ACDA Chicago – TOP 10, Part 1

I’ve had the time to digest my amazing experience in Chicago at my first ACDA National Convention. Here are a few of my impressions and favorite moments. (in no particular order)


1. Thrilling Singing Part 1

Latvian Youth Choir Kamer

The first concert I was able to attend was the “International Concert.” And it began with one of the most breathtaking choral performances I have EVER heard. The Latvian choir Kamer began their set with Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem Domine. I’ve had an impossible time putting into words their performance, but the best I can do is call it frictionless. Like a clarinet playing niente, the choir seemed to erase the division between silence and singing. It felt like I held my breath for the entire performance; it set the tone for the convention, as well as an incredibly high bar for every subsequent choir.

2. Catching up with friends, old and new.
Part of any convention is seeing old friends and hopefully, making a few new ones. This particular convention felt as close to a college/grad school reunion as Mandy and I are ever going to have: so many good friends, meals, etc. The worst part is that there were so many people there that we only were able to say hello in passing to some, and some we didn’t even SEE! We found a comfortable hang-out spot at the Manhattan Concert Productions booth, which was being manned by fellow WMU alum Matt Workman, and always seemed to have a few old friends sitting and catching up. It was also a great feeling to discuss possible collaborations with friends.


3. Sometimes even remarkable music won’t keep you awake.

Helmuth Rilling

Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. Helmuth Rilling. Mendelssohn’s Elias (Elijah). Stellar soloists. Significant nap in part 1. A brain overloaded from concerts, sessions, and visiting simply balked at further stimulation. The music was thrilling and I couldn’t hack it. Mandy, on the other hand, was among the few proud audience members who followed along with a full score.

4. ACDA Premiere!
How proud to have my first ACDA premiere at my first ACDA National Convention. Gold Company performed my 5/4 (mostly) arrangement of “Where is Love.” While they had to shorten the arrangement in a few places to accommodate ACDA’s time contstraints (25 minutes, whether you’re a middle school or Chanticleer), it was still invigorating to hear my music performed so well and for such a receptive and knowledgeable audience. I’m hoping to have this chart published soon. Interestingly, this was my first non-commissioned arrangement finished in quite a while, and is my personal reminder that it’s worth it to continue my regimen of waking up at 4:30AM to write 5 days a week.


5. Refilling the well
Every day you walk into the same walls in music making. Conventions like these are like putting a bay window into the wall. Maybe you can’t get outside yet, but you know it’s there, and you can’t wait to figure out how to get there. I spent many sessions making lists of things I wanted to write, and I think I said to Mandy at least 5 times while we walked between sessions, “I can’t wait to get back into my studio!” To use Julia Cameron‘s metaphor, you can only draw on your creative well so many times before you have to refill it. She suggests weekly artist dates to refill the well…by that standard, ACDA was like an two week artist tropical vacation for me.

Part 2 to follow soon!

Update: Part 2 has been posted!

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