Being a long time jazz fan, and firmly believing that jazz is America’s music and we need to teach it, I began a search years ago to find choral repertoire suitable for children and youth choirs. ACDA has long had a Jazz R&S committee, and I always tried to attend the reading sessions, but often came up empty handed. While there were frequently a few treble voiced pieces included in the wonderful repertoire they presented, the orientation was typically more towards older voices, with topics that were, shall we say, not terribly appealing to kids. (I don’t know many children who really care to sing about lost romance, often the subject of some of the best jazz repertoire!) Many of the arrangements were too complex. Or, repertoire thatwas dubbed a “jazz” arrangement was often dumbed down and had little jazz left in it, particularly in the accompaniment.
So I began writing my own arrangements as a solution. Gradually, I found a few other composers who seemed to also understand how to write for young voices, how to select songs to arrange that kids would love to sing, and how to write accompaniments that sounded like jazz. Interested in learning more about how to getyour young singers introduced to jazz? Please join me at my “Jazz Choral Music for Kids!” session on Saturday, February 13! We will have a reading packet of repertoire, and you will be singing and scatting your way through the session. I will be presenting ideas to get even your youngest singers started, methods to help them understand the language of jazz aka scat, and a variety of music of different levels of difficulty. And, you will have fun!
Not comfortable with the genre, but curious? Even more reason to come! Be there or be square!
Dr. Joy Hirokawa is Assistant Professor of Music Education at Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA) and the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Children’s Chorus. Under her direction, the choir has appeared on ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences, and has traveled internationally. Dr. Hirokawa is a frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME and PMEA conferences and conducting numerous honor choirs nationally. Her published arrangements include her jazz arrangement of “Lullaby of Birdland,” recently included Voices in Concert, the new choral text published by McGraw-Hill and Hal Leonard, and “My Favorite Things,” featured on numerous honor choir programs. Her newest jazz arrangement for young voices is “Accentuate the Positive,” available from Hal Leonard. She is the current ACDA Eastern Division Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children and Youth. Dr. Hirokawa taught in the public schools for 20 years prior to her appointment at Moravian College.
Several days ago, I was thrilled to read the New York Times article by Phillip Lutz, “A Different Note on Race at Yale.” It recognizes the efforts of Dr. Ian Quinn to implement a tradition of Sacred Harp hymn-singing at Yale University. Referring to his first experience in 2008, Dr. Quinn said, “It just turned my whole world upside down. How moving it was for me to see this musical space where anybody could just walk in off the street and have this experience of singing in four parts without having to audition, without having to feel like they were performing.”
Coincidentally, it was also in 2008 that I was invited to attend my first Sacred Harp event. As I was preparing to leave graduate school for greener pastures, a senior member of my community chorus gifted me his dated copy of The Sacred Harp (1971), with information about local and regional “singings.” I was familiar with a long list of shape-note arrangements, but I was embarrassed to say that I had never been to a traditional singing before. In response, I programmed an entire concert of shape-note tunes, and to address my ignorance, invited Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock to lead several singing schools in Potsdam, New York in 2009. (Jesse is currently the vice president of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. His 2015 dissertation, “Folklore’s Filter: Race, Place and Sacred Harp Singing,” is referenced in the NY Times article mentioned earlier.) Like Dr. Quinn, the experience “revolutionized my relationship to music,” and since 2009 I have taken dozens of students to regional Sacred Harp events.
From the website of The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association (www.fasola.org):
“Sacred Harp is a uniquely American tradition that brings communities together to sing four-part hymns and anthems. It is a proudly inclusive and democratic part of our shared cultural heritage. Participants are not concerned with re-creating or re-enacting historical events. Our tradition is a living, breathing, ongoing practice passed directly to us by generations of singers, many gone on before and many still living. All events welcome beginners and newcomers, with no musical experience or religious affiliation required—in fact, the tradition was born from colonial ‘singing schools’ whose purpose was to teach beginners to sing and our methods continue to reflect this goal.”
My own Sacred Harp addiction led to the idea of sponsoring an interest session that would provide a participatory experience for other choral conductors who, like myself, have conducted many shape-note tunes without having experienced a traditional Sacred Harp singing. This session is being co-presented by Dr. Thomas Malone, with special thanks to members of the local Sacred Harp community who will be in attendance. To make the experience as real as possible, a very brief introduction will be followed by a solid forty-five minutes of singing.
What better place than Boston to start a new musical addiction? Early eighteenth-century Bostonians produced America’s first two music textbooks in 1721. Singing schools began in Boston, and spread across the Northeast, spurring the compositional creativity of William Billings and other tunesmiths from the First New England School. Composers and singing-school teachers began using fa-sol-la solmization and shape-notes to teach music across the expanding frontier. Today, Boston is home to one of the most vibrant and active Sacred Harp communities in the Northeast.
It is my hope that this experience will help instill in others a deep appreciation for traditional shape-note singing, a desire to become more active in local Sacred Harp communities, or the motivation to establish communities where none currently exist. For more information about The Sacred Harp, please visit www.fasola.org.
Dr. Jeffrey Francom is associate professor and coordinator of the choral area at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, where he conducts the Concert Choir and Crane Chorus, and teaches courses in music education and conducting. Previously, he taught at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, where he also directed the Stony Brook Camerata Singers and Babylon Chorale. Prior to New York, Dr. Francom directed choirs at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Florida. He holds degrees from Stony Brook University (DMA), the University of Florida (MM), and Utah State University. Dr. Francom serves as a board member of NY-ACDA.
After presenting an interest session with the Mansfield University Concert Choir demonstrating vocal techniques at the 2006 ACDA Eastern Division Conference in New York City, Frank Albinder commented: “I didn’t know that you were such a process person.” The comment inspired my thinking. Since then as I have read articles on teaching philosophy and observed conductors in rehearsal, I have considered whether the process of how students learn is as important as the final product or, in other words, the performance. If the performance is great, does it matter how we get there? My answer is “yes, it does;” in fact, the process can enhance the product!
I am really looking forward to presenting interest sessions on Saturday morning in Boston, “The Choral Rehearsal: Process to Product,” with the Mansfield University Concert Choir as a demonstration group. Throughout my twenty-six years at Mansfield, I have been passionate about vocal pedagogy and sequential learning as applied to choral rehearsals.
Successful performances are grounded in a creative, yet systematic, rehearsal process that builds confidence through vocal development, musical knowledge, and security in musical performance. My process involves layers of learning centered upon the elements of music: rhythm, pitch, harmony, texture, and tone color, combined with articulation, dynamics, and cultural understanding.
The interest session will focus on specific concepts related to each musical selection and will demonstrate rehearsal techniques that define an efficient and effective rehearsal process resulting in a musical product that is grounded in healthy vocal technique and musical understanding. Techniques such as count-singing using the Tometics method, pitch-reading based upon solfège, text-chanting à la Robert Shaw, and changing choral colors using head- or chest-voice will be incorporated. In addition, exercises for achieving choral blend through vowel formation, dynamic balance, and voice matching will be demonstrated. Here are examples of pedagogical approaches to tone color:
Bright-forward timbre: Laudar Vollio from Cortona laudario (13th c.)
A. Bright tone color
1. Begin with puppy whine
2. Vocalize on tongue vowels only: “nee-ay-ah-ay-ee”
3. Five tones descending on “nyae, nyae, nyae,” or “yellow”
4. Fast vocalises with initial consonants: V, Z, Y
5. Vibration towards the hard palate; soft palate not as involved
B. Application to music
1. Chant text on Shaw chord
2. Learn pitches with solfège in E dorian
Dark vocal color: I’ve been in the storm so long (Jeffery Ames)
A. Vocalize with dark color (compare dark and bright)
1 Sense an open throat – sip air through straw to feel lift in palate
2. Use lip vowels: ah, oh, oo
3. Sing five tone descending scale on “ee-oh” with Oreo cookie concept
4. Sing ascending/descending scales on “noo noh nah nay nee” with puckered lips
5. Put hands on cheeks for tall vowels and rounded lips
6. Pretend you have marshmallows in throat
7. Imagine Timothy Seelig’s concept of the woofer and the tweeter:
woofer– resonance in the pharynx with lifted soft palate
The Concert Choir and I will demonstrate the rehearsal techniques with repertoire selections by Monteverdi, Parry, Britten, Messiaen, Esenvalds, Memley, Ames, Runestad, and Hatfield, and a handout with teaching techniques will be provided. Hope to see you there!
Peggy Dettwiler is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University, where she conducts the Concert Choir, Festival Chorus, and Chamber Singers, and teaches choral conducting and methods. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Dettwiler has served as a guest conductor and lecturer throughout the country and has given presentations at numerous NAfME and ACDA Conventions. She has produced two DVDs, one entitled, “Developing a Vocal Color Palette for Various Choral Styles” and the second, “Sing in Style.” Dettwiler made her conducting debut in Carnegie Hall in January of 2014 and presented an interest session at the World Choral Symposium in Seoul, Korea, in August of 2014.
ACDA conferences, both regional and national, often tend to serve as mileposts as we head along our career path: “Do you remember the national conference when we heard…. Did you hear the interest session at the regional when we first learned about….” The 2012 Eastern Regional conference in Providence, though, was less a milepost for me than a giant direction sign: “STOP! Turn here!”
At that conference, many interest sessions and concerts were devoted to the concept of choral music as community service. I listened enthralled to the sessions devoted to intergenerational choirs, prison choirs, adaptive choirs, choirs for the homeless, choirs for promoting peace in war-torn regions. The more I heard, the more I realized that this was an aspect of our profession I knew so little about but that spoke to me with increasing delight at every session. But how to begin?
It was providence again indeed when I saw a guest choral director posting on Choralnet in December of that year. The Manda Wilderness Community Trust, located in far northwestern Mozambique, was looking for this choir director to come for their annual Choral Festival, held in late July. The position would involve working with the local village choirs, teaching the ensembles a piece to perform en masse, then coordinating the festival and possibly organizing a workshop for the choirmasters for a few days after the festival. I applied New Year’s Eve 2012, and after a few challenging attempts to interview via rainy season solar-powered skype sessions, the trust offered me the position that following February.
I spent the next few months learning the local language, Chinyanja (a variant of Chichewa), finding a piece for the choirs to sing together, and hiking, hiking, hiking to get myself in shape. This remote region is known even in Mozambique as fim do mundo (“the end of the world”), so I knew there were not going to be many forms of transportation much more than walking!
In May, I arrived at Nkwichi, the headquarters of the Manda Wilderness Community Trust. For two-and-a-half months, I logged four hundred and fifty miles of hiking as my guides and I travelled from village to village, sleeping in tents at the compounds of each village mfumu (chief), eating the local food, speaking the language, and working with the choirs – just as here, each with its own distinctive way of working and its own community culture.
With each chorus, I would listen to them perform then ask if there was anything they felt they wanted assistance with. It was important to me never to impose my own ideas of what I felt they might need; and I was glad I came in with that mindset, because by the end of my time there I realized what I would have missed in the culture had I come in with that attitude – not to mention how foolish it would have looked.
I had brought video and audio recording equipment with me, and I used it to record two to four pieces at each and every session. My primary reason for doing this was to show the choirs how they looked and sounded, as they had never had this opportunity to see themselves before. Naturally, however, this meant that in the course of visiting fifteen of the sixteen villages in the region, I amassed a huge video collection of the local choral culture. This I carefully transcribed and translated each time I would return to Nkwichi, with much assistance from the knowledgeable local employees of the trust.
In addition to recording established repertoire, I felt it would be good as a guest director to encourage local composers to consider creating new works for the repertoire. In this endeavor I received enthusiastic support from local choirmaster and trust employee Richard Stephano. At each village in my final honorary speech (an expected custom), I would invite the choirmaster to encourage any choir member who had a composition to come and perform it with their choir when they came to the festival. I would record it, transcribe it, and then submit to earthsongs for consideration for publication upon my return to the United States. How exciting it was when three choirs came to the festival with new works to add to the repertoire!
My last three weeks were spent organizing the festival (Did the rubric sheet make sense for adjudication based on local customs? Were the judges acceptable to the choirs? Did we have enough nsima and mchicha to go around for the meal at the festival?), as well as delivering the workshop with the choirmasters. The total experience was of course life altering. Upon my return I could not wait to begin sharing all I had learned.
I am very grateful that earthsongs enthusiastically embraced the idea of publishing all three composed pieces. Part of my interest session will be the presentation of one of these works, written by Jaime Chiphanga of the Mcondece village choir. Based on my personal experience and observations, I will walk interested colleagues through an authentic rehearsal and performance process for these pieces, all of which would be appropriate for concert or for worship settings and are designed to work for choirs of all ages.
It would be an honor to share this wonderful culture and its music with you in Boston this coming February, four years after that transformational Eastern Division conference in Providence. May your time in Boston provide you with your own revelatory insights, inspiration and meditation, that we may each live a life of service through music wherever that leads us.
MARK CONLEY, a conductor, composer and singer, has conducted numerous ensembles from professional opera companies to high school and middle school ensembles. He has also served as music director for numerous theater companies as well as performing as an opera and oratorio soloist. At the University of Rhode Island he serves as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities. He made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in the spring of 2009. The Summer of 2013, he served as guest choral director for the choral festival in the Manda Wilderness of Mozambique, working for three months in this remote region in order to help present a choral concert in late July. He blogged about his experiences at www.intrepidconductor.weebly.com.
From the moment it was announced that Roxbury Classic Sounds Honors would be singing in Boston, my students and I felt an anticipation and excitement that was intangible and special. I feel particularly grateful about our upcoming performance in Boston. Roxbury’s first appearance at an ACDA convention was Friday February 13th, 2004 at the Old South Church. We feel privileged to sing at the Old South Church again, this time on Friday February 12th, 2016. There is something very sentimental about this for the Roxbury kids, alumni, staff and myself regarding this “moment in time.”
My mom taught me the value of these “moments in time.” She often said that a special “moment in time” was important as it acted as a frame of reference for modeling all the other days of your life. I feel certain of what these “moments in time” – milestone dates of anniversaries, important performances, and birthdays – do for us. They remind us that the journey is the real deal. Why do we do what we do on a daily basis? Because as teachers and musicians we are in the business of enhancing lives through daily music-making. The bigger picture is a culmination of the details: the months of rehearsal; the study of great music; the interaction of students and teachers; the welcoming of guest artists and their special talents to contribute; and – through all the above – the development of students’ confidence, skills, and talents.
I hope and trust through every rehearsal across days, months, and years that each student can develop their own passion to create and continually strive for authentic musical experiences. I hope these musical experiences can then become a “moment in time” for them, a frame of reference for their future experiences in life – a sort of chain-reaction for an extraordinary life.
Certainly, the actual performance moment in February is a significant “moment in time,” but so is the journey: the
daily musical phrases that hit correctly; the interaction of friends, singers, and colleagues; and the communication of beauty through music – this is the point of all we do.
I never want to forget the “big picture” concerning my involvement in ACDA.
This organization has given me great joy, friendships, opportunities, and resources in the choral world beyond what I ever imagined. So, for the “moment in time” in February, I am very grateful; however, it is the journey that I will truly cherish.
Several years ago, my co-director and I decided to split the 7th and 8th grade choirs by gender at Marsteller Middle School in Bristow, VA. Little did we know the dramatic effect that would have on our male enrollment. In just two years we reached a 1 to 1 ratio of boys to girls and at our largest, had over 900 students in choir. My session will focus mostly on the repertoire and gimmicks I use, both in class and on stage, to get young men interested in singing and looking and sounding their best. This blog, however, has been written by my singers. They are the backbone of the session and will be there with me, showcasing many of the songs we’ll be discussing. I asked them “What’s cool about being in a men’s chorus?” and told them to send their response to me via the Remind app, which limits their text to 140 characters. Here’s what they had to say:
To me, Men’s Select helps me to liberate my creative passion for the art of music.
I enjoy being in a men’s chorus because we form close bonds with each other and with Mr. Keirstead and have fun singing together.
Men’s Chorus is a great class. I get to be in a class with a lot of my friends and I love being able to express myself in music.
I enjoy Men’s Chorus because it is one of the classes where I can go and do what I like doing, which is singing.
What I love about men’s chorus is that we get to go around and perform for our parents and little kids, showing them how much fun chorus is.
In Men’s Chorus you get to show your talent and hang out with guys that do it, too. You don’t need to sing too high and the music is great.
We are not just a boys’ choir. Mr. Keirstead has taught us all to be men.
I don’t have to worry about impressing girls. It’s fun hanging out with just my guy friends.
Men’s Chorus is fun! Not just the singing and dancing, but the actual learning of the music is fun in itself.
A men’s choir gives me an opportunity to have fun learning about music with kids like me. It makes me feel normal while learning music.
Being in men’s chorus is a good human experience, not only for the students, but for the teacher, also.
You can make new friends and support each other in and outside of men’s chorus.
Being in men’s chorus is a unique opportunity to show who you are and the person you are inside, where you won’t be judged by others.
Men’s Chorus is cool because of the awesome songs and dances along with the cool outfits!
Being in a men’s chorus is fun because we can all relate to each other and understand each other. Also, we sing songs that are meant for our voice range.
I think it’s cool to be in a men’s chorus because we all understand each other better. Also, we get along with each other without it getting awkward.
And finally, from the kid who didn’t follow directions and sent several 140-character texts to finish this thought…
Men’s Chorus is an inspirational class to get you to where you want to be when you grow up. Being separated into these two classes of men and women allows the teachers to dig deeper into the music and focus on the important things without only touching on them. This also allows the students to stay engaged in their music because being around the other gender distracts them from their musical experience.
Philip Keirstead is one of two choral directors at Marsteller middle School in Prince William County, Virginia. There he directs the 7th Grade Men’s Chorus, 8th Grade Advanced Men’s Chorus, and co-directs the 6th Grade Mixed Choir with Julie Phelan.
Philip attended James Madison University where he was a founding member and treasurer of its first collegiate chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association. He served as student conductor of the University Chorus and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree is music education. He currently serves on the university’s Music Education Advisory Committee. Philip completed his Master of Choral Music Education Degree at Florida State University in 2015.
Philip began his teaching career at Hylton High School in Woodbridge, VA, serving as assistant choral director and musical director. He has served the Virginia Music Educators Association as District IX Choral Representative and as the VCDA Secretary. Philip is also very active in the American Choral Directors Association, having served as the Middle School Repertoire and Standards Chair and organizing the All-Virginia Middle School Honor Choir and auditions.
Guest conducting engagements include several district and county choir events in and around Virginia. In 2011, Mr. Keirstead and his 8th Grade Men’s Select Choir were invited to give a presentation entitled “Get Guys Singing” which focused on repertoire that attracts young men to chorus. This presentation was reprised at the ACDA Southern Division Conference in Jacksonville, FL in 2014. Philip was named Prince William County’s Middle School Teacher of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year and was a runner-up for the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.
I became an educator to help young people find their singing voices and advance their personal musicianship. What I did not realize, at the time, was how engaged I would become with how adolescents develop through choral experiences. I remember when my thoughts came to a fore—the Mixed Choir was preparing for an international tour. We engaged in additional rehearsals and sectionals, the students sang run out concerts, faculty and administrators held meetings with parents, and the choir participated in team-building activities. With more than 55 singers traveling to Europe, we crafted several interactions to facilitate a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Upon our return, student after student told me the choir had “bonded.” I probed into the students’ experiences and realized they described a sense of belonging and community that developed through extended time together. Participating in choir helped singers feel connected to one another, fostered emerging friendships, and encouraged greater self-awareness and self-growth. Choir members positioned singing in the center of their social development. One student said:
But when you hear someone singing it’s their voice, but it’s also a different way of seeing someone. We are using ourselves. We become the instrument when we work together. When you are singing, you are making yourself vulnerable. You want to make friendships with those people because you are already opening yourself up to them by singing. (Parker, 2010, p. 347)
My interest was piqued when choir members discussed how the repertoire contributed to their experiences of belonging:
In English class the other day, we were reading Beloved and a character said, ‘Oh my Jesus.’ The rest of the chorus kids in the class broke into song [at that time in chorus class, students were rehearsing Moses Hogan’s I’m gonna sing ‘til the spirit which includes several ‘Oh my Jesus’ within it]. We always have that class right after chorus and so many chorus people are in it. It occurred to me after that experience that maybe other people don’t get it” (p. 346).
Adolescents shared that choir is significant because it is a protected, safe space for those who seek friendships and compelling musical experiences. For some, choir acts as an in-group that serves powerfully to build adolescent social identity. Through conducting several research studies, I have learned that young people have important experiences to tell and unique ways of telling—I believe listening to adolescent voices will sustain and inspire our developing practices as choral music educators and advance advocacy efforts for music education.
I look forward to engaging with you in how to create and sustain supportive communities through building relationships, student leadership, enhancing and expecting high-level music-making, and communication within and outside of the school community during my presentation, “What Happens in Choir…Adolescent Development through Singing” at Eastern ACDA in Boston. I hope to see you there.
Parker, E. C. (2010). Exploring student experiences of belonging within an urban high school choral ensemble: An action research study. Music Education Research, 12, 339–352. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14613808.2010.519379 Elizabeth Cassidy Parker, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Music Education at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. She also conducts the Troubadors, one of four ensembles of the Pennsylvania Girlchoir. Prior to her work at Temple, Elizabeth taught at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, GA. Selected journal publications include the Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Choral Journal, Music Education Research, and the International Journal of Music Education.
The Boston Conference is pushing boundaries in more ways than one! For the first time, we will exclusively be using an app to replace the traditional conference program book. We have partnered with DoubleDutch, one of the industry leaders in conference apps and are excited to provide a top shelf experience in communication, scheduling, and general information. The app works on all major Apple and Android smart devices and tablets and a web based version of the app is available for any other devices. The app itself is native, meaning once you install it, just about all information exists on your device and will not require data (with negligible exceptions). Here is a brief tour of what’s in store.
This is the default view of the app – the Activity Feed. Think of this as the Conference’s “wall.” Here, you will find promoted posts from our sponsors and exhibitors, pictures and posts from other conference attendees, and general announcements. You may scroll down the Activity Feed just like a Facebook Wall or the comments section of a webpage to see previous posts. Note that the first post is labeled “Promoted Post.” Those will be from the leadership or from our loyal sponsors. The next post down is a picture from Dr. T.J. Harper – a great example of a social posting. You will be able to post to the feed by using the “pencil and paper” icon in the upper righthand corner of the screen.
Most importantly, at the top lefthand corner of the screen
is the menu button. A close-up is shown here. Clicking this button will cause the main menu to appear. You may also bring out the menu by swiping the screen from the left edge to the right edge. From the menu, you may get to any of the subsections of the app.
The Menu has several useful sections, the most important of which is the two Tracks, which will include every scheduled event: concerts, interest sessions, Together We Sing reading sessions, receptions, research sessions,
roundtables, and everything else. To the right, you will see the default menu view. You can see that the two tracks have their own menu items, color coded appropriately. The Tracks are filterable, meaning, if you just want to see the concert sessions, you can filter everything else out. Each session will contain a wealth of info: live links to repertoire for concerts, interest session materials, and much more.
Below that is the People icon. Here you can find information on the conductors, leadership, interest session speakers, and more. Speaker and Conductor profiles are linked to their respective concert and interest sessions.
Clicking the note icon will display information on all of the Performing Choirs, including rep, linked to publishers, and when they are performing.
Below the Activity Feed icon, you will find Venue Directions. Selecting this provides directions and addresses for all venues from the Sheraton. iPhone users can click on the address and get directions from anywhere instantly. Android users can use Google maps.
Next, you will find the menu item for the Sheraton. Clicking this provides floor layouts and the Exhibit Floor map which is interactive.
Below the Sheraton Floor Plan, are the Exhibitors and Sponsors menu items. The Exhibitors item will provide the location of any booth on the floor and the Sponsors section is interactive, with live phone numbers, email addresses, and weblinks.
Lastly, a section providing Dining info in the Back Bay area should prove useful, listing price point, live addresses and phone numbers, webpages, and a brief description of the cuisine.
Stay tuned for some video walk throughs of the app. On January 1st, the app will officially go live, but we will start adding registered conference attendees as users on December 10th. If you have registered by that date, you will receive and email from Mark Boyle, our Conference Tech Liaison, explaining how to download and log into the app. After the 10th of December, we will be sending out emails weekly to each batch of new registrants after that with the same info.
Mark A. Boyle is the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. He serves ACDA as the Male Choir R & S Choir and the Conference Tech Liaison for the Eastern Division, and the Undergraduate Conducting Competition Chair for ACDA PA.
“Vital Force – Using T’ai Chi Chih and Movement Techniques to Teach Conducting”
Early Morning Workshop Sessions to be presented daily on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, February 11-13, 2016 at the Eastern Division ACDA Conference, Boston, MA, by Stan Engebretson of Bethesda, MD
It’s February 11 and you’re in Boston for a very exciting ACDA Eastern Division Convention, ready to be inspired at every turn and surprise! It’s cold outside, with perhaps just a little bit of snow (hopefully not as much as last year). For any of the three mornings while we are there, I invite you to start your day with a moving, meditative session of T’ai Chi Chih and other movement styles. See for yourself how these simple techniques will center you and focus your breath while building your core and balance for strong conducting. Then, take these ideas home to teach your singers how to develop their own core support and enhance their mindfulness to create great music!
T’ai Chi Chih movements will be used to find the “Vital Force” with centering, balance, and core-strengthening techniques needed to become a strong conductor and singer. “Vital force” is a term that describes the central strength or creative force that is so apparent in master artists such as Robert Shaw or Eric Ericson – the gift of inspiration and strength balanced with focus, clear vision, and a will to achieve greatness. “T’ai Chi Chih” is a variant of T’ai Chi not based on martial arts per se, but rather on a more meditative, peaceful, slow and elegant style of movement, centering the concentration and breath of the participants while strengthening the core muscles of the torso and focusing the concentration of power in gesture. Adapted from T’ai Chi Chuan by Justin Stone in 1974, (a successful musician himself), these movements feature soft gestures that circulate and balance the Chi (intrinsic energy) which help the conductor or performer transmit expressivity in music.
There are 19 movements plus a pose in T’ai Chi Chih, and many of these (approximately 10) will be explored within the sessions to create an improved sense of balance and posture for conductors and artists. Additional exercises will show the performer how to concentrate the power of the Chi, or energy, that can transform the intensity of the musical line into gestures and increase musical communication to the performers. Expressions such as “feel the weight of the ocean in the elbows,” “find your center core (Tan-Tien) and move through the core (rather than through off-balance gestures),” “have a sense of floating within your posture of the upper body combined with a high carriage of the head that is aligned on top of the shoulders,” and “keep the legs/knees soft so that you always have perfect balance,” are all tenets of the movement style which serve performers in all disciplines.
The meditative aspect of the art is enhanced through playing background music that is very simple, enhancing the sense of peace, calm, and focused imagery that is so necessary to conducting and indeed, to all the arts and humanities. One of the purposes of T’ai Chi is to replace the ego with a sense of method, a discipline that focuses the energy of the individual into an acutely aware, almost transcendental state. When one arrives in this “zone,” one can see how the depth of the music will express itself, without the performer inserting egos over the music as a filter. The honesty of the art becomes apparent, and the conducting is enhanced by a music-centric approach to the work at hand. One can now clearly see both “the forest and the trees,” and can transmit the greater meaning that is perceived through this enhanced and focused look at the music and the composer. A performer’s depth of expression is developed through this quiet focus, and the ability to transmit this expression is presented through the new balance and focus yielded by the movements and the meditation. At the end of the session, participants will apply these techniques to conducting exercises and singing in basic movements that are drawn from T’ai Chi Chih principles.
While we will be learning 10 or more movements over three days, you can come to any single morning or all three, as you wish. The sequence will change each day and we will apply different aspects of T’ai Chi to conducting and singing, including showing how T’ai Chi movements have been used in choral works such as Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque to create a new form of “Music in Motion,” so popular now in European choral circles today.
Bring warm coats, big smiles, and great energy as you discover the Vital Force within yourself during the upcoming convention! The lineup of artists, ensembles, and workshops this year is fantastic and one of the best in the country of all of the regional conventions, so I know everyone will have an exciting time in Boston.
Safe travels – I hope to see you there!
Questions? Feel free to email me directly if you need any information:
* (Btw, I was raised in Fargo, ND, so a little cold weather and snow in February is “nothing” – it only encourages me! <smiles>)
Stan Engebretson is the Artistic Director of the National Philharmonic Chorale in Bethesda, MD, and Director of Music at the historic “Lincoln Church,” The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located two blocks east of the White House. He came to Washington in 1990 when he became the Director of Choral Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
Originally from North Dakota, he holds degrees in Voice and Piano from UND and a DMA in Conducting from Stanford University. He has studied with great masters of the choral art, including Robert Shaw, Eric Ericson, Roger Wagner, Margaret Hillis, Richard Westenburg, Dale Warland, and Gregg Smith.
He has led choral clinics and workshops throughout the United States and in many countries including South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, France, Iceland, and Italy. In undergraduate/graduate choral conducting courses he presents T’ai Chi, Pilates, and Alexander Techniques to young conductors. Additionally he offers T’ai Chi workshops widely for various organizations including major international humanities’ conferences and others.
Had I not seen the Sun
I could have borne the shade
But light, a newer Wilderness
My Wilderness has made
– Emily Dickinson
And there it is – the reason I go to ACDA conferences. I love each rehearsal and each performance in my life. I quite simply love what I do. And the day-to-day work is wonderful. BUT, to feel completely fulfilled, to grow as an artist, and to bring something new to my work I need the Sun. And not to overstate things, ACDA conferences have illuminated my work immensely over the years. From San Diego to New York, from Chicago to San Antonio, from Baltimore to Boston, I have heard new sounds, discussed repertory with old friends and had my mind opened and my ears refreshed over and over again at ACDA conferences.
ACDA really is the place to broaden our approach, learn new techniques, and view the accomplishments of world class artists in performance. Our President, David Fryling asked that I describe a particularly memorable performance or interest session – but there have been too many terrific events, so I am going to sort of free associate memories from over the years – artists and their music -Shaw, Salamunovich, Ericson, Rilling, Melkus – the King’s Singers, I Fagiolini, Berlioz Requiem, Britten War Requiem – so many powerful performances over the years.
And repertory, repertory, repertory! Standing in the exhibit hall next to friends and saying – have you done this one? Even better, going to a performance and hearing a new piece and being blown away. THAT is when my newer Wilderness is made!
Can the Kirkpatrick Choir shine a little sun your way? We hope so; we will at least sing the words quoted above in Tarik O’Regan’s inspiring setting of two Emily Dickinson texts. The program we have put together starts with Donald Grantham’s setting of Dickinson’s “This is my letter to the world.” Our letter for you includes our look at peace. We will follow our Dickinson settings with Kenneth Lampl’s calm request for peace in Jerusalem and then look at the historic quest for peace on earth in Arnold Shoenberg’s Friede auf Erden.
Patrick Gardner is the Director of Choral Studies at The Mason Gross School of the Arts, the arts conservatory at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.