Guest articles
(Reprinted by permission)

What good are websites, anyway?

By David Topping, Webmaster for AzACDA
(used by permission, excerpted)


It’s probably a safe assumption that most of you have some sort of access to the Internet. It’s probably even more certain that most…don’t have a lot of spare time to “surf the Web,” unless perhaps you’re a master at time management.

However, a growing amount of useful resources can be found online, so if you’re not using the Web, you’re probably depriving yourself of a useful tool that has the potential of improving your effectiveness as a conductor, educator, and musician.

The self-proclaimed “Internet Center for Choral Music” is, with which I have been involved since its inception at the 1993 ACDA National Convention in San Antonio.On the ChoralNet website, you’ll find categorized links to choral-related resources that could be useful in planning, recruiting, organizing, rehearsing, performing, management, touring, and just about every other aspect of choral endeavors.

In addition to links to other websites, much of the information on the site is from the archives of Choralist and ChoralTalk, two of the e-mail discussion lists that have been in operation for over 10 years. You can learn more about those lists, subscribe to them, and search or browse archived messages. Some significant changes are being planned to those lists for 2005, including categorizing them in a manner similar to the ACDA Repertoire and Standards system.

One of the largest collections of links on the ChoralNet website is the “Directory of Choirs on the Web,” which presently links to over 4,000 choir websites from 76 different countries. (To submit your choir to this list)…please use the “Submit a choir link” form on the site.

Another international choral music website of great significance is, a “Virtual Choral Library” containing information about composers, publishers, and authors of choral texts, but more importantly, information about over 140,000 publications of choral music. The information on individual pieces of choral music includes such details as the level of difficulty, duration, and publication information, but sometimes also translations and even pronunciation of the text, and links to sound clips or full recordings. Once you have registered with the MUSICA website, you have free (but somewhat limited) access to the vast amount of information found there. If you want unrestricted access to the information, you may purchase a DVD-ROM for use on your personal computer (for $99).

MUSICA is a project of the International Federation for Choral Music, located online at The ICFM was founded in 1982 “for the purpose of facilitating communication and exchange between choral musicians throughout the world.” The organization sponsors many different projects (including ChoralNet) and choral music symposia, with the triennial World Symposium on Choral Music coming up this summer in beautiful Kyoto, Japan. I have attended three of the World Symposia and was each time impressed by the quality and variety of choirs and workshops.

Our national organization is online at, where you’ll find an increasing amount of useful information, including discussion forums, information about conventions, and the Choral Journal Interactive section, which contains additional links and resources related to articles from the Choral Journal. Useful information can be found in many of the R&S committee sites, and you can contact National, Division, and State officers via e-mail links.

This brings me to the local level: your very own websites. Some of you have already taken the plunge and created websites (or delegated that task) for your own choirs and choral programs. Putting information online can be a daunting task, but has a variety of rewards, including: increased public exposure; enhanced communication with your singers and their families; and improved supportive resources for your ensemble members (such as MIDI files for part learning, links to choral recordings, or translations of current repertoire).

Be advised that copyright laws do apply to websites! You can’t legally put recordings of copyrighted works on a website without the express permission of the copyright holder, unless it’s only a brief excerpt (30 seconds or less). This restriction even includes recordings that you intend to use only for educational purposes. Every member of ACDA, upon joining, has agreed to the following clause:

“As an ACDA member, I will comply with the copyright laws of the United States of America as they pertain to printed music or the downloading of music off the Internet.”

As a Web designer and host, I’m involved with multiple musical organizations that use internal e-mail lists to communicate with one another, which is far better than using the “Address Book” of your e-mail software to send to groups of people. The e-mail lists can be managed online…in the case of the middle school music program where my brother teaches, this is done by a volunteer (parent) “Communication Coordinator.” I’ve set them up so that a password is required in order to broadcast a message to any of the e-mail groups, one being created for the students and parents of each of his class periods. The system filters out e-mail viruses and spam, and is much quicker than the traditional “phone tree” they used previously.

Another example of use of the Web as a work saver is in gathering information for concert programs. A growing number of websites contain translations of non-English choral works, and you can usually find those translations by using a good Web search engine, such as If you find a translation that you’d like to use in a concert program, you should follow the contact information found on that website to ask permission to use the translation in your program, unless they’ve obtained it elsewhere. In that case, you should be sure to obtain permission from the source of the translation, or find another one (there are often dozens available of popular works). At that point, copying and pasting the text into your own concert program should be very easy.

In this article, I’ve scratched the surface of some of the Internet-related topics that I think could be of interest to the Arizona choral music community. For example, did you know that there are over 8,000 free downloadable choral scores at the Choral Public Domain Library?

dtopping (at) choralnet (dot) org


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These Things I Believe
by Robert Russell
Eastern Division ACDA Youth & Student R/S


1. Ownership of a program is key to its growth and development. Develop strategies to have the singers involved with and responsible for their own successes and failures. Avoid blaming. Accentuate problem-solving.

2. Blend is not a four-letter word. Blend is not bland. Choirs sing with blended sound when every member of the chorus sings the same pitch at the same time with the same dynamic and the same articulation with the same vowel sound. To ask voices to match each other in vocal color is to remove an important ingredient in vitalized choral singing.

3. The essence of the choral program is music selection. You have the responsibility and the privilege to make the curriculum anew each semester by the literature that you choose. In the process you are shaping not only voices, but lives. Does the choir have the ability to sing well the literature that you have chosen?

4. Be wary of choosing a piece of music because a. the singers, b. the parents, c. the administration, d. the Rotary Club, or e. the local TV affiliate wants you to perform it, unless you also think it is a good piece of music. The above is null and void if the piece is an alumni tradition.

5. The singers will mirror the energy that they perceive coming from the podium. Pace yourself. You have great energy in September; so do your students. How do you keep it through December, through April, through June? Singers will never give you back more than you give to them.

6. Never critique the past. Always critique the future. Yesterday's performance was the best that it could be in the time allowed and under the circumstances provided. And if that's not true, then that's food for future decisions. Enjoy the music that you make today, and be vigilant about how it can be better tomorrow.

7. Of all the factors that you consider in choosing a piece of music, the most important is text. Never sing a piece that has a text that puts you off or that you cannot relish for the 2-3 months required to bring the piece to performance. You may treat the text in a symphonic sense or in a poetic sense. The way that you treat words goes a long way toward the quality of the musical experience.

8. Don't follow me; you will be behind. (R. Shaw) Singers make the rhythm; singers establish the beat. Ensembles who have mastered the concept of corporate rhythm have the opportunity to make distinctive music.

9. During rehearsal, when you stop to critique the music, you can say one of five things: higher/lower, earlier/later, softer/louder, brighter/darker, shorter/longer. When you stop, determine which of those five you want to say and say only that one. Then sing again. If the singers do well, say so or keep going. If they don't do it, stop and repeat yourself, using slightly different wording if necessary. This comment does not apply to brief explanations about the history of the piece, meaning of the poem, or an inspirational message. However, in general if your rehearsal is balanced less than 75-80% singing to 20-25% talking, then you may want to reexamine your rehearsal procedure.

10. Your are what you read; you are what you think. The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; The habit hardens into character; So watch the thought and its ways with care and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings; As the shadow follows the body, as we think so we become. From the sayings of the Buddha.



Robert Russell is Professor of Music in the School of Music at the University of Southern Maine
Robert can be reached at:
rrussell (at) usm (dot) maine (dot) edu


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Ken Berg (reprinted from the Alabama Reprise)


This is an amazing thing, since from the 1st day of class, 'Alex' (not his real name!) has been the weakest singer in the Freshmen Choir. Since our high school has NO feeder program in the elementary schools that send kids here, and NO general music either, for that matter, we get a lot of kids who take Freshman Choir who have NEVER sung an identifiable note in their life. Always a challenge (and a potential thrill/disaster!)

We are not always successful in instilling a 'love of singing', but we do manage to win more than we loose. Alex is a WINNER! Alex, like a lot of 14 boys, has a significantly new and bigger body! Big hands, big feet, big heart. Takes some getting used to, for him as well as us.

Now, in Freshmen Choir, we start singing within 75 seconds of the bell! "Welcome, Freshmen! We're so glad you're here! I'm Mr. Berg. Please sing with me!"...and off we go. Plenty of time to talk later, but we SING from the get go!

Just exercises and explorations at first, announcements later, more singing and the beginnings of 'voice checks'. During voice checks, 'Alex' took his turn; it was loud, courageous and nowhere near the pitches requested.

So, I tried to time it so that he was singing as the bell rang to end class. Then I just asked him to finish as everyone else was leaving and I'd write him a note into his ! next class.

Then we had "the talk!!". "Alex," says I, "can you tell that you're not singing the same note I'm singing?" Deer-in-headlights-stare. Nope, he hasn't a clue what language is coming from my face!

So, we go to the LARGE grand staff on the wall and play a little game. "Let's play a game, Alex. Let's play tag. Here's how it works; you sing your favorite note and I have to find it." Same vacuous stare, with slightly raised eyebrows.

"Just say 'LA' for 10 seconds and I have to find it on the piano" (sometimes, they just can't sing "LA", but they're willing to hum! It's works also). Give and example, he grins and does it! As suspected, his 'note' is somewhere between B-C3. OK.....a place to start! Then I take his chubby index finger and place it on the "C" space on the F clef staff.

"This is your note, Alex! Call it by it's name!" I sing "C", he sings "C" (sometimes, this takes some adjusting!) "Great! Now just for fun, sing "C" and then move your finger up to the line and sing "D". He actually does it!

With a little more exploration and cajoling, (I get all excited while this is going on!) Alex finally realizes that he is singing three identifiable pitches!

Then I say to him, "OK, Alex. These are your notes. You have two jobs. Watch your music carefully; whenever these three notes appear, sing out! When the bass part uses any other notes, sing softly. We'll keep working every day to add more notes to your arsenal! All this took about 4 minutes! Sent him to class with note and a little encouragement. He's thinking "my teacher just took extra time with!"

Also, and this is important, I arranged to meet him for 5 minutes every day before he goes to lunch. (Sometimes, we have to do it before school, or after school, or on a study hall.....whenever! It just has to be a regular schedule for about 3-4 weeks!)

Over the next couple of days, Alex discovers that he has a very lovely low "E2". Seizing the opportunity, I say to him, "Alex! What a GREAT NOTE! I need boys who can sing that note! Desperately!! But, a low "E" is pretty useless without a high "E4" to match it! That's your job, by the end of this quarter, you need to be able to sing two octaves, "E-E-E". Let's keep working"

Alex doesn't quite have all of both octaves yet, but he has a goal and HE can tell that he's making progress...and so can the other kids in the class!

In fact, he LOVES it so much that he keeps singing all the way down the hall after choir class....every day!

The teachers have asked him not to do this; just too much youthful enthusiasm, I guess. But I LOVE it, 'cause he loves it and it transcends the walls of any classroom! THIS boy will sing the REST of his life!!

Amen, and Amen......Golly! I love this job!

  Ken Berg is R&S Chair for Senior High Choirs for Alabama's ACDA. He is director of the Birmingham Boys Choir.
Ken can be reached at:
ken (at) birminghamboyschoir (dot) com

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Our Inch of Space in our Moment of Time
UAB Department of Music Orientation
August 17, 2004
by Jeff Reynolds
reprinted from the Alabama Reprise - Spring 2005


For as long as I can remember, my New Year has never begun on January 1. The New Year for me begins with the start of the school. As a student each new school year brought new hopes, anticipations, resolutions, dreams, and goals. The beginning of a school year was a time for rededication and recommitment to my music, my studies, and myself. It was a time that challenged me to once again fill to overflowing my “inch of space in my moment of time.”

As we gather here this morning on the verge of this new school year, half a world away over 10,000 athletes, coaches, and trainers from 203 countries, and some 150,000 spectators from around the world are gathered for the Olympic games in Athens, Greece. For many of us Athens is city of which legends, albeit seemingly mythical, were made – Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates in Philosophy, Aeschulus, Sophocles, Euripedes, and Homer in Literature, Pythagorus in Mathematics, Herodutus in the writing of ancient history, Alexander the Great in military strategy. Athens is home to such ancient architectural structures as the Acroplylus, the Pantheon, and the Parthenon – the mere images of which evoke both an immediate recognition of and unmistakable relation to the ancient Greek capital and an equally visceral, fearful reminder of a 9 th grade social studies test that required us to differentiate between Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns while only viewing the swigglies at the top of some marble slab, or trying desperately to recall the difference between Zeus and Apollo.

In a world where we can find countless reasons and lines of demarcation that cause us to include those like us and exclude those who are different – color, race, language, nationality, political or religious beliefs, income, education – the history of our own city, Birmingham, has taught us that such prejudices lead only to hatred, bigotry, and, when taken to the worst of extremes, violence. Music, like sports, has always been an art that transcends and nullifies such classifications and prejudices. When we create music we dare to expose a depth of ourselves that others are often uncomfortable exposing. And, as musicians we understand the value of each voice no matter how different or unlike our own.

We live in a society of “I want it now”! Drive throughs, drive ups, all you can eat, microwavable waffles, jiffy pop popcorn, infomercials at all hours promising you that you can lose 50 pounds in 3 days, buy a house with no money down, send a check and receive a mail-order college degree and learn the play the piano in three easy lessons. Our society wants it all and wants it now. The problem is . . . that is not how it works. You can’t lose 50 pounds in 3 days and you can’t learn to play the piano in an hour and half. The very best things in life are hard. They require work, time, patience, practice, and persistence. People who fail don’t do so because they decide to fail. They fail because they decide not to do whatever it takes to succeed. Often the difference between success and failure is not that much. To a swimmer, a tenth of a second may be all that it takes to set a new world record. In the long jump, an inch can make a difference winning gold or silver or no medal at all.

In my years in the classroom, I have found that those who fail often put forth 90% of the effort needed to truly succeed. For whatever reason, they are not willing to do what it takes, to make the sacrifice to go the remaining 10%. The battle is won and dreams achieved in the final inches of the race. It is the hardest part and requires more work than all the other combined. Those who are truly successful in our chosen field are those who are willing to commit that extra two hours of practice each day, one more lap in the pool, or one more time around the track. What we do is hard and it is hard for a reason – if it weren’t everyone would do it. I’ll tell you a secret - to be truly successful in this business of music you need two things – talent and an indefatigable, burning desire to work hard. One without the other is sure failure, but given both in good measure is an equally sure recipe for success.

Frequently a student will visit with me and say, “I think I’d like to be a music major – do you think I should?” I answer, “Is there anything else you can do that will bring you lifelong happiness?” If their answer is “yes”, I strongly encourage them to go do it. If their answer is “no” then music is right where they belong. Music is fun. Music is beautiful, inspiring, motivating, uplifting, and challenging. Music is also a lot of work but the rewards that come from music, beautifully made, are like no other in the world.

When we are brought to think about history – the thousands of years since the first Olympic games - we are reminded that our time here is short. In the almost inconceivable time that has passed since the beginning of humans on this earth to the infinite time that will come after we are gone, our moments here are but an inch. What we do in our inch is what is really of value. The mark we make on our world, not how quickly we achieve it, is what those who come after us will measure and remember. Great men and women of history were often great not because they were the smartest or the richest of even the most talented. They were great because they dared to dream dreams that others thought silly, set seemingly unachievable goals that others thought unattainable, and committed themselves to work harder than most others were willing.

As we find ourselves at another new year’s eve, I challenge you several things: resolve to take all you can from a vast storehouse of knowledge and talent that our faculty possess and are willing to share with you for the asking; resolve to set your own goals, establish your own strong work and practice habits, not based on what those around you are doing or not doing, but on what you know you need in order to truly succeed; resolve and dare to expose yourself and your passions through your music; resolve to say “Thank you” more and offer excuses less; resolve to break out of your comfort zone by doing something everyday that scares you; resolve to take the time to make and nurture true friendships; resolve to do something that helps someone else but benefits you in no way; resolve to venture into the last 10% that leads to true success and greatness. In doing so, you will have filled your inch of space in this moment of time.

I wish each of you the very, very best in this New Year.


Jeff Reynolds is Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He gave this talk at a music orientation session for music majors in August of 2004.

Jeff Reynolds may be reached at: jwr(at)uab (dot) edu


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