Interest sessions - Conference 2016, Seattle

The Grading Conundrum
Linda Moore

Grades. What do they mean? How do we arrive at a grade for students? What is the difference between assessment and grading? What is fair grading practice? What about standards based grading? Grading and assessment are not always addressed in pre-service music education, but are part of the job of every music educator. This session is participatory with attendees encouraged to share for the benefit of all. Time will be spent clarifying definitions, looking at examples of rubrics and assessment tools, and discussing how to determine fair grading practices for the choral classroom.

Linda Moore has been teaching music for over 20 years, working in both a large urban and small rural school districts. Linda currently serves as Membership Chair/Secretary on the Board of the Washington Chapter of ACDA. A National Board Certified Teacher, Linda has provided instructional leadership through participation in district curriculum design and as a contributor to a district generated textbook in humanities. Additionally she served on a University of Louisville School of Education round table panel for improving teacher preparation. Linda has earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, and Master of Music Education from the University of Louisville in Kentucky

Repertoire for Advanced Women’s Choirs
Karen Thomas

This session explores the wealth of available music for advanced women's choirs - ranging from excellent high school groups to university and community or professional groups. The session will include repertoire lists of new and recent works, as well as significant historical works for women’s choirs, with an emphasis on lesser known works. A sampling of scores of newer works by US and international composers, as well as audio excerpts, will be available. The session will also look at commissioning consortia for advanced women's choir music – how to find and join an existing consortium or to create your own.

Karen P. Thomas is the Artistic Director of Seattle Pro Musica, with whom she has recorded ten critically-acclaimed CDs, and received the Margaret Hillis Choral Excellence Award. Winner of the 2015 Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America and the American Composers Forum, she has received awards from the NEA, ASCAP, and others. Named the 2012 Washington “Outstanding Choral Director of the Year,” she guest conducts in North America and Europe, and serves on the boards of ACDA NW Division, Chorus America, and Seattle Music Commission. Her choirs have performed at ACDA National and Division Conferences, and international festivals.


Why Men Sing 
Dr. Ethan Sperry

This session discusses how to involve more male singers in your choral program. The session is based on the clinician's successful recruiting experiences at the Middle School, High School, and Collegiate Level. The clinician believes that when we truly understand why men choose to sing is crucial to this process.

Ethan Sperry is Director of Choral Activities at Portland State University, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Oregon Repertory Singers, and editor of the Global Rhythms series for earthsongs music, one of the best-selling choral series in the country. Choirs under his direction have performed at over a dozen ACDA and NAfME Conferences, toured almost twenty foreign countries and sung at The Hollywood Bowl, The Kennedy Center, and the United Nations. Sperry served two terms as the National R&S Chair for Men's Choruses for ACDA.


Musicality Is In Their Hands
Julie Parsons

The role of a choral conductor is, at its basest level, to show singers when and how to breathe, release sound, and breathe again. One might consider us Air Port Controllers. There is, however, an oft-overlooked resource with great and immediate musical results: the singers’ own hands. This session will explore a series of exercises designed to aid singers’ discovery of their own body’s use of air and release of sound, discuss methods for singers to remember their gestures and conductors to represent their singers’ needs more accurately, and create a pedagogy effective from Day One to final performance.

Julie Parsons (WA-ACDA President-Elect) is the conductor of the Snoqualmie Valley Girls' Choir, the musical director and worship coordinator for Maplewood Presbyterian Church, and the organizer of the Rain City (Seattle) chapter of Beer Choir. She is a founding member of the Mägi Ensemble (a professional choir specializing in music from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). She also works with the ACDA Educational Technology Committee and is an active musical director at local community theaters. Her degrees (BA, MM, DMA (ABD)) are in Vocal Performance and Choral Conducting.

Percussion Techniques For The Choral Classroom
Troy Bashor

It’s probably been a while since you took a percussion methods course. Many choral composers have written music with percussion accompaniment; some simply list the instruction, “ad lib." Whether you’re playing the part yourself or helping a student, you will need to know the correct playing techniques. Let me help you gain confidence and success when adding percussion to your ensembles. Please join me for a hands-on session exploring many different percussion instruments and playing techniques. From the basics of hand drumming to the advanced drum set grooves, you’ll feel more comfortable using percussion instruments in your rehearsals and performances.

Troy is a graduate of the University of Montana where he earned his degrees: Bachelor of Music Education Degree and Master of Music Education. He is currently the Montana R&S Chair for Multicultural Music. Troy has been teaching in Frenchtown, MT, since 2002. His course load includes two high school choirs, AP music theory, two percussion ensembles, theater/stage crafting, and 7th and 8th grade choir. In addition directing a school musical every year, he has three extra-curricular choirs and a private percussion studio. Troy regularly works with the Missoula Children’s Theatre and Community Theater as a music director and percussionist.

Variations on a Tech Theme: Tune it Up With Tech!
Erin Small

This interactive session is designed to transform the musically mundane to the musically miraculous through the use of technology integration! It will demonstrate the use of FREE online resources designed to captivate students’ attention, and rejuvenate the educational aspect of rehearsal. Discover how to use technology to your advantage and to cultivate student engagement/autonomy. Students will learn at an increased pace, will be inspired to practice at home, and will be begging for more! You will save time and energy, and will be inspired by the endless possibilities. Participants are encouraged to bring smartphones/devices. This session is applicable to all levels of “tech-experience” and can be adapted for any grade or ensemble level.

Erin Small is the director of choirs at Riverside Middle School in Billings, MT. She earned both her master’s and bachelor degrees from Montana State University in Bozeman, MT, and is a member of the VoiceCare Network. She has enjoyed being a guest conductor, clinician, presenter and adjudicator for festivals and conferences across the state of MT. In 2014, Mrs. Small was accepted into the TILT (Teachers Integrating and Learning Technology) program within her district, and she has taken advantage of various Tech Summits and Google trainings across the Northwest, and continues to facilitate technology integration trainings for music educators. She is passionate about technology integration in music education and believes that it is the key to making music education even more applicable to the 21st century.

Creating the Conditions for Inspired Performance
Dr. Steven Hart

Inspiring people through the power of music and words is the heart of the choral art. Yet inspired performance is often seen as the by–product of technical achievement, rather than as the primary goal. This session offers an approach that puts artistic intent at the center of the rehearsal. Individual singers are encouraged to develop and express their personal understanding of the emotion of the text and how it is enhanced through the music. The conductor weaves their ideas into a cohesive whole. Crowd-sourcing the artistic interpretation generates emotional buy-in and creates the conditions for inspired performance.

Dr. Steven Hart, Professor of Music, teaches conducting, secondary methods, vocal pedagogy, and choral ensembles at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. He is the founder and conductor of the High Plains Chamber Singers, a 24-member ensemble comprised of music educators, voice teachers, and community professionals dedicated to the highest standards of choral singing. He also conducts the Billings Symphony Chorale, a 70-voice ensemble that performs major choral-orchestral works with the Billings Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Hart has appeared nationally and internationally as a guest conductor and clinician. He has worked with groups of all ages and ability levels.

Conduct with Me, Breathe with Me: Effective Pedagogy through Empathy and Mirroring
Dr. Brad Pierson and Dr. Geoffrey Boers

Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been linked to everything from contagious yawning to emotional empathy. More recently their role in conducting and the choral rehearsal has been featured as a part of various conferences and publications. This session will address current research in the areas of mirroring and empathy, while attempting to clarify the types of conclusions we may or may not be able to draw from current research. Links will be made directly to conducting gesture, and rehearsal technique which will be presented in the partner session by Dr. Geoffrey Boers.

Brad Pierson is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Toledo. Brad earned his B.M. from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, M.M from California State University-Los Angeles, and D.M.A. from the University of Washington. Prior to his appointment at Toledo, he was an Assistant Professor of Music Education at Western Illinois University. Previously, Pierson taught at Cheyenne HS and Desert Oasis HS in Las Vegas. Brad has presented at Nevada and Illinois music education conferences, and Western and Southwestern ACDA regional conferences. In 2012, Brad founded whateverandeveramen., a choral ensemble focused on breaking down the traditional audience/performer paradigm.

Mirroring techniques and the resulting empathy that is created between teacher and learner is a powerful and repeatable tool. First, this session will explore gestures that help singers connect gesture, sound, and sensation, and specific gestures that develop strong vocal technique and musical understanding. Second, we will explore teaching pedagogy that develops empathy through engaging the motor neuron system. This process of "Do, then know" helps musicians of all ages and abilities engage in lasting and transformative learning and will build upon the research presented by Dr. Brad Pierson.

Geoffrey Boers is recognized as one of the Unites States’ foremost choral conductors and pedagogues. He is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Washington in Seattle, a program widely recognized as forward thinking, unique, and of distinction. Under his direction, the graduate choral program has developed a singular mission: to nurture the whole student as conductor-teacher-servant-leader-scholar. Recently, his work has led to the creation and mentoring of local choral cohorts of teachers and conductors interested in building professional communities of ongoing mentorship and musical development. His new thinking regarding gesture, vocal pedagogy and teaching practice is providing teachers with tools to be successful with today’s singers and learners.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Performance Practice: Breathing Life and Style into Choral Music
Dr. Sharon Paul

Does your Byrd sound like Brahms? Does your Mozart feel like Mahler? The term “performance practice” strikes fear into the hearts of many conductors whose training did not include much information about this topic. This session is designed to help relieve this fear and provide strategies for feeling comfortable with music from all eras. Using music spanning five centuries, the award-winning University of Oregon Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Sharon J. Paul, will demonstrate easily applicable techniques to bring integrity of style to a wide variety of repertoire.

Sharon J. Paul is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Oregon, where she teaches graduate courses in choral conducting, repertoire, and pedagogy, and conducts the University Singers and the internationally award-winning Chamber Choir. Dr. Paul has presented interest sessions at regional, state, division, national, and international music conferences. She appears frequently as adjudicator, clinician, and honor choir director throughout the United States. She is the recipient of a 2014-15 UO Faculty Excellence Award and was recently named the Robert M. Trotter Chair of Music, one of three endowed chairs awarded at the UO School of Music and Dance.

Versatility of the Voice: performing non-Western music with your bel canto choir
Dr. Ethan Sperry

When exploring music of cultures beyond western art music, we now know that these songs are sung in their cultural context—the style and the vocal timbre are different from bel canto, but should we ask bel canto trained singers to approximate the timbre of other styles of singing? How do other vocal styles differ from bel canto? How could I teach an unfamiliar vocal technique? Will approximation adversely affect their hard-won vocal technique and our choir’s sound? In this session, I answer these questions based on my exploration of repertory from around the globe. Many of my students, especially those majoring in voice performance, attest that this vocal exploration has enhanced their bel canto singing.

Dr. Ethan Sperry is Director of Choral Activities at Portland State University, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Oregon Repertory Singers, and editor of the Global Rhythms series for earthsongs music, one of the best-selling choral series in the country. Choirs under his direction have performed at over a dozen ACDA and NAfME Conferences, toured almost twenty foreign countries and sung at The Hollywood Bowl, The Kennedy Center, and the United Nations. Sperry is the Multicultural R&S Chair for the NW Division of ACDA.

"Scatting with Soundsation"--Vocal Jazz Improvisation
Kirk Marcy

Improvisation is THE foundation of jazz! Many educators have come up through the educational system having NEVER experienced firsthand, improvising in a jazz setting. Thus, many jazz choir directors AVOID including any kind of improvisation with their own groups. This session will explore strategies and techniques to successfully integrate vocal improvisation into your rehearsals/performances.

Kirk Marcy is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. From 1987 to 1988, he performed with the The Four Freshmen. Kirk is in his 28th year as Director of Choral Activities at Edmonds Community College. Soundsation, the college’s vocal jazz ensemble, and the EdCC Symphonic Choir have received acclaim for exemplary performances and high standards of excellence. Kirk received the 2013 EdCC “Excellence in Education Award” for outstanding teaching. He is a published composer/arranger. Kirk is past ACDA National R&S Chair for Vocal Jazz. Additionally, he sings with Just 4 Kicks, and Male Ensemble Northwest.

Finding the Passion, Breaking the Rules: Music of Claudio Monteverdi
Joan Catoni Conlon

This session will consist of a lecture demonstration that will focus on Claudio Monteverdi’s revolutionary changes in vocal music. A guest choir will perform Monteverdi selections and Joan Catoni Conlon will make brief interpretive comments on the music.

Joan Catoni Conlon retired from the University of Colorado College of Music, Boulder, Colorado, as Director of Graduate Choral Research and Professor of Music. At Colorado, she taught conducting and directed the graduate student choral ensemble University Singers. Before moving to Colorado, Dr. Conlon was Professor of Music at the University of Washington. She was conductor for 25 years of the Northwest Chamber Chorus.

She is author of "Performing Monteverdi: A Conductor's Guide.” (Hinshaw, 2001) and edited and contributed to "Wisdom, Wit and Will: Women Choral Conductors On Their Art," (GIA,, 2009)
Her editions and arrangements are published by Augsburg and Alliance. 

Jazz Choirs at the Middle School Level
Dan Davison

Dan Davison will show how to start a jazz choir at the middle school level. Topics include voicings, amplification, literature, rehearsal techniques, and working with rhythm sections.

Dan Davison has taught at Ballou Junor High School since 1979, and has taught an after-school jazz program for the last 15 years. His jazz students regularly attend regional jazz festivals, and in 2010 performed in Seattle for the Northwest ACDA convention. Although most of his choral works are published by Walton Music, his works for jazz choir can be found at Sound Music Publications.


When 12 or 15 are gathered together: Practical repertoire for the smaller church choir
Vicky Thomas

This session provides repertoire and survival techniques for directors of church choirs with 20 or fewer members. Your two tenors have gone south for the winter? No basses at all? Even when you have all 4 parts “on the books”, directors of smaller choirs have to be prepared for last minute changes in repertoire due to singer absences. Techniques discussed include: bait and switch, the snow piece, “So Now I’m A Tenor?” saved by the bell, retexting with impunity, the world (music) is my oyster, and bicinium are our friends.

Director of Choral Music at Seattle First Baptist since 2006, Vicky Thomas has enjoyed over twenty-five years working as a church musician for various sized choirs. At First Baptist she has produced a series of concerts called SINGING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, which combine music and outreach ministries to raise both funds and awareness about issues including homelessness, peace, marriage equality, earth stewardship and refugee settlement. She serves as the NW Chair of Music in Worship for ACDA, teaches world music in worship at Trinity Lutheran College, and has presented worship events and seminars for the AGO, University of Washington, the NW-WA ELCA Synod, and the UCC Musicians Association National Conference. She earned her BA from Yale University and her MA from the University of Washington.

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