Monday, February 25, 2008


The American Choral Directors Association is my musical lifeline. As I did not take a typical route to music ministry, ACDA has been an important part of my professional development. I have just come back from the Central Division convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and again find myself thankful for this organization and its impact on my professional development.

Aside from a few conducting courses, my education in this arena is best described as OJT … on the job. I had some good coaching as an assistant to Don Doig at the Village Church in Western Springs. (Yes, and some experiences that make me laugh, now.) And lots of patient singers while I sorted things out in the early years at Berean Baptist Church. But it was through the state and division levels (Minnesota and North Central) that I began to really understand and apply conducting technique, seek out and long for choral excellence, and put myself in sometimes embarrassing situations (workshops, master classes) that pushed and stretched me to improve … if not actually excel. Over the past dozen years I have also taken in the biannual national conventions as well. Which, wow.

Involvement in ACDA kept the standard in front of me, to which I still aspire and so seldom reach. Hearing auditioned choirs exposes me to new repertoire, to old standards that I am too uneducated to know are old standards, and to beautiful performances of pieces I thought I knew and conducted well … Not to mention the workshops, the special events/concerts, and the many conversations that take place during a convention. So today I find myself back at work, again pumped up and motivated, and yet feeling even less confident that I will ever approach the standard in my own work.

I have had the privilege of doing “association work” for ACDA, in both the state and division levels serving as Repertoire and Standards chair for the Music in Worship interest area. This allows me to participate in an organization that I depend upon, which at the same time I will probably never bring an auditioned choir to.

I can’t say enough about how ACDA re-fuels me for the musical part of my work. No “church music” convention or event has ever come close, for me. I long ago gave up on the kind of repertoire introduced at the “big box” church music events; and most of the denominational events haven’t done it for me at other levels. While ACDA is primarily academic, I find that it feeds me musically, and provides some spiritual nurture as well – through friendships, Music in Worship events, and the new music sessions for “church music.” (OK, so we do have to keep some measure of PC about the whole enterprise.)

This past weekend I was especially jazzed by the following:

* Goshen College Women’s World Music Choir – wow. An epiphany.
* Greenville College Choir – always a delight to hear Jeff Wilson’s group
* The Westminster Choir, from Westminster Choir College – along with St. Olaf Choir, one of our country’s bellwether ensembles, now under the exciting leadership of Joe Miller
* llinois’s Chet Alwes on the Bach Magnificat. Could I really conduct this work?
* Otterbein College Concert Choir – previously unknown to me, and very satisfying.
* A worship event featuring the Valparaiso College Choir, Christopher Cock, conducting – music of the psalms, planned by John Witvliet. This was worth the price of the convention, for me.

Well, I have lots to apply. I’d better get back to work!

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