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Interest Sessions

We are delighted to announce the following selected interest sessions for NCCO9:

Befana: A Christmas Fable

Throughout his life, Kirke Mechem has been deeply affected by the ancient legend of Befana, celebrated each year at Epiphany by Italian children and their families. Searching for the legend’s origin, Kirke discovered many variations of the same story: a old woman named Befana, who is ridiculed by the village children for compulsively sweeping her house. One day she is visited by the Magi on their way to Bethlehem to deliver gifts to the new-born Baby King. They invite her to join them, but she declines, saying she is too busy with her housework, and promises to join them later. The next day she realizes, too late, her mistake. Her regret is so great that every year on Epiphany, Befana flies on her broom, searching for the baby. Not finding him, she leaves candy and gifts at every house where there are children, and, in so doing, finds the love of Jesus in every child’s face.

Kirke Mechem has compiled the aspects of this story into a 40-minute opera for use by community, academic, and opera organizations, utilizing Children’s Choir, SATB Choir, soloists, and orchestra. This work can be done by colleges and universities, community groups, bringing together all walks of life to recreate through music and iconic folktales.

In our presentation Kirke and Cheryl will play a couple of examples from the opera, Kirke will discuss his reinvention of the 16th C. Italian “madrigal comedies” by Vecchi, Banchieri, and others, to utilize local musical and dramatic forces. Academically we will engage other disciplines to use Befana as part of the greater curriculum in all areas: history, literature, sociology, music history and theory, and performance choices. Through the telling of this legend, we are invited into a different time, a glimpse of a new culture, reminded to embrace a life which exists outside of our work, and to cherish the important things.

SPEAKER: Cheryl Anderson

Cheryl Anderson

Cheryl Anderson’s rich career spans world tours in concert halls and cathedrals, leadership in ACDA, MENC, IFCM, NATS, commissioned works, guest conducting, workshops and clinics, solo work, and teaching from K through Graduate programs. She has been named Artist of the Year 5 times, Teacher of the Year 3 times, received Meritorious Teaching awards, and Honored Graduate. Her conducting spans choral, orchestral, opera. While at Cabrillo College she founded Opera and Youth Choir Programs.

SPEAKER: Kirke Mechem

Kirke Mechem

Kirke Mechem is named Dean of Choral Music. His compositions span all genera. He is an ASCAP recipient, works performed in 42 countries, honored for his contributions by the UN, National Endowment for the Arts, the National Gallery, ACDA, MENC, lifetime achievement award from National Opera Association, and honorary Doctor of Arts degree from University of Kansas. His memoir, Believe Your Ears: Life of a Lyric Composer, won 2016 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for “outstanding musical biography.”

Making Choral Music in a Rural Community

Building a respected choral program in a small, rural community can be
challenging. How does one form viable choirs when the number of singers and resources are limited? For some time, demographics have indicated that the number of students graduating from high school has been declining, making recruiting for university choirs even more difficult. Directors of elementary through community choirs face similar challenges to attract singers when working in small rural communities. Yet, opportunities abound to create choirs filled with
dedicated choristers who are proud to be members and committed to creating beauty and meaning in their rehearsals and performances.

Peggy Dettwiler has been Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University, a small state university in north central Pennsylvania, for thirty-one years. Mansfield University enrolls about 1700 students annually and is located in the small town of Mansfield, Pennsylvania, with a 2019 population of 3031. Yet, her choirs have performed many of the major works from the choral canon and appeared on national and international stages, winning top prizes in European competitions. She, and several of her students, who are members of the Mansfield
ACDA Student Chapter, can offer advice about how to build and maintain a vital choral program in a rural community.

  1. Offer a curriculum with a variety of choral ensembles performing major works down through the ages and up through vocal jazz into the 21st -century.
  2. Build a sense of pride in performance through careful repertoire selection and voice teaching in the choral rehearsal.
  3. Set high standards for participation in every ensemble. Produce recordings.
  4. Recruit not only the brightest and the best, but also the “diamonds in the rough!” Create a welcoming environment.
  5. Work collaboratively with the voice faculty for the vocal development and the personal happiness of each student. Be flexible in voicing ensembles.
  6. Work for an understanding of cultural history and social justice issues through the selection of repertoire that speaks to issues the students face and care about.
  7. Organize a student chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.
  8. Nurture alumni for continued support of the choral program and bring them back to campus
  9. Develop community relations through area performances, dinner concerts, and a college-
    community choir.

SPEAKER: Peggy Dettwiler

Peggy Dettwiler

Peggy Dettwiler has been Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania since 1990. She holds the DMA Degree in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music. Dettwiler has conducted in Carnegie Hall and presented at the World Choral Symposium in Seoul, Korea. She received the Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence from the ACDA Pennsylvania Chapter, was designated an Honored Artist of the American Prize, and served on the jury for the World Choir Games in Sochi, Russia.

Detokenizing Jewish Music: Replacing Caricature with Ruach

Music of Jewish origin reflects the ruach (spirit) of the people who have harnessed it to their identities and carried it across generations despite stacked odds. People with Jewish heritage
have been subjected to inquisitions, pogroms, genocide and innumerable physical and psychological attacks. Nonetheless, the music has persisted across boundaries, often retaining original languages, as well as nusach (prayer modes), and, of course, ruach. Jewish choral music, both sacred and secular, has been excluded from the choral canon, possibly due to lack of awareness of its existence as well as anti-Semitism. In recent years, secular choral conductors who sought to include Jewish music often turned to a very few well-worn arrangements, some of which serve as unfortunate—or even offensive—representatives of Jewish culture, and others of which reduce the picture of Jewish music to a narrow caricature.

Collegiate choral conductors are now in the driver’s seat: we have an opportunity to change the tide of tokenism in Jewish music by programming repertoire that reflects the breadth of the holistic Jewish choral tradition, both historic and contemporary. This session will explore practices for expanding understanding of repertoire of Jewish origin and for programming singular octavos that resist tokenism. Modest programming changes can create a positive ripple
effect in our choral communities. Directors of secondary and general-music choirs look to collegiate counterparts to model choral programming that is quality and that honors originating cultures. We can build this community of musicians who recognize the breadth and diversity within Jewish music. No single genre of Jewish song represents the whole, but rather contributes to a rich and resilient tradition of singing in the diverse circumstances of Jewish lives, past and present. In this session, we will address how to find and program music that educates our communities while singing to the ruach of Jewish repertoire.

SPEAKER: Coreen Duffy

Coreen Duffy

Coreen Duffy is director of choral activities at University of Montana School of Music. Duffy's compositions are published by Walton Music, ECS, and Pavane Publishing. A Jewish music scholar, Duffy has presented at national ACDA conferences and at the international European Jewish Music Conference in Germany. Duffy serves as Co-Chair for World Musics and Cultures for Northwest ACDA, Northwest Division Representative for NAfME Council for Choral Education, and on the Editorial Board of NCCO’s The Choral Scholar.

The Choir with Two Names: A Non-Genre Biased, Vocal Science-Based Pedagogical Path

At the August 2020 California Choral Association Choral Summit, Dr. Rollo Dilworth argued that American music education “continues to be problematic and in some ways antithetical to the principals of inclusion, equity, and access.” He called upon the profession to “chart a new vision of choral music education” that is “a truly inclusive, equitable, and accessible art form.” He challenged educators to develop a broader, inclusive approach to voice training to replace the historically Eurocentric pedagogical lens through which students are assessed and taught.

This presentation outlines the “non-genre biased” approach we’ve developed at Saint Mary’s College of California using vocal science-based pedagogy to teach a broad spectrum of choral-vocal timbres and genres while still achieving a homogenous choral blend and addressing learning outcomes. We find this approach to be a productive alternative to the bel-canto centered methods that Dr. Dilworth cautions as having negative consequences, and resonating with national efforts to address diversity, inclusion, and access. Content will include answers to

these questions: What does a non-genre biased program look like, what is the singer-experience, and what are the benefits?

Reconsidering Choral Ensembles Based Upon Genre

At Saint Mary’s College of California, a choir with two names (Chamber Singers and Glee) was established in 2013 to (1) facilitate cross-genre integration, (2) allow for diversity in content and composer representation, (3) promote resource equity, (4) broaden student and audience access, and (3) better engage the nearly 70% of our choir students who are not music majors or minors. Our two-name identity helps us to fit nicely into multiple settings and contexts, and our additional advanced small ensemble, “Jazz Singers,” must enroll concurrently in the choir-with-two-names. Chamber Singers participates in Classical festivals, competitions, and concerts. The same group—simply by name and uniform change—becomes Glee, the go-to ensemble for gigs, and participation in pop festivals. In addition to access to a variety of performance venues, the two names approach helps us promote our all-free concerts with stylistically accessible content that appeals to a broad audience. Freed from constraints usually attached to genre-specific ensembles, this approach allows rehearsal planning around comparable vocal-physiological timbres. For example, a typical rehearsal might include Palestrina paired with Earth, Wind, and
Fire, or an Opera chorus paired with a Gospel piece. This path also reinforces our non-genre bias ethos: with each style-period and corresponding vocal recipe, there is cultural context provided and close attention and respect to every performance detail. Our vocal majors and minors follow a non-genre biased degree path that emphasizes learning six physiological-anatomical “recipes” that produce different stylistic timbres. For senior recitals, students choose one genre in which to specialize, and two other contrasting genres in which they must demonstrate competency. Auditions do not favor those who have an affinity for bel-canto sound, or can necessarily sight-read. We place emphasis on a “quick and discerning ear,” musical-rhythmical embodiment of inner pulse and groove, and communicative expression of the text. In addition to break out sectional work during rehearsal, we also have topic specific breakout sessions. Following assessment, students are directed to work on building skills in (1) music reading, (2) vocal physiology/science-based pedagogy, and (3) improvisation and harmonic-aural skills. Once students have tested out of certain competencies, they are redirected to hone a different skill (or to serve as a teaching assistant in these areas).

This interactive and engaging interest session describes our non-genre biased, science-based pedagogy, the experience of singers with varied skill levels, and the empowering benefits. Demonstrations of anatomical-physiological pedagogy application (and examples of non-genre biased learning outcomes) will be provided, as well as recorded excerpts of the choir-with-two-names in action.

SPEAKER: Julie Ford

Julie Ford

Dr. Julie Ford, Dir. of Choral Activities (Saint Mary’s College of CA), specializes in performance practices across genres and vocal-science pedagogy. Directorial highlights: Silver & Gold Medals (World Choir Games, '14 & '18), CMEA Conference ('16), Carnegie Hall ('15), ACDA Natl Convention (Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church Chamber Singers, '09), Yoshi’s ('99, Oakland Jazz Choir). BA (Voice-SJSU; Charlene Archibeque), MM (Conducting-Eastman; Don Neuen), DMA (Choral Conducting-OU, Shrock).

Advancing Contemporary Music Education Pedagogy for All Learners

An interest session proposal for the 2021 NCCO National Conference
Despite the advent of the Individuals with Disability Education Act (1990), which provides free and appropriate education to students with disabilities, there are still gaps in music education pedagogy in terms of accommodating, including, and educating learners with disabilities. This presentation addresses this issue by exploring three resources that will help prepare current and future educators to work with specialized learners. Firstly, there are many specialized learners who have become educators. These cultural experts can provide insight into their learning process, which can then be applied to current students with disabilities. Secondly, assistive technologies can be employed to make the music learning process easier and more
efficient for specialized learners. Finally, choral educators can program repertoire written by composers with disabilities in order to offer greater insight into the experience of musicians with disabilities and increase student exposure to a diversity of voices. Drawing upon ethnographic interviews conducted with composers and educators with disabilities, this presentation will examine these resources, offering a critical assessment of their benefits and limitations. Ultimately, this session will highlight the ways contemporary music education pedagogy can better prepare educators to create an accessible learning environment for specialized learners.

SPEAKER: Peter Allen Haley

Peter Allen Haley

Peter Allen Haley (he/him) is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at The University of South Carolina. He spent seven years as Choir Director at East Gaston High School in Mt. Holly, North Carolina and has served Baptist, Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Reform Jewish congregations. Peter holds degrees from Wingate University and Samford University, is the second-best teacher in his house after his wife Ashley, and is a proud parent of Patrick.

Trans)itioning Voices: Inclusivity through Line Recombination

In the choral community, the inclusion of transgender and gender expansive individuals has become a more visible and increasingly discussed topic in recent years. Many regional and national conferences of the various professional choral organizations have featured interest sessions on terminology, potential vocal changes, and some physical accommodations that choral directors can employ such as inclusive choral attire and identity-affirming choral placement. While those are worthy topics of discussion, there is a lack of actionable, pedagogically-based tools that directors can use in their choral performances. So to supplement these efforts, I am presenting a new methodology called line recombination that can further the goal of a truly inclusive choral environment. Through the recombination of vocal lines in their repertoire, choral directors can help to combat the potential bias and uncertainty surrounding the inclusion of
transgender and gender-expansive (trans) singers in choral ensembles by providing an alternative that can meet the vocal needs of those individuals without compromising musical integrity. First,
an understanding of trans-related terminology and potential vocal issues that trans singers may face lays the foundation for developing the methodology behind line recombination. Then, through the examination of five contrasting “classics” from standard choral repertoire, a set of parameters emerges to assist directors in creating their own accommodating, recombined lines that can be utilized to help singers who may be transitioning between voice parts in order to align better with their gender identity feel supported and understood in choral ensembles.

SPEAKER: Stevie J. Hirner

Stevie J. Hirner

Stevie J. Hirner (she/her) is a conductor, singer, composer, and arranger. As a transgender musician, she is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California where her research focuses on transgender inclusivity, and she is the lead conductor for the USC Thornton University Chorus in addition to directing the Long Beach Youth Chorus. Hirner has a Bachelor of Music Ed. from Auburn University (2012) and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri (2014).

Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Singers

Trans and gender-expansive (TGE) singers deserve safe and empowering spaces to engage in high-quality choral music experiences. Statistically, TGE students are present in all schools—yet they are often marginalized in learning environments. Teachers and teacher educators may not have considered complex gender diversity issues, creating the potential for misunderstanding or miscommunication. Supportive choral conductor-educators ensure that all singers’ gender identities are honored through caring and pedagogically sound vocal music rehearsals and performances.

Drawing from their new Oxford University Press book, Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Students in Music Education, the presenters will provide context and practical suggestions for working with students who inhabit a variety of spaces among gender-identity and gender expression continuums. Stories and lived experiences of TGE collaborators and their school music teachers will tune your hearts to inclusive ideas for honoring students in choral classrooms. This interactive session will explore research-based strategies to navigate the increasingly complex gender landscape from sociological and musical contexts. Choral conductor-educators will have opportunities to reflect on their own choral settings, engage in discussion of policies (e.g., uniform and travel), consider instructional strategies (e.g. presenting and discussing gendered musical texts), and practice healthy group vocal techniques (e.g. semi-occluded vocal tract exercises) that will honor all singers.

SPEAKER: Joshua Palkki

Joshua Palkki

Joshua Palkki, Ph.D. (he/him) is Assistant Professor of Music Education at California State University, Long Beach and co-author of Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Youth in Music Education (OUP, 2021). Palkki holds degrees from Michigan State University (Ph.D.), Northern Arizona University (M.M.), and Ball State University (B.S.). A sought after presenter and author, he serves as artist-in-residence with South Bay Children’s Choir in Torrance, CA.

SPEAKER: Matthew Garrett

Matthew Garrett

Matthew L. Garrett (he/him) is Associate Professor of Music Education and Director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University. He is co-author of Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Students in Music Education (OUP, 2021). He has received a CWRU Prism award for outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community. Garrett holds degrees from Florida State University (BME and PhD), and an MM in Conducting from Boston University.

Using the Science of Learning to Create Engaging Rehearsals

The fields of cognitive neuroscience and social psychology provide surprisingly valuable insights for collegiate conductors as we strive to create engaged and inclusive musical communities in our choral ensembles. In this highly interactive session we will explore evidence-based strategies gleaned from the sciences which are designed to enhance our teaching. Topics covered will include the importance of embedding problem solving into rehearsals, techniques to encourage singer agency, effective ways to incorporate writing into rehearsal, and the science behind motivation and belonging.

SPEAKER: Sharon J. Paul

Sharon J. Paul

Sharon J. Paul holds the Robert M. Trotter Chair of Music at the University of Oregon, where she serves as Department Head of Music Performance and Director of Choral Activities. Under her direction the UO Chamber Choir has placed 1st or 2nd in four international competitions in recent years. Her book, ""Art & Science in the Choral Rehearsal"" (Oxford University Press 2020), features many of the creative and evidence-based teaching strategies she has cultivated over her career.

Ethical Cross-Cultural Engagement in the wake of COVID and The Black Lives Matter Movement

When COVID-19 shut down international travel, Village Harmony (a non-profit organization that runs music study programs abroad) created an online platform that enabled singers to come together to learn music directly from culture-bearers all across the world. Through this platform, singers and music directors can now go beneath the surface to learn about the history of a genre, explore source recordings, receive vocal coaching, study performance practice, learn physical movement, and gain an understanding of the role the tradition plays in the lives of people from that culture. Village Harmony teacher Lonnie Norwood then adapted the international learning platform to create courses in Black Gospel music, allowings singers to learn in depth about choral traditions within our nation. Come see how this new virtual learning platform has been used by university and community choirs across the US to facilitate more ethical engagement with choral artists and choral music beyond the Classical canon.

SPEAKER: Mollie Stone

Mollie Stone

Mollie Stone serves as Choral Conductor & Lecturer at University of Chicago, Director of the Chicago World Music Chorus, and teaches internationally with Village Harmony. She holds degrees from Amherst College, Westminster Choir College, and Northwestern University, and works both internationally and locally to create programs that allow singers to learn directly from culture bearers, while providing culture bearers with resources that support them in sharing their music on their own terms.

SPEAKER: Lonnie Norwood

Lonnie Norwood

Lonnie Norwood serves as Director of Africana Studies at Chicago Children’s Choir, a teacher for Village Harmony, and Founder of Audacious Praise: a multicultural arts organization that creates accessible programming in marginalized communities. Norwood holds degrees from Luther College and Florida State University. This past year, Norwood successfully launched the ChicaGO Reach Gospel Workshop online, providing singers far and wide with the opportunity to learn in depth about gospel music.

Pedagogical and Research Tools for Diversifying Choral Repertoire Study and Performance from the Institute of Composer Diversity

The Institute of Composer Diveristy (ICD) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing online resources to help diversify programming by highlighting the works of composers often left off of programs, namely those by women and nonbinary composers, composers of color, and members of the LGBTQIA2s+ community. The presentation will describe ICD’s online tools as well as partnership opportunities for college choral programs. A demonstration of the Choral Diversity Database—a free, filterable choral repertoire database—will include interactive opportunities with the audience. The Choral Programming Resource Page, a collection of pedagogical and professional development resources to aid choral professionals in their commitments to diversifying programming, will be explored. Audience members will learn how to become involved in the Collegiate Research Project Module, a guided, experiential project available to instructors that builds real-world research skills for students while they participate in active ICD research and gain exposure to new repertoire and composers. Additionally, the presentation will introduce ICD Programming Assistance through Sphinx, which provides grant-funded consulting to ensembles for assistance in curating programs featuring black and Latinx composers. Best practices will be suggested for how to approach programming of works from unfamiliar traditions or composers, as well as ideas for creating long term commitments to diverse programming, presented through a mix of lecture and collaborative elements, with a question and answer session to gather feedback from the audience on how ICD can continue to be an impactful tool for choral practitioners.

SPEAKER: Helena von Rueden

Helena von Rueden

Dr. Helena von Rueden is an Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Choral Program at Hampden-Sydney College, a liberal arts college in Virginia, where she directs a TB chorus and teaches a variety of classes. She also serves as Assistant Director/Choral co-Coordinator at the Institute of Composer Diversity (ICD), and is the founder/director of The Piedmont Singers of Central Virginia, a professional vocal octet specializing in 20th and 21st century a cappella music.

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