Last month, we held the New York ACDA conference right at our very own Ithaca College. We were extremely lucky to have composer and conductor Francisco Núñez as our keynote speaker! On the first day of the conference, we opened it up with a few words from our advisor and director of choral activities at Ithaca College, Janet Galván, and our president, Rebecca Saltzman. This was followed by an opening session with Fransisco Núñez, launching us into the start of the conference! We had 3 workshops that day, each concerning a unique topic in the choral world. Penelope Cruz, President of NY-ACDA, presented a workshop called, "My First Job: The Search, the Documents, the Interview." I personally wasn't able to attend this one, but it seemed to have been a success.
The next workshop, entitled "Creative and Pragmatic Programming for Choirs," was presented by Christine Howlett from Vassar College. I found this one to be very informational -- she gave us a repertoire list she has put together, which included repertoire for choirs based on composer and difficulty. I will be sure to hold on to this list when I go out and start teaching my own choir!
Dr. Sandra Babb from Queens College, Chair of NY-ACDA Student and Youth Activities, conducted the Student Chapter Activities and Dinner. It was very nice to be able to get to know a few students from other ACDA college chapters! We played a few icebreakers, and Dr. Babb explained the importance of building a sense of community in your choirs, even by playing some simple icebreakers and allowing your students to get to know each other.
After all these wonderful workshops, we held a conducting master class with Francisco Núñez. There was a choir comprised of Ithaca College students, including myself, who had met a few times to learn the two songs that were used in the masterclass -- Brahms's "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" (in German) and Núñez's "Forever is My Song." We had a handful of students from all over New York conduct (including 2 students from IC!). Francisco Núñez had a lot of advice for every person, and I know I learned a great deal. The biggest thing I took away from this masterclass is that the most important thing for a conductor to do is create beautiful phrases; barlines do not matter as much, just know what direction you want to go in for every single phrase, and how you are going to convey that to your choir.
Ending this long day of activities was a performance of Duruflé's "Requiem," sung by Vox Lumine, conducted by Brandon Johnson. This was performed in the First Presbyterian Church downtown, which is just an absolutely exquisite space. You can read more about the group, but just to give a brief background, they are kind of an experimental group, consisting of many professionals, musicians, and music teachers, that only meets for a "retreat" a few days before performing in order to work together on the piece. I can imagine this requiem is not easy to sing at all, and in one of the movements, it was a bit shaky. It came to a point where the sopranos did not come in at one point, so Brandon Johnson stops and turns around to address us. He says, "Since most of you are probably from the ACDA conference, I feel comfortable stopping and creating this into a learning experience. This is the dangerous thing about experimental groups like this. It's when perfectionism of musicianship gets in the way of what is good." After talking for a bit more and explaining himself, he continues the requiem and they finish wonderfully. I personally learned, in this moment, that you cannot be constantly worried about being perfect, or else the delivery of the piece will not be organic and truly meaningful.
Anyways, that was the end to the long and fulfilling first day to the NY-ACDA conference! Since this post is becoming awfully long, I will continue this in another post soon, talking about the second day of NY-ACDA! Stay tuned!
-Sunhwa Reiner, Treasurer of ICACDA