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The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

93% Caucasian

It is a courageous act to examine your weaknesses.
 
ACDA is acting with courage these days and looking intently at the problems of the organization.  One of the themes that really impacted the ACDA leadership was the fact that our membership was 93% Caucasian - or, at least - that 93% of the respondants to our self-study was disproportionately white.
 
We spent a lot of time talking about what that meant to ACDA.  
 
What do you think it means?
on June 15, 2012 4:42am
Should the question be: does ACDA reflect the racial makeup of the field?  If that is the case, what can ACDA do to become more diverse?  The largest non-Caucasian group in the US are Latinos, but what percentage of Latino musicians are classical, choral musicians?  Does ACDA need to make an effort to reach out to those Latino vocal musicians who do not routinely perform Bach, Mozart, Palestrina, Brahms, et al?  For the sake of diversity?  Does ACDA do enough to promote African-American choral experience (I think it does, but I am white, others may disagree)?  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 15, 2012 5:45am
We can't determine what ACDA's mostly Caucasian makeup "means" unless we also know the ethnic/racial demographics of choral conductors in general in this country. Is that information available?
on June 15, 2012 5:56am
It may come down to a simple matter of personal economics (especially during this depression, which is likely to last quite a while), reflecting individual cost/benefit decisions.  We don't like to think about class issues in this country, but people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the economic meltdown, and $95 is a whole lot of money to a whole lot of people.
 
Has the ACDA ever considered offering a six-month or one-year FREE trial membership, so that potential paying members could get a taste of all the benefits and opportunities, and decide for themselves whether the cost of a membership is worth it?  Or has the ACDA considered permanently reducing the annual membership fee, perhaps even cutting it almost in half for "active" members, from $95 to $50?  Is it better for the ACDA and its membership as a whole to have, to put it in very reduced terms, 100 members paying $95 per year ($9,500), or 500 members paying $50 per year ($25,000)?     
Applauded by an audience of 6
on June 15, 2012 8:37am
P.S.  The ACDA might also consider offering Always-Free memberships to students (another under-represented group in the ACDA, according to one of the bulletin board notes I noticed, in yesterday's blog I think), for as long as they continue to be students in good standing at their institutions, with the reasonable expectation that after they graduate and (hopefully) find jobs that they will continue their memberships on a paying basis. 
 
I would wager that the short-term loss of current student membership fees would be far outweighed by the long-term gain of loyal, paying members.  It is difficult to overestimate the value of such a good will gesture, especially now that students are struggling with ever-increasing tuition and fees for their education.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 15, 2012 10:38am
Julia,
 
Unless I am quite mistaken, the membership fee is the PRIMARY way we fund the national office.  Conference fees fund the conference.  
 
Although we have a "universe" of about 60,000 members, there are only 17,000 active members at any one time.  A "free" or "cheaper" ACDA might quickly become a bankrupt ACDA.  What if our membership stays static after the move to cut the rate 50% and revenues force draconian cuts?
on June 15, 2012 11:00am
What about a membership fee where the amount is staggered/income-based/sliding scale?  Already this site is open to non-members, and is very educational.  Some organizations have a "get-what-you-pay-for" itemized scale.
on June 15, 2012 6:43am
In response to Julia's post, as a music educator I belong to ACDA, NAfMe (MENC), OAKE, and this year, AOSA--close to $400 when I count it all up.  I wait to the end every year to see if I have the funds to do that.  How beneficial to what I do currently (elementary music), is any of these?  I always question this.  So when people have to pick and choose because of economics, they may just join one organization.  How about a joint membership for all of these? 
 
I am also white.  It would also be informative to explore how many choral singers are from non-white ethnic groups.  If you don't draw singers into choral music in elementary school and secondary school, they will not continue later, nor will they become choral conductors.  Too many school districts eliminate early singing experiences and push the value of instrumental music.  They miss the boat, since:
1.  vocal/choral music is cheap, in comparison
2.  it builds language, listening and memory skills
3.  it does all the other things that instrumental music does and more, at the elementary level.
 
My perception is that OAKE encourages choral music and music education through the elementary years that can be carried to higher levels, NAfME focuses most on instrumental music, ACDA touches on children's choral music but focuses on higher levels, and AOSA focuses on improvisation and playing Orff instruments.  To build a constituency that is multi-ethnic for singers and conductors, ACDA needs to encourage earlier choral experiences--perhaps partner with OAKE--and look at expanding choral experiences to appeal to more diverse ethnic groups.
 
Eloise Porter
voice101@gmail.com
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 5
on June 15, 2012 11:15am
Great ideas and points, Eloise!
I also have the "which membership(s) fee can I afford?" syndrome.  Add to that the MTNA chapters for those of us who teach privately, and N.A.T.S. for soloists/teachers.  I would love to see a combined-organization fee.  If we have multi-facted careers, (for instance; teach elementary, coach H. S. singers for All-State, conduct a community group, church choir, and teach piano - we have good reason to join 5 or more.  But in an economically-depressed area (not to mention current world-econ), it is basically impossible to charge enough to cover that and still eat!  :)  I had several mentor-colleagues urging me to join "their" group - they are all important.  Sadly, I afforded none.
I would add to your 3 great points about vocal music education: 
4. People tend to use it later in life, for a longer time.  Though many communities and worship-places have instrumental groups, many do not.  But who can find a church/synagogue/place of worship without a choir, ensemble, or soloist ...often several of the above.
on June 15, 2012 8:45am
Watch for the Children's Choir column in September. I hope you will respond.
Ann Small
Asmall(a)stetson.edu
on June 15, 2012 10:55am
It is certainly an important and worthy goal to collaborate and join in any way we can - it should ultimately help to promote understanding throughout world cultures.  At the same time, I believe in the "patchwork quilt" concept much more than the "melting pot".  Cultural behaviors, generally, [and vocal/choral music is a large part of this] should be retained and celebrated, rather than morphed into an established expectation.  (Sometimes there are issues of vocal technique in various cultural traditions, but that is probably for another forum thread.)
In the Atlanta area, I do see some effort.  We have had a few African-American directors for major choruses, in more than one age group.  (Quite likely the presence of Spelman, Morehouse, and Morris Brown Colleges here - all HBC's (Historically-Black Colleges) with renowned, superior choral programs - has helped that. )   However, there is much distance to go.
One thing that has fascinated me is that when I search Youtube for choirs doing European-based pieces such as Dowland's "Come Again Sweet Love"   or Passereau's "Il est bel est bon", there are a surprising number posted performances by Asian and Latino groups.  (Not sure if that's due to tech-saviness, cultural openness, or desire for positive international publicity, or just a love of those pieces - probably all of the above.)
Recently teaching Chorus for 5 years in a 96% African-American high school - magnet and regular - I learned more deeply about students who grew up with "Gospel" in their churches.  This is what they were accustomed to.  This is what they felt they had the skill-set for.  This was the vehicle for their theology; the "teacher' of their faith.  European-American-based choral culture was a foreign land to many of them.  Some were braver than others about joining Chorus.  Even though our Curriculum Standards were developed by multi-racial committees, and respected Black choral leaders agreed on the skills/knowledge necessary, I often heard comments from the Black students - and a few of the Black teachers - that  made me aware of their thoughts.  Of course, everyone is individual, with individual tastes, background, and feelings.  But I did get a message that a percentage of the student body associated "white" music as being "boring", or stodgy [if you compare church services in many congregations, I can't say I blame them ;)], difficult, too "academic" [Why should I learn sight-singing - people will play it for me/I can get it off the net.).  Someone in leadership somewhere in our district convinced some singers that if they sang European-based music, and/or under a white conductor, they were "only using half their voice" (which "ain' necessarily so". :)
I only mention the above factors to sharpen our awareness as to the paths we might follow as we embrace these challenges; (definitely not to solidify differences/barriers!).   As I see it, every group will benefit.  Eurpoean traditions bring us bel canto, Bach-based harmony, a rich vocabulary of choral techniques and expression, and long-term acedemic committment to music performance and composition.  African-American traditions bring us vocal embullience, vocal bravery, a wonderfully-rich tradition of improvization, jazz, call-and-response, humor/character, and an immediate accessibility of spirit that is relatively rare.  We all love the fascinating rhythms, harmonies and melodies from our Latino brothers and sisters.  Our Asian friends, in addition to their unique scales and percussion,  bring a delightfully open and logical approach to programming: "If it sounds good/is fun/teaches/says something, do it!"  (Who cares what culture it originates from? ;)
We just have to keep talking, encouraging each other, singing together, and learning each other's music.  It will take time, but history shows it will happen beautifully!
-Lucy
on June 17, 2012 4:50pm
In my opinion, it reflects more on the state of classical music as a whole. 
on June 19, 2012 4:58pm
I was at a loss as to suggestions for "improvement." Now, I am wondering how the percentage was determined. Was one's ethnicity to be expressed? If so, I missed that.
Would moves to make the 7% more interested also deflect interest from the 93%. I like what Lucy Stembeidge wrote about church choirs -
that there is much to be desired there. Songs that have something to say about life with singable melody appeal to most when done well, which is what Lucy was aiming at. The choral (Let's not call it music) stuff that occupies much of catalog space, and yea, college choirs and their directors is effect without much meaning.
 
Another area of neglect, I think, is rhythm; that is, other than the beginnings of notes. Most minorities have a better sense of it.
 
Gosh, I don't think this should be an issue for you editors and webmasters or whoever. You cannot be all things....
 
Perhaps more as the thoughts churn.
 
Bless You for the work you do.
 
EP