Date: August 23, 2015
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet. This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
Power of nature by Alwin Michael Schronen for SATB divisi a cappella (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: Winter Concert
Program Themes: Cold, Winter, Mountains, Snow, Overcoming Adversity
This Piece Would Program Well With: No Mark by Cecil Effinger available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus.
The word painting in this work is as clear as if scribed on canvas. The distant and cold sound of the first few perfect intervals will give you a chill. If I was rehearsing Power of nature I would have someone draw a pitch graph of the soprano line at “how faint the mountains” for the choir to get the feel for bringing out the nuance of such evocative lyrics.
Power of nature is available here: http://www.as-musikverlag.de/DB/20000/20036/
A note from the Composers of Choral Music Community:
Today, August 23, is the last day for you to vote on the works created in the Showcase Dare August 2015. Winners will be announced next week. Vote here: http://choralnet.org/view/472261
Date: August 19, 2015
Beginning As We Mean to Go On
“The world is so full of a number of things, I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Robert Louis Stevenson
I am excited this Fall to be writing regularly for the ChoralBlog. I’ve thought quite a bit about what to call my contributions and think I’ve hit upon the perfect title, “Choral Potpourri.” Potpourri’s second definition, after the dried herbs, flowers and other good-smelly-stuff definition is a collection of different things often having a common thread. I’ve blogged other places on a myriad of choral and arts related subjects and believe I’ll keep to that strategy here. My contributions will have the common thread of being related to our choral profession, whether directly or indirectly.
I have many, many interests in the Choral World; from repertoire to my Choral Ethics Project, to mentoring choirs of special populations and different kinds of collaborations with other arts organizations. In addition to my current choral work, I am working with an organization whose purpose is to preserve local dance history. There will probably be a column or two about how doing something like this could apply to the choral community. As well, I am interested in “off the beaten track” pre-concert lectures and fund raising strategies of all kinds and will share a few ideas and hope you’ll share some of yours too. In my community, I am participating in the formal collaboration between arts and business groups, working with our local small business association and twelve other arts organizations to form an arts/business alliance to benefit us all. I guarantee I’ll be sharing that journey. Arts advocacy is more important than ever for all arts organizations if we mean to survive.
Today and in the coming weeks, I’d like to share a few things I’ve done this summer. Beginning in October, I’ll have a continuation of my Choral Ethics Project series. I hope to have a few interviews with some prominent and not so prominent Choral Folk before December. All in all, it should be a very exciting fall!
This summer, I was finally able to get myself back on track. After a hellish two years, I feel ready to begin rehearsals, the school year and all the events that mean fall has arrived. Instead of panicking and worrying about forgetting something this year, I am calm, calm, calm for a change and ready to begin. It is all because, instead of taking our usual vacation, my spouse and I decided to get our house in order this summer. Literally. It was a rather drastic step for us but it was necessary. After several years of not having time to organize for fall, for many reasons not just vacation related, it was either do this or be disorganized and scrambling for another year.
He and I are busy, involved people; in our own careers, in our community and our family. Every summer we rush to go on vacation for ten days and come home to the mess made during the year left to be “straighten up” before the fall begins. We then have only a few days to get things ready before we both have to go back to work; he, to his medical practice, me to choir practice. We decided this year would be different. While it is not the same as actually going somewhere, we took the strategy of working on our projects during the days, going out to dinner (I was promised I wouldn’t have to cook) and perhaps watching a movie or doing something together after. We saw the national touring company of “Pippen,” went to a few concerts and to a botanic garden and enjoyed and relaxed with each other. He accomplished a lot, as did I with this “stay-cation” thing.
During the summer, I’ve filed all my choir music, gone to a conference and organized my office and rehearsal spaces so it is better for me as well as my choir. I have repertoire chosen for the next eighteen months and our concert venue is settled (no surprises!) for our upcoming concert season. Concert ads are designed and already turned in where they are supposed to be. My voice students, tweaked around my teaching schedule this summer, should fit with the rest of my life. My own voice teacher has scheduled her yearly recital and my aria is chosen and memorized. I have various writing projects queued up for the fall and am ahead—for now—with what is supposed to be turned in, when. Now if I can only keep this up!
Date: August 16, 2015
Choir directors on ChoralNet, there are 19 new pieces written for you and awaiting a premiere by your choir. The ink isn’t dry yet so many can be adapted to your specific needs. Consider dedicating the premiere to ChoralNet founder Jim Feiszli, for whom the works were created. While you are reading through each piece, please vote/rate the works and leave the composer some feedback. Read more on voting here: http://choralnet.org/view/472261 Please vote by August 23, 2015
Here are the new works created:
In Praise of Wisdom: Genesis, Learning and Realization SATB, piano Michael Sandvik MP3 PDF MP3-2 PDF-2 MP3-3 PDF-3
Three Decisions: A Philosophical Tip, We Look Before and After and The Armful TTBB+, piano John Atorino MP3 PDF
Road Triptych: The Crossroad, Road Trip and Reflection on the Road SATB, piano Robert Adams MP3-1 PDF1 MP3-2 PDF2 MP3-3 PDF3
For anyone who has not been reading ChoralBlog lately, the Composers of Choral Music Community on ChoralNet and Our Musical Life Inc. just sponsored an event to honor ChoralNet founder Jim Feiszli. The composers had 9 days to write the rough draft of a work based on a creative spark provided by Dr. Feiszli. Many of the works created are dedicated to him. To learn more come to the Showcase Dare August 2015 community.
Date: August 9, 2015
This is it, the last article in our series to honor our founder Jim Feiszli and the last day of the Showcase Dare. Over 30 composers signed up to participate in honoring Jim by composing new works based on guiding elements of his life. The deadline for submitting their first draft compositions is 11:59 PM tonight. Voting runs from August 10-August 23.
We need conductors and other ChoralNet users to look through the works and rate them on a 5 point subjective scale from low to high:
Spark: Evident in concept or work 1 2 3 4 5
Performability: Viral Quality/Overall Likability/ Uniqueness 1 2 3 4 5
Elemental Mechanics: Harmonic, Rhythmic, Form, Dynamics, Counterpoint etc: 1 2 3 4 5
Text Setting: Prosody,Word Painting,Choice of Text 1 2 3 4 5
Singability: Voice Leading, Range, Tessitura 1 2 3 4 5
Visit the composers’ contestant pages to give critique or you can check out the following post tomorrow for a list of all pieces that need voting on http://choralnet.org/view/472261. The post will be updated by noon August 10.
Send me, Jack Senzig, a message with a copy of the above categories and your score for them. Only the first two, Spark and Performability, are required but you are encouraged to rate all 5. If you don’t have anything to say about the others just leave them blank. More on voting can be found here and optional rubrics here. This is not an official ACDA competition.
Some of the composers kept a record of their creative process and we have made the word trail available for you to view. All are available under PAGES in the Showcase Dare August 2015 community.
Travis Ramsey: http://choralnet.org/view/472225
Donald Patriquin: http://www.choralnet.org/470019
Pamela Marshall: http://www.choralnet.org/469972
William Copper: http://choralnet.org/470229
Matthew Hill http://choralnet.org/469976
As we wind up the festivities honoring our founder, I asked a couple of other people who have worked with him to say a few words. The rest of the interview follows their comments. Keep reading to the bottom and you will find the sage advice that I feel makes what Jim has done, and what you and I do as choral directors, worth while.
Martin Knowles Current ChoralNet Manager
When I started working on ChoralNet back in 2003 as a then-recently-minted university computing science graduate, Jim was one of the first people I talked to when I was interviewing to replace David Topping as ChoralNet’s Manager. While it would be a good year before I actually met Jim in person, I was immediately impressed with the common ground we shared: his technical vision as well as his genuine care and appreciation for all things choral.
ChoralNet at that time was a many-tentacled beast: there was the Web site, three lists running on a university server, at least three organizations that we hosted for (which meant more than a few 3AM support calls from Europe to my phone in Vancouver), and a plethora of other bits and pieces that had yet to find a central home—and designing and building that central place that could be the single port of call on the ‘net for the choral art—with a mix of what was then called a portal and what’s now called a social network—quickly became Allen Simon’s and my work. As the “new kid on the block”, it was at times difficult to figure out who was doing what, who could do what, and what needed to be done in an organization that had to run entirely over phone and email.
As I quickly found out, Jim provided the critical connection between everyone working on various aspects of ChoralNet across the world: a solid vision, a sense of institutional and missional history, and most importantly, a big Rolodex and a keen awareness of the choral world's politics and how to go about getting the best work done. Being an engineering type myself, working with someone who could champion ChoralNet, find the right people, and create good relationships was a godsend both for me and for ChoralNet. Everyone seemed to know him and enjoy working with him, so he could assure everyone—myself included—that everything was going to be just fine and that the big changes we were making to keep up with the evolution of the Internet were all for the best, even though change is always hard.
Michael Shasberger, Original Member ChoralNet Board of Directors
Shortly after receiving training sometime around 1988 on my first ever new Mac SE computer complete with green letters on a dark grey screen I stumbled across this new medium of a professional email list and web resource called ChoralNet. Perhaps a hundred or so other choral conductors, mostly college professors, had connected with this already and it was intriguing. We were talking to each other about professional concerns and opportunities. It was stunning to think that suddenly I was connected to a hundred or so colleagues around the country rather than being alone in my office.
It was an interesting discovery that behind the genesis of this new paradigm was a new friend who worked at a school uniquely equipped to start such an enterprise in South Dakota, James Feiszli. Jim early on had offered the research resources of his library and soon had us all connected to the work of Jean Sturm in France who was working on the Musica project. Others came on board to design a website that began to build resources. Jim thoughtfully and selflessly helped guide and direct the work that needed to be done to moderate these efforts and help us work effectively together. He solved problems, soothed conflicts, answered questions, and gave wise guidance all along the way.
I was honored to be asked to join the leadership of this group and particularly so to serve for a time as President of ChoralNet to allow Jim to focus his energies on more technical and developmental aspects of the enterprise. Working with Jim to guide ChoralNet into the heart of the ACDA communications and resource apparatus showed the best of his patience, persistence and passion. Jim’s ideas continue to be bigger and broader than what has been accomplished to date, and that is exciting. Knowing that he will continue to press for the betterment of all of our futures is a very affirming thought. Thank you Jim for leading choral music into the digital age!
Charlie Fuller, Original Member ChoralNet Board of Directors
During the early 90's, when the internet's crust was first cooling, I received an email on my university-provided IBM 8088. I don't remember from whom it came, but it had something about this thing called a "list server" and the guys in charge included Walter Collins at the University of Colorado and a guy from South Dakota named Jim Feiszli.
As I began to participate in the leadership of the group as one of the first volunteer list moderators, it soon became apparent that Jim was the active leader of the effort. It was an exciting time. At one point we had by far the largest list on the Univ. of Colorado server, with over 3000 participants. It was all uncharted territory and we were writing the rules as we went. How to manage the list traffic? How to keep the participants civil in their discourse? How to keep people participating when the traffic reached really high levels? Do we divide the list up by interest? By the area(s) of one's work? There were lots of questions and Jim was always leaning in, gathering input, making sure we as leaders stayed engaged in our effort of providing unprecedented choral dialogue for the profession.
Then the world wide web came along. It became clear that we needed more than a part-time choral director managing what was about to become a much wider range of internet communication for our colleagues. It was Jim that came up with the idea of incorporating ChoralNet and eventually hiring a tech person to do our web design and list maintenance. I was honored to be one of the original board members of ChoralNet. It was so much fun working out the various problems of starting an internet non-profit. Of course, we incorporated in South Dakota, at Jim's address and with the help of his attorney. We had to create the ability to take credit card donations to support our efforts. The bank issuing the card was in San Francisco and they required a physical address for the account. We sent in a picture of the treasurer's house in Boulder, Colorado. Being an internet non-profit, we really had no physical address.
We had board meetings by email for the first few years. No one seemed to have done that before. Eventually, we decided that we needed to meet on occasion in person. Jim led through all these years and challenges.
My involvement in ChoralNet ended in 2007 when I left academia. But through all those years, the driving force for ChoralNet was Jim Feiszli, a consummate musician, a talented internet technician (I think his expertise in transcribing early music gave him lots of experience working out tedious problems!), and a great person with superior people skills. The choral profession owes Jim a huge thank you. There's no way to estimate how many concerts and choral experiences have been enhanced by the information shared through ChoralNet.
David Topping ChoralNet’s First Manager and Current Volunteer
Having known Jim Feiszli for over 20 years, and spending at least half of those years in close communication and collaboration with him, I can confirm that he is deserving of the accolades and honors not only for his outstanding work in South Dakota, but especially for his visionary efforts to connect the world’s choral music community online.
Like Jim, I’m both a choral and computer “geek,” and happened to be present at the unofficial, but seminal gathering at the 1993 national ACDA conference in San Antonio when what was later to become ChoralNet was born.
During the years of our work together on ChoralNet, Jim’s leadership, creativity, and collegiality were essential driving forces behind the project’s many successes in connecting the choral directors of the world, but perhaps equally admirable have been his selflessness and modesty. I’m happy for the opportunity to publicly thank Jim for his support and trust during our ChoralNet efforts, and my only regret is that most of our time together has been only “virtual,” with very little of it actually spent in the same place at the same time.
Finishing The Interview
Q: What did you get out of donating so much time for a lot of people you would never meet?
A: For a while I thought it’d be my ticket out of SDSM&T. Glad it wasn’t. I have met many virtual friends. You are one.
Q: Did you create any real-world relationships because of ChoralNet?
A: Many, many. Especially in the international community. But many here in the U.S. as well. My wife likes to tell the story of how when we were first married, she came to the 2002 World Choral Symposium in Minneapolis. She got so sick of all the foreign women coming up and hugging me, saying “Oh Shjiim!” (including Karmina Šilec and Maria Guinand) We were standing in the lobby of a hotel, and she grabbed my arm and whispered, “That’s Dale Warland!”. He, of course was coming over to say, “Hi Jim!” and mentioned that he was waiting for Gunilla (Luboff – of Walton Music, Norman Luboff’s widow). My poor wife. The last time I’d seen Gunilla, she was sitting in my lap in a taxi in Stockholm where we were celebrating Eric Ericsson’s birthday. So, of course, she hugged me, too! But so many friends I can’t count them.
Q: Whose idea was it to create communities on ChoralNet? If yours, how did you hope they would be used?
A: It was my idea. They were supposed to be LinkedIn before LinkedIn existed – a professional networking system for the choral world. Facebook was intended for social and there was a brief moment of opportunity for a professional alternative. It would have worked but ChoralNet communities were not adopted, used, or promoted well by the ACDA leadership. By that time, I had a foot out the door.
Q: In 2013 when you helped ChoralNet become an asset of ACDA, what did you hope would happen here?
A: ChoralNet needed to get out of the business of having to fund-raise every year. I hoped that ACDA would recognize the opportunity in 1) generating funds through webpage advertising and 2) the potential in creating a professional network through ChoralNet communities. They generate a lot of money through ads in the Choral Journal. Ridiculous, considering how many people view ChoralNet pages vs. Choral Journal pages. But, the old ways of doing things are hard to change. And now, the time has passed for ChoralNet Communities to corner the market. May as well let Facebook run the world and put up with their controlling the system.
Q: You have given us your life as an example of altruism especially within a professional community. What advice would you give to ChoralNet users about volunteering to help each other?
A: You don’t lose out by volunteering. You gain. There are those people who are too near-sighted to see some contributions. On many occasions I have been taken aback by choral folks in Rapid City or South Dakota saying, “you need to get more involved in choral activity” and I’m always like, “You mean I haven’t done enough?” J But, did my investment in ChoralNet create good things? Yes. Are there some prickly memories? Of course. But if I had kept a ledger, the benefits far outweigh the deficits.
Thank-you Dr. James D. Feisli. You are the hero of ChoralNet!
Date: August 6, 2015
WHY BARBERSHOP ALONG WITH HIGH SCHOOL CHORUS? by Carl Taylor
In 1989, when a man I had never met called me and asked me to do some singing with him and two other fellows, I really had no idea what was ahead. In a very short time I found myself memorizing several songs, performing on a SWEET ADELINE show and competing in a district contest. I was hooked on the sound of close harmony and the excitement of competition. I became a barbershopper.
In the ensuing years, I have involved many of my students in barbershopping; both guys and gals. Along the way, I have encountered the reluctance of colleagues who were put off by the “sterotype” that still haunts our hobby; the four guys leaning against a signpost, perhaps a bit tipsy, singing tags and doing it poorly. I can assure you that is not what barbershopping is today.
The benefits one can derive from the barbershop style are several. First, we get guys to sing. That in itself is a victory of some degree. Second, the ear training singers receive from the tight chords and constant circle-of-fifths progressions is invaluable in developing their personal musicality. Third, the necessity of carrying ones part alone is demanding and helps the singer develop a leadership style that carries over to their other efforts, including my SATB choir. I could add the social aspect of meeting new friends and getting along with others, the instant attraction to the opposite sex (just strike up a chord and watch the girls come running), and the opportunity to participate in the larger society of singers as benefits. But weaving through all this is simply singing. Singers are happiest when we are singing. And our high school students deserve all the opportunities we can give them.
Contact the Barbershop Harmony Society, Sweet Adelines, or Harmony, Inc. and see what might be helpful and attractive to your young singers.
(Photo Credit: Lorin May – Barbershop Harmony Society)
[Originally posted March 26, 2013]
Date: August 2, 2015
Join the Celebration for Our Founder!
The Composers of Choral Music Community and Our Musical Life Inc. ask you to join us in honoring the founder of ChoralNet. The Showcase Dare is fully underway, bringing ChoralNet users, composers, conductors and lyricists together in a project designed to honor Jim Feiszli. Be an active part of this! Join us in the Showcase Dare community and comment below with why you value ChoralNet.
We asked Dr. Feiszli to give us a short word or phrase that would be the spark for the creative process. He gave us two, based on the poetry of Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken” and “Excellence” (derived from Choose Something Like A Star). Right now there are about 30 composers working to write the rough draft of works based on those sparks. We need lyricists and conductors to add their voices to the process.
Last week I shared the first part of an interview with Dr. Feiszli about the early years of ChoralNet. This week we will explore Jim’s professional life and contributions to the choral art beyond what he is known for here. I have to say that I have come to admire this man more with every answer he has given. It is inspiring reading. I hope every young choral director takes note and chooses a star-like professional goal as lofty as this man has.
James Feiszli got his start as a public school music teacher. He taught elementary through high school band, general music and choir. Adding to his bachelor of Music Education from Mount Union College Feszli went on to get a Master of Music degree in Music History and Literature from University of Akron and a Doctor of Musical Arts from Arizona State University.
In 1983 Feiszli began the career that has been the defining work of his life. He took a position at SDSMT (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology) as a professor of music for non-music majors. He is currently growing and developing that same position.
Life and Profession Questions:
Q: In 2013 you won Professor of the Year for the state of South Dakota by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. You have worked especially with non-music majors. Why is that work so important to who you are?
“We have a nice little glee club here, but you’ll never do Bach cantatas or anything.”
Dr. A. Charles Thielen, Dean of College Relations, SDSMT, 1983
That comment was made in my interview for a non-tenure track, term position at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Why would I consider this job?
The normal path for an academic musician is to teach music majors. While SDSMT attracted brilliant and hard-working students, it did not offer a music degree. Music at SDSMT consisted of a rather amateurish-sounding glee club and an extracurricular jazz band.
Background. SDSMT graduates in 1983 were being sought after by major corporations, but most remained in middle management positions throughout their career. The more successful alumni were those that had incorporated artistic activities into their lives. Brain research was beginning to show why: Unique thought processes that are missing in the traditional engineering curriculum occur when an individual is engaged in music. Studies done in the past 40 years show that neural pathways between brain hemispheres are created and strengthened during music-making. This encourages creativity, the process of viewing a problem from different perspectives.
Vision. If guided, quality music-making was made part of the educational process at SDSMT, could the institution graduate better scientists and engineers? I set about to create an environment wherein all students, regardless of previous background, had the opportunity to develop creativity through the experience of music. Today SDSMT has a music program integrated into the science and engineering curriculum with two purposes: 1) the development of holistic brain processes, and 2) the development of professional concepts in teaming/teamwork, continuous quality improvement, and process management. Alumni speak frequently of how everything they learned in music has benefitted their careers.
Growth. What began as one faculty member in a single room now encompasses three faculty members and a music building with performance hall, classrooms, teaching studios, and faculty offices. Enrollment in music courses has grown from approximately 50 in 1983 to over 350 in 2013. Two extracurricular activities are now eight curricular music ensemble courses, applied music lessons, and lecture courses ranging from music theory to the history of rock and roll. Our ensembles perform at professional music conferences, garner awards in national and international competition, and appear at prestigious venues in the U.S. and abroad, drawing an estimated 10000+ listeners annually.
Impact. What numbers do not convey is the ripple effect that the music program has had on and beyond the campus. Music students carry their creativity into their chosen fields. Last summer one of our student musicians worked in the NSF’s Research Engineering for Undergraduates program to recreate a specialized metal drum, called a Hang, using metallurgical engineering methods. Music alumni hold patents in a wide variety of areas. Many have founded their own companies. They are CEOs, consultants, philanthropists, and community leaders. What they do for a living, however, is far less important than who they are. While I cannot claim credit for everything my former students accomplish, I am proud to have had some role in shaping their lives.
My position at SDSMT uniquely placed me at the crossroads of technology and music. My early access to the Internet led to the founding of the first e-mail forum for choral music. ChoralNet became the Internet Center for Choral Music, supported by all major choral associations of the world. I used that platform to spread knowledge of SDSMT’s music curriculum.
Postscript. Thirty years’ perspective is a wonderful thing. I have not been deprived of great music because I did not teach music majors. Several years ago, when the Concert Choir performed Bach’s Cantata 61 Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (with orchestra), I made certain that Chuck Thielen was in the front row. We shared a laugh afterwards. I took the road less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.
Q: What is so special about you as a professor?
A: It’s not about me and it’s not really even that much about the music. It’s about improving each and every student that walks in the door. At whatever level they come in, I hope to give them the opportunity and incentive to improve as people and musicians.
To help answer this question, here are some quotes about Dr. Feiszli from the Carnegie Award news release and others:
Judges wrote in awarding Feiszli the honor:
“The panel was very impressed by Professor Feiszli’s work building a music program at a school of engineering and technology. At a place where he knew he would not be teaching music majors, he has developed a model music program. Even more important, however, is his work on understanding the connections between music learning and engineering/science learning. That he has been able to demonstrate the advantages of learning both disciplines simultaneously is at the heart of his success as a scholar/teacher,”
In 1983 Feiszli accepted the daunting task of establishing a music program at a science and engineering university that doesn’t offer a music degree. He has established a permanent home for the music department (moving out of its long-term “temporary” home in the athletic building); has produced moving and well-attended community concerts; and has brought home many awards from national and international choral competitions. He was recognized for his achievements with the 2011 Presidential Award for Outstanding Professor. Feiszli wrote:
“I have always believed that my work was of significant value to the music discipline because I was influencing those who would be in a position to impact society outside the confines of the music world. My students become major players in the fabric of our society. It is of the utmost importance that they acquire and retain an appreciation for the importance of music. I am honored at the recognition the Carnegie Foundation has given to one who has followed ‘the road not taken.’ It is an acknowledgement that excellence in education is not simply a matter of narrow focus but also of the broader impact of one’s work.”
The nomination and consideration process is intensive. CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected four national winners. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from the judging process.
The university nominated Feiszli, and materials considered for the award included letters of support from campus colleagues, counterparts from professional organizations and affiliations, community leaders and students.
“For 30 years Dr. Feiszli has developed the habit of excellence in hundreds of engineers and scientists through music. He is relentlessly demanding and his students love him for it. At a school that doesn’t even have music majors, our student choirs inspire awe and attract capacity crowds because of Jim Feiszli. This honor is richly deserved and we are very fortunate that Dr. Feiszli chose the students at Mines for his life’s work,” said Mines President Heather Wilson, D.Phil.
Former student Jessica Hartman, now a Delta Airlines sourcing manager based in Atlanta, says Feiszli’s mentorship changed her life.
“As an undergraduate woman at an engineering school my focus should have been solely on chemistry, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer. … He challenged me to become not just a better vocalist but a better version of myself. The opportunities that set me up for success in the real world can be traced directly back to my time studying under Dr. Feiszli. How to persevere. How to communicate without words.”
Q: What other organizations have recognized the good that you have done for choral music?
Presidential Award for Outstanding Professor. SDSM&T, 2011
ROPE Award (Recognizing Our Professors of Excellence). SDSM&T resident students, 2011
Meritorious Music Educator Award. SD Music Educators Association, 2010
Lifetime Achievement Award. SD American Choral Directors Association, 2010
Meritorious Music Educator Award. SD Music Educators Association, 2005
Rushmore Honors Award. Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, 2003
Virginia Simpson Award. SDSM&T - for community achievement, 1996
Encore Award. SD American Choral Directors Association - outstanding achievement, 1993
Grand Teton Choral Festival, Jackson Hole, WY, 1987
First Place, College Division. SDSM&T Master Chorale
Q: What three pieces of choral music are most dear to your heart and why?
A: ONLY THREE??
Heinrich Isaac: Sancti Spiritus, sequence for Pentecost, Choralis Constantinus, Book II – performed by my professional ensemble Dakota Voices at the Choralis Constantinus Quincentennial in 2008 with Markus Utz improvising the alternatim verses
William Dawson: Soon-Ah Will be Done – encore or finale of every single SDSMT alumni choir concert since inception
Anton Bruckner: Christus factus est – conducted by me at the 1975 national ACDA convention as an undergraduate student of Bruce Brown’s Mount Union College Master Chorale
Q: Tell us about one student you are very proud of. Explain?
A: Simply cannot. I am proud of 99.9% of them. Cannot choose one. Have at least five CEO’s among former students. Have about 8-10 married alumni couples that met in my choirs. Have many former students that are still actively involved in music. But their accomplishments or activities don’t make me proud of them. It’s how they conduct themselves as human beings that makes me proud.
Q: Have you specialized in a particular time period in choral music? Why did you choose that specialty? What is it about that music that moves you?
A: Early Renaissance. So much more interesting than late Renaissance. No one does it because there are few good editions of it and the voicing is largely STTB and most choirs these days seem to be SSSSAAATB. Early baroque is likewise so much interesting than late Baroque. Give me Monteverdi anytime over Vivaldi. Don’t find much interesting at all about Classic/Romantic except the aforementioned Bruckner. Love the Brahms Requiem but it’s about three movements too long.
Q: Are there any musicians in your family? Did they participate in or shape your music making?
A: Long history of Feiszli (Feissli the Swiss spelling) musicians. The first one in the U.S. (my great-great-great-grandfather) was a singing teacher. Many have been professional or amateur musicians. My father was headed to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music on a full-ride scholarship as a double major (tuba/string bass) when he got drafted in 1942. Trained as a truck driver, he asked to sit in with the training base band and when they heard him, the commander pulled strings to get him re-assigned to the band. Played through WWII! Was married and a father by the time he got out so worked for GM, repaired musical instruments on the side, and played in every big band, combo, concert band, and orchestra he could. My brother-in-law (doctorate in music, bassist, director of Parma Symphony) and I heard him playing, at the age of 86, as the sole tuba player in a Fourth of July concert. After two numbers, we looked at each other and said, “He’s REALLY good!” Of six kids, three of us got bachelors’ degrees in music. Two of us got masters’. All of us played in band and sing in church or community choirs. Google “Feiszli” and you’ll see my links compete with my cousin Dan who is a professional bassist in Los Angeles and has a recording studio there. You’ll also find his brother Matt, who is a professor at Brown University and great amateur guitarist. Google “Feissli” and you’ll find a professional luthier.
The only way it shaped me was that I was the least talented of the bunch and so made up for I with hard work. They’re all smarter and more talented than me.
ChoralBlog readers, join us for the final installment of our series about our founder next Sunday. We’ll hear a little more about ChoralNet and also hear from others who have known and worked with the hero of this great story.
Thanks to composer David Cope for use of his picture in our Showcase Dare graphic and Donovan Senzig for creating the graphic.
Date: July 29, 2015
When I attend a concert, I expect to hear music. And when I attend a concert at an ACDA conference, I expect to hear excellent music.
I did not expect Tim Lautzenheiser.
I did not expect to be accosted with positivity. To be delighted to laughter and touched to tears. To be vehemently affirmed in my career choice. Affirmed by a perfect stranger during an "inspirational message" in the middle of a concert session.
I wish I had written down everything he said so I could show you exactly how his words touched me so. And, believe me, I will be purchasing the video from that concert session (I hope it will be available)...Rajaton, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and Camerata Musica Limburg, plus this talk that I will be putting on repeat. I don't have it exactly right, and my paraphrase may be a little off, but here's the gist:
What you do matters.
So, be encouraged.
That might be simplifying, but there it is. What you do matters. So, be encouraged. Not one of us lives a small life. Each of us, each of us musicians influence others by our music, an outpouring of self. It is an art that has no concreteness, it is momentary and fleeting, and sometimes we feel it might have been insignificant.
It is not.
Music impacted the life of these boys, surviving in one of Boston's toughest neighborhoods; their choir-mate was shot on his way to practice. And countless students who have said to me, "If it hadn't been for choir, I would have [dropped out, done drugs, committed suicide, you name it]. Beyond these extraordinary stories are countless ordinary ones: a college student who enjoyed singing for a semester, or a group of engineers who formed a choir, or this business major who claims "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class."
Since I began this post, Roger Ebert passed away. His art has influenced my life for most of my life. Particularly this essay. (Get the tissues.)
What you do matters. So, be encouraged. Go. Make Art. Make it now. Don't wait.
(Image credit: ali edwards. Text: My life is this moment. Live fully. Be open.)
[Originally posted April 6, 2013]
Date: July 26, 2015
Join the Celebration for Our Founder!
ChoralNet users, grab your tablet, laptop or phone and head for a shady spot. There is a story that needs telling. A hero gave us 20 years of his life so that we could find help when we need it, repertoire that matters and a place to feel part of a community. Dr. James D. Feiszli is the hero of our tale.
Before writing this article I didn’t really know Dr. Feiszli. I have never met him outside of ChoralNet. What I did know was that he was caring and altruistic and he created and directed ChoralNet for many years. What I learned and I hope you will get out of his story is a sense of kinship. As choral directors we all share of ourselves, spending more time at work than with out families, involving ourselves in the lives of our singers, fundraising, and hours upon hours of preparation. Does it matter? Does any of it really matter? Of course it does and Jim is a man we can empathize with and look up to. He did not take the easy path and it has made all the difference!
This article is part of a short series to honor our founder. The Composers of Choral Music Community and Our Musical Life Inc. are hosting a celebration of thanks called the Showcase Dare. Composers, conductors and lyricists are invited to participate and encouraged to show their appreciation for the man that gave us this valuable resource. Comment below with what ChoralNet means to you and participate in the Showcase Dare. More info is available on last Sunday's ChoralBlog or come the Showcase Dare August 2015 community: http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189
Do you remember the world before the Internet, no email, no Google, no online reference materials? It was a time when your social network was made up of your family, co-workers and people you actually had lunch with. That’s the world from which our tale begins. It is not a short story. I wanted to bring light to a subject only a few know anything about. We will start this week with the early days of ChoralNet. I interviewed Dr. Feiszli for this blog series. We’ll let him tell the story.
Q: What was your original purpose in creating Choralist, the precursor to ChoralNet?
A: When I came to SDSM&T in 1983, I was one of two collegiate choral conductors in the state with a doctorate and the only music faculty at this science and engineering institution. Coming from the ivory-tower stratosphere of Arizona State University, a very large music school with plenty of colleagues, I was suddenly isolated from professional collaboration at a scholarly research level.
At ASU, I was in charge of computer applications for the School of Music at a time when very few understood or wanted to understand the potential for data storage and retrieval and communication. At SDSM&T, everyone (well, maybe not the Liberal Arts types so much!) knew that personal computing was about to change the universe of computing which, heretofore, had been reserved to mainframes and computer technicians. I got my hands on the first PCs made available to faculty at this technological school and began to use it for developing a database for my choral reference library and school inventory.
SDSM&T, being a research institution with strong connections to government funding, was among the first universities with access to the ARPANET – forerunner to the Internet. By 1987, I was able to end my exile in isolation by being able to access the libraries of other research institutions connected to the Internet; e.g. Stanford, Harvard, ASU, UC-Boulder, etc. Yay!
Today it seems inconceivable, but at that time only those who had connections to either research institutes or government branches such as the Library of Congress had access to the Internet and its new form of communication – electronic mail. I quickly re-connected with my research advisor, Dr. Robert D. Reynolds, who had always been one of those who appreciated new technologies – although I have to admit, when I was the first music doctoral candidate in the history of ASU to use a word processor for my dissertation, he was dismayed at how quickly I returned corrected drafts! A good friend, he introduced me via e-mail to others who dealt with musicology and choral music and whose universities were also connected to the Internet (a fairly small crowd).
By about 1992, Walter Collins at the University of Colorado and I had become email acquaintances. Walter, a former national president of ACDA and former president of IFCM, was retired from UC, but still very active in the choral world with many colleagues and former student now in positions of importance across the world. His successor at UC-Boulder, Lynn Whitten was at that time the national president-elect of ACDA. We discussed how interesting it would be to find a way to use this technology to develop better communications in the choral world. Rob Reynolds, by this time had already instigated an e-mail discussion/communication forum (AMSlist) for the American Musicological Society, of which Water and I were both members. Rob introduced us to another technology wizard, composer Mark Gresham of Atlanta, who as a non-academic had discovered how to access the Internet and proved invaluable in these discussions.
Q: Who were the collaborators?
A: The real “Gang of Four” were Walter, Rob. Mark, and me
But there was a catalyst that moved this from a discussion into reality. I had never stopped developing my own choral music library, which now exceeded 5500 items each with about 30 key fields. I called it CHOREF (note the name?). Jean Sturm, a brilliant French research chemist and amateur choral director – whose professional chemistry efforts, BTW, helped kick off the human genome database, had developed database software for his chemistry research. It wasn’t long before he adapted it for use for his personal choral reference library, which he labeled MUSICA, and began to develop it into a powerful choral music database.
I was an IFCM member and noticed a small notice in the spring issue of the International Choral Bulletin that announced a workshop in Namur, Belgium (home to IFCM headquarters) in July of 1991. It asked that those interested in collaborating on a global choral music database to come to Namur and work together for a week. I decided to go, taking along my tables of data on about ten 3.5” diskettes.
That week was truly epic. The list of people who worked together in Namur became powerful figures in the choral world in years to come. Jean-Claude Wilkens was the young executive director of the IFCM. Dolf Rabus of the Marktoberdorf Festivals was there. Jean Sturm brought his MUSICA database –numbering at the time about 15,000 items. It was clear that his software and software development expertise had the capability to handle a massive project. As Yugoslavia disintegrated, a young Slovenian woman dodged the bullets flying to make the trip. That young woman, Karmina Šilec, of Carmina Slovenica fame. A young Filipino conductor was there, Jonathan Velasco, now of the University of the Philippines and a choral force all across the Pacific Rim. A German conductor was there, Manfred Bender, who now heads the Deutsches Centrum für Chormusik.
Several key decisions were made during that week: 1) MUSICA had very few pieces by U.S./Canadian publishers. I decided to upload my entire database into MUSICA increasing its holdings by about 25%. 2) IFCM asked me to be an advisor to the MUSICA project, 3) while the Internet was at that point very much a U.S. phenomenon, we all became determined to use this technology to stay in contact quickly and easily after that week ended.
I came home and told Walter (an IFCM founder as ACDA president and later an IFCM president) about the week. After spending 1992 in further communication and discussion, Walter convinced Lynn Whitten whom, as incoming ACDA president was the host of the 1993 national ACDA convention, to schedule and announce a meeting at that convention of “those interested in developing an e-mail communications list for choral music.” About twenty-five persons, including Collins, Feiszli, Gresham, and Whitten, attended that meeting. All in attendance expressed a strong desire for some form of Internet-based communication network. Shortly thereafter, Walter and I, using the University of Colorado list processor capabilities, began ACDAlist, the first e-mail list dedicated to choral music with Feiszli as the list owner/manager.
Q: For our users that were born after Web 2.0, what was the Internet like back then?
A: At that time, the Internet was largely accessed through research universities and widespread public access was non-existent. ACDAlist grew steadily. Offered as a free distribution list for electronic mail, the list had neither subscription costs for subscribers nor was it subsidized by any entity other than the University of Colorado.
Q: How busy were you when you decided to add this project to your plate? What else were you doing professionally? As a volunteer?
A: I was incredibly busy. SDSM&T had no music program when I arrived. I had convinced the university that the emerging brain research indicated that active involvement in music resulted in better thinking. Starting with my arrival at Mines in 1983, I built the music program from the ground up, securing resources, equipment, and scholarships. I took a glee club called the “Singing Engineers” and built it into an award-winning university choir whose performance records are as impressive as those of choirs from universities with accredited music programs. I successfully advocated for academic credit for ensemble music and increased music opportunities by adding new course offerings in applied music and lecture courses. By 1993, there were two fulltime music faculty with three choral ensembles and three instrumental ensembles. (Today there are eight faculty/staff persons, seven instrumental ensembles and three vocal ensembles AND a dedicated facility. When I arrived we had one room, a piano, some music stands, and a handful of instruments. You can check out the program at http://www.facebook.com/SDSMTMusicCenter and http://www.sdsmt.edu/music )
In addition, I was elected president-elect of SD-ACDA in 1987, consequently serving two terms as president, making that an eight-year commitment. And I took on my Episcopal church choir in 1984 and built that program into a fairly strong 40-voice chancel choir (performing great literature) and an elite 10-voice chapel choir that performed traditional Anglican music such as Byrd, Tallis, Howells, etc.
Q: What was ACDA’s role in helping with Choralist or ChoralNet in those early days?
A: Well, that is a difficult and perhaps politically dangerous minefield of a question.
In September of 1993, I was granted a sabbatical from SDSM&T and went to England to study Gregorian chant with Dr. Mary Berry and her Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. I approached David Topping, who had been in San Antonio at the ACDA convention meeting and who was one of the original subscribers to the list, to ask him if he would be willing to manage Choralist while I was out of the country. David agreed and thus began a long and fruitful connection with ChoralNet, because when I returned in October I asked him to continue assisting me as co-manager.
Now, one must understand the nature of all professional (and volunteer) organizations. The hired staff, from executive directors to secretaries usually wield more power than the elected officers because the former remain in place while latter rotate in and out. In the case of professional organizations, some people run for office to create a credential as well as to serve the organization. It advances their career. The fulltime staff often develop a guardianship mentality for the organization that goes beyond service to the elected leadership. In the case of Gene Brooks, ACDA’s executive director, he had singlehandedly built ACDA from a small, run-out-of-a-closet kind of operation into a powerful and respected national organization. He had secured funding and support to build a national headquarters and created the juggernaut of conferences that we have today. Gene’s opinions matter greatly in the professional choral world. The elected leadership had to listen and, usually, agree with his decisions because of that that he had done so much for the organization and was doing a great job running it.
By that point (fall of 1993), there were about 100 subscribers to ACDAlist. Gene Brooks was notoriously skeptical of all things computer, refusing to even turn one on. Well, some enthusiastic person, I do not recall who (wasn’t me), got a notice posted in the Choral Journal about ACDAlist and urging everyone with email access to join. Now, naïve me, I had assumed all along that this list was officially OK with Gene and the elected Board. Lo and behold, when I got back from sabbatical in October there was fax in my mailbox (remember faxes?) from the national ACDA president, dated two months earlier, in essence asking, “who the hell are you and who said you could use the term ACDAlist?” Now, mind you, I had just come off eight years of ACDA leadership service and had declined to run for division president because of ACDAlist. And Lynn Whitten was the current national President-Elect!
So, I copied the fax into an email and submitted to the subscribers of ACDAlist asking what they thought we should do – kill the list? (Lynn and Walter were both subscribers). Shit-storm. First of all, the sender of the fax was angry because he thought I’d been ignoring him, and then he was furious that I would publicize this fax. Some subscribers expressed dismay that the list wasn’t “official” and quit. I, of course, thought it had all been cleared up there somewhere. But the majority of the list subscribers (99% ACDA members, BTW), said, “No matter what, do not kill the list. Change the name if necessary.” So we changed the name to Choralist. Lynn Whitten meanwhile vowed to bring the effort up to the national Board for official sanction. But the damage had been done. The rest of the officers declined to sanction the list and we continued to operate with no official standing.
It was during that fall that widespread and public access to the Internet began to become more available. More and more universities became connected and commercial entities such as Compuserve and AT&T began offering e-mail services to the general public. Consequently, subscribership on Choralist soared. By the end of 1993, the list had nearly 200 subscribers, with more subscribing daily.
Q: What changed that led Choralist to become ChoralNet?
A: As Choralist grew, other services were added. The Choralist Resource Site (CRS) was created late in 1993 using SDSM&T computer services. The CRS provided an online file cabinet (early cloud!) for users of Choralist, with archives of past list messages, compilations of information derived from list discussions, and other information helpful to choral musicians who had access to the Internet. I formed a Choralist Advisory Group (CAG) in early 1994. This CAG was comprised of persons in the choral field from across the globe who used and had interest in developing the use of online computing for the benefit of choral music. Members of every part of the choral world were part of the CAG from the beginning to provide feedback on the growth and interest in Choralist. Another list - CAGlist – was created using SDSM&T list servers to facilitate their communications.
From the fall of 1994 to the summer of 1995, Choralist experienced incredible growth and many of the problems that were appearing with e-mail lists of all types across the Internet. Because of the difficulties inherent in the early days of electronic mail communication – no vocal inflection, no body language, no face to connect to words – these early users of lists tended to understand and react to e-mail differently than they would to normal face-to-face or even telephone conversation. “Flame wars” begin when parties insist on redressing perceived grievances in a public forum. Serious users of the lists became disgusted and left. Attempts to mediate or mitigate were perceived as censorship. List traffic began to degenerate as serious users left and casual or uninformed users dominated the e-mail messages. By the summer of 1995, Choralist had close to 2000 subscribers – a very large list for any kind of focused use. We found it difficult to maintain any type of medium that would satisfy even a majority of subscribers. Looking back now in this age of texting (and auto-correct!) this all seems so ridiculous, but it was a huge problem.
To top it all off, in 1995 we all became aware of a new aspect of the Internet – the use of actual graphics and the beginning of what would become the Worldwide Web. Again, it seems improbable now, but in those early days not everyone had access to the computing power or Internet transmission to allow access to the web. So we had to tread a fine line between those two very different types of users.
So in November 1995, after much debate among the CAG, Choralist was transformed into ChoralNet, which included Choralist, the CRS, CAGlist, and CHOREF (by then an on-line choral music database because Jean Sturm had steadfastly refused to place MUSICA online – another story!). Choralist’s purpose and operation was modified so that it could become the one common bulletin board for the online choral world. It became a moderated list – meaning that all messages sent to Choralist went first to a moderator, who would then approve or disapprove its posting to the list. Two new e-mail lists were begun to provide forums for the two basic groups of online choral musicians who had been using Choralist: ChoralAcademe – designed for choral music researchers and professionals, and ChoralTalk –a forum for more informal and extended discussion of choral music topics on a more general plane. ChoralTalk was also linked via an electronic gateway at Loma Linda University in California to rec.music.makers.choral - a Usenet newsgroup. Finally, as the capstone to this new enterprise, the ChoralNet Web Site (CWS) was created, running on SDSM&T webservers. At this juncture, Feiszli retained list management of ChoralAcademe and CAGlist and created and maintained the CWS, CRS, and CHOREF, while Topping moderated and managed Choralist and ChoralTalk.
In early 1996 IFCM, having decided to expand their presence on the Internet, approached me about a merger of efforts. I traveled to Namur to meet with Jean-Claude Wilkens, Claude Tagger (president), and others of the IFCM management. After returning to the U.S. and consultations with Topping and the CAG, it was decided that ChoralNet would be designated an official project of the IFCM. Finally! Some official professional recognition! ChoralNet became the website for IFCM and Feiszli their webmaster. As more and more webpages became required for the operation of ChoralNet, David Topping became more involved in those aspects of the ChoralNet operation as well, eventually taking over more of Feiszli’s work so that he could focus on political and managerial aspects of ChoralNet.
1997 and 1998 were tumultuous years for ChoralNet as Topping and Feiszli began to see their work become ever more central to the global online choral community but also realizing that they could not continue to operate alone as they had been doing. Finally, in early 1997, ACDA came to see that this Internet thing was not going to go away. We were approached and asked to develop and host the official ACDA website. ACDA would establish funding for a ChoralNet Manager, which David Topping filled. ChoralNet also worked with Chorus America and the European Federation of Young Choirs to develop other services, among them the web message boards EuroChoralTalk - modeled after the original ChoralTalk, and Foro de Musica Coral Latinoamericana - a Spanish-language forum for the Latin American choral community.
ChoralNet lost two of its most important champions during these years. Walter Collins was stricken by a brain aneurysm in May 1997 and passed away during emergency surgery. Then, early the next year Claude Tagger, President of IFCM, passed away of similar causes.
In November 1998, John Vucurevich, a businessman from Rapid City, South Dakota, issued a $5000.00 challenge grant to ChoralNet to provide an impetus for further development of ChoralNet operations. The first result of this grant was a fund drive which netted ChoralNet another $7000.00 from ChoralNet users. By July 1999, ChoralNet had filed and received approval as a non-profit corporation in the state of South Dakota and set up its own dedicated web server. The ChoralNet Board of Directors held their first meeting in August, extending over a period of ten days and held completely online, during which they
The ChoralNet corporate structure provided for four sub-committees to operate and oversee ChoralNet operations, each headed by a Vice-President. The Vice-Presidents as well as a Treasurer, Secretary, and President were elected by the Board. Those eight persons formed an Executive Committee to which the Manager is also an ex-officio member. This change, from an operation which was largely the province of two people, to a jointly-owned consortium of many people began to lay the groundwork to ensure the viability of ChoralNet for the future.
ChoralNet filed for and received non-profit, tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 corporation from the U.S. government in 2000. In early 2001, Chorus America became the third major association to join the ChoralNet consortium and discussion was underway with Europa Cantat by summer of that same year. The needs of such a consortium created an ever-larger and complicated technical demand on the ChoralNet webserver causing ChoralNet to upgrade to more expensive options. The association partners responded by paying $2000.00 each towards the server costs.
That first ChoralNet Board of Directors was comprised some pretty good folks.
Dr. Michael Anderson, University of Chicago at Illinois
Carl Ashley, Minister of Music, Westside Baptist Church, Boynton Beach, FL
Brent E. Boyko, Telecommunications Dept., Loma Linda University Medical Center
Sylvia Bresson, SUISA, Copyright Society for Music, Rohr, Switzerland
Ian Bullen, Small World International Distribution, Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
Dr. Kerry P. Burtis , Crescenta Valley High School, La Crescenta, CA
David Otis Castonguay, Radford University, Radford, Virginia
Kendall G. Clark, Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX
Dr. Timothy G. Cooper, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada
Julio Dominquez, Camerata ad Libitum Chamber Choir, Ponteareas, Spain
John Drotleff, Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio
Dr. R. Paul Drummond, Central Methodist College, Fayette, MO
Monika Fahrnberger, Wien, Austria
Dr. James D. Feiszli, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD
Matthew P. Fritz, University of Missouri at Kansas City
Dr. Charles L. Fuller, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, AR
Mark Gresham, Lux Nova Press, Atlanta, Georgia 30307
Carol Hague, Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada
Monica J. Hubbard, Altadena, CA
Erik Reid Jones, Washington, DC
Dr. James Kempster, Pacific Union College, Angwin, CA
Gene N. Lebrun, Lynn, Jackson, Schultz, and Lebrun, Rapid City, SD (attorney)
Tom Merrill, Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, OH
Dr. Tony A. Mowrer, Rochester College, Rochester Hills, MI
William "Nick" Nicholson, SARLYN Publications, Sudbury, MA
Alan Prater, Mills, Timmons, & Flowers, Shreveport, LA
Dr. Robert D. Reynolds, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Dr. Patricia Romza, St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT
Thomas D Rossin, EXULTATE, Eagan, MN
Tadej Sadar, Slovenian National Catholic Radio, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dr. Michael Shasberger, Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
Allen Simon, Palo Alto, CA
Haven L. Stuck, Lynn, Jackson, Schultz, and Lebrun, Rapid City, SD
David B. Topping, Tempe, AZ
Ronald R. Weiler II, Detroit Country Day School, Beverly Hills, MI
Jerry Westerman, Petoskey Middle & High School, Petoskey, MI
Dr. Lynn Whitten, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Terra Widdifield, Gateway Music Festivals & Tours, Inc., Monticello, MN
This large Board of Directors, all volunteers, was designed to be a working Board with each member assigned to fulfill specific tasks. Such a structure caused problems when real world obligations interfered with ChoralNet work. ACDA, which had made an initial commitment of two years for the Manager funding, was still funding the Manager position – a situation which made David Topping ACDA’s employee, rather than ChoralNet’s. He served as ACDA’s webmaster in addition to his ChoralNet duties. The addition of Chorus America to the consortium created additional work for the Manager and for Allen Simon, ChoralNet’s Vice-President for Website Management. Although by this time, most or all of the list moderation was being done by members of the List and Forum Management committee, it was becoming impossible for ChoralNet to attempt to provide a unified portal for the choral world and simultaneously provide services to the associations at the same time.
Finally, at the 2002 World Choral Symposium in Minneapolis, we held a general assembly and worked out a better organizational management plan, cutting the Board down to seven members with each supporting entity having a board seat and officers elected from those seven members. In addition to the supporting professional organization partners we began to solicit website advertising and commercial partners, thereby putting the organization on a more established path.
Q: Once ChoralNet was well established, how many hours a week did you spend there? What was your official role?
A: For the majority of these years I spent 20 hours a week on ChoralNet business. I was the registered agent for the organization and had to submit papers to the state and the IRS every year. Did the trademark registrations, ran the meetings, oversaw everyone else, maintained the administrative website, etc. I was the elected president for all but two years when I was the secretary instead, allowing Michael Shasberger (the ACDA representative) to be president just to ease our always-prickly connection with Lawton. I was the official IFCM representative through most of these years and an advisor to IFCM, Europa Cantat, and MUSICA.
Q: What did you miss out on because you were helping us?
A: Advancing myself professionally, I guess. One might say that I garnered quite the reputation for ChoralNet but, unfortunately, no one seemed to think of me as choral conductor, especially as I teach at an institution where there is no music major. I’m actually pretty good. Took my choirs to international competition in Ireland in 2006 and brought back three first-place trophies. But I wasn’t spending time doing self-promotion. I also had little time to spend with my original research as a wannabe musicologist.
ChoralBlog readers, I hope you have gotten something out of this early history of ChoralNet. Jim’s altruistic endeavors have benefitted us all. Come back next week for the next part of the story!
Thanks to composer David Cope for use of his picture in our Showcase Dare graphic.
Date: July 22, 2015
Does performing chant intimidate you?
We all learned about how to "read" chant notation in Music History class but few of us can pick up a Liber Usualis and perform chant with any confidence.
I found these videos yesterday - and I think they help us get over our inhibitions to performing this mostly-untapped repertory. Here is a link to 256 chant videos - a fantastic resource. A commenter on the YouTube site summed it up like this:
[Originally posted July 22, 2011]
Date: July 19, 2015
Join the Celebration for Our Founder!
Dr. James D. Feiszli was central to ChoralNet’s creation, development, and management from conception in 1993 until his departure in 2012. We invite the entire ChoralNet community to become involved in a special project to honor the man most responsible for this valuable resource. Over the next several weeks we’ll share with you the story of this incredible individual.
From August 1-9, 2015, the Composers of Choral Music Community and Our Musical Life Inc. will be holding the “Showcase Dare.” This is not an officially sanctioned ACDA event. This is about composition, but intimately involves conductors and lyricists, as well. This free event is all about working together to ignite the creative process.
Conductors are needed during and after the event to dialogue with composers. They can help composers tailor the new works for the conductors’ performing ensembles.
Composers will be given a “spark”, a few thought provoking words, to get the creative process going. We have asked Dr. Feiszli to christen the launch of this event by choosing what that spark will be. Composers will have 9 days in which to find or create a text, begin composing a new piece of music, and submit a first draft.
Lyricists, poets, and writers are needed to suggest texts they have written that reflect the spark Dr. Feiszli provided, or create new ones for this special project.
It is my hope that the composers and lyricists who do the writing, and the conductors who guide them to completion, will dedicate the creation and/or performances of these works to Dr. James D. Feiszli in honor of what he has given to us.
Showcase Dare August 2015 Community
It was Dr. Feiszli’s idea to create Communities on ChoralNet. This special event will be held in a ChoralNet Community called “Showcase Dare August 2015” found here: http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189 . Please have a look, click through the pages, and if you are willing to help, click on the “Join this community” button in the upper right part of your screen above the blue line. You must be logged in to ChoralNet to join the community. Community members will be able to dialogue with the participating composers in the forum http://www.choralnet.org/list/grouppost/469189 and on the composers’ individual contest pages found by clicking on the “Pages” button http://www.choralnet.org/list/page/469189 and then on the “Contestant Pages.”
How Can I Help?
Offer to vote on the first drafts that composers produce during the contest week. If you wish to be more involved right away, pledge to perform a work that both reflects the spark and meets your own criteria. Post a message in the Showcase Dare Community forum or on a specific composer’s page detailing what you need for voicing, accompaniment, and level of ability. Stay in dialogue with composers during the Showcase Dare and afterwards to help them shape their works to meet your needs.
How Do I Sign Up?
What Might I Win?
There is no physical award. The principal reward is that you will have a first draft of a work you may be able to tailor to a specific choir and get performed. ChoralNet users will decide by popular vote who wins (see Voting below). We encourage you to include a note in your ChoralNet Profile that shows, for example, “Winner of the Gold Award for Text Setting in the August 2015 Showcase Dare.” If you upload the pieces to the Composition Showcase on ChoralNet (free), these awards can also be listed there.
How Do I Win?
Conductors, composers, participants, and a panel of judges will vote on your piece in the following categories:
You really win when conductors see your work and talk to you about what they would need to perform it.
How Can I Help?
Post your poetry, prose, or other texts that reflect the spark in the Showcase Dare August 2015 community forum http://choralnet.org/list/grouppost/469189 and/or on an individual composer’s contestant page as quickly as possible starting August 1. Post only works you own the copyright for, or which are in the public domain. You may post links to other people’s works that support the spark.
Do I Win a Prize?
Again, there is no physical or monetary prize. If a composer’s piece is voted the winner, then you share in that win.
The voting will be held from August 10-23, after the first-draft completion deadline. The pieces with the three highest average scores in a specific category (see below) will win Gold, Silver, and Bronze in that category. The three pieces which obtain an average score of 4 or more in "Spark" and also receive the highest overall average scores will be named the Overall Winners of Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
To view all of the rules, terms, and conditions, visit the Showcase Dare August 2015 Community and read through the pages, forum, and blog: http://choralnet.org/list/page/469189 .
What About Copyright?
Please help us to honor the work of Jim Feiszli by coming together to share our knowledge and expertise while creating something new and exciting!
You can reply below with questions, praises for Jim, and stories of what ChoralNet has meant to you, or join the Showcase Dare August 2015 community and comment in the forum.
The idea for this event is borrowed from the video game developer event called the Ludum Dare http://ludumdare.com/compo/about-ludum-dare/ . The Ludum Dare has been the spark for the creation of many excellent products. We would like to do the same for choral music. We are not affiliated in anyway with the Ludum Dare Community and this is not an ACDA event.
Thanks to composer David Cope for use of his picture in our Showcase Dare graphic.
Date: July 16, 2015
Are you still handing out practice CD's? Are you not handing out anything at all? The ease of sharing audio with our singers has blown up the idea of the practice tape, and offers myriad ways to customize a practice resource depending on what you want to accomplish. Chris Russell wrote a post this week called "Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity" at Technology in Music Education (a must-follow for teachers). His post comes from the desire to allow students to record their own singing to use as an assessment, and he talks about the limitations of an iPad in that regard. What if you just need a way to share files with your singers? Let's look at some options available.
First, the debate about sharing recorded practice materials is extensive both from a conducting/pedagogy perspective and a legal/copyright one. I am not a legal scholar, and I am skipping this debate lest it dominate the larger idea here: distributing audio (whatever practice resources you'd like) to your musicians. In an educational setting, fair use includes distributing material to students who are considered enrolled in a course or institution-- the intent being that if you could share it with x people within a class setting, you can share it with that same population x through an online portal. In general, whether in education or not, it's now accepted that you best have any copyrighted material behind a password/login option whereby you can ensure that the scope is limited to your population, rather than the whole world. Again, please consider whatever limitations and implications of sharing copyrighted material online.
Not copyrighted? Go nuts.
The first iteration of distributing practice files online was posting to a webpage. This is certainly an option, and there are easy ways to create blogs and websites for your organization. Unless you're going to add some additional components, though, it's hard to restrict webpages and blogs to only members of an organization unless you create accounts for each person directly. There are cleaner ways to address this.
Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, etc.)
Creating a folder in Google Drive or any cloud storage option is easy, and folders can be directly shared with individuals. This is closer to our intent-- to share our files with a defined group of individuals. These programs all have ways to access files on a mobile device, meaning that our singers can load the files directly on their phones or tablets. They all require individual accounts, though, which again introduces a layer of complexity to our equation. An advantage of Google Drive is that Google Accounts are so ubiquitous (and apply to so many products) that many people already have them. If your singers use GMail, Google Calendar, or any other Google products, the same account will apply to the Google Drive.
We've talked about SoundCloud in the past as a way to reflect upon and analyze a rehearsal, but Chris' post describes it as a way to share audio with his group. SoundCloud offers a variety of options for communicating around music files, and is a great way to extend the rehearsal process. SoundCloud uses a content identification system (similar to YouTube) which scans files and attempts to identify if the audio matches anything requested for takedown by a copyright holder. If you are attempting to share an original recording of a pop song, for example, you may run afoul of the upload system. In addition, it's yet to be seen how far-reaching these software ID systems will be as they develop. Arrangements of songs, for example, usually don't get caught in the filters (especially if they're general MIDI/keyboard sounds), but melodic analysis software may in the future be able to identify melody fragments more effectively, identifying arrangements as well as full songs.
What About You?
How do you share your files with your singers? Do you have advice about how to set this up with the members of your groups to share? Post below!
[Originally posted November 8, 2014]
Date: July 13, 2015
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet. This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
Under the Night Sky by Danny Gray for SATB, clarinet and organ (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO of Pt.1 Pt.2 Pt.3)
Level: Advanced Children’s Choir
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Moon, Stars, Childhood Imagination
Under the Night Sky is a delightful setting of three Robert Louis Stevenson poems. Danny Gray is an extremely versatile composer writing in many different genres and for many different media. #1 is full of interesting complex meters that move the singer in a gentle but varied dance. #2 has rich but very singable harmony. #3 focuses the listener’s attention on beautiful melody dressed in delicate word painting and vocable accompaniment. This is one of those pieces that inspires me to improve my ensembles so that we could perform it.
Under the Night Sky is available from the composer: dg(a)dannygraymusic.com
Date: July 8, 2015
(Each week we look at one or two of the best choral works posted in the Composition Showcase here on ChoralNet. This is where we store a treasure trove of works that your choirs will love to sing and your audiences will love to hear.)
I Hear America Singing by James Johnson for SATB, clarinet and organ (Click here for PDF and here for AUDIO)
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Fate, Overcoming Adversity
This Piece Would Program Well With: This Is My Song by Jean Sibelius/Wagner from JWPepper and SheetMusicPlus
This is happy red, white and blue music through and through and perfect for the July 4 weekend. The text is by Walt Whitman and speaks of many professions in the early American economy. Delightful clarinet and organ ritornelli are interspersed among mixed voice and single section vocal parts. If you have a Bass Clarinet, Bassoon or Cello they can play the Basso Continuo along with the realized harmony for the organ or just let the organist pedal.
I Hear America Singing is available from the composer.
Date: July 8, 2015
Drive-in theatres are making a comeback! Yes, that iconic symbol of the 50s & 60s is experiencing a Renaissance.
“People love the communal experience,” said Kipp Sherer of drive-ins.com. The recent USA Today article continues, saying “There is definitely a resurgence of drive-ins, maybe because people are tired of the sterile environment in multiplexes.”
Choral music is like that, it’s communal. It’s human. And despite some clever video projects, it will probably never be synthesized.
Active involvement in ACDA, too, is a communal experience. Sure, you can lurk here, reading about choral music, watching a video or two, maybe even commenting about a blog you read; but you’re doing it alone. The American Choral Directors Association is delighted to offer a variety of opportunities online for engagement and communication, but nothing beats the face-to-face benefit of sharing the choral experience with peers, other choral-crazed souls, “who get it.”
So, what are you waiting for? Join ACDA. Add your voice, your strength, your passion for the choral art to a body devoted to “inspiring excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.”
Now, park the car and pass the popcorn!
[Originally posted July 27, 2012]
Date: June 29, 2015
The 2016 ACDA International Conductors Exchange Program deadline is approaching. ACDA is pleased to announce the 2016 International Conductors Exchange Program (ICEP) with South Korea. ICEP is providing opportunities for the next generation of choral leaders to represent the United States as ambassadors to the world in the exchange of music, ideas, and cultures. In 2016, ACDA will host fourteen choral conductors from South Korea who will travel to the United States to be official guests in each of the seven divisions and at the Division Conferences. In turn, South Korea will host fourteen U.S. conductors to be official guests during the summer of 2016. ICEP Application Deadline: July 10, 2015.
To apply online, please follow this link. For more information, please contact T. J. Harper.
Date: June 28, 2015
Level: Advanced High School or Higher
Uses: General Concert Use
Program Themes: Fate, Overcoming Adversity
Matt Wetmore used extremes in dynamics and a rich harmonic palate to show the struggles of life. As the poet leaves us triumphant Matt’s treatment of the final stanza sounds the trumpets of confidence surrounded by harsh reality. Give it a listen!
Invictus is available from the composer’s website: http://www.matt-wetmore.com/store/choral/invictus
Date: June 12, 2015
For many of us, the summer season is a time to step back and plan the next year's programs, explore new literature, techniques or ideas, or just catch up on the reading we didn't do during the rest of the year. We also may not see our ensembles much (if at all) for the next couple of months. Do you ever stumble upon a great recording or article in your summer work that you know you want to share with your groups in the fall? How do you save those finds so that you know you can access them down the road when your groups reconvene? Browser bookmarks are great for common websites or services to visit (like ChoralNet!), but break down once you start grabbing too many individual articles. Saving notes in a document like a Word file can be time-consuming, and breaks down if you use mobile devices or a home computer rather than work during the summer. Rather than clogging up that bookmarks menu or cutting-and-pasting, here are three different ways you might hold on to those great ideas or resources until you meet your groups again.
Diigo (Bookmarking Writ Large)
Diigo bills itself as "Social Bookmarking," but really it's your Internet index card file-- a way to save individual webpages, videos or articles for later use. There are lots of features that lend themselves to true in-depth research (such as annotation or highlighting), but the quickest use of it is to save pages into lists called "Outlines" (previously "Lists," but now renamed). Signing up for a Diigo account is quick and free, but going to the website every time you want to save an article is a hassle. Download and install the Bookmarklet to add a small toolbar to your browser which allows to you save articles directly from the website itself.
Evernote (Scrapbook and Notepad Together)
You may want to do more than just save websites-- you may want to save some notes for yourself from those mid-summer inspirations. Evernote is a comprehensive note and organization system that lets you both clip and save your findings online as well as create your own notes. Create notebooks for different types of resources, or different ensembles, and you can write down your brainstorms and save materials like websites and videos for future use. It's cloud-based, so you can use it on multiple devices. For best results, install the Web Clipper into your browser so that you can save webpages directly into your notebooks, like with Diigo, and the mobile app so that you can save articles from your phone or tablet.
Twitter (Share with the World, Save for Yourself)
Never mind the vast bulk of noise on Twitter-- if you've got a professional Twitter presence, you know that it's a great way to share resources that you find, as well as pick up on what your colleagues are reading. If you find something useful, tweet it. This way you've sent it out in case others may be interested, and you can open up your "sent tweets" to see everything you've shared recently. In the fall, looking back at your sent history will show all the bits you collected over the summer that you thought were interesting or worth sharing.
In-Depth: Put a note to yourself as a hashtag at the end, or put the name of your choir as a hashtag to make it easier to search in the fall ("#saveforfall" or "#UHSChamber"). More-In-Depth: Create an IFTTT ("If This, Then That") recipe to save your tweets automatically in Evernote.
Hopefully this helps you with some ideas of how to capture all those great findings from the summer season so that you can share them with your singers when you reconvene in the fall. Are there any others that you'd recommend? Join in, and have a healthy and happy summer. Until Fall!
Date: June 3, 2015
TAKE A VACATION EVERY DAY by Thomas Vozzella
Numerous articles abound on the internet, news magazines and broadcasts, Facebook and beyond, regarding summer vacation. A topic within these articles that really hits home is regarding technology and how it permeates our lives. It even invades our time away from work. Who doesn’t work 24/7 in the 21st century?
Not long ago, cell phones were the size of military two-way radios. If you owned one, it was in your car. Now, there isn’t a belt loop or purse that does not hold one of these marvels of modern technology. I have even seen female parent sponsors, on tour no less, pull them out of their shirts as they attach flip phones to their unmentionables. I wonder if there has been a study on the effects of cell phones stored near other parts of the body, other than holding it to the ear. To avoid this dreaded disease, Bluetooth is the way to go. Well, enough with the medical discussion on cell phones. I will leave that to the experts.
Soon, if not already, many of us will be packing the minivans and SUVs to head off to the beach, the mountains or a hotel with a pool to escape house cleaning, cooking and the pets. Yes, some will not go anywhere, either by choice or for economic reasons, yet either way, the cell phone is with you.
Can one leave the phone behind…probably not by choice, as we would be lost without it. Shut it off…not if it is your only mode of communication. You name I, the scenarios on less cell phone usage are endless. Then to complicate matters, there are smart phones. Smart phones can link to your two dozen or so email accounts. Most importantly, your work email account.
Let’s not forget text messaging, Facetime and Skype. How many times, while out of the office has a colleague or boss sent you a quick text message to ask a quick tiny, brief question? A question that must be answered right then and now. The convenience of technology has become a major inconvenience. Many thought the American way of life was stressful. How does everyone feel now?
Technology was endeared to us with a tag line of “saving time, energy and money”. In my experience, it has done none of those things. Maybe your experience has been different. If it has, then maybe you should write an article to help the rest of us.
Saving time and energy – instead of sending a memo, or making a quick call on a landline, we now have the…”just one more thing”. Then to top it all off, there are the upgrades and learning curves for each upgrade. Upgrades seem to be never ending, as we all deal with more than one technology, i.e., Apple, Microsoft, Finale, Sibelius, Blackboard, etc., are all time consuming. The list is endless. Remember the line we all used as children, when traveling – “are we there yet”?
Saving money - that’s an easy one. I print much more than I ever did before. Sure, we can do all our prep work on individual devices. However, when the actual meeting occurs, hard copies are printed by the dozens. Devices such as the iPad, SurfacePro, laptops (still heavy and bulky), and so on, could be used. I own all of these items, as I am sure you do as well. However, coordinating formats is a nightmare.
Yes, we are…one-step removed from total automation. Until that day actually arrives, we should consider when and when not to keep technology a thumb click away.
Just this week, I was at the movie theater with my wife and daughter. My phone vibrated. Yes, I should have just shut it off, but let’s be honest, how many people really shut them off? Then it vibrated a second time. I do not look, and/or listen in settings such as theaters and concert halls (turned off, but immediately turned on during intermission). Then it vibrated again. My mind raced with who in the world would need me that badly. I ignored it.
As soon as the show was over, I pulled the phone from my belt. Was it anything of importance? Not at all, yet, I let it take my mind from the cute movie I was watching with my family. Are there any other guilty parties out there? Now, let’s not get into a tirade of replies on the evils of not turning off our cell phones. Let me say – my phone is always on vibrate, and never rings. I never want to be that person they all say,” What is the matter with that person?”
How many of us allow students, singers, to use cell phones in class and rehearsals? None of us would allow such a practice…yet, as mature adults, leaders, we think we are different. We are exceptional, and need that constant “good vibration” to know we are part of humankind. Are we that needy? I don't think so.
Vacation, in the classic sense, is for R&R. However, when one returns from a vacation, they seemingly need a vacation. In Europe it is called holiday. It wouldn’t hurt those living in America to call it a holiday. Holiday, classically, has been a time when family and friends gather. A time when stores are/were closed. Business was on a break. This is not so today. Could vacation be called a holiday? “By George”, it could be called a holiday!
Because of this need for holiday, I have devised a 5-step program to get off the grid to allow myself a personal holiday. Getting off the grid for a personal holiday time is a very worthwhile endeavor. My hope is that you will consider joining me in freeing yourself from the bondage of technology, starting with the following 5-steps (please reply with additional ideas):
In summary, “let it go”. Enjoy your summer. Use this time to foster good technology habits. You can only have holiday, if you give it to yourself!
Date: June 1, 2015
Except for a very few holdouts, the academic year is over. Time for a little rest and rejuvenation. A change of scenery is in order, as is some time for reflection. Here, then, is a little something to ponder from your hammock. The following is by Kevin Peter Hand, a planetary scientist/astrobiologist in Pasadena, California and a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer:
The drumbeat of human civilization is the pursuit of new knowledge. We explore, we discover, and we advance. From fundamental research on cancer to revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, it is not an either/or: we must do it all. Anything less is a sign that our priorities as a race have been hijacked by agendas beneath our potential. As has become a refrain in my community, the drumbeat continues and we echo the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt: Dare mighty things.
What will YOU dare to advance the choral art next season?
Date: May 31, 2015
(Each week we look at a piece of useful repertoire from the ChoralNet Community Composition Showcase. A variety of voicings and levels of difficulty will be presented. Enjoy!)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: General Concert Use, Building Community Relationships, Choral Masterworks
Program Themes: Summer, Flowers, Beauty of the Earth
This Piece Would Program Well With: The Heavens are Telling from The Creation by Joseph Haydn available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus
Harmony in Gold was commissioned by the Milburn High School Choir from Milburn NJ. A quick search on the school showed a 100% graduation rate. Could the music program and talented directors have something to do with that? Dale Trumbore very skillfully wove young voices into an orchestral tapestry. The choir is easily heard through the texture and the text painting by choir and brass is astounding! Harmony in Gold really got me thinking about the value of collaboration with our instrumental colleagues.
For my graduate conducting recital, I collaborated with the orchestra director at the high school I taught at. It was one of the most fulfilling musical events of my life and the lives of my choir members. Is there an orchestra at your school or in your community? In Racine, WI where I live, there is an excellent community orchestra that regularly collaborates with our high school choirs. I challenge high school and community choir directors to step up their programs through collaborations such as this. I am forwarding Harmony In Gold to our city orchestra. Won’t you do the same?
If you are a high school director choose a couple pieces so you and your instrumental counterpart can share in the conducting duties. Make it clear from the beginning that you would like to conduct at least one piece and that you will make your choirs available for him/her to conduct. At the community level you may have to accept that you are the guests of the orchestra director.
Why collaborate? It will expand the musical experiences of your choir members, make your program more valued by your community, build a larger audience for you and make valuable connections to the musical movers and shakers in your community.
Why would a community orchestra want to collaborate with you? Ticket sales! If they accept, be sure to sell the performance to your families. Our collaborations are sold out events.
How do you collaborate? Ask! It never hurts to ask. Be a regular audience member of the program you want to collaborate with. Get to know the members of the board of directors. Offer the orchestra free advertising in your concert programs. In a high school, offer to run sound, house lights or take tickets at the instrumental director’s concerts. Building relationships is essential.
Get on it!
(Original publication: March 17, 2015)