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

What's so important about being involved in the choral community?

Disclaimer: I love participating in our wonderful world of choral music. I love meeting and observing new conductors, hearing new choirs, going to conferences and workshops. I'm so happy for the sense of community and family that choralnet and ACDA creates for us as musicians.
My question to all of you out there is this: How do you get new people involved? Why is important for choral music education students to get involved in these communities as soon as possible? Why should they go to the national convention in Dallas? It sure seems like a large investment of time and money... What makes it all worth it?
I would love to get perspective from as many professionals as possible! Let's talk about why it is so important that we all be in touch with each other and aware of what's going on in choral music!
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on October 19, 2012 10:07am
Hi, Christopher.  I'm having trouble understanding exactly what you mean, and I think it's because it isn't clear what you mean by "the choral community."  I would take it to mean everyone involved in choral music starting on the very local level with schools, colleges, churches and community choirs, and moving from there to county, district, state, and eventually national and international levels, with corespondingly less direct communication and involvement the further away from home you get.  If all politics is local, surely all choral music is local as well, isn't it?
This also applies, although somewhat differently, to the "community" formed by those whose specific involvement in choral music may be not general and generic but more narrowly focused, such as men's choirs, women's choirs, church choirs, show choirs, and so on.  No two programs ae necessarily the same, nor is there any reason why they should be.
But it sounds as if you may be thinking in the opposite direction, citing ACDA as "the choral community" when that's really a top-down approach that puts local music-making at the end of the pipeline rather than the beginning.
As to getting choral music education students involved, what's the problem?  Our state MENC/VMEA conferences are traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving and many of our classes shut down because so many faculty members attend, so many of our ensembles tend to perform, and our music education students (both choral AND instrumental) clearly understand that they are expected to attend to start making professional contacts and start their individual networking with people to whom they will turn when they graduate and start looking for jobs.  Getting new people involved is simply a non-problem, and it starts in the choral music classroom.  Unless, of course, you start with the assumption that "community" STARTS with ACDA and national conferences.  But I would suggest that it does not, never has, and probably never will.  "Community" at that level can provide enrichment, inspiration, and continuing education, no question, but it's far from the meat & potatos of local, everyday choral music.
All the best,
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 19, 2012 11:07am
I'm sorry if I was unclear. I definitely don't think that national acda is the starting point in regards to being a part of the community. I think, at least for me, it is important to be aware and in touch on a national and international level, mainly because I'm extremely interested in the different cultures that choral music permeates and how we all affect and relate to each other. But I believe that "community" exists at all levels and is worth taking part in.
There's no "trouble" per say. I was just looking for perspective from experienced people on why it has benefited them to remain in touch and aware of what is happening. And as far as conferences go, it can be extremely expensive for college students. Most of us have very little money as it is. I know it's something that I love to do and care about and feel is worth while, I was again wondering what some more experienced people might say about why it is important to try to take part in these events.
It concerns me because I feel that if we ever isolate ourselves or move out of touch then we are in danger of eventual becoming irrelevant. Concerning students, if we aren't networking, communicating, and learning from these communities at all levels then I think we put ourselves at a disadvantage when we begin the job search. Furthermore think we should always be learning more so that we always have more to offer our students, anything else seems like a bit of a disservice.
Is that any clearer or am I just rambling?
Thank you so much for your response!!
on October 19, 2012 2:35pm
Christopher:  No you aren't rambling, and I apologize because I hadn't picked up on the fact that you're currently a student and have a choral student's perspective. 
There have been posts in the past worrying about choral music becoming irrelevant, or at least less relevant, in our culture.  But judging by the number of concert announcements and the number of audition announcements posted right here on ChoralNet (each in its own season, of course!), I have no real fear of that's happening.  But it certainly doesn't hurt to realize that historically what WE consider "the choral tradition" is very much limited to Western Europe and much later in history was exported both to the New World and to many other parts of the world.  Even Eastern Europe and the Russias have rather different traditions because the Orhodox churches have different histories and traditions than do the Western church/churches, and we have to recognize that the origin of what WE consider to be "choral" music grew out of the church/churches, and that "choral" music in the sense of chant has been associated with religion long before Christianity started growing into the replacement for the Roman Empire.
Singing in parts is, historically, relatively recent.  (Depending on the depth of your historical perspective, of course!)  The first examples of 2-part music--Organum--date from the treatise "Musica enchiriadis" of the mid-9th century, and was presented (a) as a form of improvisation rather than composition, and (b) not as a brand new idea but something that was already being done.  We are very lucky that it was presented in a notation that can be absolutely transcribed into modern notation, and doubly lucky that that particularly awful type of notation did NOT catch on and was replaced by the ancestors of our own modern notation a couple of centuries later.  The huge majority of church music was monoponic chant, with part music reserved for the best soloists and for the most important feast days.  In fact one scholar of choral music states flat out that there was no "choral" music--meaning singing in parts with more than one person on each part--until the 15th century.  On this kind of time scale Bach's B Minor and Beethoven's Mass came along just yesterday!!
And there's no question that times change, fashions change (in the arts just as in everything else), and one of our problems today is maintaining a balance between honoring and keeping alive our choral tradition while also accepting and encouraging today's music.  We do see some churches turning to "praise bands" (solo voices and backup singers) and away from traditional choral music, but the key word there is "some," and while choral singing may have developed in the church it is now much more widespread in educational settings, where more of the tradition is kept alive AND more current music is being sought out and performed.  But fashions and styles do change, and we have to be aware of those changes.
Keep questioning and keep looking for answers!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 20, 2012 8:24am
Christopher - are you part of the leadership in a college ACDA chapter?  I know from experience how frustrating that can be.  It's hard to convince music students who have hours upon hours of rehearsals and practice room time that they need to set aside some more time for a meeting.  Frankly, we brought people in with food.  We would schedule our meetings over dinner time, in between rehearsals, and offer pizza and the perspective of an alumni or another choral professional to hear what it's like in the real world and ask questions.
As for community, it is so important to network as soon as possible because the people you are studying with now will become your resources when you graduate.  As a music education student, I had friends of all instrument majors, and I can't tell you how nice it's been to contact my percussion major friends with questions about instrument brands and ask my woodwind friends how much of a range I should expect out of the beginning flute player who wants to play in praise band at my church.  Choral friends, of course, are very important to have because they are the people who will understnad you when you're out in the field, and furthermore, the people who understand you now!  You can bounce ideas off of each other and share research and lesson plans.  When you get out into The Real World, you are often the only choral musician at your workplace, whether it's a church or school.  Going to workshops and conventions and coming to ChoralNet is a relief because you are finally talking to people who are like you!  They get all your corny nerd jokes and complaints about scheduling and frustrations with attendance, and they're not giving you the "smile and nod" treatment.
Personally, I don't have the funds to travel cross-country for national conventions, but I am a member of ACDA and I do read ChoralNet often.  I also keep an eye out for more local workshops that can be of use to me - some of them are even free!  And most of them I find out about because of notices on this website.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 21, 2012 2:40pm
I wouldn't say that it is frustrating me. It's not that they are lazy or dispassionate, it is very much that they are terribly busy and that we, as college students, lack funds to invest in larger conventions. We also have been known to pull people in with food... :)
I like your comments about having people to relate to and bounce ideas off of. For the most part, as a teacher, I'm betting you won't find a whole lot of musical feedback from your administrators at your school. I think we should be trying to improve as musicians every day, and think it is edifying to be around other people who are trying to do the same thing. Not to mention the wonders that networking can do when looking for jobs. I've heard all about the stacks of resumes and I think many times it can come down to who you know, who knows you, and who can say, "This person is highly capable, they are the person that you want for this job."
As you said, even if you can't make it to large conventions, local workshops and choralnet provide a wonderful resource. I have learned SO MUCH since joining this site and begining to post questions. I have consistently found that I am not looked down upon as a college student. For the most part people seem to get excited when they see younger choral musicians posting and getting involved, which is extremely encouraging! Could you speak to some of the benefits you've found on choralnet?
Also, yes I am part of the leadership for my chapter. I'm the president of Samford University's chapter.
Thank you so much for your feedback!
on October 23, 2012 5:59am
I first used choralnet when a college student; my choral conducting professor suggested that we search the repetoire archives here for ideas for a project.  One of my classmates also posted a question about a direct translation of a piece we were working on, and he actually heard back from the composer, which blew our minds at the time :).
Right out of college I got stuck subbing for a year, but I did get a part-time gig as a church music director.  I did church music for 3 years, and this is my second year teaching music in a classroom (although it feels like my first since I'm in a new school again).  You can see an example of how wonderfully supportive and helpful people are in these forums by going to my latest post here:  I still use the repertoire suggestions archives when looking for new pieces for my students, and I love reading my daily listserv summary; it makes me feel connected to the larger choral world.
Good luck with everything!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 20, 2012 10:47am
Hi, Chrisopher.
While this may sound like the ACDA "party line," it's not.  It comes straight from the heart.  
Going to ACDA events and other choral workshops not only gives me more knowledge about how to approach choral music, but gives me insights into how I can construct my rehearsals so that they'll be more productive, efficient, fun, and inspiring.  Furthermore, choral conventions and workshops have given me LOADS of repertoire ideas, helping me to keep up with the latest (and sometimes timeless) offerings of good choral music.  And attending these conferences recharges my choral batteries, making me more excited to go back into my own classes and rehearsals.
I'm aware of the cost factor and realize how daunting it, as well as the time away from classes, can be for students.  But I can't stress enough that it's worth it!!  I have tried for years (usually without success) to get my students to go with me to ACDA conventions.  Last spring our divisional convention was only a two-hour drive away, and my students' initial interest in attending turned to a "no" as the convention drew near, as it usually does.  What my students missed by not attending was, by my account and the account of many in attendance, the most inspiring and expressive concert they had ever heard in their lives, which is really saying something for many of the grizzled ACDA veterans like me, because we've heard so many amazing and outstanding ones!  (I won't identify the group to avoid unfair advertising, but anyone who was at the Ft. Wayne convention will surely know which concert I was referring to.)  So the point is, you don't know what you're missing until you step out onto the financial and temporal limb and decide to just go!  If the national convention in Dallas is out of your price range, find out where your ADCA divisional convention will be next year and budget the time and money to go.  I doubt you'll be disappointed in your choice.  And at least then you'll know what you've been missing.
Finally, one more advantage to being a part of the "choral community" -- networking!  You'll meet other choral directors there and learn that they have some similar and some different circumstances from your own to share.  And who knows?  When you're looking for that job, maybe the job you're interviewing for will be one that was held by someone you talked to at a convention.  Can you imagine that when looking through resumés, that person (if involved in the search process, which may or may not be the case) sees your name among all the others that he/she has no recognition of?  Can you imagine how your familiarity might help in that circumstance?  Just a thought.  But job interviews aside, I can't begin to tell you how rewarding it will be for you to build relationships and share ideas with others you share your passion for choral music.  That's another thing about attending conventions that I highly doubt you'll be disappointed in.
Good luck, and I hope to meet you at a convention sometime.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 21, 2012 2:59pm
Charles, Thank you!!
Please! Spout more ACDA party lines! They excite and encourage me!
I believe your opinons sound extremely heart felt and I agree with you. What we're doing is so much larger than just us, or just our choir. I can't help but wonder what Paris might have been like had the impressionists not all been hanging out with each other and creative ideas off of each other. I am extremely happy to hear when people have been so positively effected by these conventions and concerts. Our chapter is currently striving to make a trip to the Dallas convention as easily accessible as possible for our members. We are trying to get scholarships from our state ACDA board, funding from SGA on our campus, and I believe we will be setting up caroling events during the christmas season that we will be paid for participating in to further reduce costs. I'm trying to keep our members from having to pay much more than $100 to come. I'm certain that if we can just get them there, they will be so excited that they have to go back in years to come!
Everyone does things differently, and if you isolate yourself then you really do run the risk of ceasing progress in your art. We must come together so that we can benefit from each other's shared knowledge.
Can I also how tickled I was when I read that you referred to yourself and others as "Grizzled ACDA Veterans"? I got a good laugh out of that. It conjures up imagary of a younger Morten Lauridsen or something along these lines. That's beside the point though.
I want to thank you again for your response, absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for the feedback.
on October 21, 2012 3:05pm
I apologize! Dr. Livesay, not Charles...
on October 22, 2012 6:35am
Charles is fine, Christopher.  (In fact my friends call me Chuck.)  No need to apologize.  Your description above seems to show that you and your chapter are doing your best to get the funding to go to Dallas.  Fantastic!  Perhaps your post was designed to get some reinforcement and justification for all your efforts.  I hope the comments of those that have responded will give you that reinforcement.  And I think your comment "I'm certain that if we can just get them there, they will be so excited that they have to go back in years to come" is spot-on.  I hope you and your chapter all get that opportunity!
And while I may be a "grizzled ACDA veteran," I'm not so far gone that I look like the guy in the linked picture, at least not quite!  ;  )
Good luck with your fund-raising efforts!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 20, 2012 11:47am
Always is cool to: 1 know who you are, 2 where you are, 3 why you are there!
 In my case it's: 1 kept me out of trouble 2. put me in some beautiful places, 3. led me to a beautiful wife!
 Any other questions!
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