I have recently tried to wrestle some order into certain parts of my life. In particular, carving out time to keep up my professional reading. It was embarrassing to see a pile of journals dating back more than a year. The Hymn and the Choral Journal would lie in a pile, or add weight to my brief case, and I would get more depressed with the arrival of each new issue, knowing it too would go unread.
But I did catch up this summer, and have chiseled my calendar to include time to do this kind of reading each week. And to take a longer time (a sort of mini-retreat) quarterly, to undertake reading that will help me but that may not appear to be "essential" to my daily work.
Of course, the thing about that is, that naturally when I do not keep up with my professional reading, my daily work suffers. Perhaps (at first) only in ways that I notice or care about. But ultimately in ways that others will notice, even if they don't know what it is that they are noticing. It's like the old saw about practicing: "If I go a day without practicing, I know it; if I go two days without practicing, other musicians know it; if I go three days without practicing, everyone knows it."
So, it was with some smug self-satisfaction that last week I picked up the Choral Journal and came across the full description of the ACDA national convention, just a day or two after online registration opened. For the first time, I was an "early adapter" - I registered long before the fees go up, and even secured the hotel room I want for the event!
The downside is ... I can hardly wait. The ACDA holds national conventions biannually, in odd-numbered years. I do not get to all of them. I have twice missed the San Antonio meetings, and apparently I will always regret that. My first national was in San Diego - which, as a midwesterner in the winter, was as close as I suppose I'll ever get to heaven on earth. For the Miami national convention I had leadership duties, but had to cut that one short due to the sudden death of my Karen's younger brother. Miami now has a pall over it, in my memory. (Though I was delighted to hear both Millikin University Choir and Wheaton's Concert Choir there.)
My all-time favorite national convention was New York City in 2003. I had been in a professional funk for a year or so, and survived it by telling myself "I just have to stick with this long enough to get to NY!" I survived the funk, and the blizzard that kept me in that fantastic city two days longer than I had planned. Excellent! The convention was a highlight of my ACDA experiences, including an extraordinary address to worship musicians, by Dr. Bruce Leafblad. Not to mention a great rate at a non-convention hotel, which was nevertheless conveniently located to everything the convention had to offer.
But ACDA 2011 will again be back in my home town, Chicago. This is the 3rd convention (2nd national) here since 1996 when I moved back to the area. I love to be downtown even in the winter (and yes, the 2nd week of March is still winter here). And I love to protect that convention time. Most people know that conferences, meetings, conventions, and retreats are always better "away." There is too much gravity pulling you back to your desk, your office, your calendar, your life, if you sleep in your own bed while trying to be somewhere else during the day. So, when ACDA is in town, I take a room in the city and make it an "away" event.
I easily bypassed the convention hotel for another on the list. I was offered a room with a city view or a lake view, by my personal favorite, the Swissotel. Both were steeply discounted for ACDA registrants, and even the costlier lake view is less expensive than the convention hotel. But for my money (literally) I'm with the city view. A - I won't be in the room during the day; B - it's March, for crying out loud; that means a basically gray lakeview with possibly no distinction between lake, sky, and shoreline; C - who can pass up this amazing skyline, lit up at night. Hey, I'll stay away from cocktail parties for that view!
(Note to church members reading this blog: what do I know about cocktail parties?)
So, that's the kid in me - a trip to the city, staying in a nice hotel, and 4 days downtown. The professional in me is every bit as eager for the convention proper. Throughout each day, concert sessions feature 3 or 4 auditioned choirs - choirs of all types - each presenting a 25-minute program. We will hear children's choirs, students of all ages, and community choirs. Special performances punctuate the event, including choirs from around the world, professional groups (Chanticleer, anyone?), and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Elijah conducted by Helmuth Rilling. One has to have a high tolerance for outstanding choral music to survive this convention. No, I wouldn't miss it.
Not to mention workshops, interest sessions, reading new music. All this in the context of friendships renewed and begun. The ACDA national convention is the most tiring four days I ever look forward to. And I always come home (even just from downtown) ready and eager for the rest of the choral season.
I can hardly wait!