More Than Just Music: Reflections on the 2017 ACDA National Conference Part 2
Hearing inspiring, world-class choirs was an amazing part of the National ACDA Conference. Beyond the performances, there were a number of lessons I learned and questions I thought of that are good to reflect on. For a few days, we had the privilege of leaving behind chores and minutia of everyday life. We spent concentrated time with thousands of people with similar passions and values. Without distractions and the noise of normal life, it’s much easier to self-reflect and ponder questions such as: What kind of conductor do I want to be? What are my values and priorities?
Kristin Moroni, conductor of the Women’s Choir at Illinois State University mentions this vision as it relates to the conference. “I’ve never known a director to return to their church, school, or community choir after a national conference, without a renewed vision for their individual program! At the conference, you can feel that excitement in the air!”
Finding One’s Community
Anytime a group of people spends time together centered around a common interest, a community tends to form automatically. ACDA is no exception. It is a very convenient place to reconnect with colleagues and meet new friends. A chance encounter at dinner can lead to a fantastic collaboration or simply a new supportive colleague. However, past the conference, such a network takes time and work to grow beyond a conference. Who do I want to surround myself with? What are the values and qualities of these people? Questions such as these are vital to ponder for professional and personal lives.
Mari Ésabel Valverde, composer, talks about “finding your people” at the conference.
“There is nothing like holding real life conversations with colleagues who you may rarely see. From a composer’s perspective, it is amazing to connect with conductors who are enthusiastic about your work, but may not have a depth of knowledge about your work. This networking is invaluable and invigorating.”
One of the gifts of the conference was hearing so much great music in person. Fortunately we live in an age where we can hear almost any type of music at a moment’s notice through a variety of digital means. There’s nothing quite like the emotional and visceral impact of a huge choir of hundreds singing their hearts out or a small chamber choir having the audience in the palm of their hand. It felt very powerful to witness first-hand the act of creation through music. When so much of everyday life is digital, it was refreshing to experience something so human and life-affirming. It was a great reminder to support live music wherever I can. In an age where it seems that arts funding at all levels is in peril, which organizations need our support? By attending live concert, we feed our souls and support arts organizations at the same time.
I learned a lot by attending an incredible amount of performances by world-class choirs. Inevitably, this makes me a better conductor and teacher. Hearing different kinds of repertoire and sounds by different choirs opened my mind and ears to an even greater potential in the choirs I already conduct. I am left with some questions that are questions to think about as a conductor. How can I listen better? What are my core values as a conductor? How can I best balance technique and emotion so that we don’t distract from the message of each piece? I’m sure these will be life-long questions I will continue to ask. I hope that even more conductors and composers will attend the next ACDA Conference! On that note, here are some reactions from other conductors who also attended this year’s National ACDA Conference.
Daniel Gutierrez, conductor of the Reed Academy Singers
“I feel bad for my students when I start teaching them again because inevitably the standard of everyone who attends raises by like 1000% just by listening to all of the amazing ensembles that perform.”
Kyle Karum, Director of Choral Music, Seymour High School, Indiana
“It was my first National Conference. Cantus was amazing. Networking and meeting colleagues was great. People should go to learn more and keep the choral art alive!”
Shannon Gravelle, Director of Choral Activities, Meredith College, Raleigh, NC
I am a big believer of ACDA. Networking is very valuable. Attending workshops is a great way to stay engaged and inspired. Listening to performances is a chance to see innovative programming and hear phenomenal singing. I love visiting the exhibits, too, partly because I love to browse what is out in the choral field.