Articles by NW ACDA officers


October 8, 2012

President Gary Weidenaar interviews Scott Peterson, Richard Nance, and Solveig Holmquist; three previous presidents provide perspective on the organization

As I wrote in my first article as NWACDA President, “[ACDA] thrusts people together in planned and unplanned ways . . . YweidenaarOU are the reason there is an ACDA . . .”(Editor's note: See Gary's first article on this page below.)

The “YOU” above refers not only to the members, but also to the leaders who serve that membership.  Where I wrote about some benefits I gained as an ACDA member in my last article, this time the focus is from a leader’s point of view.

ACDA, approaching its fiftieth anniversary as an association, was faced with a major change in its national staff when longtime Executive Director Gene Brooks passed away in 2007.  A year long search for a new person for that position resulted in the hiring of Dr. Tim Sharp, who began in May of 2008, four and a half years ago.

During that time, three Division Leaders have served.  Scott Peterson was NWACDA President when Tim was hired, followed by Richard Nance and then Solveig Holmquist.  Given their proximity to this important shift in ACDA’s national leadership, I thought it might prove interesting to seek their views.

To gather their thoughts, I wrote each of the three, asking them to respond to the same set of questions. The nine questions cover their backgrounds, their perspective on ACDA’s evolution, their thoughts about Tim’s  imprint on ACDA – as well as advice for me as a new Division President, among other topics.

Prefacing the Past-Presidents’ words are some thoughts by Tim Sharp:sharp

"The perspectives of our elected leaders in the American Choral Directors Association is of particular interest to me, and I believe it will be of great interest to members of ACDA. The reason I find these comments and insights from three of our past Northwestern Division Presidents so enlightening is due to the fact that our leaders are truly engaged members of our profession, and as a result, their professional association.

For me, engagement equates to good citizenship, primarily because I live with the importance embedded in ACDA's mission statement..."to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy." Each one of the following leaders embody this mission statement, which is what ACDA is all about.

I also know that one of the greatest benefits of ACDA membership is the opportunity to serve within this mission that we have dedicated our careers to living out. Join me in my appreciation of their hard-earned perspective.”
Dr. Tim Sharp, Executive Director – the American Choral Directors’ Association

Gary Weidenaar:   What positions in the organization have you held during your tenure as an ACDA member?

petersonScott: President, Northwestern Division (2006-2008), President-elect, Northwestern Division (2004-2006),
Program Chair for the Portland Conference (2006), R&S Choir for 2 year Colleges, NW Division (1995-2001; 2003-2004), President, Washington ACDA (1991-1993), Represented the State of Washington in a series of state ACDA presidents who were invited to conduct in Carnegie Hall, May 1991, Repertoire and Standards Choir for 2 year Colleges, Washington State ACDA Board (1987-1991)

nanceRichard: President, Northwestern Division (2008-2010), President-elect, Northwestern Division (2006-2008), Program Chair for the Vancouver Conference (2008), Repertoire and Standards Choir for Colleges and Universities, NW Division (2003 – 2006), President, Washington ACDA (1999-2001), Choral Reviews Editor for Choral Journal (1998-2002), President-elect, Washington ACDA (1997-1999), Program Chair for Washington Summer Institute (1997-1998), Repertoire and Standards Chair for Two-Year Colleges, Southwestern Division (1988-1992)

holmquistSolveig: President, Northwestern Division (2010-2012), President-elect, Northwestern Division  (2008-2010)
Program Chair for the Seattle Conference (2010), R&S for Community Choirs (1991-1996), HS Honor Choir Chair – 2 times (1990, 1993), Also: Selected as one of two NW Division conductors for International Exchange group which traveled through Germany, studying German choral training , as well rehearsal and performance facilities,        
R&S for High School Choirs, Oregon ACDA(1984 - 1985), R&S for Music in Worship (1996-1998), Oregon ACDA,
R&S for Community Choirs (1991-1996), Oregon ACDA, Oregon State President (2001-2003)


Gary - What year did you join ACDA – and for what reason(s)?

Scott Peterson  -  I joined while a graduate student at Central Washington State College in the fall of 1974.  My supervising professor, E. Gordon Leavitt, suggested that I attend a meeting with him of the Puget Sound Choral Conductors Guild (PSCCG) which was the precursor to the Washington State Chapter of ACDA.  The guest speaker was Dr. Douglas McEwen from Arizona State University who inspired me to pursue choral conducting career. 

Richard Nance  - I joined ACDA in 1977 during my senior year in college.  I attended West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas, where I was very fortunate to study with Dr. Hugh Sanders.  Dr. Sanders was president for the Southwestern Division and went on to be national president of ACDA.  He was a huge advocate for the organization and encouraged his students to join.

Solveig Holmquist -  I joined ACDA in 1979, when I took my first teaching job after returning to the states from England.   I joined after I went to an ACDA workshop, where I left feeling that this sort of professional advancement was important.


Gary - You’ve all been members of ACDA over 30 years.  In a general sense, how is the ACDA of 2012 different than the ACDA you joined of the mid-late 70’s?  How is it the same?

Scott: Probably the biggest difference is the sheer size of the organization. With the changes in technology and communication, ACDA has a much better connection with members.  There are better offerings in terms of information, conferences and workshops.  It seems to be run more efficiently and professionally today.  The role of women in the organization has become much more important and women now serve in all levels of the organization.  It is much less of a “good old boys” club. 

In our Division, we have had a wonderful association of members.  I have always said we have the best people in our Division, professionally as well as personally.  Our leadership and members genuinely care about the art and the organization and work to give it quality.

Richard: ACDA is much more of a world-wide organization than when I joined, and the membership has grown to encompass a broader range of choral professionals.  Women and minorities have taken a much more important role in leadership positions in the organization.  Division and national conferences have grown immensely—both in numbers of attendees and in quality of program.  Conference performance venues have vastly improved, moving us from hotel ballrooms to major concert halls. 

One thing that has been constant has been the strength of advocacy for the choral art and the importance this holds for ACDA members.

Solveig: Perhaps the biggest change over the years is the jump into technology, encouraged by the leadership of Tim Sharp. The communication from National has become far more clear and consistent.  Services and opportunities available to members have mushroomed. The possibilities for connection and sharing seem limitless, and much easier to access. The electronic newsletter, feared by so many, is just wonderful and going paperless has helped to make us financially solvent. Great improvements have been made in the newsletter and website, thanks to webmaster Howard Meharg.   Brian Galante and Gary Weidenaar have each made technological improvements behind the scenes in recent conferences.  I really think that people like them who innovate are responsible for our greatest advances, which affect every aspect of our work in ACDA.

What hasn't changed is the unique camaraderie among members, and the passion for the best the choral art has to offer. 


Gary -  After he passed away, a search to replace long time Executive Director Gene Brooks was held and Tim Sharp named to that position in 2008.  Reflecting on just the past four and a half years, has the hiring of Tim affected the organization as a whole and/or specifically the Northwest division?  If so, how?

Scott: Tim attended the 2008 NWACDA Vancouver Convention. He was brand new and took the time to come out and meet all of us. I began the convention plans with Gene [Brooks], who did not live to see the convention actually occur in Vancouver.

I think Tim has reorganized ACDA to be more technologically efficient, and it seems that he has done a great job of making the financial structure more open and transparent than in the past. The appearance of ACDA has become more up to date, meaning the web site specifically, but also in how various aspects of the organization are handled, such as forums for members, resources such as Choralnet, and relations with other professional organizations.

Richard: I think Tim has brought a tighter sense of organization to the national office, and as a whole I believe ACDA financial transparency and accountability have improved.  Our organization is in excellent shape!  Like Gene, Tim is a huge advocate for the choral art, and he cares very deeply for ACDA and its members. 

I think Tim has moved the organization into the computer age, which was sorely needed when he took over as Executive Director.  Tim is highly visible, and like Gene, he is a player in the international choral scene, representing ACDA well through performances throughout the world.  He has made an effort to strengthen ACDA’s ties with the International Federation of Choral Music and events such as the World Choir Games. 

As to how Tim’s work has affected the Northwestern division, I would say that Tim is fully aware and appreciative of the excellent choral work going on in our area of the country, and he has spread that word to our ACDA colleagues throughout the US. 

Solveig: I feel Tim’s a superb person for the position. It took a few years, but the desired and much needed transparency seems to have been achieved. There seems to be a much egalitarian spirit, which can only benefit the NW. Through his travels to the NW, Tim has gained a sense of our unique strengths and characteristics: and he doesn't see us a rebels, or problem children. I’m not sure why that impression seemed to have been in place in the past, but I felt greatly encouraged to not feel that way every time I attended national leadership meetings. We have plenty to offer, and I think other division leaders know that. Sure doesn't hurt to have the next President from the NW, though!


Gary - What was your top focus as President?

Scott: We put a large amount of effort into trying to bring our outlying states more “into the fold” as it were.  We tried to give Alaska, Montana and Wyoming support to boost membership numbers and organize with the Division.  Montana is a charted state, so it was not as crucial with them, but Alaska and Wyoming were becoming dangerously close to folding.  We also wanted to offer our members in British Columbia support which is one of the reasons we choose to hold our convention in Vancouver.

We also put great effort into holding the first ACDA convention outside the United States.  The main reason was to find a venue which was different and new.  The theme of the 2008 convention was “A New Destination” which reflected our attempts to rejuvenate the Division and also to offer a convention in a quality venue which was not the usual.  It was a tremendous success and helped to build connections with our states as well as our neighbors to the north. 

Richard: I came into office at the time of transition between Executive Directors, and there were some definite membership issues that had to be addressed across the country.  All of the division presidents at that time were charged with working to increase membership within the divisions, and to also be more accountable with division finances. 

Our division has been blessed with a fantastic treasurer for a number of years in Carol Stewart Smith.  She has worked closely with division presidents to keep our budget in line, and in we have long been one of the most financially stable divisions.  I feel like my board worked very hard at the membership initiative, and it paid off--we saw good increases in most of our states during my time.  The division conferences in recent years have seen an uptick in attendance, and we were able to sustain that.

Solveig: I remember that Richard tried to get more offerings for our members, by our R&S Chairs. There certainly has been growth in activities in some states, but we still seem to see ourselves primarily as conference planners. Maybe my main accomplishment is to have achieved a very stable financial picture, so that we now have money for other projects.


Gary - You have all given countless hours to the organization, but what do you feel ACDA has given you?

Scott: ACDA has given me the discipline to be the best choral musician I can be.  It has exposed me to the greatest minds in the choral art, both in our country and abroad.  I have experienced the highest quality performances and been inspired to work for that.  It has been my privilege to be in contact with all sorts of choral musicians. 

Richard: ACDA has provided me with great inspiration over the course of my career.  I have been fortunate to be able to attend practically every state and divisional conference related to where I have worked since I joined, and I don’t think I have missed any national conferences since the early ‘80’s.  I have heard life-changing performances through ACDA, and have had the honor and thrill of conducting my own choirs in front of very appreciative audiences made up of my peers.  Above all, I think it’s the personal contacts I have made through ACDA.  Most of my best friends are also my choral colleagues, and I have met most of them through the ACDA network.

Solveig: Scott and Richard have said it so eloquently. I would concur with every statement they've made, and present this metaphor: Choral music is who I am. I can't think of myself as separated from it. So it's me, and ACDA is the actual lifeblood that flows through me, giving me strength, nourishment, and energy. Everything and everyone that is ACDA combines to create that blood. I can't think of myself as separated from it. 

Gary -Scott often says (as he did above) that the Northwest Division has some of the nicest people in the country as members.  Scott, why do you feel that is?  Richard and Solveig, what is your feeling about the “NW Choral Director mentality?”  And for all three of you – is there a common characteristic among all ACDA members, no matter where they are from?

Scott: I still feel we have the best people in our Division, both professionally and personally. Most members of our Division will take on tasks when asked and help to make the organization better. They are always willing to help and want NW ACDA to be a quality organization.

Richard: There are great people throughout ACDA, but because our division is the largest in land mass and the smallest in number of members, it’s very easy to get to know people here.  And there is just something about our area of the country that has drawn generous, genuine and very talented people to work here.  We genuinely like each other!  And at least in my area of work, the collegiate ranks, even though we compete with other, we really love to see each other succeed.

Solveig: I think that Scott is right in saying we have the nicest people in our Division. That's partly because our pioneer days aren't so far in the past, and we have it in our DNA, to care for and about people, and also to step up and get things done. We've had to. And we in the NW are the black sheep from families that stayed put in the Midwest or New England, or wherever. Our ancestors were the curious ones, the adventurers, the ones with creativity -- and it stuck. I believe that we in the NW recognize that in each other and have fun with it. People from other regions just find us weird, but that's OK.

I see two common characteristic traits of ACDA members from all over the country: a desire for growth, and a real love of people, who after all are the heart of the choral art. We need each other, by definition.

Gary - Any other thoughts or pearls of wisdom you like to share?

Scott: Only that I hope new members and younger members will step up to make the organization even better.  We have so many great people that I really feel the future is bright for the Division.

Richard: I want to encourage young people, those that are new to the profession, to get involved in the organization as soon as possible—including in leadership roles.  Leadership is hard work, no doubt, and everyone in our profession has enough to do in our “real” job.  But being a leader in ACDA is extremely rewarding and worth the work.  When an ACDA officer asks for your help or encourages you to get involved, please think of how important your contribution can be, and don’t be afraid to commit.  You can make a great difference for ACDA, and we need you!

Solveig: Membership and active involvement in the mission of ACDA is an investment in yourself, one that can't fail to make you grow as a musician and human. The biggest mistake you can make is to think that you can't afford membership, since without the kind of feeding it offers you're in danger of drying up and blowing away (i.e. burning out). The world needs what we do, now more than ever. So many young teachers feel they can only afford NAfME, yet the cost of membership in ACDA is negligible in light of what our work means. And once you've attended a division or national conference, all of that hits you and you never look back.

Gary - Finally, do you have any advice for me as an incoming President?

Scott: My advice is to pass on what you can and be a true manager of the major tasks.  Surround yourself with good people, and we have so many. One other piece of advice: “Don’t put off what can be done today…”  Procrastination is a killer when it comes to running an organization.

I want to wish you the best of luck during your tenure as President of NW ACDA.  Let me know if I can help.

Richard: Don’t be afraid to dream, but be realistic, and then make things happen.  Try to create initiatives that benefit all areas of ACDA—be broad-minded.  Don’t be afraid to delegate!  And have fun—the rewards are many (even though it might not seem that way at times!).

Solveig: It seems clear that you don't need it.

Postscript –
Worth noting is the fact that these three former presidents did not see each others’ answers until I compiled them and sent the results for them to review.  I did ask them if they wanted to add or adjust anything at that time – resulting in Solveig’s reflection on Richard and Scott’s comments about what ACDA has given them.

And Richard Nance made this point after he saw the others’ answers:   “It's pretty amazing that there is great consistency in our answers.  It just shows how our leadership has been ‘on the same page’ for a number of years.” 

Solveig, Scott and Richard – thanks for taking the time to share your valuable insights.  We are the better for it.

As for being on the same page – Richard:  Amen to that!



July 10, 2012
Serendipity (the act of finding something useful by chance)


by Gary Weidenaar, President, NW ACDA

Well, it’s herweidenaare! What, you may ask?  On July 1, 2012 - following two years as president-elect, I became president of ACDA's Northwestern Divsiion.  There was no shift in the force.   No Maya Angelou poem or Yo Yo Ma playing the cello.  Not even Reg Unterseher recognizing that fact on Facebook – but it happened none the less. 

First and very importantly – on behalf of the membership of NWACDA, I offer a sincere thank you to outgoing President Solveig Holmquist, who transitions to Vice-President now. She is four years into the six year commitment made when she ran for this office.  During the past two years, Solveig and I have had many enlightening conversations that culminated in those regarding the preparation for and running of the Seattle 2012 conference.  I thank her for her wisdom, sense of humor, and a lifetime of adding to the choral art!

One of the traditional communication tools of the NWACDA president is this website/newsletter, so ably developed and maintained by Howard Meharg.  To that end, I have set a goal of writing an article every couple of months or so.  Given the fact that my term is until June 30, 2014 that makes about 12 articles.  So here goes . . .

ACDA has been a part of my professional life since I joined the organization in 1980 as a junior at Western Michigan University (WMU).  My first conference was a regional one, in Madison Wisconsin.   

The following March, I was one of thirteen choral education majors at WMU who drove overnight in three university vehicles from Kalamazoo to New Orleans, Louisiana for the 1981 National ACDA Conference. Arriving in New Orleans – since the event took place the week after Mardi Gras – I remember four-lane streets knee deep in empty cans of the alcohol-containing variety. 

We saw choirs perform (one in particular  - which you’ll later find to be part of one of the major points in this article), met people, went to the exhibits, hung out, ate beignets and drank (too many) hurricanes.  We shared six to a room – and slept too little.  During the entire conference, Mel Ivey, our Professor, proudly introduced us as his students to a who’s who of choral musicians. The culminating event was Robert Shaw conducting the Missa Solemnis by Beethoven sung by five combined college choirs.  It was life-altering to be in the presence of hundreds of choral aficionados enjoying the meticulous preparation Mr. Shaw exhibited in that wonderful concert.

That was my first ACDA experience – and I’ve been a member ever since.  In total, I have attended eight regional and nine national conferences.  I have seen scores of choirs made up of singers of all ages.  I have met dozens upon dozens of fellow musicians, seen hundreds of interest sessions, been introduced to countless resources – ideas – ways of doing things . . .

ACDA conferences have given me much.  They are a quality check (Is my choir anywhere close to the choirs I’m seeing on stage right now?), they are a spring of new repertoire, they are an enabling community of musicians, they recharge my battery as an educator.

ACDA has been the impetus for career-long friends and has allowed me to meet people who have become mentors.  There are also times when ACDA serves to energize my musical life in unpredictable ways.

During our time in New Orleans, I vividly remember watching one of the performing choirs sing Robert Starer’s “A little nonsense” and thinking – I can’t believe how crystal clear the interpretation is.  This is IMPRESSIVE!

Cut to some twenty-five years later – in Flagstaff, Arizona.  One of my activities while teaching at Northern Arizona University was directing a church choir in town. Deral, a bass in my choir was in his late 70s, his wife Marie was a soprano. While other members had strong opinions and suggestions which they, ahem, often shared with me and the group, Deral never did.  After a few months, I was talking to him before a church service and asked him what he did before retiring.  He was a choir director, he said.  Where? I asked him.  At the University of Western Ontario in Canada, was his reply.

It turned out that he was a major figure in Canadian choral music for well over two decades, well-respected and known by the choral community in both Canada and the U.S.  It also turned out that he and his wife lived literally a block from my house in Flagstaff. 

A wonderful friendship grew from our interactions and I viewed him as a mentor.  I made it a point every couple of weeks, to go to his house and we’d sit and talk repertoire, rehearsal technique, his experience, teaching in a college, and many non-choral topics.  When it snowed a bunch, my son and I would shovel his walk, and knock the snow off his satellite dish so they could watch TV.  My son waxed his RV.  That was the human side. 

On the professional side, in a nutshell, I felt like I was at the feet of a master just soaking up everything he could offer.  He ended up writing one of my letters of recommendation for the job I now hold at Central Washington University.

It turned out that the choir in New Orleans that impressed me so much was his choir!  It took us a while to put two and two together – but we did, and I have his program from that performance as a wonderful memento of our time together.  He passed away a couple of years ago, but I will always cherish the time he gave me. 

By the way – his choir sang at two national conferences, the other in Kansas City – which has nothing to do with the story – but does speak to his standing as a choral musician.bell-ad John Bell lecture tickets

Many of you have similar ACDA-related anecdotes.  This organization thrusts people together in planned and unplanned ways.  I, for one, learn daily from colleagues – both peers in the college arena and those teaching in the public/private school arena (where I spent 15 years as well).  And just as importantly, I learn from the young, budding music educators who are my college students and those from sister institutions.

Keep your eyes open, participate, attend – you never know when you might have an opportunity to “gain” a mentor.  ACDA has ways of creating opportunities for that to happen!

I look forward to meeting and serving you in this new role for the next two years.  Whether you are a retired or active member, long time or first year student – please feel free to introduce yourself to me any time we are at an event.  You are the reason there is an ACDA – and we will then both have an opportunity to learn from each other.  Maybe like Dr. Deral Johnson and I did.

Wouldn’t that be serendipitous?!

(Please write me at if you have thoughts, reflections, or suggestions related to this or a future article)