“There is nothing like staying at home
for real comfort.” Jane Austen
I am not in Kansas City this week. I wish I could be, but I can’t. I am in the middle of rehearsals and in the middle of auditions and our master bath is being remodeled; you get the idea. Things snuck up on me this year. Between the winter holidays, our awful winter weather here in Chicago and spring concert preparations, I forgot to block out time.
I really wanted to go this year and not just because of all the wonderful things ACDA has planned. My mother’s family is from Kansas City. In fact, my grandfather’s name (W.H. Ditto) is on the Kansas City World War One Veteran’s Memorial. I made an etching of his name the last time I was in KC, and would have done so again. I think there is a distant cousin or two I could have gone to lunch or dinner with and it would have been great but it is not to be.
You have my excuses for not going and if you are stuck home too, I am sure you have your own worthy reasons. If you are attending and reading this from KC, get out there and have fun and learn stuff and meet new people. Soak up knowledge from the Keynote speakers and take joy in being surrounded by others who love the Choral Arts as much as you do. John Rutter is to be there and one of my teachers from undergraduate school, Doreen Rao, is being honored. If you have the chance to meet or talk to either one or both, do it!
I’d like to share advice with both the many-time attendees and first-time attendees; go to presentations with an open mind. Be ready to learn something new or to be dazzled with an insight you would never have imagined. Relax and learn, with no tension in your body or heart. Don’t attend something with a chip on your shoulder or a feeling you know more than the presenter. Be willing and open to learning something new, even a small thing, to take back to your own situation.
The reading sessions are one of my favorite parts of any ACDA conference. Singing and hearing new music or “new to me” music is exciting and invigorating, so another bit of advice is this; look at new music with an open mind and fresh ears. Promise yourself to try one or two new pieces with your choirs you would never have thought to before. And do the same with “old music;” just because it’s old, doesn’t make it unworthy of being sung in the 21st century. Visit exhibits with a fresh eye; leave your jaded self at home.
Concerts are something we all look forward to at an ACDA conference. From the professional choruses, to the college and university ensembles and the honor choirs of every stripe, there is sure to be something to appeal to everyone. Some more advice; go to concerts with kindness in your heart, especially those concerts with young student choirs. Leave the snarky comments in your hotel room and don’t make snotty comments in the concert hall, while the concert is going on. If you simply must share your sarcastic criticism, wait until after the concert. The Cocktail Hour is best to share your Snark with your other Perfect Conductor Friends, out of earshot of any who could be hurt by thoughtless comments–but maybe you just shouldn’t make ‘em!
My best advice is to make new friends and network. Since this is a National year, try to meet your “counter-part” from another area of the country. It could be fun to compare notes, share ideas and perhaps encourage a relationship between your choirs. Try to meet someone with a position the exact opposite of yours or maybe someone who is the exact opposite of you in terms of experience; you could learn a lot from each other.
And lastly, look up old friends and colleagues. This is the time to catch up by having breakfast or coffee or lunch or dinner or wine or cocktails with friends. Laugh and cry and learn something new, together. Reminisce and remember and have some damn fine KC barbeque. And have some for me, too!