ACDA Summer Dialogue, otherwise known as summer camp for choir directors, is always worthwhile. This year, however, seemed to go above and beyond in its breadth and depth of programming. The aim of 2017 Dialogue was to “focus on your wellbeing and how.. [to] balance your life and allow your health to enhance the health of your choirs.” Check. Done.

Garret Lathe

Garret Lathe

Through this lens of your role as a conductor, the mission of the conference went far beyond that scope. Rather than stopping at simple conductor wellness, the conference, by design and by momentum, used the platform of conductor health to launch into authentic connection with our community and deep connection with music and programming. Conductor wellness was not viewed as a means to its own end, or simply a way of making our lives more manageable, but instead as a vehicle for a larger purpose… To inspire a community of choral musicians in our state.

What I will take away from this Dialogue is this:

In order to build an inspirational choral community, I must first connect with myself and other choir directors, connect with the singers I am privileged to lead, and connect with the community and world around me.

What follows is some, but not all, of the aspects of Summer Dialogue that continue to inspire me.

Connecting with self and colleagues:

  • It is incredibly important that we streamline our work, not sweating the small stuff, so we can unplug, connect with ourselves and loved ones, so we’re ready for a great day of rehearsals tomorrow. (Michelle Bendett and Justin Chase, Fresh Perspectives)
  • Don’t start a project unless I have a plan to make it sustainable. (Michelle Bendett and Justin Chase)
  • I should strive to be connected to teachers who have newer, fresher perspectives than I, and with those who have more experience than I. (Michelle Bendett and Justin Chase)
  • “Here I am, as I am, in the world, as it is.” Our bodies have an incredible system that wants to be balanced, and my awareness should be directed towards what I am trying to accomplish, not on how I messed up the last time I tried. (Babette Lightner, A Virtuous Cycle: Empowering the Wholeness of Mind, Body, and Well-being in Rehearsal)
  • Yoga is always a good idea. I need to do it more often. (Yoga with Katelyn Larson)

Connecting with Singers:

  • Exploring growth, rather than correctness or incorrectness, leads to a more healthy view of singing. (Axel Theimer, Just Breathe)
  • Why do I always learn something new no matter how many times I hear Axel Theimer talk? (Could it be because he is always learning something new himself?)
  • Singing is a sport. I need to connect my voice with my conducting for singers to better understand this art form. (Eugene Rogers, The Singing Conductor)
  • There are few better ways to connect with singers than taking an artistic risk myself. (André Heywood, Director’s Chorus, specifically singing Tjak!)

Connecting with Community:

  • Performing diverse choral music is most meaningful when understood (context), prepared, and taught well. (Angela Broeker, Is There an App for that? Acquiring, Preparing, and Presenting Diverse Choral Music)
  • Inter-generational singing is always a good idea. (G. Phillip Shoultz III, Creating Community Through Choir)
  • Radical Inclusion! Including students with developmental and cognitive disabilities (DCD) can lead to incredible discoveries in our choirs and our communities. (Susan Zemlin and Blaine’s Reppin’ Blue Team, Inclusive Choirs that are Mutually Beneficial for All Singers)
  • “Ouch!” … “Oops!” When I mix up a gender pronoun with singers, or say “men” instead of “tenors and basses”, it’s important to acknowledge, move on for now, and check in later to see if follow-up is needed. (Jane Ramseyer Miller, Creating Choirs that Welcome Transgender Singers)
  • Connecting singing with a cause not only increases awareness in my community, but engenders trust, meaning, and purpose within the singers I lead. (Bret Amundson, Empowering Community Through Performance)

So, what inspired you? I encourage you to share this article, or link to the ACDA of Minnesota site, and share a statement or two of moments during Dialogue that still resonate with you.

ACDA Summer Dialogue is a week long event. The dialogue we continue to be a part of this season deepens the impact of our time together, and the influence we have on each other and the singers we lead, and the communities we help create.