1,200 college students.
4,450 choral directors.
4 SVSU students.
2 SVSU faculty.
1 national conference.
In a city where 460,000 people already lived.
And it was epic.
This conference experience was a new one for me.
Sure, I’ve attended state conventions in Michigan. And they’ve been lovely! I always enjoy being surrounded by people that have the same choir mindset that I do.
But this one was different.
I started the student ACDA chapter at SVSU this past summer with the help of my choir director. When the first meeting came around, I thought maybe two students would show up. And we had 15!
Because of our newly founded ACDA chapter, attending the national convention in Kansas City was an absolute must. I sat down this summer, in the midst of creating the chapter, and mapped out how much this trip would cost. Hotel, plane fare, conference fee, and other travel fees. I’ll be honest, it seemed like a lot at the time. But I got to take part in the writing of the grant proposal back in October and when we found out that we had received it, I was ecstatic. This means that we got to send four of our student ACDA members to Kansas City… FOR FREE.
The trip started out pretty interesting.
I woke up that morning at 3:30am with the pukes, the poops, and all the other signs of food poisoning. As I laid on the bathroom floor, I thought, well heck! I spent all this time planning for this trip and I’m not even going to get the chance to go! But because I worked so hard to plan, I put my mind over matter. I was determined to have an enjoyable time at this conference.
And I did.
The plane ride was a little rocky. I felt pretty sick the whole time, but I made it to Kansas City without puking or pooping my pants.
The day we arrived was the day before the convention. We got to explore a little, grocery shop at this cute little marketplace just a 10 minute walk from our hotel, and relax as we got ready to endure the massive amount of people that were also there for the conference. Kansas City is so underrated! It’s really quite safe for a large city. And it’s gorgeous!
Yes, I realize this is not a picture of the city itself. But my best friend, Audrey, and I found this cute little corner in town where there is a skating rink and a whole forest of trees covered in lights.
The first day of the conference was chaotic, to say the least. We walked around the vendor booths that were set up all week and checked out music that was available to purchase. We attended the first session, that personally I thought was the best. It was all about engaging your students in rehearsal. While the session was geared towards engaging middle schools, I sat there thinking that these exercises he was having us do would be absolutely perfect for high school and even college students singing in choir.
He gave us a whole list of activities to use on our choirs to actively engage them. Among my favorites were show them choirs on YouTube that do what you’re wanting them to do. Then, when they’ve seen enough, have them copy what the choir is doing. He used a gospel choir. I have never seen a group of ADULT choral directors jump into singing This Little Light of Mine with as much energy in my entire life. It was hilarious and so inspiring all at the same time! He talked about video taping them and having them watch the video back with no sound. This shows them exactly what they look like.
But my ultimate favorite was a game called Bob. Whenever the leader of the game says Bob, the students are to treat the leader as though they are a new student and convince them to sit next to you at lunch. He had us play it. The first round, all the choir directors in the room are up on their feet, acting crazy, yelling, trying to get the leader to sit with them. He stops us, says, “Good, now I want you to do it again. This time, half the volume but two times the energy.” We do it again. The energy was doubled but there was very little volume. He stops us one more time, “this time, no volume, but triple the energy.” We do it. This is the result.
I was stunned. Watching this video even now makes me emotional. Put a bunch of choir directors together in the same room, have them do funny things, and see exactly what they can do.
This session was the session for me at the national convention. It was incredible and it’s stuff I’m going to use when I’m a teacher and even now when I’m a student.
I attended this conference for two reasons. One was obviously to attend sessions and learn tips and tricks for being a killer choral director. The other reason was to hear new music. Or rather, music that I had never heard before.
Three pieces of music really affected me the week that I was there.
Two of which happened on the first night of the concert.
The first piece on the concert was called Alzheimer’s Stories. The three-movement piece encompassed statistics about Alzheimer, stories from the perspective of people with the disease, and the final movement shining the spotlight on the caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. My grandma passed away when I was 12. She had Alzheimer’s. I loved her dearly. So this piece impacted me in a very profound way.
On this same concert, Andre Thomas, who is a very well-known and well-loved choral director premiered his Gospel Mass. One of my favorite pieces of all time is the Gospel Mass by Robert Ray. I sang it with the Saginaw Choral Society last year and fell in love. Dr. Thomas actually studied with Robert Ray. He says that his gospel mass was a work in progress, taking him almost 10 years to finish. And the final product was stunning. It was so high energy and so jiggy. I can’t wait until I get to prepare a choir to do that piece. It’s going to be killer.
The third and final piece I’m going to post a link so you’re able to see what I saw.
HOLY BUTTS, AM I RIGHT? The coolest part about the piece was that the Vancouver Youth Choir had gone right into the fire piece from a solo Ukrainian piece. It surprised the heck out of everyone in the audience. It was perfectly in tune the whole time and it was done by a YOUTH CHOIR. This piece will stick with me for a real long time.
I left the conference feeling more secure in my future profession. I think I speak for everyone that went when I say it was life changing.
I can’t wait for the next one.