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When I attend a concert, I expect to hear music. And when I attend a concert at an ACDA conference, I expect to hear excellent music.
 
I did not expect Tim Lautzenheiser.
 
I did not expect to be accosted with positivity.  To be delighted to laughter and touched to tears.  To be vehemently affirmed in my career choice.  Affirmed by a perfect stranger during an "inspirational message" in the middle of a concert session.
 
I wish I had written down everything he said so I could show you exactly how his words touched me so. And, believe me, I will be purchasing the video from that concert session (I hope it will be available)...Rajaton, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and Camerata Musica Limburg, plus this talk that I will be putting on repeat. I don't have it exactly right, and my paraphrase may be a little off, but here's the gist:
 
What you do matters.
 
So, be encouraged.
 
That might be simplifying, but there it is.  What you do matters.  So, be encouraged.  Not one of us lives a small life.  Each of us, each of us musicians influence others by our music, an outpouring of self.  It is an art that has no concreteness, it is momentary and fleeting, and sometimes we feel it might have been insignificant.
 
It is not.
 
Music impacted the life of these boys, surviving in one of Boston's toughest neighborhoods; their choir-mate was shot on his way to practice.  And countless students who have said to me, "If it hadn't been for choir, I would have [dropped out, done drugs, committed suicide, you name it]. Beyond these extraordinary stories are countless ordinary ones: a college student who enjoyed singing for a semester, or a group of engineers who formed a choir, or this business major who claims "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class."
 
UPDATE:
 
Since I began this post, Roger Ebert passed away.  His art has influenced my life for most of my life.  Particularly this essay.  (Get the tissues.)
 
What you do matters. So, be encouraged. Go. Make Art. Make it now. Don't wait.
 
(Image credit: ali edwards. Text: My life is this moment. Live fully. Be open.)
 
[Originally posted April 6, 2013]
 
 
 
Join the Celebration for Our Founder!
 
ChoralNet users, grab your tablet, laptop or phone and head for a shady spot.  There is a story that needs telling.  A hero gave us 20 years of his life so that we could find help when we need it, repertoire that matters and a place to feel part of a community.   Dr. James D. Feiszli is the hero of our tale. 
 
Before writing this article I didn’t really know Dr. Feiszli.  I have never met him outside of ChoralNet. What I did know was that he was caring and altruistic and he created and directed ChoralNet for many years.  What I learned and I hope you will get out of his story is a sense of kinship.  As choral directors we all share of ourselves, spending more time at work than with out families, involving ourselves in the lives of our singers, fundraising, and hours upon hours of preparation.   Does it matter?  Does any of it really matter?  Of course it does and Jim is a man we can empathize with and look up to. He did not take the easy path and it has made all the difference!
 
This article is part of a short series to honor our founder.  The Composers of Choral Music Community and Our Musical Life Inc. are hosting a celebration of thanks called the Showcase Dare.   Composers, conductors and lyricists are invited to participate and encouraged to show their appreciation for the man that gave us this valuable resource.  Comment below with what ChoralNet means to you and participate in the Showcase Dare.  More info is available on last Sunday's ChoralBlog or come the Showcase Dare August 2015 community: http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189
 
Do you remember the world before the Internet, no email, no Google, no online reference materials?  It was a time when your social network was made up of your family, co-workers and people you actually had lunch with.  That’s the world from which our tale begins.  It is not a short story.  I wanted to bring light to a subject only a few know anything about.  We will start this week with the early days of ChoralNet.  I interviewed Dr. Feiszli for this blog series.   We’ll let him tell the story.
 
Q: What was your original purpose in creating Choralist, the precursor to ChoralNet?
 
A: When I came to SDSM&T in 1983, I was one of two collegiate choral conductors in the state with a doctorate and the only music faculty at this science and engineering institution.  Coming from the ivory-tower stratosphere of Arizona State University, a very large music school with plenty of colleagues, I was suddenly isolated from professional collaboration at a scholarly research level.
 
At ASU, I was in charge of computer applications for the School of Music at a time when very few understood or wanted to understand the potential for data storage and retrieval and communication.  At SDSM&T, everyone (well, maybe not the Liberal Arts types so much!) knew that personal computing was about to change the universe of computing which, heretofore, had been reserved to mainframes and computer technicians. I got my hands on the first PCs made available to faculty at this technological school and began to use it for developing a database for my choral reference library and school inventory.
 
SDSM&T, being a research institution with strong connections to government funding, was among the first universities with access to the ARPANET – forerunner to the Internet.  By 1987, I was able to end my exile in isolation by being able to access the libraries of other research institutions connected to the Internet; e.g. Stanford, Harvard, ASU, UC-Boulder, etc.  Yay!
 
Today it seems inconceivable, but at that time only those who had connections to either research institutes or government branches such as the Library of Congress had access to the Internet and its new form of communication – electronic mail. I quickly re-connected with my research advisor, Dr. Robert D. Reynolds, who had always been one of those who appreciated new technologies – although I have to admit, when I was the first music doctoral candidate in the history of ASU to use a word processor for my dissertation, he was dismayed at how quickly I returned corrected drafts! A good friend, he introduced me via e-mail to others who dealt with musicology and choral music and whose universities were also connected to the Internet (a fairly small crowd).
 
By about 1992, Walter Collins at the University of Colorado and I had become email acquaintances.  Walter, a former national president of ACDA and former president of IFCM, was retired from UC, but still very active in the choral world with many colleagues and former student now in positions of importance across the world.  His successor at UC-Boulder, Lynn Whitten was at that time the national president-elect of ACDA.  We discussed how interesting it would be to find a way to use this technology to develop better communications in the choral world.  Rob Reynolds, by this time had already instigated an e-mail discussion/communication forum (AMSlist) for the American Musicological Society, of which Water and I were both members. Rob introduced us to another technology wizard, composer Mark Gresham of Atlanta, who as a non-academic had discovered how to access the Internet and proved invaluable in these discussions.
 
Q: Who were the collaborators?
 
A: The real “Gang of Four” were Walter, Rob. Mark, and me
 
But there was a catalyst that moved this from a discussion into reality. I had never stopped developing my own choral music library, which now exceeded 5500 items each with about 30 key fields. I called it CHOREF (note the name?). Jean Sturm, a brilliant French research chemist and amateur choral director – whose professional chemistry efforts, BTW, helped kick off the human genome database, had developed database software for his chemistry research. It wasn’t long before he adapted it for use for his personal choral reference library, which he labeled MUSICA, and began to develop it into a powerful choral music database.
 
I was an IFCM member and noticed a small notice in the spring issue of the International Choral Bulletin that announced a workshop in Namur, Belgium (home to IFCM headquarters) in July of 1991. It asked that those interested in collaborating on a global choral music database to come to Namur and work together for a week. I decided to go, taking along my tables of data on about ten 3.5” diskettes.
 
That week was truly epic. The list of people who worked together in Namur became powerful figures in the choral world in years to come.  Jean-Claude Wilkens was the young executive director of the IFCM.  Dolf Rabus of the Marktoberdorf Festivals was there.  Jean Sturm brought his MUSICA database –numbering at the time about 15,000 items. It was clear that his software and software development expertise had the capability to handle a massive project. As Yugoslavia disintegrated, a young Slovenian woman dodged the bullets flying to make the trip. That young woman, Karmina Šilec, of Carmina Slovenica fame. A young Filipino conductor was there, Jonathan Velasco, now of the University of the Philippines and a choral force all across the Pacific Rim. A German conductor was there, Manfred Bender, who now heads the Deutsches Centrum für Chormusik.
 
Several key decisions were made during that week: 1) MUSICA had very few pieces by U.S./Canadian publishers. I decided to upload my entire database into MUSICA increasing its holdings by about 25%.  2) IFCM asked me to be an advisor to the MUSICA project, 3) while the Internet was at that point very much a U.S. phenomenon, we all became determined to use this technology to stay in contact quickly and easily after that week ended.
 
I came home and told Walter (an IFCM founder as ACDA president and later an IFCM president) about the week. After spending 1992 in further communication and discussion, Walter convinced Lynn Whitten whom, as incoming ACDA president was the host of the 1993 national ACDA convention, to schedule and announce a meeting at that convention of “those interested in developing an e-mail communications list for choral music.”  About twenty-five persons, including Collins, Feiszli, Gresham, and Whitten, attended that meeting. All in attendance expressed a strong desire for some form of Internet-based communication network. Shortly thereafter, Walter and I, using the University of Colorado list processor capabilities, began ACDAlist, the first e-mail list dedicated to choral music with Feiszli as the list owner/manager.
 
Q:  For our users that were born after Web 2.0, what was the Internet like back then?
 
A: At that time, the Internet was largely accessed through research universities and widespread public access was non-existent. ACDAlist grew steadily. Offered as a free distribution list for electronic mail, the list had neither subscription costs for subscribers nor was it subsidized by any entity other than the University of Colorado.
 
Q: How busy were you when you decided to add this project to your plate?  What else were you doing professionally? As a volunteer?
 
A: I was incredibly busy. SDSM&T had no music program when I arrived. I had convinced the university that the emerging brain research indicated that active involvement in music resulted in better thinking. Starting with my arrival at Mines in 1983, I built the music program from the ground up, securing resources, equipment, and scholarships. I took a glee club called the “Singing Engineers” and built it into an award-winning university choir whose performance records are as impressive as those of choirs from universities with accredited music programs. I successfully advocated for academic credit for ensemble music and increased music opportunities by adding new course offerings in applied music and lecture courses. By 1993, there were two fulltime music faculty with three choral ensembles and three instrumental ensembles. (Today there are eight faculty/staff persons, seven instrumental ensembles and three vocal ensembles AND a dedicated facility. When I arrived we had one room, a piano, some music stands, and a handful of instruments. You can check out the program at http://www.facebook.com/SDSMTMusicCenter and http://www.sdsmt.edu/music )
 
In addition, I was elected president-elect of SD-ACDA in 1987, consequently serving two terms as president, making that an eight-year commitment.  And I took on my Episcopal church choir in 1984 and built that program into a fairly strong 40-voice chancel choir (performing great literature) and an elite 10-voice chapel choir that performed traditional Anglican music such as Byrd, Tallis, Howells, etc.
 
Q: What was ACDA’s role in helping with Choralist or ChoralNet in those early days?
 
A: Well, that is a difficult and perhaps politically dangerous minefield of a question.
 
In September of 1993, I was granted a sabbatical from SDSM&T and went to England to study Gregorian chant with Dr. Mary Berry and her Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. I approached David Topping, who had been in San Antonio at the ACDA convention meeting and who was one of the original subscribers to the list, to ask him if he would be willing to manage Choralist while I was out of the country. David agreed and thus began a long and fruitful connection with ChoralNet, because when I returned in October I asked him to continue assisting me as co-manager.
 
Now, one must understand the nature of all professional (and volunteer) organizations.  The hired staff, from executive directors to secretaries usually wield more power than the elected officers because the former remain in place while latter rotate in and out. In the case of professional organizations, some people run for office to create a credential as well as to serve the organization. It advances their career. The fulltime staff often develop a guardianship mentality for the organization that goes beyond service to the elected leadership. In the case of Gene Brooks, ACDA’s executive director, he had singlehandedly built ACDA from a small, run-out-of-a-closet kind of operation into a powerful and respected national organization. He had secured funding and support to build a national headquarters and created the juggernaut of conferences that we have today. Gene’s opinions matter greatly in the professional choral world. The elected leadership had to listen and, usually, agree with his decisions because of that that he had done so much for the organization and was doing a great job running it.
 
By that point (fall of 1993), there were about 100 subscribers to ACDAlist. Gene Brooks was notoriously skeptical of all things computer, refusing to even turn one on. Well, some enthusiastic person, I do not recall who (wasn’t me), got a notice posted in the Choral Journal about ACDAlist and urging everyone with email access to join. Now, naïve me, I had assumed all along that this list was officially OK with Gene and the elected Board.  Lo and behold, when I got back from sabbatical in October there was fax in my mailbox (remember faxes?) from the national ACDA president, dated two months earlier, in essence asking, “who the hell are you and who said you could use the term ACDAlist?” Now, mind you, I had just come off eight years of ACDA leadership service and had declined to run for division president because of ACDAlist. And Lynn Whitten was the current national President-Elect!
 
So, I copied the fax into an email and submitted to the subscribers of ACDAlist asking what they thought we should do – kill the list? (Lynn and Walter were both subscribers). Shit-storm.  First of all, the sender of the fax was angry because he thought I’d been ignoring him, and then he was furious that I would publicize this fax.  Some subscribers expressed dismay that the list wasn’t “official” and quit. I, of course, thought it had all been cleared up there somewhere. But the majority of the list subscribers (99% ACDA members, BTW), said, “No matter what, do not kill the list. Change the name if necessary.” So we changed the name to Choralist. Lynn Whitten meanwhile vowed to bring the effort up to the national Board for official sanction. But the damage had been done. The rest of the officers declined to sanction the list and we continued to operate with no official standing.
 
It was during that fall that widespread and public access to the Internet began to become more available. More and more universities became connected and commercial entities such as Compuserve and AT&T began offering e-mail services to the general public.  Consequently, subscribership on Choralist soared. By the end of 1993, the list had nearly 200 subscribers, with more subscribing daily.
 
Q: What changed that led Choralist to become ChoralNet?
 
A: As Choralist grew, other services were added. The Choralist Resource Site (CRS) was created late in 1993 using SDSM&T computer services.  The CRS provided an online file cabinet (early cloud!) for users of Choralist, with archives of past list messages, compilations of information derived from list discussions, and other information helpful to choral musicians who had access to the Internet.  I formed a Choralist Advisory Group (CAG) in early 1994.  This CAG was comprised of persons in the choral field from across the globe who used and had interest in developing the use of online computing for the benefit of choral music.  Members of every part of the choral world were part of the CAG from the beginning to provide feedback on the growth and interest in Choralist.  Another list - CAGlist – was created using SDSM&T list servers to facilitate their communications.
 
From the fall of 1994 to the summer of 1995, Choralist experienced incredible growth and many of the problems that were appearing with e-mail lists of all types across the Internet.  Because of the difficulties inherent in the early days of electronic mail communication – no vocal inflection, no body language, no face to connect to words – these early users of lists tended to understand and react to e-mail differently than they would to normal face-to-face or even telephone conversation.  “Flame wars” begin when parties insist on redressing perceived grievances in a public forum.  Serious users of the lists became disgusted and left.  Attempts to mediate or mitigate were perceived as censorship.  List traffic began to degenerate as serious users left and casual or uninformed users dominated the e-mail messages.  By the summer of 1995, Choralist had close to 2000 subscribers – a very large list for any kind of focused use.  We found it difficult to maintain any type of medium that would satisfy even a majority of subscribers. Looking back now in this age of texting (and auto-correct!) this all seems so ridiculous, but it was a huge problem.
 
To top it all off, in 1995 we all became aware of a new aspect of the Internet – the use of actual graphics and the beginning of what would become the Worldwide Web. Again, it seems improbable now, but in those early days not everyone had access to the computing power or Internet transmission to allow access to the web.  So we had to tread a fine line between those two very different types of users.
 
So in November 1995, after much debate among the CAG, Choralist was transformed into ChoralNet, which included Choralist, the CRS, CAGlist, and CHOREF (by then an on-line choral music database because Jean Sturm had steadfastly refused to place MUSICA online – another story!). Choralist’s purpose and operation was modified so that it could become the one common bulletin board for the online choral world. It became a moderated list – meaning that all messages sent to Choralist went first to a moderator, who would then approve or disapprove its posting to the list.  Two new e-mail lists were begun to provide forums for the two basic groups of online choral musicians who had been using Choralist: ChoralAcademe – designed for choral music researchers and professionals, and ChoralTalk –a forum for more informal and extended discussion of choral music topics on a more general plane.  ChoralTalk was also linked via an electronic gateway at Loma Linda University in California to rec.music.makers.choral - a Usenet newsgroup. Finally, as the capstone to this new enterprise, the ChoralNet Web Site (CWS) was created, running on SDSM&T webservers.  At this juncture, Feiszli retained list management of ChoralAcademe and CAGlist and created and maintained the CWS, CRS, and CHOREF, while Topping moderated and managed Choralist and ChoralTalk.
 
In early 1996 IFCM, having decided to expand their presence on the Internet, approached me about a merger of efforts.  I traveled to Namur to meet with Jean-Claude Wilkens, Claude Tagger (president), and others of the IFCM management.  After returning to the U.S. and consultations with Topping and the CAG, it was decided that ChoralNet would be designated an official project of the IFCM. Finally! Some official professional recognition! ChoralNet became the website for IFCM and Feiszli their webmaster.  As more and more webpages became required for the operation of ChoralNet, David Topping became more involved in those aspects of the ChoralNet operation as well, eventually taking over more of Feiszli’s work so that he could focus on political and managerial aspects of ChoralNet.
 
1997 and 1998 were tumultuous years for ChoralNet as Topping and Feiszli began to see their work become ever more central to the global online choral community but also realizing that they could not continue to operate alone as they had been doing. Finally, in early 1997, ACDA came to see that this Internet thing was not going to go away. We were approached and asked to develop and host the official ACDA website. ACDA would establish funding for a ChoralNet Manager, which David Topping filled.  ChoralNet also worked with Chorus America and the European Federation of Young Choirs to develop other services, among them the web message boards EuroChoralTalk - modeled after the original ChoralTalk, and Foro de Musica Coral Latinoamericana - a Spanish-language forum for the Latin American choral community.
 
ChoralNet lost two of its most important champions during these years. Walter Collins was stricken by a brain aneurysm in May 1997 and passed away during emergency surgery.  Then, early the next year Claude Tagger, President of IFCM, passed away of similar causes.
 
In November 1998, John Vucurevich, a businessman from Rapid City, South Dakota, issued a $5000.00 challenge grant to ChoralNet to provide an impetus for further development of ChoralNet operations.  The first result of this grant was a fund drive which netted ChoralNet another $7000.00 from ChoralNet users. By July 1999, ChoralNet had filed and received approval as a non-profit corporation in the state of South Dakota and set up its own dedicated web server.  The ChoralNet Board of Directors held their first meeting in August, extending over a period of ten days and held completely online, during which they
  • ratified a constitution and bylaws
  • approved an organizational structure
  • elected officers
  • assigned members to specific tasks
The ChoralNet corporate structure provided for four sub-committees to operate and oversee ChoralNet operations, each headed by a Vice-President.  The Vice-Presidents as well as a Treasurer, Secretary, and President were elected by the Board.  Those eight persons formed an Executive Committee to which the Manager is also an ex-officio member.  This change, from an operation which was largely the province of two people, to a jointly-owned consortium of many people began to lay the groundwork to ensure the viability of ChoralNet for the future.
ChoralNet filed for and received non-profit, tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 corporation from the U.S. government in 2000.  In early 2001, Chorus America became the third major association to join the ChoralNet consortium and discussion was underway with Europa Cantat by summer of that same year.  The needs of such a consortium created an ever-larger and complicated technical demand on the ChoralNet webserver causing ChoralNet to upgrade to more expensive options.  The association partners responded by paying $2000.00 each towards the server costs.
 
That first ChoralNet Board of Directors was comprised some pretty good folks.
 
Dr. Michael Anderson, University of Chicago at Illinois
Carl Ashley, Minister of Music, Westside Baptist Church, Boynton Beach, FL
Brent E. Boyko, Telecommunications Dept., Loma Linda University Medical Center
Sylvia Bresson, SUISA, Copyright Society for Music, Rohr, Switzerland
Ian Bullen, Small World International Distribution, Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
Dr. Kerry P. Burtis , Crescenta Valley High School, La Crescenta, CA
David Otis Castonguay, Radford University, Radford, Virginia
Kendall G. Clark, Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX
Dr. Timothy G. Cooper, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada
Julio Dominquez, Camerata ad Libitum Chamber Choir, Ponteareas, Spain
John Drotleff, Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio
Dr. R. Paul Drummond, Central Methodist College, Fayette, MO
Monika Fahrnberger, Wien, Austria
Dr. James D. Feiszli, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD
Matthew P. Fritz, University of Missouri at Kansas City
Dr. Charles L. Fuller, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, AR
Mark Gresham, Lux Nova Press, Atlanta, Georgia 30307
Carol Hague, Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada
Monica J. Hubbard, Altadena, CA
Erik Reid Jones, Washington, DC
Dr. James Kempster, Pacific Union College, Angwin, CA
Gene N. Lebrun, Lynn, Jackson, Schultz, and Lebrun, Rapid City, SD (attorney)
Tom Merrill, Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, OH
Dr. Tony A. Mowrer, Rochester College, Rochester Hills, MI
William "Nick" Nicholson, SARLYN Publications, Sudbury, MA
Alan Prater, Mills, Timmons, & Flowers, Shreveport, LA
Dr. Robert D. Reynolds, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Dr. Patricia Romza, St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT
Thomas D Rossin, EXULTATE, Eagan, MN
Tadej Sadar, Slovenian National Catholic Radio, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dr. Michael Shasberger, Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
Allen Simon, Palo Alto, CA
Haven L. Stuck, Lynn, Jackson, Schultz, and Lebrun, Rapid City, SD
David B. Topping, Tempe, AZ
Ronald R. Weiler II, Detroit Country Day School, Beverly Hills, MI
Jerry Westerman, Petoskey Middle & High School, Petoskey, MI
Dr. Lynn Whitten, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Terra Widdifield, Gateway Music Festivals & Tours, Inc., Monticello, MN
 
This large Board of Directors, all volunteers, was designed to be a working Board with each member assigned to fulfill specific tasks.  Such a structure caused problems when real world obligations interfered with ChoralNet work.  ACDA, which had made an initial commitment of two years for the Manager funding, was still funding the Manager position – a situation which made David Topping ACDA’s employee, rather than ChoralNet’s.  He served as ACDA’s webmaster in addition to his ChoralNet duties.  The addition of Chorus America to the consortium created additional work for the Manager and for Allen Simon, ChoralNet’s Vice-President for Website Management.  Although by this time, most or all of the list moderation was being done by members of the List and Forum Management committee, it was becoming impossible for ChoralNet to attempt to provide a unified portal for the choral world and simultaneously provide services to the associations at the same time.
 
Finally, at the 2002 World Choral Symposium in Minneapolis, we held a general assembly and worked out a better organizational management plan, cutting the Board down to seven members with each supporting entity having a board seat and officers elected from those seven members.  In addition to the supporting professional organization partners we began to solicit website advertising and commercial partners, thereby putting the organization on a more established path.
 
 
Q: Once ChoralNet was well established, how many hours a week did you spend there?  What was your official role?
 
A: For the majority of these years I spent 20 hours a week on ChoralNet business.  I was the registered agent for the organization and had to submit papers to the state and the IRS every year.  Did the trademark registrations, ran the meetings, oversaw everyone else, maintained the administrative website, etc.  I was the elected president for all but two years when I was the secretary instead, allowing Michael Shasberger (the ACDA representative) to be president just to ease our always-prickly connection with Lawton.  I was the official IFCM representative through most of these years and an advisor to IFCM, Europa Cantat, and MUSICA.
 
Q: What did you miss out on because you were helping us?
 
A: Advancing myself professionally, I guess.  One might say that I garnered quite the reputation for ChoralNet but, unfortunately, no one seemed to think of me as choral conductor, especially as I teach at an institution where there is no music major. I’m actually pretty good. Took my choirs to international competition in Ireland in 2006 and brought back three first-place trophies. But I wasn’t spending time doing self-promotion. I also had little time to spend with my original research as a wannabe musicologist.
 
 
 
ChoralBlog readers, I hope you have gotten something out of this early history of ChoralNet.   Jim’s altruistic endeavors have benefitted us all.  Come back next week for the next part of the story!
 
Thanks to composer David Cope for use of his picture in our Showcase Dare graphic.
Does performing chant intimidate you?
 
We all learned about how to "read" chant notation in Music History class but few of us can pick up a Liber Usualis and perform chant with any confidence.
 
I found these videos yesterday - and I think they help us get over our inhibitions to performing this mostly-untapped repertory.  Here is a link to 256 chant videos - a fantastic resource.  A commenter on the YouTube site summed it up like this:

This is precisely the tool a new student of Gregorian chant requires: basic repertoire . . . clear vocals synchronized with uncluttered notation. I can't thank you enough for the time and expertise you've put into these tutorials. May God multiply your efforts!

[Originally posted July 22, 2011]

Join the Celebration for Our Founder!

 
Dr. James D. Feiszli was central to ChoralNet’s creation, development, and management from conception in 1993 until his departure in 2012.  We invite the entire ChoralNet community to become involved in a special project to honor the man most responsible for this valuable resource.  Over the next several weeks we’ll share with you the story of this incredible individual. 
 

Showcase Dare

From August 1-9, 2015, the Composers of Choral Music Community and Our Musical Life Inc. will be holding the “Showcase Dare.”  This is not an officially sanctioned ACDA event.  This is about composition, but intimately involves conductors and lyricists, as well.  This free event is all about working together to ignite the creative process.
 
Conductors are needed during and after the event to dialogue with composers.  They can help composers tailor the new works for the conductors’ performing ensembles.  
 
Composers will be given a “spark”, a few thought provoking words, to get the creative process going.  We have asked Dr. Feiszli to christen the launch of this event by choosing what that spark will be.  Composers will have 9 days in which to find or create a text, begin composing a new piece of music, and submit a first draft.
 
Lyricists, poets, and writers are needed to suggest texts they have written that reflect the spark Dr. Feiszli provided, or create new ones for this special project.
 
It is my hope that the composers and lyricists who do the writing, and the conductors who guide them to completion, will dedicate the creation and/or performances of these works to Dr. James D. Feiszli in honor of what he has given to us. 
 

Showcase Dare August 2015 Community

It was Dr. Feiszli’s idea to create Communities on ChoralNet.  This special event will be held in a ChoralNet Community called “Showcase Dare August 2015” found here:  http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189 .  Please have a look, click through the pages, and if you are willing to help, click on the “Join this community” button in the upper right part of your screen above the blue line.  You must be logged in to ChoralNet to join the community.  Community members will be able to dialogue with the participating composers in the forum http://www.choralnet.org/list/grouppost/469189 and on the composers’ individual contest pages found by clicking on the “Pages” button http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189 and then on the “Contestant Pages.”  
 

Conductors’ Questions:

How Can I Help?

Offer to vote on the first drafts that composers produce during the contest week.  If you wish to be more involved right away, pledge to perform a work that both reflects the spark and meets your own criteria.  Post a message in the Showcase Dare Community forum or on a specific composer’s page detailing what you need for voicing, accompaniment, and level of ability.  Stay in dialogue with composers during the Showcase Dare and afterwards to help them shape their works to meet your needs.
 

Composers’ Questions:

How Do I Sign Up?
 
What Might I Win? 
There is no physical award.  The principal reward is that you will have a first draft of a work you may be able to tailor to a specific choir and get performed.  ChoralNet users will decide by popular vote who wins (see Voting below).  We encourage you to include a note in your ChoralNet Profile that shows, for example, “Winner of the Gold Award for Text Setting in the August 2015 Showcase Dare.”  If you upload the pieces to the Composition Showcase on ChoralNet (free), these awards can also be listed there. 
 
How Do I Win?
Conductors, composers, participants, and a panel of judges will vote on your piece in the following categories:
  • Spark: Evident in concept or work
  • Performability: Viral Quality/Overall Likability/ Uniqueness
  • Elemental Mechanics: Harmonic, Rhythmic, Form, Dynamics, Counterpoint, etc.
  • Text Setting: Prosody, Word Painting, Choice of Text
  • Singability: Voice Leading, Range, Tessitura
 
You really win when conductors see your work and talk to you about what they would need to perform it. 
 

Lyricists’ Questions:

How Can I Help?
Post your poetry, prose, or other texts that reflect the spark in the Showcase Dare August 2015 community forum http://choralnet.org/list/grouppost/469189 and/or on an individual composer’s contestant page as quickly as possible starting August 1.  Post only works you own the copyright for, or which are in the public domain.  You may post links to other people’s works that support the spark.
 
Do I Win a Prize?
Again, there is no physical or monetary prize.  If a composer’s piece is voted the winner, then you share in that win.
 
Voting
The voting will be held from August 10-23, after the first-draft completion deadline.  The pieces with the three highest average scores in a specific category (see below) will win Gold, Silver, and Bronze in that category.  The three pieces which obtain an average score of 4 or more in "Spark" and also receive the highest overall average scores will be named the Overall Winners of Gold, Silver, or Bronze. 
 
To view all of the rules, terms, and conditions, visit the Showcase Dare August 2015 Community and read through the pages, forum, and blog:  http://choralnet.org/list/page/469189 .   
 
What About Copyright? 
You own what you create.  Composers should choose texts they have permission to use or that are in the public domain.  Lyricists and composers should negotiate terms of use for their work.  Lyricists can offer their work for free, but many composer-lyricist arrangements include profit sharing agreements.  You grant us (ChoralNet) a non-exclusive right to display your work as part of the competition, use it for promoting future events, and allow it to remain in the Community as a record of the event.  If you do not want your work used in future promotions or need to take it down later for publishing reasons, please let Jack Senzig know.
 
Conclusion
Please help us to honor the work of Jim Feiszli by coming together to share our knowledge and expertise while creating something new and exciting!
 
You can reply below with questions, praises for Jim, and stories of what ChoralNet has meant to you, or join the Showcase Dare August 2015 community and comment in the forum.
 
The idea for this event is borrowed from the video game developer event called the Ludum Dare http://ludumdare.com/compo/about-ludum-dare/ .  The Ludum Dare has been the spark for the creation of many excellent products. We would like to do the same for choral music.  We are not affiliated in anyway with the Ludum Dare Community and this is not an ACDA event.   
 
Thanks to composer David Cope for use of his picture in our Showcase Dare graphic.
Are you still handing out practice CD's? Are you not handing out anything at all? The ease of sharing audio with our singers has blown up the idea of the practice tape, and offers myriad ways to customize a practice resource depending on what you want to accomplish. Chris Russell wrote a post this week called "Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity" at Technology in Music Education (a must-follow for teachers). His post comes from the desire to allow students to record their own singing to use as an assessment, and he talks about the limitations of an iPad in that regard. What if you just need a way to share files with your singers? Let's look at some options available.
 
The Legal
First, the debate about sharing recorded practice materials is extensive both from a conducting/pedagogy perspective and a legal/copyright one. I am not a legal scholar, and I am skipping this debate lest it dominate the larger idea here: distributing audio (whatever practice resources you'd like) to your musicians. In an educational setting, fair use includes distributing material to students who are considered enrolled in a course or institution-- the intent being that if you could share it with x people within a class setting, you can share it with that same population x through an online portal. In general, whether in education or not, it's now accepted that you best have any copyrighted material behind a password/login option whereby you can ensure that the scope is limited to your population, rather than the whole world. Again, please consider whatever limitations and implications of sharing copyrighted material online.
 
Not copyrighted? Go nuts.
 
The Webpage
The first iteration of distributing practice files online was posting to a webpage. This is certainly an option, and there are easy ways to create blogs and websites for your organization. Unless you're going to add some additional components, though, it's hard to restrict webpages and blogs to only members of an organization unless you create accounts for each person directly. There are cleaner ways to address this.
 
Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, etc.)
Creating a folder in Google Drive or any cloud storage option is easy, and folders can be directly shared with individuals. This is closer to our intent-- to share our files with a defined group of individuals. These programs all have ways to access files on a mobile device, meaning that our singers can load the files directly on their phones or tablets. They all require individual accounts, though, which again introduces a layer of complexity to our equation. An advantage of Google Drive is that Google Accounts are so ubiquitous (and apply to so many products) that many people already have them. If your singers use GMail, Google Calendar, or any other Google products, the same account will apply to the Google Drive. 
 
SoundCloud
We've talked about SoundCloud in the past as a way to reflect upon and analyze a rehearsal, but Chris' post describes it as a way to share audio with his group. SoundCloud offers a variety of options for communicating around music files, and is a great way to extend the rehearsal process. SoundCloud uses a content identification system (similar to YouTube) which scans files and attempts to identify if the audio matches anything requested for takedown by a copyright holder. If you are attempting to share an original recording of a pop song, for example, you may run afoul of the upload system. In addition, it's yet to be seen how far-reaching these software ID systems will be as they develop. Arrangements of songs, for example, usually don't get caught in the filters (especially if they're general MIDI/keyboard sounds), but melodic analysis software may in the future be able to identify melody fragments more effectively, identifying arrangements as well as full songs.
 
What About You?
How do you share your files with your singers? Do you have advice about how to set this up with the members of your groups to share? Post below!
 
[Originally posted November 8, 2014]
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet.  This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
 
Under the Night Sky by Danny Gray for SATB, clarinet and organ (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO of Pt.1 Pt.2 Pt.3)
 
Level: Advanced Children’s Choir
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Moon, Stars, Childhood Imagination
This Piece Would Program Well With: Dancing Tree  by Nancy Gifford from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
 
Under the Night Sky is a delightful setting of three Robert Louis Stevenson poems.  Danny Gray is an extremely versatile composer writing in many different genres and for many different media.  #1 is full of interesting complex meters that move the singer in a gentle but varied dance.  #2 has rich but very singable harmony.  #3 focuses the listener’s attention on beautiful melody dressed in delicate word painting and vocable accompaniment.  This is one of those pieces that inspires me to improve my ensembles so that we could perform it. 
 
Under the Night Sky is available from the composer: dg(a)dannygraymusic.com
 
 
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet.  This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
 
I Hear America Singing by James Johnson for SATB, clarinet and organ (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Fate, Overcoming Adversity
This Piece Would Program Well With: This Is My Song by Jean Sibelius/Wagner from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
 
This is happy red, white and blue music through and through and perfect for the July 4 weekend.  The text is by Walt Whitman and speaks of many professions in the early American economy.  Delightful clarinet and organ ritornelli are interspersed among mixed voice and single section vocal parts.  If you have a Bass Clarinet, Bassoon or Cello they can play the Basso Continuo along with the realized harmony for the organ or just let the organist pedal. 
 
I Hear America Singing is available from the composer.
Drive-in theatres are making a comeback!  Yes, that iconic symbol of the 50s & 60s is experiencing a Renaissance.
 
“People love the communal experience,” said Kipp Sherer of drive-ins.com.  The recent USA Today article continues, saying “There is definitely a resurgence of drive-ins, maybe because people are tired of the sterile environment in multiplexes.”
 
Choral music is like that, it’s communal.  It’s human.  And despite some clever video projects, it will probably never be synthesized.
 
Active involvement in ACDA, too, is a communal experience.  Sure, you can lurk here, reading about choral music, watching a video or two, maybe even commenting about a blog you read; but you’re doing it alone.  The American Choral Directors Association is delighted to offer a variety of opportunities online for engagement and communication, but nothing beats the face-to-face benefit of sharing the choral experience with peers, other choral-crazed souls, “who get it.”
 
So, what are you waiting for?  Join ACDA. Add your voice, your strength, your passion for the choral art to a body devoted to “inspiring excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.”
 
Now, park the car and pass the popcorn!
 
[Originally posted July 27, 2012]
The 2016 ACDA International Conductors Exchange Program deadline is approaching. ACDA is pleased to announce the 2016 International Conductors Exchange Program (ICEP) with South Korea. ICEP is providing opportunities for the next generation of choral leaders to represent the United States as ambassadors to the world in the exchange of music, ideas, and cultures. In 2016, ACDA will host fourteen choral conductors from South Korea who will travel to the United States to be official guests in each of the seven divisions and at the Division Conferences. In turn, South Korea will host fourteen U.S. conductors to be official guests during the summer of 2016. ICEP Application Deadline: July 10, 2015.
 
To apply online, please follow this link. For more information, please contact T. J. Harper. 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet.  This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
 
Invictus  by Matt Wetmore for SATB a cappella (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
 
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Fate, Overcoming Adversity
This Piece Would Program Well With: Psalm 90 by Charles Ives from JWPepper and MusicNotes
 
Matt Wetmore used extremes in dynamics and a rich harmonic palate to show the struggles of life.  As the poet leaves us triumphant Matt’s treatment of the final stanza sounds the trumpets of confidence surrounded by harsh reality.  Give it a listen!
 
Invictus is available from the composer’s website: http://www.matt-wetmore.com/store/choral/invictus
 
 
For many of us, the summer season is a time to step back and plan the next year's programs, explore new literature, techniques or ideas, or just catch up on the reading we didn't do during the rest of the year. We also may not see our ensembles much (if at all) for the next couple of months. Do you ever stumble upon a great recording or article in your summer work that you know you want to share with your groups in the fall? How do you save those finds so that you know you can access them down the road when your groups reconvene? Browser bookmarks are great for common websites or services to visit (like ChoralNet!), but break down once you start grabbing too many individual articles. Saving notes in a document like a Word file can be time-consuming, and breaks down if you use mobile devices or a home computer rather than work during the summer. Rather than clogging up that bookmarks menu or cutting-and-pasting, here are three different ways you might hold on to those great ideas or resources until you meet your groups again.
 
Diigo (Bookmarking Writ Large)
 
Diigo bills itself as "Social Bookmarking," but really it's your Internet index card file-- a way to save individual webpages, videos or articles for later use. There are lots of features that lend themselves to true in-depth research (such as annotation or highlighting), but the quickest use of it is to save pages into lists called "Outlines" (previously "Lists," but now renamed). Signing up for a Diigo account is quick and free, but going to the website every time you want to save an article is a hassle. Download and install the Bookmarklet to add a small toolbar to your browser which allows to you save articles directly from the website itself.
 
Evernote (Scrapbook and Notepad Together)
 
You may want to do more than just save websites-- you may want to save some notes for yourself from those mid-summer inspirations. Evernote is a comprehensive note and organization system that lets you both clip and save your findings online as well as create your own notes. Create notebooks for different types of resources, or different ensembles, and you can write down your brainstorms and save materials like websites and videos for future use. It's cloud-based, so you can use it on multiple devices. For best results, install the Web Clipper into your browser so that you can save webpages directly into your notebooks, like with Diigo, and the mobile app so that you can save articles from your phone or tablet.
 
Twitter (Share with the World, Save for Yourself)
 
Never mind the vast bulk of noise on Twitter-- if you've got a professional Twitter presence, you know that it's a great way to share resources that you find, as well as pick up on what your colleagues are reading. If you find something useful, tweet it. This way you've sent it out in case others may be interested, and you can open up your "sent tweets" to see everything you've shared recently. In the fall, looking back at your sent history will show all the bits you collected over the summer that you thought were interesting or worth sharing.
 
In-Depth: Put a note to yourself as a hashtag at the end, or put the name of your choir as a hashtag to make it easier to search in the fall ("#saveforfall" or "#UHSChamber"). More-In-Depth: Create an IFTTT ("If This, Then That") recipe to save your tweets automatically in Evernote.
 
Hopefully this helps you with some ideas of how to capture all those great findings from the summer season so that you can share them with your singers when you reconvene in the fall. Are there any others that you'd recommend? Join in, and have a healthy and happy summer. Until Fall!
TAKE A VACATION EVERY DAY by Thomas Vozzella
 
Numerous articles abound on the internet, news magazines and broadcasts, Facebook and beyond, regarding summer vacation. A topic within these articles that really hits home is regarding technology and how it permeates our lives. It even invades our time away from work. Who doesn’t work 24/7 in the 21st century?
 
Not long ago, cell phones were the size of military two-way radios. If you owned one, it was in your car. Now, there isn’t a belt loop or purse that does not hold one of these marvels of modern technology. I have even seen female parent sponsors, on tour no less, pull them out of their shirts as they attach flip phones to their unmentionables. I wonder if there has been a study on the effects of cell phones stored near other parts of the body, other than holding it to the ear. To avoid this dreaded disease, Bluetooth is the way to go. Well, enough with the medical discussion on cell phones. I will leave that to the experts. 
 
Soon, if not already, many of us will be packing the minivans and SUVs to head off to the beach, the mountains or a hotel with a pool to escape house cleaning, cooking and the pets. Yes, some will not go anywhere, either by choice or for economic reasons, yet either way, the cell phone is with you.
 
Can one leave the phone behind…probably not by choice, as we would be lost without it. Shut it off…not if it is your only mode of communication. You name I, the scenarios on less cell phone usage are endless. Then to complicate matters, there are smart phones. Smart phones can link to your two dozen or so email accounts. Most importantly, your work email account.
 
Let’s not forget text messaging, Facetime and Skype. How many times, while out of the office has a colleague or boss sent you a quick text message to ask a quick tiny, brief question? A question that must be answered right then and now. The convenience of technology has become a major inconvenience. Many thought the American way of life was stressful. How does everyone feel now?
 
Technology was endeared to us with a tag line of “saving time, energy and money”. In my experience, it has done none of those things. Maybe your experience has been different. If it has, then maybe you should write an article to help the rest of us.
 
Saving time and energy – instead of sending a memo, or making a quick call on a landline, we now have the…”just one more thing”. Then to top it all off, there are the upgrades and learning curves for each upgrade. Upgrades seem to be never ending, as we all deal with more than one technology, i.e., Apple, Microsoft, Finale, Sibelius, Blackboard, etc., are all time consuming. The list is endless. Remember the line we all used as children, when traveling – “are we there yet”?
 
Saving money - that’s an easy one. I print much more than I ever did before. Sure, we can do all our prep work on individual devices. However, when the actual meeting occurs, hard copies are printed by the dozens. Devices such as the iPad, SurfacePro, laptops (still heavy and bulky), and so on, could be used. I own all of these items, as I am sure you do as well. However, coordinating formats is a nightmare.     
 
Yes, we are…one-step removed from total automation. Until that day actually arrives, we should consider when and when not to keep technology a thumb click away.
 
Just this week, I was at the movie theater with my wife and daughter. My phone vibrated. Yes, I should have just shut it off, but let’s be honest, how many people really shut them off? Then it vibrated a second time. I do not look, and/or listen in settings such as theaters and concert halls (turned off, but immediately turned on during intermission). Then it vibrated again. My mind raced with who in the world would need me that badly. I ignored it.
 
As soon as the show was over, I pulled the phone from my belt. Was it anything of importance? Not at all, yet, I let it take my mind from the cute movie I was watching with my family. Are there any other guilty parties out there? Now, let’s not get into a tirade of replies on the evils of not turning off our cell phones. Let me say – my phone is always on vibrate, and never rings. I never want to be that person they all say,” What is the matter with that person?”  
 
How many of us allow students, singers, to use cell phones in class and rehearsals? None of us would allow such a practice…yet, as mature adults, leaders, we think we are different. We are exceptional, and need that constant “good  vibration” to know we are part of humankind. Are we that needy? I don't think so.
 
Vacation, in the classic sense, is for R&R. However, when one returns from a vacation, they seemingly need a vacation. In Europe it is called holiday. It wouldn’t hurt those living in America to call it a holiday. Holiday, classically, has been a time when family and friends gather. A time when stores are/were closed. Business was on a break. This is not so today. Could vacation be called a holiday? “By George”, it could be called a holiday!
 
Because of this need for holiday, I have devised a 5-step program to get off the grid to allow myself a personal holiday. Getting off the grid for a personal holiday time is a very worthwhile endeavor. My hope is that you will consider joining me in freeing yourself from the bondage of technology, starting with the following 5-steps (please reply with additional ideas):
  1. Turn off cell/smart phone at night. The old adage once was-no calls after 9:00 PM. That is my goal; I have yet to achieve that goal. I do not respond to calls after 9:00 PM, however, I do return text messages…I do turn it off when I lay my head on the pillow.
  2. Leave the phone in the office during rehearsals. I have achieved this, at least 99.9% of the time. There is still that occasional time I think I need to check on something. This should never occur.
  3. Do not talk and drive (never text message). There once was a thing called Drive Time when I was younger in Boston. Music was played, no commercials, no talk, just relaxing classical music. It was a time to get your head wrapped around your day. I am maybe at 50% on this. My current vehicle can read text messages aloud, if you use an Android product. I now use an iPhone, which is not supported by this system, so texting is not an issue for me. Additionally, I don’t know about you but I think people that text and drive are dangerous, and slow traffic down. As a somewhat reformed horn blowing Bostonian, I would prefer to use my horn less often.
  4. Never set it next to you in a restaurant and/or meeting. That is easier said than done - what if your calendar is on your smart phone. I think you get the idea. People are still more important than things. I am trying to use an old fashion calendar. These calendars give a visual Image of what is ahead. When relying on a smart phone calendar, one waits to be reminded of an event, making sure to set up early reminders, and remember that you just received a reminder of said event.
  5. 99.9% of the time it isn’t as important as we think. As the hottest song among elementary students states, “let it go”. Don’t answer that call and/or text message. Don’t be enslaved by technology. We control the on/off switch. Technology does not control us, at least not yet.
In summary, “let it go”. Enjoy your summer. Use this time to foster good technology habits. You can only have holiday, if you give it to yourself! 
Except for a very few holdouts, the academic year is over.  Time for a little rest and rejuvenation.  A change of scenery is in order, as is some time for reflection.  Here, then, is a little something to ponder from your hammock.  The following is by Kevin Peter Hand, a planetary scientist/astrobiologist in Pasadena, California and a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer:
 
The drumbeat of human civilization is the pursuit of new knowledge. We explore, we discover, and we advance. From fundamental research on cancer to revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, it is not an either/or: we must do it all. Anything less is a sign that our priorities as a race have been hijacked by agendas beneath our potential. As has become a refrain in my community, the drumbeat continues and we echo the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt: Dare mighty things.
 
What will YOU dare to advance the choral art next season?
 
 
 
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(Each week we look at a piece of useful repertoire from the ChoralNet Community Composition Showcase.  A variety of voicings and levels of difficulty will be presented.  Enjoy!)
 
Harmony In Gold by Dale Trumbore SATB and orchestra (click for PDF and AUDIO)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: General Concert Use, Building Community Relationships, Choral Masterworks
Program Themes: Summer, Flowers, Beauty of the Earth
This Piece Would Program Well With: The Heavens are Telling from The Creation by Joseph Haydn available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus
 
Harmony in Gold was commissioned by the Milburn High School Choir from Milburn NJ.  A quick search on the school showed a 100% graduation rate.  Could the music program and talented directors have something to do with that?  Dale Trumbore very skillfully  wove young voices into an orchestral tapestry.  The choir is easily heard through the texture and the text painting by choir and brass is astounding!  Harmony in Gold really got me thinking about the value of collaboration with our instrumental colleagues.
 
For my graduate conducting recital, I collaborated with the orchestra director at the high school I taught at.  It was one of the most fulfilling musical events of my life and the lives of my choir members.   Is there an orchestra at your school or in your community?  In Racine, WI where I live, there is an excellent community orchestra that regularly collaborates with our high school choirs.  I challenge high school and community choir directors to step up their programs through collaborations such as this.  I am forwarding Harmony In Gold to our city orchestra.  Won’t you do the same?
 
If you are a high school director choose a couple pieces so you and your instrumental counterpart can share in the conducting duties.  Make it clear from the beginning that you would like to conduct at least one piece and that you will make your choirs available for him/her to conduct.  At the community level you may have to accept that you are the guests of the orchestra director. 
 
Why collaborate? It will expand the musical experiences of your choir members, make your program more valued by your community, build a larger audience for you and make valuable connections to the musical movers and shakers in your community. 
 
Why would a community orchestra want to collaborate with you? Ticket sales! If they accept, be sure to sell the performance to your families.  Our collaborations are sold out events.
 
How do you collaborate?  Ask!  It never hurts to ask.  Be a regular audience member of the program you want to collaborate with.  Get to know the members of the board of directors.  Offer the orchestra free advertising in your concert programs.  In a high school, offer to run sound, house lights or take tickets at the instrumental director’s concerts.  Building relationships is essential.  
 
Get on it!
Harmony in Gold is available from the composer.
 
(Original publication: March 17, 2015)
This is just one of the 74 choral conductors on the ACDA Wall of Honor. LEARN MORE about the Wall of Honor and MEET ALL of the award recipients.
 
Thanks to a number of you who have already volunteered to become ChoralNet Resource Curators. We'd love a few more...so if you're thinking about becoming a Resource Curator, it's not too late: you can still help us out.
 
What's a Resource Curator? Glad you asked. Resource Curators are responsible for managing parts of the ChoralNet Resource sections (click the off-green 'Resources' button and explore, if you haven't already). The Resources sections are a well-loved and well-used part of ChoralNet, but they're getting a bit shopworn. There's a lot there that could be updated, and a lot of new things that probably aren't there but should be--and if you're current in a particular area, we'd love you to share your expertise. If you're a recent/soon-to-be grad, curating a ChoralNet Resources section is a great thing to put on your resume...as well as giving you a great opportunity to discover lots of interesting and useful material.
 
You'll likely be responsible (along with a few other people) for a single Resource category. You'll get to go through everything that's currently there, find dead links, update new links, and find interesting and helpful discussions on ChoralNet and in ACDA resources to link people to. Once that's all done, you'll be responsible for vetting submissions and generally keeping your section informative and vital. There's a bunch of work to do at the start, and then after that, there's a small amount of maintenance work you'll need to do periodically to keep everything in good shape.
 
Not an ACDA member? Not to worry...we'll bestow a complimentary ACDA Associate Membership on the first 5 of you who sign up and are not already ACDA members.
 
Interested? Fill this in and let us know!
Thanks to all of you for reading for the last three years!
 
And thanks to ACDA and Scott Dorsey for sheparding this process, which has been as informative for me (or more) than it has for any of you.
 
And thanks to all those who took the time to comment or write private notes to me about my posts. And those who allowed me to use their writing for guest posts.
 
I thank my parents, who are still going strong at age 88—you have been endlessly supportive of all my choices—of course I owe you my life, but much more as well!
 
As always, thanks are owed to my teachers: Neil Lieurance, who we lost last year to pancreatic cancer, to Rod Eichenberger, my undergraduate teacher and early influence (who's still going strong at age 85), and to Eric Ericson, mentor and inspiration. To my grad school teachers, John Leman, Elmer Thomas and Earl Rivers. To orchestral conducting teachers Sam Krachmalnick and Teri Murai. And, of course, to other teachers of other subjects who inspired in so many ways.
 
To the many singers and instrumentalists I've been privileged to work with and learn from—you've taught me much more than I ever did you—from members of my church choirs, Seattle Pro Musica, Mt. Holyoke College, Pacific Lutheran University, the Choral Union, the Seattle Symphony Chorale, Choral Arts, Pro Coro Canada, and the University of North Texas. And to my many conducting students over the years--the same goes for all of you!
 
And to my many colleagues and friends, fellow conductors on the path to understanding and expressing this great musical art, I've learned so much from you, too.
 
And finally, to my wife Kathryn—you make it all so much more fun!
 
See you all at the next ACDA or NCCO conference.
CHORAL ETHICS (Part 13): SLIPPING THROUGH THE CRACKS by Marie Grass Amenta
 
“Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.” Nadia Boulanger
 
How detail oriented are you? There are plenty of details, having nothing to do with the actual music which must be handled by SOMEONE for any music organization to run smoothly. And if you are the one ultimately responsible for those details, do you feel stressed? Could you ever be satisfied with someone else handling the minutiae for you for a change?
 
My friend, Jerome*, was having a bad year.  He was crabby with his choirs, short with his accompanists and snarky with his friends, me included. Those of us who were his friends or occasionally worked with him wondered what had caused such an abrupt change in personality.  Jerome was normally an even-tempered, sweetheart of a guy and this nasty stranger inhabiting his body was tough to be around. The first time he was nasty around me, I thought he was kidding.  Vi*, another friend, told me she thought he hadn’t been acting like himself for months.  He was so unpleasant to be around; many of his friends began to avoid him.  When he called me for a Christmas gig; I agreed to do it and wished I hadn’t. I began to avoid him as well.
 
I saw Jerome again the following summer. He seemed to be his old self, telling jokes, asking me about my choirs and my family.  I acted as if nothing was wrong, and asked after his choirs and his family as well. He told me he was sorry about the December gig, hoped he hadn’t been too big of a jerk but there had been a reason for his behavior.  He then told me what had happened to him.
 
Jerome had been overwhelmed.  Every small task it seemed in his big, well-paying church job and his community chorale gig fell to him. Since he was organist as well as choir director for the church, it was difficult for him to take a Sunday off. Normally, all the things he had to do, coupled with being a nice guy who cooperated with those he worked with, were not a source of stress but a source of energy for him.
 
It all changed when his youngest child was diagnosed with leukemia. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat properly, he ran around constantly trying to keep all his obligations as well as support his wife who did all the physician and hospital appointments and took care of their other children.  Jerome told no one about the stress he was under since he always considered himself to be a trooper and didn’t want anyone’s pity. He didn’t realize it was help he should be asking for, not pity.
 
The day after Easter, Pastor asked him what was wrong and it came flooding out. The Pastor gave him “permission” to do what seems so simple; take care of himself and his family and ask his colleagues to pick up the slack for a bit. Jerome felt like a weight had been lifted from him. He explained the situation to the good folks he worked with, both at church and the chorale, and they rallied ‘round him and his family.  He could focus on tasks at hand and not worry he was missing something important by letting them slip through he cracks.
 
As his son got better, Jerome did too. But Jerome made a discovery about himself; he could delegate and not feel less of a musician or director. His attention to detail could be used to delegate tasks to competent people and then, let them do those tasks. And he continues to operate that way, delegating non-musical details. Being forced into looking at the minutiae differently helped him be a better conductor, musician and person then he was before his son’s illness.
 
Perhaps we should all think about “giving up” some of those lovely little tasks that overwhelm us at times in our own work. Maybe by doing so, we will become better choral directors and conductors or at least, we might be more pleasant to the people around us. We don’t have to be the one to handle all the details, just the one who make sure they get done. By someone. Something to think about as the choral year winds down.
 
*Name Withheld by request
 
The Choral Ethics series will continue in the 2015-16 academic year.  READ the entire series on choral ethics by Marie Grass Amenta.
       Choral Ethics is Not an Oxymoron   http://choralnet.org/436946
       Choral Ethics (Part 1): Songs My Mother Taught Me
       Choral Ethics (Part 2): Amateur Versus Professional
       Choral Ethics (Part 3): Kindness is NOT for Wimps
       Choral Ethics (Part 4): Reaping What We Sow
       Choral Ethics (Part 5): “Maestra Manners” Explains All
       Choral Ethics (Part 6): Judging Our Colleagues
       Choral Ethics (Part 7): Our Choral Culture
       Choral Ethics (Part 8): Don’t Shoot the Piano Player
       Choral Ethics (Part 9): Preaching to the Choir
       Choral Ethics (Part 10): Audition Time is Here
       Choral Ethics (Part 11): Rock Star
       Choral Ethics (Part 12): Truth to Tell
COMPOSITION SPOTLIGHT ~ by Jack Senzig
 
(Each week we look at a piece of useful repertoire from the ChoralNet Community Composition Showcase.  A variety of voicings and levels of difficulty will be presented.  Enjoy!)
 
Dreaming in Darkness by Robinson McClelland SATB divisi a cappella (click for PDF and AUDIO)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: General Concert Use, Expanding Harmonic Pallet
Program Themes: The Stuff of Dreams, Raising Children
This Piece Would Program Well With: It Takes a Village by Joan Szymko available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus and will be performed by Arlington Martin High School Chamber Singers at the ACDA convention in Dallas.
 
Short and sweet.  Robinson McClelland’s Dreaming in Darkness is an excellent introduction to upper sonority harmony.   Use this as a teaching piece to move your singers’ harmonic pallet out of the 19th century. 
 
I really like McClelland’s use of perusal videos to share his works (click here).  Combining this with a timed close caption track would be even better.   Anything that saves a conductor time ranks high on my list, and having the score move along with the music so I can multitask and not be lost is a real plus.   Check out Robinson McClelland’s ChoralNet profile for links to his interesting Facebook page and website. 
 
Dreaming in Darkness is available from from the composer.
 
(Original publication: March 3, 2013)
For those of you in school and church choirs, another year is coming to a close. You might well be thinking to yourself "Hey, I'm going to be missing everyone during summer break...maybe I should go find something to do to continue to be part of the choral community!". We have a fine opportunity for you: become a ChoralNet Resources curator. The Resources sections are a well-loved and well-used part of ChoralNet, but they're getting a bit shopworn. There's a lot there that could be updated, and a lot of new things that probably aren't there but should be--and if you're current in a particular area, we'd love you to share your expertise. (Since a lot of the work on the Resources sections happened prior to ChoralNet becoming part of the ACDA, there are also a lot of ACDA resources that ought to be linked up). If you're a recent grad, curating a ChoralNet Resources section is a great thing to put on your resume...as well as giving you a great opportunity to discover lots of interesting and useful material.
 
You'll likely be responsible (along with a few other people) for a single Resource category. You'll get to go through everything that's currently there, find dead links, update new links, and find interesting and helpful discussions on ChoralNet and in ACDA resources to link people to. Once that's all done, you'll be responsible for vetting submissions and generally keeping your section informative and vital. There's a bunch of work to do at the start, and then after that, there's a small amount of maintenance work you'll need to do about quarterly to keep everything in good shape.
 
Interested? Fill this in and let us know!