Laurie Lausi, R&S Chair for Senior High School Choirs

(first, a great article I think we all need to read:)

ACDA National Conference 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Wow. Where to begin? I joined ACDA a little over 16 years ago when I attended my first national conference and left so inspired by the music, teaching and networking I had the opportunity to experience. I was hooked. This year’s national conference delivered once again.  [See accompanying photos on the Conference post]

The first evening of the conference included a stunning performance by The King’s Singers. I have heard them on many occasions but this particular performance took my breath away. They had every single audience member in the palm of their hand from the first note to the last.

The choral performances I heard were outstanding. I truly enjoyed so many of the choirs and found some composers that I want to look up for future repertoire with my own choirs. To name a few, Daniel Elder, Grant Cochran, Daniel Hall, and Michael Hanawalt.

I am always looking for quality repertoire for the women’s choir at my school and loved every piece performed on the concert by Cypress Falls HS Varsity Women (from my home state of Texas!). Look them up!

Pantha Rhei (Jim Papoulis/arr. Francisco Nunez)
Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Pergolesi)
Mandoline (Debussy/arr. Alan Raines)
Prayer for the Gifts (Kinley Lange)
There Will Come Soft Rains (Kevin Memley)
Praise His Holy Name (Keith Hampton)

Another great women’s piece that I heard was performed by the Women’s Chorus of Brigham Young. It was a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace by Michael Hanawalt.

I also was really impressed with the mixed choir from Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts (Florida) and plan to use them as an example for my choirs. They were the demonstration choir in a fascinating session on the brain and also performed an excellent concert. Once again, Loved all the repertoire!

Sing Joyfully (Byrd)
Ballade to the Moon (Daniel Elder)
Three Australian Bush Songs (Iain Grandage)
The Water is Wide (arr. Grant Cochran)

The interest sessions were incredible. Some of my favorites included Building a Beautiful Sound with Young Tenors, Building Sound and Spirit (presented by our own Amanda Quist from Westminster), The XX-Files: Great Literature by Women Composers, and Brain-Friendly Strategies for Singer-Friendly Rehearsals. This last session will have to be a separate article I write in the future to share all of the wonderful information I received!

Having a student in the High School Honor Choir was a great opportunity for me to share ACDA with this high school senior/future music educator. She was blown away by the sheer amount of choral directors in one place. She walked into the exhibits, overcome by the many boxes of music to be perused through/faces to meet/tools of the trade…she exclaimed “HOW do you even know where to start??” That’s when I said, “Follow me” and took her to meet the wonderful composers I have come to love and started asking them to show me music specific to what I needed back in Cherry Hill.

The rehearsals with Andre Thomas were so inspiring to my singer. He chose fabulous repertoire and the Honor Choir performed it beautifully. I could tell that they had made a wonderful connection with Dr. Thomas and any time I ask my student to share her experience with other students she is practically moved to tears.

Of course, being able to Experience the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is something a choral director never forgets. The biggest moment for me was the final concert of the conference when the entire membership was able to attend together thanks to the enormous 27,000-seat auditorium at the Latter-Day Saints Conference Center. Stunning is the first word that comes to mind to describe this amazing space. Sylvia McNair hosted this evening along with Santino Fontana, the USAF Singing Sergeants, and of course, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The moment that brought me and all the choral directors around me to tears? The finale. ALL of the honor choirs (including the adorable children’s choir!) joined the MTC and the Singing Sergeants for the final number. Hundreds of singers up there young and old, accompanied by the wonderful MTC Orchestra under the direction of Mac Wilberg was just so moving. Loved it.

SO….my dear choral colleaugues. I highly encourage you to attend an ACDA conference. Next year is Boston. I also encourage you to allow your students the opportunity to audition for the honor choirs. Truly life changing. You owe it to yourself as a choral director and I promise you that you will leave with new ideas and perspectives. Oh and did I mention that 5000 choral directors attended this conference? Talk about a plethora of opportunities to network! You are not alone in this!

– Laurie

Archived article:
Words of Wisdom for 2014 and Beyond