excitement to all we do. A key feature of each division conference will highlight the International Conductors Exchange Program and our special guests, or Visiting International Conductors (VIC) from South Korea. I encourage you to seek out these individuals out at your division conferences this spring to learn more about their accomplishments and what they hope to achieve as participants in the 2016 ICEP exchange. In this, the third installment of the 2016 ICEP VIC Spotlight, I am delighted to introduce Dr. Jeffery Ames and Dr. Jung Jin Baek.
 
Dr. Jeffery Ames
Jeffery Ames serves as Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University.  His prior appointments include Assistant Director of Choral Activities at Baylor University and Choral Director at Edgewater High School and Lincoln High School in Florida. As a choral clinician, Dr. Ames has conducted senior and junior high school mixed and male choirs at the state and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education, including the inaugural Florida Male All-State Chorus, and annually at Carnegie Hall with the National Youth Choir.  He has performed and guest conducted internationally in the countries of Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, Latvia and Estonia. Professor Ames holds the Ph.D. in Choral Conducting/Choral Music Education and a Master of Choral Music Education degree from The Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Music degree, with a double major in Vocal Performance and Piano Accompanying, from James Madison University.  He is currently President for the Tennessee ACDA, and holds the honor of being the first recipient of the National ACDA James Mulholland Choral Music Fellowship.
 
Dr. Jung Jin Baek
Based out of Seoul, South Korea, Jung Jin Baek is currently the conductor of the Bethlehem Choir and the Vespers Choir at YoungNak Presbyterian Church. His teaching career includes recent posts at the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary, Ewha Women's University, Hansei University as well as an assistanship at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Dr. Baek will be a guest of ACDA in the Central Division this spring from February 23 to March 10. He will also be featured at the 2016 Central Division Division Conference. For more information, please contact the ICEP Central Division Liaison Dr. Jeremy Jones (jonesj5@miamioh.edu) for more information.
 
     "Let's not be narrow, nasty and negative." T.S Eliot
 
I have a group of choral colleagues I regularly contact for their Choral Ethics opinions and help with the Choral Ethics Project. I admire these folks and think they are fine examples of what it means to be an Ethical Choral Professional because I’ve worked with them or have known them for a while. Usually I send a list of questions/situations and ask for their solutions or perhaps how they handled something similar in their own career. I also encourage them to tell me about a sticky situation (and how they handled it) with the deadline for getting back to me open-ended and the opportunity for them to have someone to vent to. Last summer, Ross* contacted me, after my usual group email, wanting to vent. And he definitely has good reason.
 
Twice in his life Ross has personally witnessed outgoing conductors try to make life difficult for the people who followed. At one of his first positions, the choral director (who was adjunct) was not hired for the full-time position when it was created. She felt like it was due to her successes that there was a full-time position at all and promptly convinced students to attend different schools, or not join choir. He was left with a choir of two people to direct (a duet) and told to recruit. And Ross tells me it was without irony he was told to recruit.
 
More recently, his predecessor at his current position (let’s call him Jack*) retired, but when he did, he took the entire community chorus with him. In his defense, Jack had personally built up that chorus from 17 people to 125 over the course of his 25 year career, so Ross is sure Jack felt like it was his baby. But why couldn’t Jack make it his legacy? When he convinced the entire organization to relocate to the umbrella of another institution, he decimated the choral program at the school he was leaving. Actually decimated is too gentle a word, as it actually means to eliminate one in ten; Jack almost eradicated it. The choral program went (over the course of a summer) from 140 strong to 20. This choral program will take years to recover from that loss, if it ever does.
 
Ross wonders; if you choose to leave a position for your own reasons, how can you not at least try, in the spirit of collegiality, to set up your successor for success? It seems suspiciously as if some conductors are not motivated by their love for the art but rather for their own fame and glory, to the extent that they would jealously guard their own territory as if another’s success would threaten their own. 
 
I would agree with Ross about it not being about the music in cases such as he relates. And some of our colleagues in the greater choral world believe ANYONE’S success diminishes theirs, not just their successors.
 
Josie*, a lovely person, directs a lovely community chorus in a lovely town. There is another chorus, just as lovely, one town over from hers but the director of that chorus isn’t so lovely.  Their director, Alissa*, does whatever she can to make Josie look bad from choosing similar repertoire to changing their rehearsal night from Mondays to Tuesdays (Josie’s night) so singers cannot participate in both groups. Alissa bad mouths Josie every chance she gets, including inferring she’s a bad musician.
 
Alissa keeps mentioning to her singers Josie’s chorus is “on its last legs” and “isn’t what it used to be.” Of course, this gets back to Josie and her chorus. Alissa tells anyone who will listen she is willing to “step into the breach” when Josie’s chorus folds up, which should be soon. Nothing could be further from the truth, since Josie’s chorus is healthy financially and has 50 more singers than Alissa’s. But all this gossip and nastiness tires Josie out. She is convinced if she does or says anything, she will be sinking to Alissa’s level and doesn’t want that.
 
Josie believes it should be about the music and not anything else. I do too; the music is what should drive us, shouldn’t it?
 
*Name Withheld
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(The Composition Showcase is a unique resource for conductors.   Choral composers are allowed to share only a few of their best works.  Each week we offer you the best of the best on a silver platter.   The Silver Platter Award winners are works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear)
 
Silver Platter Award Winner:
Sleep, Grandmother, Sleep by Brian Holmes SATB and piano (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert, Winter Concert
Program Themes:  Winter, Aging, Memories, Grandmothers
This Piece Would Program Well With:  The Future of Life by Pamela J. Marshall available in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet
 
For any of us of a certain age who remember fondly grandmothers of another time,  we had better have a box of tissues ready.   Brian Holmes sets this memorable poem beautifully for SATB and occasional soloist.  The piano rocks and creeks with an old familiarity while the poet reveals visions of the afterlife.   
 
Sleep, Grandmother, Sleep is available from the composer: horncabbage@aol.com
Greetings Friends!
 
In this second installment of the ICEP Spotlight on ChoralNet, it is my pleasure to introduce 2016 ICEP Exchange Conducting Fellows Dr. Jason Bishop from the United States and Sun Young Yun from South Korea. Please help me in congratulating both Dr. Bishop and Ms. Yun in their selection for the 2016 ICEP exchange.
 
Dr. Jason Bishop
Dr. D. Jason Bishop is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral & Vocal Studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and Artistic Director of The Greater South Jersey Chorus. A native of Burns, Tennessee, Jason earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied with Dennis Shrock. Jason is a member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Chorus America, the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and the College Music Society (CMS). He recently served on the Board of New Jersey ACDA, and is currently the ACDA Eastern Division R&S Chair for Youth & Student Activities. 
 
Sun Young Yun
Sun Young Yun is the Conductor and Artistic Director of the Seoul National University Dental Chorus, Ehwa University French Choir, and the Jong-Am Protestant Church Choir in Seoul, South Korea. She received her Masters degree in Choral Conducting from Ehwa University. Ms. Yun will be featured in the North Central Division and at the Division Conference from February 16 to February 27.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep." Robert Frost
 
As we begin the New Year, we begin another Choral Ethics series. I do not know how many will be in this particular series because there seems to be an abundance of Choral Ethics issues lately. I thought through a number of these ‘special circumstance’ Choral Ethics problems over the holidays and will be sharing my thoughts with you during January and perhaps beyond. These are issues I never imagined to be problems but certainly can be, given the right circumstance.
 
If you read one of my December Blogs, “Crabbiness,” you might remember Marta’s* problems leading up to her middle school chorus’s holiday performance at her local mall or my own complaints about a volunteer situation. Both of us were crabby because of the lack of follow-through by others and we had to pick up the slack during an already packed holiday season. Several ChoralNetters shared their own situations in response. Then I got to thinking, what if WE are the ones not following through, the ones not keeping our promises to our singers and organizations? Is this a Choral Ethics issue? And sure enough, there was a story from a ChoralNetter about this very thing.
 
George-Anne* is not a choral director, but a choral singer in a community choral organization in the southwestern United States. She’s been a member of their board of directors, off and on for about 15 years, as well as a singer, and an occasional section leader. David* has been the chorus’s music director for five years and George-Anne was on the search committee which hired him. A real “find,” David interviewed well and had the experience and education to back it up. He had also just been hired to be the new choral director at their local community college as well as the choir master/organist at a very wealthy church in the area. All three positions are demanding but at the first rehearsal with the chorus, he assured everyone he was organized and could handle it. Not so much, according to George-Anne.
 
There are things David is supposed to be doing, such as getting the concert program and personnel lists to the printer in a timely fashion which never seems to get done until someone else does them. He was supposed to contact a friend of his for a summer choral workshop and never did. He was supposed to meet with members of the board to organize their “every-other-year tour” and hasn’t, twice, so the chorus has never done a tour with him, yet he complains about it. There is always a very wonderful reason for him to not to follow through but it’s getting irritating to those who cover for him because they don’t want these things to fall through the cracks.
 
The section leaders have a retreat with the music director at the beginning of every concert cycle as has been tradition since the chorus was formed 40 years ago. The difficult parts of whatever large work are sung through and any portion David might think will give the group as a whole trouble are broken down. This retreat is usually a Saturday morning from 9 am to Noon and the music director and section leaders look forward to it. In the five years (and fifteen retreats—three a year, one before each concert cycle) since David became music director, he has been prepared for the section leaders’ retreat exactly twice. He has forgotten about the retreat once, leaving them waiting in the lobby of the college where they have rehearsals for an hour. He has stumbled through the rest of the retreats, not seeming to know (or care about) the music. David is supposed to schedule sectionals once a concert cycle. He “forgets” or asks one of the section leaders to schedule sectionals and then tells them to “work on what they think needs work” rather than telling them what he wants accomplished.
 
David promises things but rarely delivers and George-Anne and others in the chorus are getting tired. The thing they are most tired of is…..his attitude.
 
*Name Withheld