Can’t Miss 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: Can’t Miss – Top Sessions to Attend

Undoubtedly, I’d be attending many of the Interest Sessions I included in my other three posts; however, there are a number of truly excellent offerings that, while they don’t fall specifically into the categories I outlined, nonetheless would be incredibly compelling and worthwhile to my development. Below, I’m listing a few sessions that I’d want to be in the audience for.

Wednesday, 10:45 AM/11:55 AM The Creative Process of Programming: Giving Voice to Community. A pretty reliable rule: if Joe Miller is presenting at a conference, attend. Joe is a visionary leader, combined with a brilliant technician in every area of our craft. In the description: “Many of the ways that we have been taught to program no longer resonate with audiences that live their lives looking at a screen. This session will give participants new ideas about programming traditional and modern repertoire for creating concert experiences that promote a participatory atmosphere for the performers and the audience.”

Wednesday, 10:45 AM/11:55 AM Getting America Singing Again: Bringing Song into Community. Presenter Steven M. Zielke. “The purpose of this session is to present a historical context for how involving all people in singing should be a standard that we aspire to as a professional organization, and innovative and audacious ideas for how this ideal can be put into practice.”

Wednesday, 2:45 PM/Thursday 2:45 A Voice of Reason: Social Justice, the Greater Good, and Why We Sing. From the brilliant Kristina Caswell MacMullen, a former Michigan colleague now at The Ohio State University, “In recent years, choirs have begun to prioritize social justice as a mode of expression and focus. This session will explore several models of this practice.” Kristina is great and I would love to hear more about her research and passion.

Thursday, 10:00AM Teaching Musicianship through Repertoire: A Panel Discussion. Jo-Michael Scheibe shared this past summer about the work he was doing on Vol. 4 of Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir. This should be an excellent session on various approaches, featuring an all-star panel including Jeffrey Ames, Hilary Apfelstadt, Lynne Gackle, James Jordan, and Phillip Swan.


Thursday, 2:45 PM How A Conductor Things: Real-Time Decision Making in Rehearsal. Presenter Jerry Blackstone is a leading light in Michigan choral music, and his session will use a volunteer choir from the audience to “demonstrate and reflect on the conductor’s preparation and decision-making process as he leads a live rehearsal.”

Friday, 10:00 AM The Adolescent Female Changing Voice: Supporting Singers for a Life of Song. Presenter Bridget Sweet recently shared profound insights on this topic at the Michigan Music Conference; her research and message are both powerful and not-to-be-missed.

Friday, 2:45 PM/Saturday 10:45 AM Creating Safe People: Honoring LGBTQ Singers in the Choral Classroom. Joshua Palkki is at the leading edge of teaching us all what it means to create a safe space – and safe people – inside our choral classroom. I continue to learn lots from him via Social Media, his scholarly writings, and our own conversations. If this is a topic you are thinking a lot about, Josh will help. If this is a topic you aren’t thinking a lot about, you need to be in this session.

Friday, 2:45 PM/Saturday 10:45 AM Leonard Bernstein at 100: Choral Insights from the PodiumJoseph Flummerfelt collaborated with Bernstein as conductor of the Westminster Choir and the New York Choral Artists; he will share stories and insights on one of America’s most important musical leaders.

This is a brief peek into the sessions I might choose if I were in Minneapolis this week. Of course, there’s plenty more to take in, including TTBBVocal Jazz, and Composer-Arranger Offerings!

The term “embarrassment of riches” really was coined to describe situations like an ACDA National Conference. Because beyond the triple-booked sessions I’ve outlined for you, there are amazing concert lineups, a huge exhibit hall with nearly 150 exhibitors encompassing every aspect of the choral art. That’s to say nothing of the friends and colleagues you haven’t seen in YEARS!