It was my pleasure to attend the 2016 North Central ACDA Conference, “The Conductor as Servant Leader” in Sioux Falls, South Dakota this February. Joining the many excellent performances from choirs across the region were Minnesotans Amy Jo Cherner, Philip Brown, Julia Fahey, Bret Amundson, and Michael McGaghie, each representing our state with excellence, creativity, and poise.
Most profound for me was the breakout session led by keynote speaker Ramona Wis. Wis spoke extensively about the way we lead our ensembles, and the ways we can give ourselves the necessary space to think creatively, plan accordingly, and communicate effectively for our singers. She courageously shared from her own experience, and expelled the fallacy of business that I often find myself hiding behind. I left her session energized and encouraged.
I also had a personal connection to the session about MacPhail’s “Giving Voice Chorus,” a choir for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. This beautiful example of the conductor as servant leader (and an ensemble created with service as its sole purpose) hits especially close to home as my grandma and grandpa both currently sing in the ensemble. Hearing more about the development of this choir got me thinking about how ensembles similar to it could be created in communities all across our state to serve families suffering from Alzheimers, as well as various disabilities that ensemble music could help to serve. It caused me to pause and reflect on my own classroom and how I could include underserved or struggling student populations in a similar way.
I would like to thank the FMC Endowment committee for allowing me to attend this conference with one of our state’s scholarships. It was rejuvenating to reconnect with colleagues, to be inspired by performances, and to take time to examine the element of service that is embedded in each of our daily practice as a conductor.