Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day One of ACDA Southern Division Conference

Hey everyone!

After barely a day and a half back home from Tucson to spend at home with Sherri and Aidan (making sure to squeeze in some UNO and Pokemon for my game-lovin' lil guy) I am now in Memphis for the ACDA Southern Conference. I'm basically here for two reasons 1) Sigrid Johnson has my arrangement of the spiritual "A City Called Heaven" (published by Roger Dean) on her HS women's honor choir program, and 2) I'm now sort of a South guy, since although I live in Illinois I will be teaching my second year at North Carolina Governor's school this summer. I did attend the southern division conference in Louisville two year ago and loved the people and the level of music-making going on!

Today was not a jam-packed full day of events but some good things going on.

The first was a great conducting masterclass with Rodney Eichenberger and Milburn Price as the clinicians and four student conductors from southern division colleges. This was a great session as Eichenberger and Price were very skilled in teaching in a positive manner through the whole session, and all four of these student conductors obviously knew their scores very well, had technique appropriate for their age, confidence, and really had their eyes out there communicating to the singers (volunteer college students who sang well).

The main things that wound up being stressed by the clinicians were:

1) conduct more, talk less
2) don't mouth the words- you want them to watch your hands or stick, not your mouth
(Hallelujah to Eichenberger for saying this- it's a pet peeve of mine)
3) understand that all your gestures, for good or ill will truly be mirrored back in the sound
4) decide on beating in 2 or 4 depending not on just the music but also the choir's needs
5) don't be afraid to experiment with pitch levels on earlier music
6) have the choir come to you, don't sway and lean to them to get what you want
7) get away from indistinct swooping cutoffs of sibilant sounds
8) you can guide the soft palate with your hand gestures

Those were the main notes I jotted down while watching- there were plenty more great ideas which these students were able to incorporate very quickly into their conducting repertoire, proving that young minds are very facile! I also noticed their posture improved greatly as they were being coached by these highly experienced conductors, even though they didn't directly talk about the students' posture-very interesting. And really, the biggest thing you could take away from the two hour session was this: show the choir what to do-- don't tell them in words, show them with your hands or baton. It reminds me of a recent Choral Journal article about the "silent rehearsal": conduct, sing, make great art-- don't talk.

The four wonderful student conductors were Joshua Golden, Zack Johnson, Janet Linschoten, and Heather Vereb, with the session being moderated and coordinated by Tim Sharp and Carol Krueger.

Hmmm, I'm reminded of a movie from a few years back:

The first rule of Conductor Club is: don't talk.

The second rule of Conductor Club is: don't talk

(apologies to Tyler Durden).

Next Blog Post- a review of the absolutely stunning, breathtaking, and inspiring American Spiritual Ensemble, who sang tonight. Can you tell I liked them?

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