Author: Melanie Mijares

What’s New and Exciting at ACDA 2018


Eastern Division was the first region to unveil Together We Sing, a new approach to the traditional reading session where we frequently feature auditioned choirs to help us through the reading process!

But THIS YEAR, we have “Together We Sing – In the Oral Tradition.” Elisa Macedo Dekaney will present music from Brazil. Diane Saez will teach you songs from Puerto Rico. Rollo Dilworth will talk about singing in the Gospel tradition. Micah Hendler will share his experiences with the Jewish/Arab Youth Choir based at the Jerusalem YMCA where he runs an interfaith choir for peace. Shawn Funk is an acclaimed 5th grade teacher who will bring his real 5th grade choir to show how he transforms his general music lessons into a once-a-week choir. And our International Choral Scholar from Kenya, Noah Ochomo, will lead us through a rehearsal just like you might experience in Nairobi!

Just wow!


You’ve already heard my musings about studying with Joe Flummerfelt, and anyone who knows anything about choral music knows the tremendous impact this person has had on the American Choral Tradition. We’ve asked him to share a few of his of thoughts on the importance of choral music in the 21st century. Brace yourself for a strong dose of thought-provoking inspiration.


If you teach high school or college, (or middle school too!) you probably know by now that A Cappella is here to stay – and getting better and better EVERY year! Starting with A Cappella Night tonight, featuring a cameo appearance with The Swingles, there are several sessions dedicated to all the ins-and-outs of the A Cappella tradition, led by experts in the field who are out there making it happen with their own kids. Unravel the mystery, and come learn what all the hype is about.


We’ve given a lot of press to our three outstanding headliner choirs, New York Polyphony, The Swingles, and Tenebrae under the director of Nigel Short. If you’re not already in love with these three ensembles, we’re pretty sure you will be by the end of the week.

Riddle: How long was Tarik O’Regan’s flight to Eastern ACDA
Answer: REALLY LONG. All the way from Swaziland where he now resides and composes.

But thanks to our dedicated folks who organized the Composer’s Track, and a bit of creative financing, we are the only Division to have Tarik present for the premiere performance of the Brock Commission to be performed by Westminster Choir College Kantorei. Later that same day, Tarik will talk about his music in a special session on the Composer Track.

Only in the Eastern Division!




In our last session block on Saturday morning, we have re-conceptualized our annual Music & Worship session into an event we’re call Together We Praise, led by Patrick Evans, a wonderful musician who served eight years on the Sacred Music faculty at Yale. This inter-faith event will even feature music of Arab and Jewish traditions, led by Micah Hendler and a choir made up of ACDA Student Chapter members. Having seen the script, and I can already tell you it will be meaningful and moving.

Now aren’t you glad you went to all the trouble of finding your way to Pittsburgh?

ACDA Pittsburgh: What’s New and Exciting

Happy Snow Day!

I write to you from Pittsburgh as registration has just opened on the 17th floor of the Omni William Penn Hotel, and people are meandering in at the completion of their circuitous journey through sleet and snow and dark of night. With that in mind, I thought you might enjoy a quick snapshot of WHAT’S NEW AND EXCITING at this year’s Eastern Division Conference.

You have certainly been inundated by now with the theme of Building Bridges, with the implicit intention of broadening our horizons and reconceptualizing what we do when we call ourselves choral directors in America. I’m hoping this idea will find its pinnacle moment in the Keynote Address by Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt, who has inspired so many for so long to go deeper, think harder, and be better than you ever dreamt you could be.

We assume you have already downloaded the conference program app, and I’m hoping you’ve found our social media presence with Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat as well. Not only is it fun to connect with your friends during the conference, but it also lets all our friends and colleagues back home hear about what they’re missing.

Thanks to all my colleagues who have given so much to create this fabulous conference, and to each and every one of you for making it through the Blizzard of 2018 to immerse yourself in the joy of singing, learning, and praising… together!

Paul D Head
Eastern Region President

Weather or not – here we come!

Good morning friends,

We’re getting lots of “fan mail” about the weather, as some of you are still trying to dig out from the damaging winds of last week, and now, Snowmaggedon is bearing down on the East Coast.

BUT NOT IN PITTSBURGH! We may see a dusting now and again, but this storm will miss Pittsburgh and make it’s way right to the coast. This SPECIAL BULLETIN is meant to address your storm related concerns. The short answer is, IF YOU CAN – GET OUT NOW, BEFORE THE WEATHER EVENT BEGINS!

I should mention right off that there is still plenty of space at the Penn Omni (the Conference Hotel) and the hotel manager told us this morning that if you show up early (even tonight!) they will likely be able to get you into a room for early check in. I just did a quick web search, and at the moment, our hotel is the best deal in the neighborhood – and you can still get the convention rate.

On-Site registration opens tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon at 2:00 pm and the first event on Wednesady evening is the A Cappella Concert with a cameo appearance by the Swingles, and… a cash bar to give you that authentic night club experience in the 17th floor Urban Room.

Travel safely! See you on the other side of the Alleghenies!

Paul D Head
Eastern Region President

WEATHER ISSUES for ACDA in Pittsburgh!

So, one day early on in the planning stages, Paul Head said, “Let’s move the conference to March to avoid mid-winter chances of snow!” Oh well.

But here’s the GOOD news. Your main challenge is to GET OFF THE EAST COAST before the storm thickens up tomorrow afternoon. Once you get east of Scranton (or Breezewood, PA) you drive (or fly) OUT of the snow zone. There is little or no accumulation expected here in Pittsburgh, and by the weekend, there is nothing in the forecast that suggests you’ll have any trouble getting home.

Also, Delta, United, and American have ALL posted travel advisories, which allows you to change your flight WITHOUT PENALTY due to Wednesday’s storm system. It’s always better to fly out EARLIER, before the storm, than later after the storm, since there’s no way to predict when flight operations will return to normal.

Again – THERE ARE NO WEATHER CONCERNS HERE IN PITTSBURGH! We’ll continue to post updates here and on Instagram as we are tracking the storm system, including updates about hotel check-in, etc.


The American Choral Directors Association cordially invites you to join us at one or both of two extraordinary concerts to be be held at Heinz Hall

Thursday, March 8 at 8:30 pm

New York Polyphony


The Swingles

TENEBRAE under the direction of Nigel Short
Friday, March 9 at 8:00 pm

Tickets are available to the public for $20, to include either or BOTH events.
(That’s right! You can use ONE ticket for admission to BOTH events!)

These are the headliner concerts for 1000 choral musicians that will be gathering in Pittsburgh for their annual conference, and thus, we are extending this invitation to the community to join us in this beautiful hall for two fabulous nights of choral music.

To purchase tickets, CLICK THROUGH to Brown Paper Tickets. Purchase your tickets on-line and print them at home, and you’re good to go!

We look forward to celebrating choral artistry with you in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

Get Yourself to the Conference!

Because we’re so excited to see you at the conference, we’ve compiled a list of all the links you need to get yourself there!

1.) Registration: Head here to register for the conference––our pre-registration price of $299 ends at midnight (central time) on Feb. 14 before it jumps up to $349.


2.) Hotel: We have a special rate for rooms at the Penn Omni Conference Hotel which you can book here. But don’t wait too long, because the deal will expire before the conference!

3.) Transportation: Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with airfares on Google flights, which you can also use to book!


4.) Plan your conference experience: We’ll release the full and final conference schedule soon, but the best way to stay updated is to download the Conference app here!


We have a wonderful conference planned, and we can’t wait to see you in Pittsburgh!

From the Eastern Region President

Dear colleagues,

As of this writing, we are closing in on the planning cycle for the 2018 Eastern Division Convention in Pittsburgh, March 7-10, 2018. We’re making all our lists, checking them twice, counting up the hotel rooms, laying out the floor plan for our exhibitors, checking the specs for our main stage performances, tuning the pianos for our auditioned choirs, populating the content in the app, planning the meals for 500+ honor choir kids, and checking to make sure all the other bridges are in place in hopes of creating an experience that will be a source of inspiration and rejuvenation for our constituency. That’s YOU!

As I near the end of my term as Eastern Division President, this is an intense, but at the same time, poignant moment for me. I suspect you’re like me, in that you probably don’t dedicate a great deal of your brain capacity to ACDA on the day-to-day basis unless you’ve been volunteered (read: coerced) into taking on a task for the good of the order: heading a committee, planning a festival, or writing an article for the monthly newsletter.

I had a few hours to sit with Joseph Flummerfelt a few weeks ago, our Keynote Address speaker for the Friday night Plenary Concert. I did my masters with “Flum” back in the mid 90s, having left my “cushy high school job” (Ahem!) in California with the aspiration of joining the ranks of collegiate teaching. In this case, that involved convincing my wife and three small children that fireflies and snow flurries would be well worth abandoning the tepid climates of the California Wine Country, all for the cause of touring with the Westminster Choir, singing with the New York Philharmonic, but most importantly, searching for a glimpse of insight and wisdom that might help me unveil some sort of revelation or supernatural experience that would empower me to pursue another 25 years of teaching in hopes of engaging more young minds in the virtues of studying the Choral Art.

During my chat with Joe Flummerfelt, I recounted our first experience together when I came to a one-week summer conducting institute where we would study the Faure Requiem and the Mozart Coronation Mass. That was in 1993, but I think I could recount – almost verbatim – the extemporaneous soliloquy Dr. Flummerfelt gave us on Mozart as the harbinger of the Enlightenment. He pointed out the pas de deux between the violin soloist and the vocal quartet in the Credo that not only provided us with a glimpse of Mozart’s emerging operatic mastery, but also created a virtuosic tapestry that, we realize now, was a significant bridge in Mozart’s day from the general acceptance of blind faith in the Aristocracy and the Church, to the inevitable perception and realization of the genius and virtuosity of man incarnate! Suddenly, the liturgical words “and he was made human” had taken on a new context, simply in the course of Mozart leading his audience (congregation) into a new realm of emerging socratic discourse under the veil of oppression that dominated so much of 18th century Europe. (Yes, I’m assuming you may have to read that a few times to fully digest that sentence!)



Nearly twenty-five years later, I still find myself pondering those moments where so many of my preconceptions about making music, interpreting Mozart, the essence of liturgy, the sordid history that entangled the governing bodies of Europe and the Church, and even the “meaning of God,” as I examine every score and prepare each rehearsal for my own students. And I also recounted to Dr. Flummerfelt my recollections of a particularly moving address by the late Robert Shaw at a national convention in Phoenix, I think, where he charged us – the musicians, the thinkers, the makers of great art – to rise above the noise of the commercial influences and fleeting desires of the modern age. (This was well before Facebook, Twitter and Smartphones, mind you.) Our responsibility – as choral directors – was to rise above all this. To raise the bar for our singers and students in a crusade to recognize genuine beauty, instill deeply rooted values, and let the deep minds of Bach, Brahms, and Britten lead us to ponder the deeper questions of the human experience. I still get goosebumps as I recount this story here, and I still shudder a bit when I realize our role as people who have tremendous potential for instilling wisdom and thoughtfulness into the hearts and minds of our singers, even if we are still pondering the hard questions posed twenty-five years prior – as the study of art is a step into an infinite journey of inquiry. Good musicians are never satisfied with one-dimensional answers or formulaic solutions, but instead, are constantly preoccupied with “going deeper” (That should resonate with my Flummerfelt colleagues) in a quest to reveal what the poets, scribes, and composers have committed to paper so that we may bring inestimable truths to light.

While this may all seem a bit lofty and esoteric, I would like you to know that this is why I think it’s important you come to Pittsburgh next Month. I asked Dr. Flummerfelt to challenge our thinking while enlivening out souls in his Keynote Address, but I’m most hopeful that it will not be a stand-alone event in this weekend of absorbing great music, considering new approaches to age-old challenges, and expanding your musical and cultural repertoire of choral literature (notated and otherwise) accompanied by ways to fully engage yet another generation of singers in the altruistic mission of revealing beauty and thoughtfulness through the immersion in great music. This is a deeply personal and intimate experience for each one of you; the wide eyes of a singing child, the spontaneous exchange with a composer like Tarik O’Regan, the spinning overtones of a fabulous choir like Tenebrae, learning a new song in Swahili from our friend Noah in Kenya or in Arabic from our friend Micah in Jerusalem, the reconceptualization of a teaching strategy to reach your unsuspecting ninth-graders, or the sheer joy of tight harmony with The Swingles.

If you’ve already registered and bought your plane ticket, start preparing your ears for delicious sonic overload and your mind to go beyond the parameters you’ve come to take for granted.

IF YOU’VE NOT yet registered for the conference, leave the philosophical realm for a few moments and realize that after next Wednesday, not only will registration rates go up again, but we will also begin releasing unsold hotel rooms, which in effect, will nearly double the cost of your stay in Pittsburgh. And know also that while airfares are still relatively low today, if history is any indication, the next few days will see these fares double and triple making it simply prohibitive to find your way to Pittsburgh without a car, as this is not a destination known for last minute flight deals.



If you made it this far into my musings, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SHARE THIS POST! Share it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even by email to a friend – even to people you know who are not currently affiliated with ACDA or simply aren’t able to attend this year’s conference. In the short term, I’m eager to gather as many of our members together as humanly possible to celebrate the collective efforts of the extraordinary committee that has assembled this exhilarating program. But as my presidency comes to an end, I’m also eager to reiterate Dr. Flummerfelt’s and Mr. Shaw’s message on to you. “We, the choral directors of America, have an awesome responsibility, not only to act as curators of the choral art that will otherwise remain banished to the museum, but to use that art to empower and enliven the souls of those around us in a way that will change their lives forever, and thereby, have an exponential impact on the future of the human race.” 

I know that sounds lofty, but truthfully, that’s why I do what I do for a living. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to celebrate our ability to do this thing together!


Once again, we still have a few rooms left at the Penn Omni Convention Hotel at a Special Rate. That rate will expire soon and you’ll end up paying more and walking in the cold.

And thanks to our good friends at National ACDA, we were able to extend the registration deadline of $299 to midnight on February 14th. That’s the last possible extension, as the very next day, the “Close In Late Registration rates” will kick in as we start printing badges, stuffing packets, and committing your name to those who choose to be counted amidst the inspired and engaged!

Click through right now to REGISTER! Who knows, it might change your life!


Paul D Head
Eastern Region President

P.S. On a lighter note, the Pittsburgh Police Department has agreed to grease all the light poles in downtown Pittsburgh should the ecstasy of hearing a live performance of New York Polyphony send you into the streets as a crazed mob of post-Renaissance frenzy. 🙂


The ACDA East 2018 Trailer

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Featured Choir: Mansfield University Concert Choir

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Featured Choir: Central Bucks East HS Select Choir

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Featured Choir: Pennsylvania State University Concert Choir

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Featured Choir: North Penn HS Chamber Singers

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Featured Choir: Ithaca College Choir

ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Interest Session: Hands to Mouth


ACDA Eastern Conference 2018 Interest Session: Hands to Mouth

Interest Session: Hands to Mouth from ACDA_East on Vimeo.


In the first of our videos on interest sessions at the Eastern Conference, Dr. Caron Daley from Duquesne University talks about how her research on gestures in speech pathology and how it relates to the choral rehearsal. Don’t miss out on the wonderful presentations at the Eastern Conference. Head to the homepage to register now!