My name is Jonathan Rydberg, and I am in my fourth year studying vocal music education at St. Cloud State University. This year’s ACDA National conference in St. Paul was my first national conference experience. I have attended the ACDA MN state conference the last three years and a regional conference in Iowa in 2014. Those four conferences can’t compare to the awesomeness I was blessed to partake in at ACDA 2017. My personal adventure can be broken down into 3 main experiences: performances, sessions, and the people.
My first 48 hours of the conference were spent as an intern with the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota at soundchecks, rehearsals, and performances. I was so proud of those singers on stage, but it also gave me a greater appreciation for the rest of the concerts I attended the next three days. The amount of pressure was expected, but the biggest lesson I learned was to enjoy the process. The performances were a lot of fun, but the most magical moments were in our rehearsals before performing. The music finally clicked for the singers, and they started having fun, even with the challenging pieces. That’s what is truly important.
Another part of this adventure were the great sessions I attended. The one that made the most impact was entitled “A Conductor: High on a Hill” by Eric William Barnum. He talked about what the real role is for a choir director or music teacher, using a hill as an image of any challenge you confront. According to Barnum, most of the time you imagine that you, the teacher, are at the top of the hill, inviting the students to join you at the top. It feels good to be on the top, the air is clear, and you can see for miles. Unfortunately, this idea feeds the “look at me” mentality. A better way to think is that the conductor and students are teaming up against the hill to get to the top together. The conductor guides the climbers through the paths of the music. Then when you get to the top, you can experience the exhilaration together.
Reflecting on this session caused a huge mentality swing for me. I have always thought of the director as the core of the music making in a choir and that a choir is only as good as its director. Eric made a great point that we help as best we can, but the singers are the ones who really make the music. The director simply helps them achieve their goals, guiding them when they lose their way. I am so glad I came to this realization before I begin officially teaching. I firmly believe that this is a better mindset that many teachers could adopt.
Finally, my favorite part was the people. We Minnesotans pride ourselves on being “Minnesota nice,” but I felt that same warm welcome in every conversation I had, no matter where the other person was from. I met so many people who share the same love for music, and also have many personal experiences that I can learn from. As easy as it is for us to idolize “musical geniuses,” I was reminded in my star-struck moments that they are all just people. They are approachable, and I had some amazing conversations that were a great inspiration for my teaching career and my passion for choral music.
I was so fortunate to experience an ACDA National Convention in my home state as a college student. The experience was priceless, unforgettable, and very rewarding.