Nathan Thompson

Recent Graduate Gustavus Adolphus College

ACDA-MN Student Representative

Summer Dialogue Scholarship Recipient


As I’m sure is the case with most students and new teachers who attend Summer Dialogue, I had no idea what to expect of the week ahead of me. I quickly became overwhelmed thinking about the events that were to come, knowing that I was going to be surrounded by people who I will soon call my peers and presented with sessions and information that would feel much larger than me. But soon enough, the nerves settled, deep breaths were taken and Summer Dialogue was underway.

The biggest fear, of course, was getting through the first day. While the majority of attendees were reconnecting with colleagues, friends and mentors, I was running through the routine of awkward handshakes, jumbled introductions, and attaching myself to the small handful of people I knew. But soon enough, the warmth and acceptance of this community began to present itself. By the end of day one, I had already met so many people, learned (and forgotten) so many names and absorbed so much. However, as a future teacher just getting started, I was blown away by everyone’s openness and willingness to chat with me and discuss the future, all while giving some of the best advice, tips and tricks I’ve ever received.

The speakers and sessions that filled the week were also incredible, with each bringing their own unique strategies, backgrounds and experiences to the table as they discussed topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. As someone who will be student teaching this coming school year, the depth of knowledge I gained was invaluable and my comfort level going into this fall increased significantly. The sessions were framed in the context of this coming school year, with focus on how we can best support our students and ourselves as we return from 18 months of cancellations, online schooling, and general confusion. Additionally, almost all sessions were enhanced with opportunities for small- and large-group discussion. Reading sessions were also available during the week, which presented us with tried and true repertoire selections that we can look to incorporate into our programs.

I was also fortunate to partake in the student conductor workshop with several peers from colleges around the state. With Dr. Axel Theimer as the clinician, we were all treated to a transcendent experience as we received one-on-one feedback, the opportunity to observe and learn from our peers, and an eventual opportunity to conduct in front of the entire conference during one of the many reading sessions of the week. I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from my fellow student conductors as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Dr. Theimer.

ACDA Summer Dialogue was a week that I knew would be worthwhile, but I was not prepared for it to be such an eye-opening experience. I hope that anyone studying music or is new to the education field considers attending in the coming years. I would like to give a special thank you to the F. Melius Christiansen Committee for sponsoring my scholarship and to the entirety of ACDA Minnesota for making this experience so wonderful.