One of the silver linings of having a virtual semester was that we were able to focus on making our social media more relevant for our members. Our wonderful Public Relations Chair & Committee decided to add a series on our Instagram of composer highlights. This has been such a great way to engage our members, who volunteer every week to research a favorite choral composer. It has been so exciting to see our members' enthusiasm for learning more about the musicians that inspire us! If you haven’t gotten a chance to read through these posts, you can find them here. I look forward to this series continuing after winter break, and to seeing what else is in store for our Facebook, Instagram, and website!
-Maia Finkel; IC ACDA Co-President
On March 5, 2020 our ACDA chapter traveled to Rochester, New York for the ACDA Eastern Regional Conference. The conference, titled “Open Ears-Open Hearts," embodied the ideas of creating choral music in an inclusive and uplifting way. Members of our chapter attended multiple workshops and seminars that delved into the meaning behind the conference. Such workshops included “Exploring Gender Choirs," “Culturally Responsive Choral Arranging: Considering the Source," and “Women Giving Voice to Women," to name a few. Each of these workshops were wonderful learning opportunities that allowed for the expansion of knowledge within the choral world. Through networking events, our members were able to connect with other ACDA members from multiple collegiate chapters in our region. A highlight of this conference included the ability to attend numerous concerts that were presented throughout each day and offered a diverse representation of choral music. Another highlight for our chapter was seeing three of our members participate in the conducting masterclasses – we are so proud of them!
Performances were located at the Hochstein School, the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, and the Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre and offered different experiences for our members to hear the music being presented. Concluding with the Honor Choir Concert, this conference was filled with enriching experiences that were engaging to our future choral directors.
-Megan Rowburry; IC ACDA Member
Our chapter was very excited to kick off the holiday season and relieve some stress from finals with our annual Messiah Reading. Each year we select movements from Handel’s Messiah to sight read through. This allows students to gain experience performing solo movements, as well as conducting and accompanying. We were lucky enough to have 5 soloists, 6 student conductors, and 2 pianists help us through our reading. Our chorus was filled with IC students, faculty, and members of the Ithaca community. We were also lucky enough to have candy canes and hot chocolate donated to us by our local Target. It was a wonderfully fun and festive night of choral music!
The Ithaca ACDA chapter had a lovely weekend assisting in the execution of this year's Choral Composition Festival. Six high schools from the northeast region traveled to Ithaca College to perform original compositions for a panel of IC music faculty judges. Throughout the day they experienced performances from the other high schools, as well as 5 of IC’s vocal ensembles: Choir, Madrigals, Women’s Chorale, Chorus and Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Each high school ensemble had the chance to rehearse with the composer of their assigned piece in order for the composer's full vision to come to life! In addition, all 6 high schools had a rehearsal with Dr. Janet Galvan and the Ithaca College Choir, where they rehearsed the finale piece for the evening’s performance; a selection from Craig Hella Johnson’s “Considering Matthew Shepard." It was an exciting and educational day for all of those involved. I’d like to extend a big thank you to all of the ACDA members who volunteered to assist our high schoolers this weekend!
-Danielle Gurcan, IC ACDA Co-President
This year, IC's chapter was lucky enough to be able to kick off the month of October with our first workshop of the year: So You Think You Can Improv? With Dr. John White. Dr. White began the workshop with the statement "Yes! You absolutely can improv, provided you have the right tools."
We began the workshop by talking about scat syllables. Dr. White emphasized the importance of imitating a horn when singing a scat solo. Therefore, syllables such as "dah," and "bah" are much more favorable than "squee," and "doo bop." Once we had the syllables down, we read through They Can't Take That Away From Me. As the workshop progressed, we analyzed the relationship between the key of the piece and the chord of the moment. Using this information, we discovered the usefulness of guide tones. The group then ended the workshop by using guide tones to assist their attempts at improvisation. This proved to be extremely useful, as it helped everyone to understand where their melodic line was going.
This workshop was one of my favorites for so many reasons! Dr. White broke down a concept which, before, was seemingly impossible. Then, through analyzation, I was provided with the structure to be able to succeed. Hopefully, IC ACDA will be able to do a So You Think You Can Improv? Part 2 in the spring!
-Maggie Storm; IC ACDA President
I was so excited to participate in my second Fund for Tomorrow Benefit Concert at Ithaca College! Our annual Fund for Tomorrow Benefit Concert was very successful. There was a crowd of about 30, which is larger than we have had in the past, and it seemed like each audience member thoroughly enjoyed the performances. A highlight for me was watching Dr. Sean Linfors and his 6 month old son, Nathaniel, sit at the piano together. Dr. Linfors sang two upbeat and well-known tunes and dedicated them to Nathaniel. It was a treat to see one of my favorite professors perform, since he is definitely an unsung hero of mine.
Thank you to everyone who came out to support this wonderful cause! All proceeds will go to the Fund for Tomorrow initiative.
For anyone interested, here is a link to the concert:
-Leah Sperber, IC ACDA Public Relations Officer
On Monday, October 16th, we were fortunate to have Dr. Dann Coakwell, a brand new member of the IC Voice Faculty, present the first ACDA workshop of the year! Dr. Coakwell specializes in the role of the Evangelist in the major oratorios of J.S. Bach, and for his presentation, he provided us with insights about the Evangelist role from the perspectives of three different conductors - Helmuth Rilling, Masaaki Suzuki, and Craig Hella Johnson - each of whom represents a different generation. Through the lens of the multifaceted (and often paradoxical) demands of the Evangelist role, Dr. Coakwell provided us with an introduction to Baroque singing. We learned about the many stylistic, dramatic, and technical considerations that are unique to the study of oratorio and sacred music.
Dr. Coakwell highlighted the importance of historically informed performance for singers who are learning oratorio roles. He emphasized that the use of vibrato for expressive purposes, the timbre of the voice, the attention to articulation, the amount of rubato used in sections of recitative, and all choices made about ornamentation, among other things, must demonstrate the singer's knowledge of the conventions of Bach's time. Dr. Coakwell also guided us through a practical step-by-step method for learning an oratorio role. He explained that focusing on text, rhythmic accuracy, and harmonic comprehension from day one is absolutely essential in order for a young singer to develop independence from the accompaniment, so that they may begin to employ some artistic license without disrespecting the composer's carefully crafted intentions. One major takeaway for me was a notion that all three featured conductors agreed upon: "less is more" when realizing and embellishing a melody by J.S. Bach. Dr. Coakwell reiterated this point with his own addendum, "When in doubt, leave it out!"
Dr. Coakwell explained that perhaps the most important consideration when performing oratorio, and particularly when performing the Evangelist role, is to be a "messenger" (in Suzuki's words) of the Biblical texts. For singers, this means that one must find a balance between expressivity and objectivity; in other words, it is the responsibility of the singer to craft a performance that is personal and emotionally engaging, while simultaneously functioning as little more than a "holder" (as Hella Johnson says) of pure, unbiased truth, "in the service of proclaiming the Christian Gospel." Within the drama of Bach's music, singers must strive to preserve the power, directness, and clarity of the text in order to deliver the story with conviction.
As a Catholic who is growing more and more passionate about Baroque music every day in my vocal and choral studies at Ithaca College, I asked Dr. Coakwell if he could speak about the impact that faith and spirituality can have on a musician's relationship with sacred music. He shared that he finds faith and humanity to be inextricably linked, and that the appeal of sacred music has stood the test of time because it speaks to the core of humanity, whether or not a musician/listener subscribes to any form of organized religion. He encouraged me and any other students in the room who were interested in sacred music to pursue it wholeheartedly, because it is an art form that has tremendous power to move audiences.
I found this presentation to be extremely informative and inspiring. I am hoping to become a professional choral singer and to venture into the world of Baroque singing in the near future, and I am fortunate to have so many experts like Dr. Coakwell here at IC to provide me with wisdom, resources, and advice as I pursue the next steps in my musical journey!
~Juliana Joy Child, IC ACDA President
Below is a link to the full video of Dr. Coakwell's presentation. Handout materials used in the presentation can be viewed and dowloaded using the link in the description box of the youtube video.
The members of the Ithaca College student chapter of ACDA are incredibly grateful to have attended the National ACDA Conference in Minneapolis this week! Over the course of four days, sixteen of our members attended interest sessions, panel discussions, reading sessions, concerts, exhibits, and receptions. True to the 2017 theme, "A Life of Song," we learned from choral music enthusiasts of all ages, from children's choirs to college students to musicians who have been in the field for decades. All IC members found an experience that greatly inspired them. We hope to bring what we have learned back to the Ithaca community, sharing music, ideas, and passion to make the world a better place.
We would like to thank the many people that supported us along the way. First, thank you to our chapter advisor, Dr. Galvan, for guiding our chapter all year and for assisting with this blog. We are also grateful to the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs at Ithaca College for helping us plan the trip to Minneapolis. Many thanks as well to those who supported us financially so that we could bring 16 people all the way to Minnesota. To the students from Hostra University and Vassar College who wrote guest blog posts, thank you for sharing your experiences. Thank you to all the people who were involved in this conference- presenters, conductors, performers, staff, and volunteers. And finally, thank you so much to everyone in State and National ACDA leadership who worked incredibly hard to make this conference a success! We are grateful for the opportunity to share our experiences with you on the National Conference Blog.
Safe travels to everyone, and feel free to check in with us in the future as we continue to share our choral music experiences from Ithaca College.
IC ACDA President
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the undergraduate conducting masterclass. The masterclass was occurring at the same time as several other sessions I was hoping to attend, and therefore, my original plan was to stay for the first hour of the class, and then slip out the side door of the church sanctuary. Instead, I found myself glued to my pew for the full two hours of the class, unable to tear my eyes away except when scribbling notes furiously in my notebook.
I suppose one could attribute my state of fascination to the fact that I have not yet received formal conducting training (it is traditional at my school to take conducting classes junior year and I'm still a sophomore). The clinicians, Dr. Ann Howard Jones and Dr. Jerry McCoy, in addition to being dynamic and engaging instructors, gave incredibly concise and effective advice to each undergraduate participant. Being a relative newcomer to the world of conducting, I am in no place to comment on the pedagogy behind the advice given by the clinicians, but I can definitely attest to the effectiveness of the clinicians' advice being evident in the resulting changes in sound of the choir.
One major takeaway I left the masterclass with was the necessity of a sense of air in the gesture and the concept of deciding whether you want your air to flow left, right, or vertically. In one particularly captivating moment, Dr. McCoy had one of the participants modify his gesture to mimic the air flow created by a ballerina running and jumping into a lift. The result was a flowing, moving line sung with a beautiful and clear tone. I am finding it difficult to explain with words the sense of excitement and inspiration I felt watching the participant's "aha!" breakthrough moment.
Another major concept that resonated with me was that of the intentionality of stance and gesture. Dr. Jones worked with one participant on correcting the reflexive movement in her knees by focusing the participant's energy into her arms. She also explained that one of the most difficult - yet most imperative - things to learn is to bring your choir to you instead of reaching for your choir by conveying strength through your stance. Dr. McCoy worked with one participant on keeping the torso expanded, explaining that a collapse of the conductor's upper body would lead to a collapse in the sound of the singers. He also worked with a different participant on keeping his gestures within the frame of his body.
I could write for ages about each concept and technical solution that the clinicians taught, but for the sake of time, I'll simply wrap up by thanking Dr. Jones and Dr. McCoy for sharing their expertise with us, and for giving me a wonderful introduction to the world of conducting.
-Nicole Cronin, IC ACDA '19
I went to the "Voice of Reason: Social Justice, the Greater Good, and Why We Sing" panel on Wednesday with the intention of getting inspiration for a piece I'm planning to write, and I did not come away disappointed. The panel was geared towards directors who intend to program a concert surrounding an important social issue, focusing on ways in which the message of the performance can better reach the audience. The presenter, Kristina Caswell MacMullen, is well versed in directing pieces with a social goal in mind. She shared about a long program she had directed that followed the story of victims of human trafficking, using a series of related pieces with complete staging.
The main message of this presentation was the importance of telling a story through the music. To reach people with your music, one approach is to take your audience members through the journey of the person you want them to relate to. MacMullen's performance took the viewer through the life of a girl pushed into human trafficking. Another example she showed us was a piece using the last words of several of the young black men recently killed by police officers, which puts the audience into their shoes. Staging was a huge part of these programs, and that has given me so many ideas for my own protest piece I'll be writing in the coming months. While I have performed plenty of staged choral pieces, as a composer, I had never thought to write a composition with specified staging instructions. I always felt that that was the choral director's job, but of course nothing is keeping the composer from making those decisions as well.
Overall, this presentation was incredible and has left me with so many ideas on how to spread awareness through my music.
-Anna Marcus-Hecht, IC ACDA '19
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