We “Were” the People

Lynn Drafall
ACDA East President, 2008-2010

A Reflection on the 2010 Philadelphia Conference

This is the last missive that I’ll write to you. The next issue of Troubadour and the next President’s Corner on the division website will feature information by Robert Eaton, your new Eastern Division President. Bob has already begun his work, and he will officially take office on July 1, 2010.

As others have done in the past, it’s now my turn to look back and reflect on some of the events that have occurred during my presidency. When the 2008-2010 division board began its work in July, 2008, we faced many challenges and knew that many changes were needed. Here are a few of the important issues with which we grappled:

New Executive Director Tim Sharp had just arrived at that time, and one of his first announced initiatives was a membership drive. Tim worked tirelessly during that summer to unravel what had become a bit of a membership quagmire prior to hisMembership appointment, and he asked the divisions and the states to assist in an immediate effort to raise membership. One of our first orders of business was to vote to offer financial incentives to the state which showed the largest percentage gain in membership in a one-month period. We awarded Massachusetts with division funds to assist its members in attending the Oklahoma City conference after they posted a 23% membership increase in one month.

While the goal of sustaining and increasing membership in ACDA will always be a concern, I’m pleased to report that membership in ACDA has risen at the rate of approximately 3% per quarter since July, 2008 nationally – this after a steady decline during the previous five years. I’m hopeful that Bob Eaton will not be faced with this immediate need during his first month in office!

As we began work in the summer of 2008, it was obvious to us that we had to make some changes regarding our major communications tool – the Eastern Division newsletter. Rapidly rising print and mailing costs were draining heavily on the Division’s dwindling financial resources, and our environmental concerns moved us toward “going green.” After some painful discussion, we decided to convert our printed newsletter to an online resource.

That work began, due to the diligence of Judith Nicosia and Rick Lueth, with the October 2008 printed issue announcing the change. The December 2008 Troubadour issue was mailed but greatly shortened, with article abstracts appearing in print and directions included to read the full articles on the website. The April 2009 issue was our first completely online issue – and we are today proudly celebrating our first online anniversary!

With this change, we have saved thousands of dollars and can boast increased advertising revenue. It also affords the opportunity to include rotating advertisements on the homepage of our website, and greater flexibility for graphics, linkage, and the inclusion of audio and video samples.

Given our increased use of technology for Troubadour, it became easy to institute a more frequent method of communication Communication– the monthly E-News issues (now ChoraLink-ed.). This afforded us the opportunity to reach the email inboxes of the large majority of the membership with up-to-the moment information about what was happening at the state, division, and national levels of ACDA; to promote and announce upcoming conference events and deadlines; to summarize all action items that would be of interest to the members.

The E-News idea was created largely in the attempt to draw more Eastern Division members to the division website, as we viewed the site as our newly primary source of communication. I’m pleased to report that, in retrospect, we’ve made great strides in this initiative; the website was and will remain full of information regarding all Eastern Division activities.

As I entered office in July 2008, I was not personally familiar with the inner workings of the Kegerreis Scholarship Fund. As I began investigating more, I became extremely excited about the possibilities for its use but also found that some basic structural changes were needed in order to maximize its potential.

piggybankThe Fund is now housed in its own discrete interest-bearing account, and a donation procedure is now in place. I’m pleased to report that, in the last two years, over $2,500.00 have been donated by Eastern Division members to sustain this effort.

The Kegerreis Scholarship Committee has worked tirelessly in the past two years to publicize the scholarships and to make students aware of the possibilities. Their efforts have been very successful, and the applications for funding to attend ACDA conferences are at an all-time high. Over 25 Eastern Division student members have been recipients of scholarship funds to attend either the 2009 Oklahoma City conference or the 2010 division conference in Philadelphia. In addition, the Fund also supported 20 2010 honor choir participants who applied for financial assistance.

To my mind, the Kegerreis Scholarship Fund defines a central purpose that we can achieve as ACDA members – serve our students, singers, and peers and assist their participation in great events!

2010 DIVISION CONFERENCEPhila 2010 logo
Ah! The “Grand Experiment!” From the outset, we wanted to provide an outstanding conference that included great concerts and sessions benefitting EVERY member of ACDA while also trying fresh and unique approaches to what had become “old hat” for some members. To do that, we discussed EVERY aspect of previous ACDA conferences at the division and national levels, investigated practices in other divisions and other organizations, and relied heavily on evaluation data that you provided for both the 2006 New York conference and the 2008 Hartford conference. It was a terribly exciting (and scary) time as we planned an event that maintained the traditional offerings of ACDA conferences while experimenting with a multitude of changes and additions. Here are some of the new things that occurred during the 2010 conference:

  1. A complete change to the scheduling model allowed twice the number of choirs to present concerts than in previous conferences, and to ensure that there were multiple choirs of all genres and types represented. The schedule also allowed for an expanded menu of interest sessions, ensuring that there was “something for everyone” occurring every hour of the day.
  2. The model of a “conference within a conference” was established with the inception of focused days for those interested in Music in Worship and Community Choirs. Both of these events were publicized to members outside of the ACDA community and, for the first time, members of AGO and Chorus America were invited to register without the need for ACDA membership. The partnerships that we created with these organizations for these Eastern Division events have now been solidified and expanded at the national level.
  3. A research and scholarship component was added, allowing Eastern Division researchers in music and music education to present their work, to forge collaborative research ventures, and to discuss their research findings with the general community of scholars.
  4. The first-ever pre-conference Institute was created to allow our members the opportunity to interact intimately with an outstanding conductor and pedagogue. This also allowed us to provide new master class opportunities.
  5. A large division-wide social event was held with the generous assistance of the state chapters, that allowed us to come together and celebrate as one large community of choral musicians. Through the generous assistance of the national office, we were also able to offer a specific social event for our student members.
  6. The traditional reading session format was expanded to include difficulty-leveled packets for each interest area, and also allowed for the inclusion of “specialty” repertoire.
  7. Musical and social events were designed to provide networking opportunities and social interaction for our members while ensuring that they take advantage of the unique qualities of the city.
  8. Following up on ideas from the national conference in Oklahoma City, an R&S Resource Room was created as well as opportunities to speak one-on-one with prestigious conductors and composers in face2face.
  9. Again following up on the national organization’s lead, we developed a sponsorship program that allowed us to partner with industry members, institutions, and individuals to present you with events and items that would not have been possible without that assistance.
  10. We scheduled sessions within the Exhibit Hall itself to draw more traffic for our industry representatives, and we also hosted an “Exhibitor Happy Hour” that allowed more social interaction with these important partners in our efforts.
  11. On a procedural level, we created a PayPal account which allowed our honor choir students to register and pay by credit card for the first time, and the national organization also instituted the first-ever online registration process for division conferences. Also for the first time, our registrants were able to make their hotel reservations directly on our website via a discrete reservation system uniquely created for us.

Yikes – that’s A LOT of changes, and these are just the highlights! A thousand other small procedural changes were also made to make things run as efficiently as possible. As the years progress, I’ll probably look back and wonder how we could have been so audacious! And oh, I seem to recall that it snowed?????!!!!! But, even now after only a few months have passed, we can indeed look back and be proud of what we attempted to accomplish.

Who are “we the people” who accomplished all this work? Who discussed and pondered and argued and laughed together? Who got sore ears from multiple and lengthy phone calls and skyping sessions? Who edited countless publicity documents, application forms, and informational letters? Who made honor choir reservations – and then re-made them – and them re-made them again? Who made sure that there were risers, pianos, and music stands in all the venues, and made sure that choirs were there to to sing for you? Who memorized multiple versions of the Excel budgets and slept with their calculators under their pillows? Who lost loved ones during the course of the term but still kept working? Who kept working at their own busy jobs while volunteering countless hours to serve?
That’s easy! Their names appear on the website as board members, R&S chairs, and conference committee members. Look at all those great people listed, write to them, and thank them for their service to you. While I won’t miss the mountain of work that this job requires, I will miss them all!

In closing, thank you to the members of the Eastern Division who allowed me to serve two years as your President. I’ve learned so much, grown as a professional, and been enriched immeasurably by my interactions with all of you! Thanks for the memory!