American Choral Directors Association: ACDA
We are a group of choral professionals whose joy comes from the performance, composition, publishing, research, and teaching the fine art of choral music. We are a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote excellence in choral music.
From the smallest towns to the largest cities across America, we strive to elevate the role of choral music and the way it touches our society.
We inspire and lead over a million singers nation-wide, combining individual voices into an instrument of incomparable beauty.
We are the American Choral Directors Association.
For information about ACDA and how you can become a member, visit us at www.acda.org.
Why Should We Belong To ACDA
by Frank Whitcomb
I have been asked to write a short article about the value of belonging to ACDA. I am sure that there will be little new in this piece; you all know the reasons for belonging to professional organizations, and we have heard these clarified time and time again. But maybe we should visit this one more time and try to shed some fresh thought on the subject?
When we think about joining an organization the first thought that usually occurs to us is “what does this organization have to offer me?” That is a fair question and one with many answers that warrant attention. But I would also ask you to think about the opposite question; “what do I have to offer this organization?” I say this with all due respect to our busy schedules filled with performances, meetings and other responsibilities. In Vermont we have a decent ACDA membership list compared to other states of the same size and demographics, and yet we have trouble finding individuals that are willing to answer this calling and serve on our Board. When we are asked to serve we need to think of all the reasons why we should, and not all the reasons why we should not! This organization is rich in history and has an abundance of resources that are at your disposal IF you choose to seek them out.
Consider for just a moment the mission of ACDA: TO INSPIRE EXCELLENCE IN CHORAL MUSIC THROUGH EDUCATION, PERFORMANCE, COMPOSITION, AND ADVOCACY. This mission statement allows room for so many individuals in so many arenas of choral music to contribute in so many ways. It is a lofty goal indeed. If you turn to page 3 of the current January issue of the Choral Journal you will find the 12 purposes of ACDA listed directly under the mission statement. It is worth reading again, if not to remind each of us why we do what we do. These short declarative statements should clarify once again how important it is for us to renew our energy and carry on. It is vitally important that we do not lose sight of our objectives in these times when the arts are not high on the list of indispensable items in our schools, cities, states and indeed in the nation. The Common Core in education, soon to be implemented in our school curriculums, does not give much of a nod to music. Funding is drying up for arts organizations and orchestras and performing ensembles; all over our nation performing ensembles are folding or going through difficult financial times. I was shaken when I recently saw that the New York City Opera had closed! How could this be that a great institution such as this, one that played such a vital role in the cultural world of our nation, is no longer? What will be next? Our ACDA plays a vital role in keeping the choral art alive and vital in a culture that increasingly does not value the performing arts over pop culture. There IS a difference!
Our state ACDA chapter has already this year hosted two events; the Fall Gathering at St. Michael’s College and the Mid-Winter Madrigal Festival at the UnitarianChurch in downtown Burlington. The Madrigal Festival has always been a success and continues to grow in popularity; we must not lose sight of how vitally important this annual experience is for our high school students. The Fall Gathering is an annual event that should have our membership attending in record numbers; we continue to host this important event, hoping for a larger attendance from our membership as it grows in popularity! This year we had composer and arranger Donald Patriquin as the featured guest and one that we hoped would gain the attention of the choral community. Last year we had renowned conductor Jameson Marvin as the featured guest; a considerable catch considering the successful career of this musician! The year before that was our first year offering this event. Each year we try to have a different thrust in order to attract more individuals to these professional experiences hosted by YOUR ACDA. I wanted to use this as an example of how we try diligently to offer forums that will be of service to our membership. Your state ACDA is working for you in an attempt to keep choral music alive and vital in our lives!
Soon we will be having our second Great Day Of Singing at the BaptistChurch in downtown Burlington. This is a great opportunity to meet with colleagues, discuss repertoire and sing through literature. In addition we feature a speaker and have performing groups sing near the end of the day, as well as a large group sing. What a great opportunity to give your own performing ensemble some exposure and let others hear your ensemble! Last year our featured speaker was Walter Parker of Vermont Public Radio fame offering his unique and supportive perspective on choral music and the revered place it has held for him in his own life. I found Walter to be informative, intelligent, humorous and supportive. Here is another event sponsored by your own ACDA Chapter! Later in the year we will be having the annual Children’s Choir Festival, this year being held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Burlington. We continue to support this festival for young singers as we also try to gain a wider audience for the concert; you might be surprised at the quality of the music and the quality of the performance. Have YOU ever attended the Children’s Choir Festival? The Fall Gathering? How about the Great Day Of Singing? The Madrigal Festival maybe?
And while I am on the topic of choral events, might you consider the “Gather At The River” event that will be held on the DartmouthCollege campus this August 1 & 2, 2014! Last year was the inaugural year of this gathering, hosted by the Choral Arts Foundation of the UpperValley and New Hampshire ACDA; Vermont ACDA is also involved in this venture! It offers a very affordable two days aimed at bringing singers and choral directors alike together to investigate and explore all manner of vocal activities!
In my humble opinion the Choral Journal alone is worth the annual membership fee! It supplies us with a breadth of information from many different perspectives and feeds our collective hunger for more information about the choral masterpieces in a repertoire so voluminous that it boggles the mind. What a privilege it is to be able to have such a publication come into our homes every month, informing us, educating us and keeping us in touch with our colleagues. I personally look forward to its arrival every month and make sure I set aside the time to read every page, every article and every review!
While I am on the subject of the Choral Journal, take a look at this month’s issue featuring all that is going on at the convention level in Baltimore, Santa Barbara, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Seattle, Des Moines and Little Rock. What other organization can boast so much to its members in this respect every year? Our own Eastern Division Convention promises to be nothing short of incredible thanks to Robert Duff of Hanover, NH (our Eastern Division President) and his convention committee. This is an immense initiative every two years, and what you get from attending this convention and others like it can hardly be summarized in this article. But how could you resist a performance by Seraphic Fire? The American Boy Choir? The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum? The RutgersUniversity Glee Club? The Westminster Kantorei? You will be able to watch and maybe run shoulders with the likes of Jeffrey Ames, Simon Carrington, Janet Galvan, Patrick Gardner, Peggy Dettwiler, Alan Harler, Tony Thornton and others! There is still time to register and attend!
For me, colleagueship is a very strong draw as a reason to belong to the organization. I value my relationships with Sherrill Blodget of Castleton State College, Jeff Buettner of Middlebury College, Jeff Rehbach, director of the Vermont Choral Union, Kristin Cimonetti of Mill River Union High School, Aimee Bushey of South Burlington High School, Bethany Plissey of Johnson State College, Lori Routhier, Director of Music at The Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Rutland, and others that serve on the Board. If you check the ACDA website you will find a number of vacancies on the Board as well. Would you be willing to serve the organization in one of these capacities? This would be a great way to serve your state chapter of ACDA and become involved!
Did you know that our organization offers an annual $500.00 scholarship annually to a vocal senior going on in some form of vocal music? We present this award each year at the Vermont All State Music Festival in May; all you need to do is go to the website and read about the criteria and fill out the forms and adhere to the deadlines! What a great benefit to your students that might qualify!
This brings us to the ACDA sponsored websites that are at your fingertips if you choose to go there! Our own website at vtacda.org offers a variety of articles and information that should be useful to you, as well as resources that are also available to you. In addition the website gives you a tremendous amount of information about our state organization and what it is doing. It is well worth the visit, and subsequent visits to keep abreast of what is going on. Still another resource to you is the national ACDA website at acda.org. This is full of useful advice and information; have you tried ACDA radio? There are all kinds of repertoire suggestions for every conceivable type of choir, ChoralNet, articles, conferences, performances and more. Even our own Eastern Division has a website at acdaeastern.org
On the vtacda.org website you will also find the holdings in our Vermont ACDA Choral Library. Did you know that if you are an ACDA member you can freely borrow from this library of SSAA and SATB music? The holdings in this library constitute the music that has been purchased by Vermont ACDA for the Children’s Choir Festival and the Mid-Winter Madrigal Festival for High School students. You will find this music to represent the 2nd Purpose of ACDA; to foster and promote the finest types of choral music. In addition to this library, I am making efforts to catalogue and make available to the membership our library of video recorded choral music from various past performances of our National and Eastern Division Conferences. This should be available starting in September of 2014 and will be listed on the Vermont ACDA website.
Another important component of our organization is the opportunity to network with colleagues in our own state and others from around the Eastern Division and nationally at our National Convention held bi-annually. I cannot stress enough the importance of talking with other choral educators at these events; it gives one new perspectives, new ideas, support that you are not alone in your efforts and frustrations, and the possibility of making connections that will serve you and your choral organization in the future. Over and over again I hear my colleagues tell me that this is one of the most significant parts of attending these conferences at the state, eastern division and national levels. How can one resist the possibilities that all of these events present to us for personal growth and learning. ACDA is quite simply one of the most important organizations that a choral director could belong to! It is your lifeline to so much, and unlike other organizations such as NAfME, it consists solely to serve choral music and choral educators. There is nothing like sharing experiences with fellow choral musicians alone; all whom share the same passion, the same viewpoints and the same vocation as you!
Did you know that you could sponsor your own Student Chapter of ACDA in your own school? What a great boost that would be for the students you have that have a shared passion for choral music! It makes no difference how large or small the chapter might be; it could be 2 or 20. But forming our student chapters is one very positive way to promote our organization and insure a growing membership in the future.
The basic premises that ACDA espouses are those that we as choral directors try to foster in our yearly work in our schools, churches and communities. To promote choral singing, the best of literature, the development of performing groups of all types, the understanding of choral music as an important medium of contemporary artistic expression, research, composition, international exchange programs, and to promote rehearsal procedures conducive to attaining the highest possible level of musicianship. These lofty goals and more are taken directly from the mission statement and purposes of this great organization. Anyone who has met and had a conversation with our Executive Director Tim Sharp knows how much he cares for the organization and how much he cares about you. He listens, works diligently on our behalf and has boundless energy. All our National Officers deeply care about you and what you do. So do your Eastern Division officers and your local state officers. All you need to do is connect with them and start realizing the great benefits that are available to you through this organization.
Our ability to fund the various activities that we sponsor each year is based partly on our membership. For each member we have on the membership list we receive a small amount of money each quarter. In other words, we receive a quarterly allotment four times a year. It is small for sure but goes a long way in this small state to help us meet our expenses. The larger the membership, the more dollars we receive from National. So one very positive and effective way we can all serve is to recruit more members for the organization. A higher membership role will not only guarantee us a few more dollars from the National organization, but it will also bolster attendance at our events and usher in a new era for our state chapter.
I suppose I have proselytized enough for now! There should be no doubt that ACDA has something to offer you, and there is no doubt that you have something to offer ACDA; it really is a symbiotic relationship, but someone has to initiate the relationship, and after that it has to be nurtured and cherished. A great start for all of us would be to regularly visit the vtacda.org website and keep abreast of what is happening. Also take a look at the leadership page and see if there is a board position you might be able to fill. This does mean attending regular board meetings, but you would find it stimulating and well worth the effort! We look forward to seeing more of you!