Category: ACDA

Words Matter

Happy New Year to everyone! 

January typically is a time for many of us to catch our breath. With the rush of the holiday season behind us, there is a sense of renewal with the new year, and an opportunity to examine our pedagogy before the schedule is again heavy with performances as the spring arrives. 

Musicians/Conductors/Teachers (and we are all three in one!) constantly strive to improve on their performance and pedagogy. Self-reflection and critically examining what we do is part of our DNA. This occurs moment to moment in a rehearsal, as we formatively assess what we are hearing. It occurs on a deeper level as we reflect on the success of the last rehearsal we had as we plan for the next one. In this blog, I hope to pose questions that will instigate thinking and self-reflection pertaining to broad issues we face in working with our singers. 

For instance, consider the question of gender inclusivity. As students are expressing varying gender identities earlier, and people of all ages are becoming more confident in outwardly expressing gender not conforming to binary choices, words matter. Using “Guys,” “Ladies,” “Men,” “Boys and Girls” is not as inclusive as “Choir,” “Sopranos (Altos, Tenors, Basses),” “6thGrade,” “Friends,” “Everyone,” or any other non-gendered term. It can take a little practice to accomplish this switch, but for that singer in your ensemble who is non-binary or questioning, it can mean a lot knowing that you are making the effort to change.

Take a moment to examine repertoire for “hidden curricula.” This applies to repertoire for all ages. Consider the text of “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” and what it implies, for example. If you were to switch the gender of an individual described in a lyric, would the lyric still be appropriate and acceptable?

Don’t know where to begin? Start simple! This article published by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (, Creating a Gender-Inclusive Classroom, provides some excellent starting points. Want to learn more? has an extensive list of resources available on the web. 

Penelope Cruz: New President-Elect

Congratulations to Penelope Cruz, our newly-elected leader for the ACDA Eastern Division! Penelope will begin her term as President-Elect on July 1, 2018, and then as President on July 1, 2020. Among her duties will be the planning of the 2022 Eastern Region Conference! With her vast experience in ACDA leadership, we are in good hands! Penelope has taught primary and secondary-level music in public and independent schools; conducted school, children’s community, and honor choirs; and sung professionally in opera, musical theater, and choirs in Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York. Since 2003, she has been the choral conductor at White Plains High School (NY) where WPHS Choir members have sung in All-State, All-Eastern, and ACDA Eastern Division and National honor choirs, and at Carnegie Hall, Jazz@Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, and at various universities, festivals, and competitions. Throughout much of her professional career, Cruz has been an active member of ACDA. At the National Level, she is a member of the first Diversity Initiatives Committee for which she made contributions to the Choral Journal and as part of an ad hoc committee on audition guidelines for honor choirs and auditioned choirs. For the Eastern Division, she has been Program Chair (2016 and 2020) and Honor Choirs Chair (2012 and 2014), where she initiated the Latino Repertoire and Chinese Repertoire Honor choirs. She has served as NY State President (2014-2015) and as Repertoire and Standards chair for both Women’s Choirs and Multicultural and Ethnic Perspectives. Penelope Cruz is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and earned the Masters of Music degree from Eastman School of Music. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.