Hello from the ACDA Central District of Minnesota.

Michael Sellheim

For those of us that live in an ACDA MN district with a large geographical footprint, it’s easy to feel isolated from the amazing things going on in other areas of the state. I know I hear of lots of festivals between schools in the same conference, sharing of concerts from schools in the same district, and artists in residence.  It can feel as if my choir students are missing out.

The conference I teach in saw a need for a festival or honor day geared toward our music students. As music teachers, we discussed such an idea and offered our proposal to the Activities Directors of each district, who thought it was a great idea. We have been hosting an honor band and choir day for eight years now. It’s a chance for musicians from each school in the conference to meet, work together musically, and sing or play their instruments in a large ensemble. Students meet not in the spirit of competition – but collaboration. If you don’t have something like this in your area, I highly recommend the experience. To borrow the words from Brian Stubbs, conductor from Brainerd, “Ask a fellow director out for pie and start sharing!” Begin to brainstorm in the summer and invite other directors for input. I love the collaborative aspect of our organization. You don’t find that with many other subject areas in school.

Our Wright County Honor Band and Choir day takes place the first weekend after December break. It’s not ideal, but it’s a date that all the schools are able to have their students participate. Schools volunteer to host two consecutive years because once you’ve organized it once, you can use that knowledge and make it even better the next year! After reflecting on last year’s experience, we added a reception after the concert. It was a nice way of saying thank you to the parents and students for all their hard work. It also provided an opportunity for pictures and conversation with the guest clinicians and students. It wasn’t anything fancy, just cookies and punch. Make it easy!

In planning this day, we ask each school to bring a balanced octet. Some have that capability, some don’t. No big deal! Bring what you can, because it’s all about the singers! Remember, it’s not a competition. Some of our musicians sit right next to someone that they play football, volleyball or basketball against, and now see that person in a whole new light. As an equal under the umbrella of making great music together.

The host school chooses who they would like to work with the musicians. Last year Dr. Michael Culloton from Concordia College, Moorhead joined us. This year we welcomed Dr. Lee Nelson from Wartburg College.

Below is a schedule of what our day looks like from the choir perspective. It was challenging to get things started, but once the initial work is done, it becomes more streamlined each year. After the day is done, lives are changed, memories are made, and friendships have blossomed from a different garden. The choir and the band operate on the same schedule.

Schedule for Choir:

  • 8:30-9:00               Check-in: students place belongings in designated places in the gym
  • 9:00-9:15                Welcome and Announcements in Auditorium
  • 9:15-10:45               Full Group Rehearsal – Choir Room
  • 10:45-10:50            Break and move to sectional rooms
  • 10:50-11:25             Sectionals – see list for room assignments (directors set stage for choir)
  • 11:30-12:30            Full Group Rehearsal – Auditorium (need help to reset stage for band)
  • 12:30-1:15              Lunch – Commons Area
  • 1:20-2:30               Full Group Rehearsal – Choir Room
  • 2:30-2:45               Break
  • 2:45-3:50               Full Group Rehearsal – Choir Room
  • 3:50-4:20              Change clothes and get ready for the concert (if needed)
  • 4:20                        Line-up and be seated in reserved seats
  • 4:30                        Concert starts: band first, then choir

You may be wondering how this all gets paid for. We ask each school to pay $12 per student and the conference pays $1,000 for the day. This pretty much covers everything for the day. The other thing that makes the day run smoothly is having the other directors there to help out with sectionals and re-setting the stage from band to choir. They are invaluable that day.

If anyone is interested in discussing more about how this all came about, or is looking for help starting a festival or honor day of your own, please feel free to email me – msellheim@isd876.org