Therese Walth

Hill-Murray High School

Summer Dialogue Scholarship Recipient


It is difficult for me to believe that I have been a music educator in Minnesota for seven years, and yet this was the first time that I attended the Minnesota ACDA Summer Dialogue.  Although I had often read about the Summer Dialogue, it was the gracious cheerleader and educator, Judy Sagen, who encouraged me to look more deeply into attending.  Her description of the conference was not exaggerated.  I applied for and was graciously bestowed an F. Melius Christiansen scholarship as a first-time Summer Dialogue participant.  Staying on the beautiful St. John’s campus allowed me the opportunity to really step out of my comfort zone and focus on the incredible set of speakers and listening sessions, as well as converse with other attending colleagues.

For many music educators, including myself, the last two years were ones of flexibility, mixed with frustration and fear. The conference directors allowed us time to vent and listen with others who went through similar experiences.  The challenges we all recently experienced felt insurmountable, but having time to reflect, during the conference and at the social evening events, really drew me into a community that I didn’t realize I needed.  As a daughter of a choral director, I always saw and appreciated the comradery of the choral music world, and to return and be welcomed into it was a true joy.

The many speakers inspired, challenged, and encouraged us to try new approaches while validating our insecurities and embracing our strengths. Every presentation I went to gave me ideas to incorporate into my teaching and life. I have already begun to implement new lesson plans, ideas, and principles that were sparked from sessions during the Summer Dialogue. I look forward to seeing my students continue to be engaged and fall more deeply in love with singing and choral music. G. Phillip Shoultz, III’s sessions on equity, diversity, and belonging energized me to continue to incorporate opportunities for choral members to support each other.  One of the biggest takeaways was the encouragement to bring in culture-bearers to work with ensembles.  Another was the impact of exploring under-recognized composers and creating new pieces that will inspire choir members to be a part of an empowered team and be outstanding individuals.

I want to thank all those who organized, spoke, worked, and attended the 2021 Summer Dialogue. A big thank you to the FMC Endowment Fund Committee. This experience energized me more than I could have ever anticipated. I am grateful to be a part of the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota!