INSPIRED - A summary of the 2016 NWACDA conference, Seattle, Washington, March 3-6  


We were INSPIRED by the 2016 NW ACDA Conference in Seattle March 3-6.

With each breath, we were transported into a deeper understanding of our choral art. My heart is full from the countless moments of inspiration we experienced each day: children singing with abandon, youth singing with pride, high schoolers singing with zest, college students singing with professionalism, and adults singing with love. I witnessed colleagues reconnecting, text touching the soul, learning and remembering, leading and following. How lucky we are to have been INSPIRED. (Nicole Lamartine, President-Elect and Program Chair, written on March 7, 2016)

March 3, 2016
Appropriately, the NW ACDA divisional conference opened at 3:30 p.m. with a concert! Town Hall, just blocks from the Sheraton Hotel, the conference hotel in downtown Seattle, was filled with the sound of Keizer, Oregon’s Whiteaker Middle School Viva Voce, conducted by Andy Thomas, the Northwest Girlchoir Amore, led by Sara Boos, and Olympia High School’s Symphonic Choir with Dan Schwartz, conductor. And what a start it was! Our thanks to these marvelous choirs.

2016 NW Conference Information, including summary with photos, and other information can be found HERE.)

Simultaneous interest sessions were held at 5:30. Geoffrey Boers and Brad Pierson talked of the connection between conducting gesture and research about “mirror neurons.” Their session was entitled “Conduct with Me, Breathe with Me: Effective Pedagogy through Empathy and Mirroring."

In another session at 5:30, Gary Weidenaar and Patrick Ryan, ACDA officers, offered their insights into how to get the most out of the conference…this to first time attendees and guests.

The conference’s first reading session was held Thursday at 6:45. It was “Music for High School Choirs,” led by Ethan Chessin. Tim Westerhaus was accompanist.

The Opening Night Evening Concert
In the evening concert, the venue shifted to First Presbyterian Church, just a block from Town Hall. Karen Fulmer, national past-president of ACDA, gave attendees the biennial “State of the Organization” address, calling attention to the reorganization of ACDA as voted by members.

Patrick Ryan, NWACDA’s president, presented the first biennial Past-President’s Award. He pointed out that such an award may fill a need in that we have no specific or tangible means of recognizing four (or more) years of demanding service to the association. He said, “this first biennial Past-President’s Award goes to Gary Weidenaar. Gary is an exceptional conductor, and more importantly, a wonderful man. I’ve enjoyed working with him on our 2014 conference, and was inspired by

his vision that year for his choice of a theme, “Connection.” As a leader, Gary is positive, thorough, and dedicated to serving our organization.” Gary responded by saying, “ACDA has been a big part of my professional life. That’s especially so for the past six years as an officer. My thanks to ACDA and to Patrick for this recognition. I appreciate it very much.”

As is NWACDA custom, the past-president, in turn, presented the Leadership and Service Award for 2016. It went to Richard Nance of Pacific Lutheran University. In Richard’s response to the award, he said, “I am so honored and grateful to receive this award. When I came to the Northwest from Texas in 1992, I had no idea how friendly, supportive and genuinely caring the colleagues in NWACDA would be. This is truly a remarkable community of outstanding musicians, but also dear friends. To be recognized in this way by my peers is wonderful - thanks!"

The Beijing Harmonia performs

What an exciting thing to have the Beijing Harmonia Choir as our guest performing group Thursday evening! Wu Lingfen, Conductor.












Professor Wu is First Dean of the Conducting Department at China Conservatory, Deputy Director General of China Chorus Association, member of the expert team at the Chinese Ministry of Education’s Art Committee, conductor of National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Choir, consultant of International Federation of Choral Music (IFCM). Harmonia Choir was founded in Beijing, April 27, 2012, as an affiliated group of Wu Lingfen Choral Workshop, co-established by China Chorus Association and Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. Harmonia is composed of music teachers, students from various departments of the China Conservatory as well as other choral singers and fans.

Our ACDA audience confirmed they were in for excellence with the Central Washington University Chamber Choir’s introductory piece, “So I’ll

sing with my voice,” by Dominic Argento. But Gary Weidenaar’s choir mesmerized all with the a cappella Frank Martin “Mass for Double Choir.” Easily another highlight of the conference for a good many, CWU’s beautiful lines, impeccable intonation, power, and attention to detail throughout the multi-metered work was choral music at its best.

Friday, March 4, 2016
Erin Small’s 8:00 a.m. interest session on Friday morning, March 4th, brought a good many to the Cirrus Room at the top of the Sheraton for her “Variation on a Tech Theme: Tune it Up With Tech!" presentation. She presented a number of free online resources designed to captivate student attention.

Early risers who work with junior high and middle school choirs had their chance to flex the voice in an 8:00 a.m. reading session led by Charlotte Coliver with “Music for Junior High School Choirs.” Charlotte’s accompanist was Jacob Malczyk.

Those who direct church choirs also got in some 8:00 a.m. singing as they read “Music for Church Choirs” presided over and conducted by Vicky Thomas with accompanist, Jennifer Green

The Willow room on the second floor was the 9:00 a.m. site for a VOCES8 presentation. Paul Smith was the VOCES8 spokesperson. Smith, a baritone in the group, involved his audience in an engaging way and talked of the VOCES8 “Method,” a teaching tool designed to help with music literacy and linguistics. Two other members of the group assisted Smith.

At the same hour, in the Sheraton Aspen room, Music and Worship Chair, Vicky Thomas intrigued attendees first with her title “When 12 or 15 Are Gathered Together: Practical Repertoire for the Smaller Church Choir.” You say your two tenors have gone south for the winter? No basses at all? Humorous, but dead serious, Vicky offered ideas for members who deal each week with small groups, sometimes with surprising situations regarding voicing, on a given Sunday.

Friday morning concerts
Friday morning’s concert hour at Town Hall opened with Lynn Ryan’s C. M. Russell High School Chanteur Choir from Great Falls, Montana. Lynn’s group sang beautifully from the typical riser formation, but also wowed the audience with wonderful movement during several pieces. One could best describe it as choral choreography…with never a loss of exquisite choral sound.

The same audience was treated to superb singing from the Alaska Chamber Singers of Anchorage. This group, conducted by David Hagen, packed a marvelous assortment of great literature into their half-hour performance. It ranged from Tavener to Brahms, and included (appropriately) “Alaska Spring” by Libby Larsen and “Mid-Winter Waking” by Morten Lauridsen.

“Men and Women Behaving Badly” is probably not a common title or theme for a choral concert, but the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, conducted by Sharon Paul, pulled it off with incredible finesse and musicality. Again, with plenty of movement, sometimes singing without a conductor, the choir communicated perfectly to a responsive and delighted audience.

The association provides a warm welcome to exhibitors at the conference. This year some fifteen businesses and schools set up their materials on the second floor lobby. You may still get in touch with these folks by clicking on the active link provided here. We appreciate the support of J. W. Pepper, Music Celebrations International, Music Contact International, ACFEA Tour Consultants, MUSICFOLDER.com, DJ Records, Kapelmeister Choirstools, Interkultur Foundation, Manhattan Concert Productions, Central Washington University, MyMusicFolders.com, Hawaii State Tours, Sechrist Travel, Perform International, LLC, Northern Sound Press, and WorldStrides.

More Interest sessions
Interest sessions continued at the Sheraton with Troy Bashor’s presentation designed to help directors feel more comfortable using percussion instruments in rehearsals and performances. His session was called “Percussion Techniques for the Choral Classroom.”

At the same time (12:45, Friday, March 4th), Julie Parsons talked of exercises for directors who might consider themselves “Air Port Controllers.” She quickly explains that she’s talking about breathing, the release of sound, and breathing again…and how conducting gesture ties to helping this take place effectively.

A third interest session, this one presented by Karen Thomas, and called “Repertoire for Advanced Women’s Choirs,” went on at 12:45. Karen presented repertoire lists of new works as well as those of significant historical value. She also talked of commissioning consortia and how to join with an existing consortium.

Friday’s interest session continued at 2:00 p.m. with Ethan Sperry’s “Versatility of the Voice: performing non-Western music with your bel canto choir.” Vocal styles in cultural context…should bel canto trained singers be asked to approximate the timbre of other styles of singing? Will it have an adverse effect on the voice. Sperry thinks not.

A conducting masterclass, led by Scott Anderson offered four selected directors a chance to improve skills. Scott’s session was called “College/University Conducting Masterclass.”

Another reading session, this one for adult community choirs, was led by Karen Thomas at 2:00 p.m. in the Sheraton’s Cirrus Room. Karen’s accompanist was Susan Buehler.

Also at 2:00 p.m., Anne Lyman and Heather Ray conducted a reading event that featured both music for male voices and for female voices. Jinshil Yi accompanied.

Friday afternoon concerts
Friday afternoon’s concert session number 4 opened with the Casper Children’s Chorale from Casper, Wyoming. Their presentation was not only musically satisfying, but completely captured the hearts of the audience with the complete involvement in the music by the singers and their “signature” movement, including the use of cowboy hats in “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” by Linda Spevacek. Marcia Patton conducts this group.

In sharp, almost shocking contrast in the choice of music, the Resonance Ensemble from Portland, conducted by Katherine FitzGibbon sang Hugo Distler’s Totentanz (Dance of Death). A powerful, difficult work with fourteen movements and text portraying the inevitable power of death over all humanity. One director said, “As listener, I think I was joined by many others in almost being stunned by this audacious programing, and the placement of Resonance between the Casper children and the Male Ensemble Northwest, which followed. Over and over as the group sang, one was impressed by the musicality, the rich sonority, and the understanding by singers and conductor of exactly what Distler’s work is all about. These people can sing!”

The programmers for the conference may have been hoping for this very thing, but following “Totentanz” with Male Ensemble Northwest was a stroke of genius. These guys can sing, too! But then one might expect that from fifteen of the NW’s finest choral directors. It was an all MEN program. Every piece composed or arranged or edited by a member of the ensemble. Nice contrasty material here, too. Darker texts in “Distress” by Unterseher and “Invictus” by Andy Marshall, later ending with a Ryan Smit setting featuring Justin Raffa as a piccolo on “Stars and Stripes Forever.” How did he do that?

A dinner in honor of NWACDA past-presidents was held Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. Eight past-presidents attended. Rod Eichenberger, now of Tallahasee, (1969-1973), Bill Mayclin, Pendleton (1992-1994), Randi von Ellefson, now of Kansas City (1994-1996), Karen Fulmer, Federal Way (2000-2002), Twyla Brunson, Auburn (2002-2004), Scott Peterson, Yakima (2006-2008), Richard Nance, Puyallup (2008-2010), and Gary Weidenaar, Ellensburg (2012-2014). They were joined by Executive Secretary of ACDA, Dr. Tim Sharp.

Friday evening’s special concert
Friday evenings concert was billed as “Underneath the Stars,” a celebration of voices in harmony and featured London’s world renowned VOCES8 ensemble of mixed voices, including Emily Dickens, soprano, Barnaby Smith, countertenor, Chris Wardle, countertenor, Sam Dressef, tenor, Oliver Vincent, tenor, Andrea Haines, soprano, Paul Smith, baritone, and Jonathan Pacey, bass.

VOCES8 presented their concert in two parts. The first half was billed as “acoustic,” and made up of compositions from five centuries of choral heritage. They collaborated with composer, Ola Gjeilo, on two works…Gjeilo’s “Ubi Caritas” and this year’s ACDA Brock commission by Ola called “The River.” Gjeilo was an integral part of both works in his improvisational piano accompaniments. “The River” also included a string quartet. The Brock commission piece was sung for all divisional conferences in 2016.

Following the intermission, VOCES8 performed the amplified set of pop and jazz stylings.
The ensemble made the rounds of each of the regional conferences of ACDA this year, singing in the Western division conference a few days before coming to Seattle and flying to Kansas City for the SW division’s event which began March 8th.

Saturday, March 5
Early risers on Saturday, the 5th, had choices to make. An interest session called “Connecting in Gestures and Method: Toward a Technique of Empathy” was offered at 8:00 a.m. in the Aspen room of the Sheraton by Geoffrey Boers.

The second 8:00 a.m. session was presented by Ethan Sperry. “Why Men Sing” offered insights into involving more male singers in your choir, recruiting men at all ages and choral groups, all based on a true understanding of why men choose to sing.

A reading session for jazz choir music was held at 8:00 a.m., too. Frank DeMiero presided and conducted this event in the Sheraton Willow Room.

Three 9:15 interest sessions were offered. “Jazz Choirs at the Middle Level” was the title of Dan Davison’s event. He discussed voicings, amplification techniques and equipment, as well as working with the all-important rhythm section.

Hye Kyoung Yoon, International Choral Exchange Conducting Fellow, spoke of current trends in Korea’s choral music. She called attention to repertoire by young Korean composers.

“The Grading Conundrum” by Linda Moore, was the third 9:15 offering on Saturday morning. “What’s the difference between grading and assessment,” she asked. Linda covered such topics as fair grading practice and she offered practical suggestions on how teachers can arrive at a grade for students.

Also at 9:15 a.m., music reading of the material for college choirs was held in Grand Ballroom C, this conducted by Anne Lyman and Sharon Paul, with accompanist Tim Fitzpatrick.

Saturday morning’s concerts
The Saturday 10:30 concerts opened with the Central Washington University Men’s Choir, conducted by Scott Peterson. Among audience favorites, CWU’s men sang “Firefighter’s Creed” by Vijay Singh. This was a world premiere in honor of firefighters killed near Twisp, Washington in August, 2015. Fifty-five great singers met with an appreciative audience.

Seattle Pro Musica, conducted by Karen P. Thomas, followed. They left no doubt as to why the word “pro” is appropriate in their name. They opened with Daniel Elder’s beautiful “Heart’s Reflection.” And the program included one of Karen’s own composition, a wonderful setting of the text “Caritas abundant.”

Idaho’s representative to this year’s conference was Eagle High School’s Sonous, conducted by Seth McMullen. This sixty voice choir sang with finesse and passion, most assuredly one of the best high school choirs in the country. Four of their six pieces were by NW composers or arrangers…Kirk Marcy, Dan Davison, Reginald Unterseher, and Paul Aitken.

Interest sessions on Saturday afternoon
Kirk Marcy, in his presentation on Saturday at 2:00 p.m., urged directors to explore strategies and techniques to integrate vocal improvisation into their rehearsals and performances. “Scatting with Soundsation – Vocal Jazz Improvisation” noted that improvisation is the foundation of jazz.

The country’s foremost authority on the music of Monteverdi, Joan Conlon, gave her session on Renaissance music an unusual title…”Dying or Really Dead?” She talked of the subtleties of text to be found in the metaphors of this music and used the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, conducted by Sharon Paul, as a demo group as they sang contrasting works by Claudio Monteverdi.

Meanwhile, in Sheraton's Aspen Room, Justin Raffa presided as emcee over the Collegiate Quiz Bowl. This was in a game show format and tested the knowledge of two collegiate teams using questions about NW ACDA, composers, and choral music in general. David Edmonds managed the electronics as the contestants buzzed in with their answers.

Saturday afternoon concerts
Brian Mitchell, president of WA ACDA, presided over the 3:30 concerts on Saturday. He introduced Bellevue’s Tillicum Middle School’s Concert Choir under the direction of Julia Meyering. They sang beautifully with a program opening with Telemann, then Mozart. Two contrasting pieces by Allan Gordon Bell (Country and Town) followed. Meyering ended the program with a setting of “Life Every Voice and Sing.”

Mt. Vernon High School followed. Just over fifty voices with a varied program that left no doubt these singers were in good hands with Megan Lizama, conductor. The centerpiece of their program was “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” by Giuseppe Verdi, arr. By John Rutter.

Leslie Guelker-Cone conducted the Western Washington University Concert Choir in the third presentation of the Saturday afternoon concerts.









This was still another highlight experience among the collegiate choirs for this conference, as the audience responded with a standing ovation. Appropriately, in this 400th year commemorating the year of his death, Leslie programmed texts by Shakespeare, including Hark, Hark, the Lark!, It Was a Lover and His Lass, and Tell Me Where is Fancy Bred,” by Matthew Harris, and then “Ophelia Songs” by Evan Ingalls. All this, and more, bookended by American songs by Billings and an arrangement of an early American song by Shawn Kirchner, “Unclouded Day.”

Saturday evening, March 5
Music in Worship took “center stage” at Plymouth Congregational Church, just a few blocks south of the conference hotel on 6th Ave., Seattle, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Thanks to the work of R&S Chair, Vicky Thomas, the evening’s event, with presider, Paul Aitken, featured Gonzaga University’s Concert Choir and the Incendo Chamber Orchestra as they performed Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe as the centerpiece of a worship service.

Timothy Westerhaus, director of choral activities at Gonzaga, conducted the work.

Jazz Night
Jazz Night was held in the Grand Ballroom C at the Sheraton. Our officers, President Patrick Ryan, President-Elect, Nicole Lamartine, and President-Elect-Designate Brian Galante, all had a hand in presiding.

Featured groups included University of Wyoming Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Ben Markley, the second annual jazz honor choir, this year directed by Vijay Singh, and Soundsation from Edmonds Community College, directed by Kirk Marcy.

A reception for the planners of the 2016 conference was held late Saturday evening in the president’s room at the Sheraton.

Sunday, March 6
8:00 a.m. sessions
A “Chat with the Composers” interest session was held at 8:00 a.m., on Sunday, March 6th. Panelists included Reginald Unterseher, Eric Banks, and Kirke Mechem. Moderator for the wide ranging discussion was Michael Murphy.

Steven Hart held a 8:00 a.m. session called “Creating the Conditions for Inspired Performance.” Artistic intent is the intent and should be at the center of rehearsal, says Steven. He encourages singers to develop personal understanding of the emotion of the text and how it is enhanced through the music.

Meanwhile, in the Issaquah room at the Sheraton, a panel of McKenzie Clark, Will McClean, Melody Potratz, Anne Schatz and Rachel Wulff talked about “Surviving and /thriving in the First Year of Teaching.’

9:15 sessions
Heather MacLaughlen Garbes, moderated a panel discussion about women in the choral profession. The discussion included such topics as interviewing, hiring, managing personal questions, personal obligations, legal rights with employment, finding mentors and building a network.

Dr. Sharon Paul’s session was called “Unraveling the Mysteries of Performance Practice: Breathing Life and Style Into Choral Music. Her session was designed to help relieve fears about “performance practices” and provided strategies for feeling comfortable with music from all eras.

10:30 concert hour
The last concert session for the conference was held on Sunday morning, March 6. Kirk Aamot, president of the Montana ACDA, presided.

The Corvallis High School Concert Choir, conducted by Aubrey Patterson, opened the event with a traditional Filipino song, arranged by Saunder Choi. Aubrey’s fine choir showcased a commissioned piece by Oregon composer, Joshua Rist, called “The Garden of Union.” Their well-balanced program ended with the haunting “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” arranged by Craig Hella Johnson.

The Ensemble of Oregon, a group of three men and three women, directed by Patrick McDonough, took us back to the 16th century Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria as they sang seven parts of his Officium Defunctorum. These were professionals at the top of their game. A beautifully performed as it was in Town Hall, one can imagine how this would sound in the confines of a cathedral in Madrid, where Victoria lived in the latter years of his life.

If one “waits” at a conference like this, the ample crowd attending the final event of the invited choirs at the conference found it worth the wait. University of Montana Chamber Chorale under conductor David Edmonds made it a marvelous ending for Inspire 2016. From traditional Maori to Tarik O’Regan, this choir handled it all…sometimes with movement and gesture and sometimes without a conductor and always with musicality and finesse. And then there was the haunting “Flight Song” by Kim André Arnesen, so nicely done using piano accompaniment that contrasted so well with the a cappella pieces surrounding it.

The honor choir concerts -Sunday, March 6
While the conference events went on, well over 500 students participated in honor choirs, rehearsing with their exceptional conductors and enjoying the activities planned for them.

Amy Ballard was general chair for all the honor choirs in 2016. Amy had this to say about the experience:

It was my pleasure to serve as the NW ACDA Honor Choir Chair for the 2016 Conference in Seattle, WA.  In-spi-ra-tion, noun, b. the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions- from auditions to rehearsals to performance, the honor choirs came full circle with their commitment to inspire.  Inspiration came from the first “drawing in of breath” to the connections with other singers, chairs and conductors, to the final performance for teachers and parents.  

Thank you to all involved in the success of the NW ACDA Honor Choirs.  I look forward to seeing you all at the 2018 Conference! (Amy Ballard)


The Women's Honor Choir
Karlene Miles, who was the Women's Honor Choir chair-person, reported that there were just over 150 young women in the choir. They put in around 17 and one-half hours of rehearsal time. See their full schedule for the conference HERE.

Dinah Helgeson conducted this year's women's honor choir. More on Dinah HERE.
The 2016 program for this group can be found HERE.

So many played a significant role in making the Women's HC such a success this year, but Karlene reminds us that in addition to Dinah, we all owe a debt to Brian Hoskins for his superb piano skills, Amy Ballard, every single chaperone, Thomas Baty, the parents of these girls as well as their directors.

"I was so impressed by the sounds these ladies produced under the direction of Dinah as well as her repertoire choices. These young women started out as strangers and through music became family! All in all, an experience to be treasured!" (Karlene Miles)


The Children's Honor Choir
This year's children's honor choir of 106 singers was directed by Sandra Snow of Michigan State University. More on Sandra HERE. Serina Chin was the accompanist. "An amazing woman" is how Sharon Smith describes Serina. Sharon says she "tends to know what the needs of a group are, and steps in to do anything needed."

More information about Sandra Snow HERE.
The Children's HC complete schedule can be found HERE.
The 2016 program for this group can be found HERE.

Sharon Rodkey Smith chaired this choir. She commented, I love the fact that we had
kids in the Children's Honor Choir upon recommendation only of their director. That way, the kids who have 'emerging' vocal skills, and were great musicians, were not having to deal with
the disappointment of a perception that they weren't good enough to be in the choir. Rejection at that young age is a very fragile thing. These kids were so strong, that Sandra asked me to re-seat the choir into a mixed formation during our second day of rehearsals. They were able to handle the change well, and the working atmosphere became one of respect, and confidence. These kids were given quality music to learn and were able to accomplish their artistry in a non-threatening environment. It was a 'win/win' for everyone.

The Men's Honor Choir
NWACDA's Men's Honor Choir of 147 was conducted by Jonathan Reed of Michigan State University. More on Jonathan HERE. Nicholas Gorne was the organizing chair for the Men's Honor Choir and Andrew Seifert served as accompanist.

For more information on Jonathan Reed, see this LINK.

Full schedule for the Men's Honor Choir HERE.
Program for 2016 HERE.



The Youth Honor Choir
One-hundred and forty-five participated in the 2016 Youth Honor Choir, Isaac Robbins, Youth HC Chair, reported. Scott Leithead, founder and Artistic Director of the Edmonton's Kokopelli Choir, conducted the group. Amy Boers accompanied the varied program.

More on Scott Leithead HERE.
The group's conference schedule can be found HERE.
The Youth HC program can be found HERE.

Jazz Honor Choir

Our 2016 Jazz Honor Choir sang as part of "Jazz Night" at the conference. Frank DeMiero organized the event and Jeff Horenstein was organizing chair for the honor choir. Vijay Singh, choral staff at Central Washington University, prepared and conducted the ensemble of 20 singers and instrumentalists. Mike Scott was in charge of the rhythm section and Keith Corning worked the sound board. Kirk Marcy provided piano accompaniment.


by Howard Meharg, Web/Editor, NWACDA
Errors of omission or anything needing correction, please contact Howard.