Composer Offerings at ACDA 2017

The biannual ACDA 2017 National Conference starts tonight in Minneapolis. Although I won’t be attending this year, I have many colleagues who are and want to share some previews.

I’ve prepared a cheat sheet of conference offerings that appeal to my particular interests: vocal jazz, TTBB Choirs, and composing/arranging. I’ll offer separate posts with each area, as well as a general sit of don’t-miss sessions.

In this post: Composer Offerings

Composers are a valued segment of the ACDA Membership, and Minnesota has long been a leader in support for choral composers – from Dale Warland to the American Composers Forum to the many professional ensembles commissioning new music in 2017, the Twin Cities are the place to be! As such, it’s no surprise that there are many excellent opportunities for composers and arrangers in attendance at the 2017 ACDA National Conference.

[You can see full descriptions of most of these sessions in a special focus article of the January Choral Journal]

Wednesday, 10:45 AM/11:55 AM Ambition, Adaptation, and Risk: Stay at the Top of Your Craft. Composer, singer, and co-founder of Cantus Tim Takach recently stepped away from full-time performing to focus on his composition career. In this session he will discuss, “the importance of risk in one’s work and…how to stay relevant and keep your craft in peak form.”

Wednesday, 10:45 AM/11:55 AM Composers in the Cloud: Publication in a Web-Based World. A trio of composers and publishers Susan LaBarr, Mark W. Lawson, and Sean Hickey will present on how to navigate the digital marketplace to get your music into the hands of performers and conductors.

Wednesday, 2:45 PM Exhibitor Showcase: Independent Music Publishers CooperativeGet a taste of what your colleagues are working on–IMP is a Who’s Who of leading choral composers, including Elizabeth Alexander, Abbie Betinis, Jocelyn Hagen, Linda Tutas Haugen, Edie Hill, J. David Moore, Joan Szymko, and Timothy C. Takach. A fabulous group of composers and a chance to hear/sing all of their music back-to-back.

Wednesday, 2:45 PM To Be or Not to Be: An Invitation for Conductors to Compose. Co-presented by Barlow Bradford, Steven Sametz, and Dale Warland, this session promises, “Three of the country’s most respected conductor-composers share their stories about how they moved into composition from conducting and offer strategies for getting started with your choirs.”

Wednesday, 6:30 PM Beyond Words and Music: A Conversation with Eric Whitacre and Charles Anthony Silvestri (Interest Session) These frequent collaborators will officially be focusing on “strategies for harnessing the motivation and learning styles of Third Agers within physiological boundaries to more fully engage them in active aging.” But I’m certain that there will be conversation of interest to composers during the session.

Thursday, 9:30 AM Movie with Q&A Session – Robert Shaw: Man of Many Voices. The movie will include a Q&A to follow with Kiki Wilson and Alice Parker. Robert Shaw of course had a long and distinguished history as a commissioner of new works and as a co-arranger with Alice Parker, and this film/discussion should be enlightening. Of course, any chance you get to listen to Alice, you should take it!

Thursday, 10:00 AM Composition Masterclass: Mentoring Young Composers, Featuring Brock Competition Composers. “An open forum with new compositions by runners-up of ACDA’s Brock Student Competition under the mentorship of Steven Sametz and Libby Larsen, exploring compositional choices and how to develop the young compositional voice.”

Thursday, 2:45 PM The Choral Music of J.A.C. Redford (Interest Session). His work Homing is the 2017 ACDA Brock Commission, and this session will focus both on his choral output. He is also a successful film composer (Bond films, St. Elsewhere) and studio arranger for artists including Sting.

Thursday, 2:45 PM The C0mposer and the Ch0rus—A Beautiful Relationship (Interest Session). “Composer Libby Larsen surveys forty years of the ever-changing dynamics between composers and choruses as we raise our voices in song.”

Friday, 10:00 AM Got A Mind To Do Right: Approaching, Discussing, and Performing Spirituals Respectfully. “This session will aim to inspire directors and choirs to prepare and perform arranged spirituals in a way that recognizes spirituals for the life-affirming art they are.” Featuring a panel including Joseph Gregorio, Alice Parker, Edryn Coleman, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, and Zachary Arestad. I am so curious as to the content of this session!

Friday, 10:00 AM Releasing the Song Inside: Composing in Choral Classrooms. The panelists Jody Kerchner, Katy Strand, Julia Shaw, and Philip Silvey contributed and edited the book Musicianship: Composing in Choir (2016) and will present information related to including composition as a component of the choral class curriculum. Fascinating!

Friday, 11:00 AM Exhibitor Showcase: MusicSpokeThe publisher that is revolutionizing choral music publishing – and making composers overjoyed as they do! This reading session will be led by Matthew Oltman.

Friday, 2:45 PM/Saturday 10:45 AM I Want to Sing Pentatonix Songs! How to Authentically Arrange Pop Music for Your Choirs. Alec Schumacker, presenter. “This session will provide information on how to select and arrange pop music for your ensemble.” The description doesn’t mention it, but I hope that there will be discussion of the sometimes hard-to-navigate issues surrounding the creation and performance of derivative works.

Friday, 2:45 PM VocalEssence Remix: Encouraging Breakout Musical Artists Who Write for Voice. “This is a mentoring program of VocalEssence designed to discover emerging composers and songwriters and create innovative works in a wide range of styles through one-on-one mentorship.” It will feature composer-mentors Carol Barnett, Libby Larsen, J. David Moore, Tim Takach, and G. Phillip Shoultz III.

Saturday, 10:45 AM Lives of Song: Canadian and American Music by Women Composers“This session seeks to inspire participants to more intentionally consider the rich body of work produced by contemporary women composers.” Presented by Michael Murphy and Rachel Rensink-Hoff.

Saturday, 10:45 AM Lives of Song: Canadian and American Music by Women Composers“This session seeks to inspire participants to more intentionally consider the rich body of work produced by contemporary women composers.” Presented by Michael Murphy and Rachel Rensink-Hoff.

Saturday, 11:00 AM Exhibitor Showcase: Graphite PublishingGraphite Publishing is a curated storefront of works by a wide range of independent choral composers, including Dale Warland, Joshua Shank, Ola Gjeilo, Matthew Culloton, and many more.

Saturday, 11:00 AM Exhibitor Showcase: MusicSpokeA second reading session from MusicSpoke, this one led by the inimitable Charles Bruffy.

A heartfelt thank you to ACDA for offering so many fabulous opportunities for composers at the 2017 National Conference! It’s well worth your time to seek out these sessions and improve your craft, your business, and your knowledge of what else is happening in the world of choral composition.

Of course, there’s plenty more to take in, from TTBB to Vocal Jazz sessions, as well as a wide array of other worthwhile experiences!