Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

Thursday Morning at the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas

Well this was my big day- the panel session I proposed to ACDA over a year ago and which was accepted to be presented was set for this day at 10:30 AM. Was I nervous abut this? You betcha. And had I been nervous about it off and on for weeks? Again, a big yes.

But first I made myself get up and go to Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral (I have a soft part in my heart for that lady) to attend the women's choir reading session, as I have a big personal investment in the world of women's choirs (I founded and directed a professional women's choir in Chicago back a  few years ago and have written dozens of pieces specifically for women's voices). This 8 AM session was heavily attended (awesome, as many of us are just not 8 AM people) and Iris Levine and her division R and S people did a great job leading the session. I was especially proud to see my pal Lisa Fredenburgh leading some pieces and was very impressed by Janice Vlachos' skills at the piano. This was the second reading session I had attended that was far above and beyond the usual mediocre reading session experience that many of us have come to hate. Bravo to all involved.

Once this was done, I really had to vamoose back to the Sheraton to get all my ducks in a row for my session. There were handouts to grab from my room and get into place, panel members to brief for one last time, and of course last minute snafus- when we showed up at the space there was only one mike and it was tethered into the audience area. Between me, the session presenter Joan Catoni Conlon, and session fixer-upper Tom Shelton we got the Sheraton to get us two more mikes pronto- thanks to Joan and Tom!

Before I go any further, here is the handout from our session- I hope you may explore some of the links here!

Paradigm Shift:
The New Conductor/Composer Dynamic

Thursday 10:30 A.M.
Sheraton Hotel - San Antonio Ballroom




National Collegiate Choral Organization Music Series:

NW ACDA e-publishing reading session article (plus more) by Reg Unterseher:

NJ American Guild of Organists paperless reading session of new works, held in Feb 2013
by NJ ACDA board member Steven Russell:

Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde (Paige Mathis, dir.) Composer Next Door Series
blog at :


Paul Carey's choral music blog:

Independent Music Publishers: (music of Abbie Betinis, Joan Szymko, Edie Hill,
J. David Moore, Elizabeth Alexander, Jocelyn Hagen, Linda Tutas Haugen, and Timothy C. Takash)

As our start time of 10:30 approached we saw that we had a great turnout, even though there were many other very interesting sessions competing against us for attendees. We jumped into our topic with glee and everything went very well. My panel members were gregarious, entertaining, and thoughtful, and my batch of second round questions for them didn't even have to be pulled out- each panel member was so good AND passionate about their subject that I didn't have to worry about the session stagnating or becoming boring.

I also worked hard to maintain some time toward the end for Q and A, even though I failed to preserve as much time as I really wanted for this. The real mark of success to me was this astounding fact- after the session was over, at least half of the audience stayed and talked to me and the panel for an hour after the session ended. I had never seen this happen before, usually people get up and leave and go onto something else. But we had provided so many great new ideas that people wanted to stay and talk about them, and also share their own insight into the new ways that composers and conductors are working together.

Deborah Simpkin King, Buddy James, Joan Szymko, and Reg Unterseher

I was thrilled to greet some folks from the audience afterwards who I had no idea would be there - people like Kathleen Skinner of the excellent Canadian group Kokopelli (who have performed my music), Paige Mathis, and many more. I was also pleased that many fine composers such as Sydney Guillaume, Paul Aitken, Joe Gregorio, John Muelheisen, the amazing Donald Fraser (we visited the pub afterward!), and my Irish friend Michael McGlynn were there too- and I was glad to meet, for the first time, young composers like Jake Runestad and Joni Jenson. I was also happy for the support that someone as experienced as Joan Catoni Conlon could provide- I sense that Joan liked our session and she was in support of what we were discussing. Thank you, Joan! Also Philip Copeland was in attendance- Philip has been an outspoken supporter of new ideas through his posts in ChoralNet in the last few years. I hope that Philip will soon start posting more on whatever topics interest him- he has a great mind.

Just so you know, here are the main topics that each person covered:

Reg Unterseher discussed the first-ever paperless composer/conductor collaborative reading session, held by NW ACDA. Reg humorously also noted that on the very same day Steven Russell held an almost identical event on the east coast.

Joan Szymko related how the use of Skype is revolutionizing the ability of choirs to work more directly with composers and she discussed some of her projects she is currently working on that related to our topic.

Deborah Simpkin King talked about her Project Encore- a database and advocacy for second performances of important works beyond their premiere performance. This was big news to most everyone in the room. Deborah has also told me that interest in her project has exploded since the interest session was held.

Buddy James talked about NCCO (National Collegiate Choral Organization) and its publishing venture which is publishing and promoting works of high quality with the composer receiving all revenue after costs. Once again, most of the people in the room did not know about this endeavor.

Abbie Betinis talked about IMP, the Independent Music Publishers co-op that she and others founded not long ago and which has been very successful.

All in all, I believe the session was a massive success and I want to publicly thank Buddy James, Deborah Simpkin King, Joan Szymko, Reg Unterseher, and Abbie Betinis for a job truly well done. I hope to continue working with these folks in any way I can over the next decade. I also want to publicly thank Tom Merrill who guided this session and all its details over the last 12 months- Tom you were great to me. And I would also like to thank Joan Conlon and Tom Shelton for their support as well. Also thanks to Howard Meharg for the photos you see here.


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