Two years of planning meets four days of conference; the planning serves the event

President Gary Weidenaar provides his perspective on the NW ACDA conference of 2014


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There is an inevitability to presenting a concert. On concert day, once all of the dress rehearsals are done and you are entering the stage with your choir, there's no stopping. The preparation has to serve the performance.

So it is with a conference. Two years of planning meets the four days in the calendar slated for the event. And the planning serves the event.

In this case, "Connection" – the NWACDA Seattle 2014 divisional conference - included some 30 performing choirs, over 20 interest sessions, nine reading sessions, five honor choirs consisting of a total of nearly 600 students, worship services, special concerts, Moonlight madness for the exhibitors, receptions, and more.

All told, more than 2000 people were involved. I haven't added up the hours of preparation I spent, but as conference chair it easily topped two hundred, may even three hundred. And I'm not alone. Program chair Patrick Ryan spent that much and likely more. Treasurer Carol Stewart Smith, who has done tryanhis for years, deals with hundreds upon hundreds of receipts, contracts, agreements, needs, budget issues, etc. Webmaster Howard Meharg spent countless hours promoting, editing, informing, and generally communicating with the membership via the website and emails to the membership. There are 20 or 30 more folks who each had vital roles in making this conference happen.

Each and every one of them performed their duties willingly, eagerly, and with full knowledge of their impending responsibilities. The conference was an amazing gathering - and I am glad to have played a part in that. In the many thoughts I shared about my hopes and goals for "Connection" 2014 in articles leading up to it, a main point was always – a conference should re-charge and inspire.

Here is part of an email I received two days after the conference from a new ACDA member:

When I attended your conference overview on the first day (a great idea, by the way), the theme of "connection" first sounded trite and easy, and I almost rolled my eyes; however, as the conference progressed I quickly found this theme to be more and more profound, until I sobbed uncontrollably on the eve of that very same day, oparkerutside of Town Hall in the rain, telling my wife over the phone that I was OK but that my heart was too full to be able to contain the torrent of emotion I felt. All I could tell her was 'It was so beautiful, it was so beautiful!' (I'm crying now just remembering.)

When I left on Sunday after witnessing hundreds of singing children and an enraptured audience connect through music I felt at once invigorated and drained, exhausted and reborn. I lost count of all the connections of every type that I experienced: connection with music, melody, harmony; connection with audience members, people sitting next to me, directors whose work I greatly respected who gave me tips, national ACDA presidents, singers whose smiling faces were wonderful to behold, beloved composers whose wisdom touched me deeply. I imagine that after ten years of attending conferences I wouldn't be so overwhelmed, and I figured that it might be that I was just new to this experience; but even knowing that, I allowed myself to drink in life in the form of music, to savor an experience which few in the world are ever able to experience, especially in this age of ever increasing digital separation. When we sang together before each conference I was filled with a profound reverence for the power of music and its ability to communicate pure emotion raw and beautiful, to bind us together into one human race. Thank you so much for this experience, it has changed me and I will ensure it will change my choir members!

One of my CWU students saw me at the end of the first day and gushed about his experience so far, saying, "I am having a blast!". He echoed that sentiment on the last day also, and told me he can't wait for next year's national conference in Salt Lake City (Feb. 25-28, BTW)

Many emotions and thoughts swirl around a week later. In a stream of consciousness, here are some of them: Many of the choirs wjazz-HCere on par with a national conference, moonlight madness was a rousing success, I was happy to have the first ever NWACDA Jazz-Vocal Honor choir take place, Alice Parker's message was perfect for the conference, I enjoyed the emotion of Elektra and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, the student workers were AMAZING, one of the best events every divisional conference for the past 3 has been the college quiz bowl – SO FUNNY!, I was reminded time and time again of what dedicated people the NW Board are, there's no more deserving person than Twyla Brunson for the award she earned, I set a goal of meeting over 100 people and I surpassed it, the honor choirs were a renewal all by themselves… And the thought which circulates the most often is how much I appreciate the dozens of people who made this gathering a success – not only the NW Board and conference committee, but the interest session presenters, directors, hotel staff, exhibitors, staff at the various venues, and student workers.

I could go on for a long while yet – because those four days were packed with good people, great music-making, and invigorating new ideas. And the theme of connection was exhibited in multiple ways. But the best connections of all will be those that you make between new philosophies or ideas learned in Seattle and your own situation.

As for me, I am yet again humbled and grateful to be a part of a productive, positive, supportive organization like ACDA which exists to bring beauty and growth to our lives.

President-elect Patrick Ryan (who takes over July 1) and president-elect designate Nicole Lamartine have already begun plans for the 2016 Conference.
See you there?