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(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!)
Dreaming in Darkness by Robinson McClelland SATB divisi a cappella (click for PDF and AUDIO)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: General Concert Use, Expanding Harmonic Pallet
Program Themes: The Stuff of Dreams, Raising Children
This Piece Would Program Well With: It Takes a Village by Joan Szymko available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus and will be performed by Arlington Martin High School Chamber Singers at the ACDA convention in Dallas.
Short and sweet.  Robinson McClelland’s Dreaming in Darkness is an excellent introduction to upper sonority harmony.   Use this as a teaching piece to move your singers’ harmonic pallet out of the 19th century. 
I really like McClelland’s use of perusal videos to share his works (click here).  Combining this with a timed close caption track would be even better.   Anything that saves a conductor time ranks high on my list, and having the score move along with the music so I can multitask and not be lost is a real plus.   Check out Robinson McClelland’s ChoralNet profile for links to his interesting Facebook page and website. 
Dreaming in Darkness is available from from the composer.
(Original publication: March 3, 2013)
For those of you in school and church choirs, another year is coming to a close. You might well be thinking to yourself "Hey, I'm going to be missing everyone during summer break...maybe I should go find something to do to continue to be part of the choral community!". We have a fine opportunity for you: become a ChoralNet Resources curator. The Resources sections are a well-loved and well-used part of ChoralNet, but they're getting a bit shopworn. There's a lot there that could be updated, and a lot of new things that probably aren't there but should be--and if you're current in a particular area, we'd love you to share your expertise. (Since a lot of the work on the Resources sections happened prior to ChoralNet becoming part of the ACDA, there are also a lot of ACDA resources that ought to be linked up). If you're a recent grad, curating a ChoralNet Resources section is a great thing to put on your well as giving you a great opportunity to discover lots of interesting and useful material.
You'll likely be responsible (along with a few other people) for a single Resource category. You'll get to go through everything that's currently there, find dead links, update new links, and find interesting and helpful discussions on ChoralNet and in ACDA resources to link people to. Once that's all done, you'll be responsible for vetting submissions and generally keeping your section informative and vital. There's a bunch of work to do at the start, and then after that, there's a small amount of maintenance work you'll need to do about quarterly to keep everything in good shape.
Interested? Fill this in and let us know!
This is just one of the 74 choral conductors on the ACDA Wall of Honor. LEARN MORE about the Wall of Honor and MEET ALL of the award recipients.
As I mentioned, I'm leaving ChoralNet blog posting in another week. Next year will be interesting, to say the least.
l'll be taking over Jerry McCoy's Director of Choral Studies duties in an interim year at UNT, so conducting the A Cappella Choir, being the primary teacher of conducting for our graduate choral conducting students, being primary in creating their comprehensive exams and advising on dissertations (and four to six will be doing them this year!), and administering the choral program. I'll still be conducting the Collegium Singers (who will sing at the Boston Early Music Festival in June and at the NCCO conference in Portland, OR in November), and will remain chair of the Division of Conducting & Ensembles at the College of Music.
For A Cappella, I'm still planning much of the repertoire, but know I'll do Stravinsky's Les Noces in the spring. And I'll conduct the Grand Chorus (the three UNT mixed choirs) and Symphony Orchestra in Haydn's The Creation at the end of the year. This is part of the score study work to be done this summer. But that's one of the processes I really enjoy.
I've conducted Les Noces before, but one of the nice things is there's a very good new edition out. Any time I do this kind of work again, I usually want to completely re-study, but the new edition makes it even more important.
And with The Creation there are lots of things to decide. We'll do it in English and the libretto by Van Swieten has "issues," to say the least! There are other versions, including the Shaw/Parker translation, one by Nicholas Temperley and another by Neil Jenkins, who has several wonderful articles (1, 2, and 3), plus his own translation. This is the kind of research I love doing and I'll ultimately make individual decisions (collaborating with my soloists) on choices, but probably staying closely with the original text.
Peter Brown's book about the early performances of The Creation is wonderful and leads to all sorts of questions to answer, particularly about the size and disposition of the orchestra. In most of Haydn's performances with large forces, he had three sets of woodwinds (Harmonie), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassons, and two horns. In addition his trumpets (2) were doubled, as well as the 2 trombones (he usually also had two sets of timpani). And he scored for contrabassoon and bass trombone (not doubled). The set of parts that Haydn used (and which have markings in his hand) also had extra parts for the contrabassoon and bass trombone, which I'll certainly use. All three of the Harmonie were not used all the time, but surviving evidence shows that it was likely that Harmonie 1 played everything (meaning some solos in the arias), Harmonie 2 on most big tuttis (even in arias), and Harmonie 3 in choruses and at other special places ("Let there be LIGHT").
If I can manage to use the triple Harmonie, it changes the balances and color . . . and in some moments, such as the "roar" of the lion, it will mean that the low Ab will be played by all cellos and basses, six bassoons and contrabassoons, plus bass trombone. A mighty roar, indeed!
It's these kinds of things that come from research that I enjoy doing. And hopefully it all comes together in an interpretation that is not just about being "historically correct," but gets to what Haydn wanted to express and how he expressed it. For me, that's part of all performance practice—figuring out how better to express the emotion and ideas of the composer.
Wish me luck!
CHORAL ETHICS (Part 12): TRUTH TO TELL by Marie Grass Amenta
“Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction.” Lord Byron
Since writing about Choral Ethics here on ChoralNet, I have received a number of emails.  Folks who contact me either want to thank me or to tell me their stories. And their stories are amazing.  Some seem outlandish at the outset, but then I follow up by asking the emailer a few more questions. Then I “get it,” deciding it has to be true.
Martha* spent nine months co-founding a non-auditioned community choir, consisting of mostly people over 50.  Their goal was to get together, enjoy singing and perhaps perform a little something for family and friends. Period. The community center found a young choral conductor who did an excellent job of choosing music and directing.  He required this choir, made up of folks over 50, to memorize a couple of pieces for a fifteen minute community performance attended by friends and family. That doesn’t seem like too much for simple folk songs but then he required they memorize an Italian aria, in Italian. Some singers balked at the idea of memorizing a language unfamiliar to them and complained it was too difficult. Several suggested to him it pretty common for choirs to use music in performance, but he wouldn’t budge. Martha, who is a therapist and works primarily with midlife and older adults, wrote a very respectful letter discussing the problems of word retrieval at this age.  He responded, saying he would likely not require memorization again. Then changed his mind and required they memorize another aria in a foreign language. Then told the choir as long as they worked with him, they would be required to memorize. Several lovely people dropped out as a result. After working so hard to “birth” this choir, Martha decided she had no choice but to leave. It was a very difficult decision but when she realized her R and R had become more stressful than her work; she felt she had no choice. 
It seemed a bit odd to me for a choral director not to take into account or to understand his singers’ age would make it difficult in their ability to memorize a new foreign language. Perhaps he didn’t understand this would be a chorus of older adults but Martha assures me he did understand.  She believes he had a vision of this choir being a showcase for him and not a community chorus for senior citizens as was intended.
Dougie* started his first college teaching job in as strange a way as I have ever heard.  He interviewed one spring with a nice, four year liberal arts college in the Midwest with a strong choral program. He was charmed by the music faculty, including Monty*, the gentleman he would be replacing due to early retirement. The college owned a wonderful, large choral library and Monty was quite proud of it.
Dougie was hired for the position and excited to get this “dream job.” He, his wife and young child moved into a quaint house in late July, getting settled so he could begin to work on repertoire from that lovely choral library the first week of August.  This was in the days before music libraries were put on spread sheets so everything was organized in a card catalogue. Dougie decided to go in the last day of July, pick up the card catalogue and start browsing.
When he opened the door to the choir room, he had a sick feeling.  He found the card catalogue, opened the box and found……..nothing. Well, nothing but a note from Monty.  Monty’s note described how he was being forced into early retirement and would be punishing Dougie for it. How? By taking that lovely music library and hiding envelopes of music ALL OVER CAMPUS! Dougie contacted the department chair immediately. Together that day they found a few envelopes of the thousand pieces of music the college owned.  Dougie wanted the college to press charges against Monty, but since he had hidden the music and didn’t steal it, they couldn’t. Eventually they had the music work/study students help look, but it took until the end of the fall semester to find most of the music.  Even a few years later, they occasionally found an envelope. At first, Dougie thought it a sad way to end Monty’s tenure. Then he was too busy trying to find the music to care. What a legacy!
*Name Withheld by request 
READ the entire series on choral ethics by Marie Grass Amenta.
       Choral Ethics is Not an Oxymoron
       Choral Ethics (Part 1): Songs My Mother Taught Me
       Choral Ethics (Part 2): Amateur Versus Professional
       Choral Ethics (Part 3): Kindness is NOT for Wimps
       Choral Ethics (Part 4): Reaping What We Sow
       Choral Ethics (Part 5): “Maestra Manners” Explains All
       Choral Ethics (Part 6): Judging Our Colleagues
       Choral Ethics (Part 7): Our Choral Culture
       Choral Ethics (Part 8): Don’t Shoot the Piano Player
       Choral Ethics (Part 9): Preaching to the Choir
       Choral Ethics (Part 10): Audition Time is Here
       Choral Ethics (Part 11): Rock Star
(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!)
Soon One Day by Michael Sandvik SATB a cappella (click for PDF and AUDIO)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: Sacred, General Concert Use, Finale
Program Themes: Get up Out of Your Seats and Clap!
This Piece Would Program Well WithAin'-A That Good News arr. by Willaim Dawson available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus.
The reason I am a choir director is that my High School Choir Director got me excited about choral music.  He shared some advice he had received from a mentor of his. He said "Always end each concert with a spiritual." This practice was once shared by the bulk of choral directors. It has died off a bit and I think that is a mistake.  Listen to the building excitement and energy in this new spiritual by Michael Sandvik.  Soon One Day  reminds me of many of the old time classics that were the mainstay of so many programs a few years back.  Put this on the end of your concert and make sure you have one more for an encore.  You are going to need it.
This work is available from the composer through e-mail:
(Original publication: February 24, 2013)
This is just one of the 74 choral conductors on the ACDA Wall of Honor. LEARN MORE about the Wall of Honor and MEET ALL of the award recipients.
 (Maestoso: Handwriting-based music theory software. Screengrab from "Maestoso Prototype," Laura Barreto, 1:15)
It seems like the last 12 months have seen great growth in the field of pen and touch computing, both for the computing industry in general and music technology in specific. The release of the first iPad in 2010 promised to launch widespread access to digital ink and handwriting for mainstream computer users, but the first few years of the iPad era demonstrated that finding a niche for handwriting apps was a slow process. Fast-forward five years, and a variety of software and hardware developments have seemingly re-energized the concept of digital handwriting, but I believe that the biggest development in the digital ink field is not a technical one, but rather a shift in the industry's thinking that could lead to some very interesting developments for us in music. I met recently with a colleague in a large software company who has been watching the field of digital ink for many generations, and he said that the software and hardware industries hadn't really fully committed to digital ink in the past because it wasn't something in which they thought users were particularly interested. As a musician, educator and technologist, this point floored me-- how many times have we looked at a file on the screen and wished we could just write directly on it rather than fumble for a way to comment, edit or annotate using the keyboard? I had taken for granted that the desire to write directly on an electronic document was universal, but my colleague's observation was that the business world (still a major driver of the IT industry) preferred to edit documents by type. His suggestion was that type is "clean" (i.e., professional) and efficient for people to use and share. What his company was starting to realize, though, was that creative fields such as art, design, music, and education, wanted to write freely into a computer precisely because it was messy: the process of designing, creating, annotating and editing is much more about a fluid process than a final product. Where businesses are often more concerned with the professionalism of a final document, a musician is more concerned with personalizing a document to serve an internal purpose: creating a public purpose. This software company's realization that education and creative/design fields had fundamentally different priorities in working with digital files was leading them to re-commit to designing software that let people use digital ink to collaborate, edit, communicate about and design digital work. Recently I've written about two examples of digital ink and handwriting already in the field: StaffPad and NotateMe. These two programs are each very exciting for what they demonstrate about the utility of touchscreen and digital ink for music composition and editing. If this shift in thinking is indicative of a larger industry trend (and I believe that it is), we will continue to see many more promising developments in the coming couple of years that will accelerate the development of software and hardware for digital inking. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Workshop on the Impact of Pen and Touch Technology in Education, a symposium of educators, researchers, technology industry and computer scientists hosted by Microsoft. Viewing the research projects from around the world and across all computing platforms, I saw two major trends which I think have great promise for us as musicians.
The first headline was that document markup continues to be the largest use of digital ink. The idea of marking up a .PDF file on an iPad or iPhone is pretty unsurprising to us at this point, but the immediate future of document markup is in shifting from single-person to collaboration. Again, thinking about the arts, design and education fields, these users all share a high priority on collaboration, and having multiple people work on the same document simultaneously creates a tremendous capacity for rapid creation. In short, think of Google Docs with handwriting support (which, yes, can be done now with plugins, but is a bit limited). While highly speculative and far from release, a team from Cornell University demonstrated a system called RichReview which allows you to upload a .PDF document and share it with a group or team in order to mark it up. Their system also includes the ability to record audio annotations. Perhaps most surprisingly, the system inserts the marked-up comments into the document themselves by respacing all of the text to make room rather than just as a layer on top. It's worth the two minutes to watch their demo video for a sense of how the system works. Using a system such as this, an ensemble could be sharing a common copy of a score, and everyone could edit or mark it up together-- imagine the composition studio or rehearsal where the director can re-write the score on the fly and have it synced to all the musicians instantly.
The second headline to me was that handwriting recognition technology is extending beyond handwriting into symbols, drawings and non-standard languages such as music notation. The workshop featured multiple demonstrations of systems that decoded a user's drawings or doodles and translated them into machine action. This is the process which currently powers handwriting-based notation systems such as StaffPad and NotateMe, but it seems obvious that we'll see many more entrants into this space soon, and not just for notation software. I was particularly interested in a project from Texas A&M's Sketch Recognition Lab called Maestoso. The research team of Paul Taele and Laura Barreto have built a music theory instruction program around handwritten notation recognition, noting that while notation programs are most useful for people who are already familiar with reading and writing music, beginning students will learn music theory and notation best by writing it. Akin to our beginning theory workbooks, this software automatically recognizes and evaluates the students' written input and gives them the result of their work.
Neither of these headlines are "new" developments, but to my mind they show a renewed interest from industry and research in the use of digital ink for creative processes. We have seen great developments in this field recently, but they've been slow to push into the mainstream of computer users, even in a dedicated field such as music technology. For a handful of reasons, that seems to be changing quickly. Part of this is also simple market competition-- where Apple dominated the touchscreen device world with iOS for the first three or four years, Microsoft's entries with Windows 8 and the Surface and Google's announcement that ChromeOS and touchscreen Chromebooks can run Android apps natively means that the software and hardware powering pen and touch will continue to build up steam. With software developers starting to look at the ways in which handwriting and digital ink serve the way that education, the arts, and creative fields use technology, that could mean big things for us in the next few months ahead.

Ward Swingle died this past January and, after reading his Facebook post about Ward, I asked Bruce Sellers if he was willing to allow me to copy his post about his experiences with him. Here's a bit about Bruce:

Bruce Sellers is an American tenor and conductor with a rather extraordinary background as an ensemble singer. After studying at the University of Georgia he went to Indiana University where he studied with the American Heldentenor James King. He also studied with Marcia Baldwin and Margaret Harshaw. At the same time he became involved in the Early Music Institute there. From 1985 to 1988 he sang with the wonderful all-male ensemble, Chanticleer. In 1988 he went to Amsterdam to study with Dutch baritone Max van Egmont (I was lucky enough to work with Max for 6 years at the Pacific Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane, WA from 1979-1985 when I was conductor, and again in 2009 leading a Messiah performance when my colleagues from Allegro Baroque got some of us back together, along with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra led by Stanley Ritchie, to celebrate their anniversary with the first complete performance of Messiah with period instruments in Spokane. Max, in his late 70's, still sang fantastically!). Bruce worked regularly as a soloist and free-lance singer, beginning to sing with the Netherlands Chamber Choir as a freelancer immediately. He then became a full-time member of the Chamber Choir in 1990, singing with them until 2005, when he returned to the US.

This choir, much like a number of other professional European choirs, worked more as an orchestra would do in the US, meaning an extraordinary number of concerts each year, some with the current music director, but many with guest conductors, meaning that Bruce sang with many (all?) of the outstanding conductors in Europe during this period (for example, Eric Ericson was long a regular guest conductor with this choir). Singers also had to be flexible and be able to adapt to many different styles, from early music to the latest avant-garde music. Frankly, I'm jealous of this incredible experience! Here's Bruce:

I sometimes have to pinch myself to realize how blessed I've been in my life! Ward could be demanding and wasn't always diplomatic, in fact at times he was downright unpleasant, but it was always in pursuit of making things as good as they could be.

For us the challenges were that of the 8 singers he had to work with, 4 of us were native English-speakers who were also a bit familiar with the style he wanted. The others were Dutch and maybe not quite as at home in the style, but they were quick studies. We had to learn to sing with mikes, which is an art unto itself, especially mikes of the hand-held variety, plus the program had to be done totally off book, something else we weren't as familiar with doing (though in Chanticleer I had to memorize TONS of music!). Our rehearsal periods per project tended to be only about 2 weeks tops (about 10 3-hour rehearsals), but I think for this program we had maybe 3 weeks since it had to be from memory. At the same time, Ward was rehearsing 8 other singers from the choir for the other half of the program, which featured Berio's A-Ronne, which Berio had written for the Swingle Singers (it's a crazy piece and VERY hard).

It seemed to me that part of the reason that Ward was rather bitter at this time was that this was not long after the big court battle he had waged for the rights to his name. The New Swingle Singers wanted to disassociate themselves from him, but wanted to keep the name. He sued in order to retain control. From what little he said about it at the time one could tell it was a VERY sore point with him. What he particularly resented was that people would use his editions of his arrangements and then decide to arbitrarily to just change things here and there as they wanted. It really cheesed him off. Everything was to be done essentially "come scritto", as far as he was concerned, no exceptions!

A colleague in Holland just mentioned to me that she saw the Swingle Singers recently over there and that it appeared Ward had reconciled with the group, which is wonderful news. I remember his contention at the time was that the group (based in England, and calling itself "The New Swingle Singers"--Chanticleer performed with them in a festival in Holland in 1988) were using his name and doing his arrangements, but were changing the arrangements here and there at their whim, which greatly aggravated him. 

I can't remember exactly what was on our part of the program, but I remember Ward wrote a Cole Porter Medley specially for us that was quite difficult, but really lovely. We also did stuff like the Bach G minor Fugue, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Agincourt Song, When I'm 64, Ward's setting of "Roadside Fire", "All the Things You Are", and a thing called "Music History 101" that featured "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as done in various periods of music history (Mediaeval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc.), right down to a "rap" version, which featured yours truly. I was the only one who dared to do it (or who was stupid enough, take your pick!), but I had fun with it--yep, I came out in reversed ball-cap, sunglasses, and lots of bling necklaces--it WAS the mid-90s, y'know. Anyway, Ward loved it and relished telling me that I really was nothing but a "big ol' slice of pure Georgia ham", which is just what was needed!! Somewhere I actually have a cassette tape (remember those?!?) of one of those concerts, and I think on one of our compilation CDs of various choir performances Ward's version of "Roadside Fire" shows up (it's a lovely piece).

Pardon me for being so long-winded.....the memories tend to come flooding back all of a sudden!! Long & short of it: he was a brilliant man.
You find a great position. It might even be a position you have dreamed of being offered. Because you are overwhelmed with excitement, as soon as you are offered the position, you say yes without regard to the salary and benefit package. How many have taken a job because of the adrenalin rush of being offered a position. If you say never, you are not being honest with yourself.
If you are a Facebook user, you have read numerous disparaging posts by colleagues and friends regarding their position, their supervisor, their budgets, or lack thereof, difficulty with parents, and more.
Although this piece is not about Facebook and public postings, it does deserve a quick recommendation by this author: Do not post anything “ever” that would damage your present position, current relationship, and/or future positions. Follow the adage, if you do not have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all – what you say now, may come back to bite you later.
Now, back to the topic at hand…this piece is only focused on salary and benefits. It should be noted that the position description is also vital. However, much of that is not negotiable.  
When entering into an employment agreement, not including union and/or professional employment policies and recommendations, both salary and benefits, take time before you sign the contract. This isn’t Shark Tank, although it may feel that way. Ask, if offered the position you applied for, for a day or two to consider the position, read over the employment policies, benefits, etc. When you have your follow-up conversation to talk final numbers and benefits, it is important to know all you can about the employment policies. These policies, including but are not limited to, guidelines on vacation time, sick days, personal days, continuing education, prep periods, retirement, etc.
In terms of making the position, aside from artistic reward (which is why you applied for the position in the first place), financially beneficial the following common steps will serve as a guide to negotiate your salary and benefits :
  1. Do not discuss salary until the employer offers you the position -Refrain from mentioning your salary desires in your resume, including past and present. Obviously, if asked for in the ad you are responding to, you will need to supply a salary expectation.
  2. “Those who speak first, lose.” Allow the interviewer to make the offer. Remember, the first figure given by the employer is a starting place. The employer has a range in which they can negotiate.
  3. Do as much research as you can – Negotiate through knowledge. Research the employer, and the salary range for your position and experience. A useful starting point can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics website.
  4. Let negotiations begin – Know your worth, because of your experience and education. You should strive for the highest salary possible. Yet, be fair, as the employer has a bottom line. You can however, negotiate a salary review date in your contract.
  5. There’s more than pay? – Salary, is only one component of the negotiating process. You can also negotiate vacation time, sick days, personal days, continuing education, prep periods, retirement, etc.
Know your field, and your prospective employer. With this knowledge the “world is your oyster”. So, negotiate.
CHORAL ETHICS (Part 11): ROCK STAR by Marie Grass Amenta
“I won't be a rock star. I will be a legend.”  Freddie Mercury
My youngest brother is a conservatory trained percussionist…..which means he’s played for a LOT of rock bands.  Classically trained, he likes playing for rock bands more than orchestras. Why?  The atmosphere.  According to him, most rock musicians are not the spoiled brats we imagine but many of the classical musicians he’s worked with are.  He’s got some radical opinions about classical music and why we struggle to keep it alive. And most of all, he questions what we are willing to put up with in the name of “genius.”
We throw the term “rock star” around willy-nilly in the classical world.  This composer is a Rock Star and that pianist is a Rock Star and the other conductor-du-jour is a Rock Star. What does that mean in our musical genre?  A visual artist friend of mine thinks it means we have a talent (whether music or another art) others find so magical and special they are intrigued and awed by it.  Rock Star status may also mean we are given a pass on rational behavior, since anyone so talented and so much a genius at the keyboard (or with such a heavenly voice or such a wonderful conductor) should not be expected to behave like a mere mortal. And yet, the real Rock Stars are not exactly like that.
Little Bro tells me rock musicians are all about the fans. Most have paid their dues, whether in garage bands or by playing dives, sometimes selling CDs from the back of their cars to get exposure. They are grateful to the people who have made them what they are and show their gratitude by signing autographs, CDs, tee-shirts and various and sundry body parts all without (mostly) complaint. Up close and personal, most are nice, normal people who are driven but humble and have worked hard to get where they are. The unusual Green Room demands we hear about—like only blue M &Ms or a special brand of bottled water—are really not demands but a strategy of making sure a venue is paying attention to details.  Blue M & Ms are not important, but the distance between laser lights or fireworks or speakers, for safety reasons, are. If venues pay attention to the silly stuff, chances are they will be paying attention to the important stuff too.
He tells me we put up with “conductors behaving badly” too often and given the subject of this series, I would have to agree.  How do we change, and better yet, how do we change our out-of-control colleagues’ behavior? Perhaps a change in attitude is in order. In my opinion, it boils down to one word: respect.
Do you respect your singers and do they respect you?  Do you have good things to say about your colleagues in the choral community and do they have equally good things to say about you? And what about local competing choral organizations, do you respect them and their mission, perhaps slightly different from yours? How do we foster a climate of respect, tolerance and collegiality within our own choral community and the choral world are large? Is being respectful so hard?  Is acknowledging others hard work, talent and accomplishments so difficult?  Does it make us feel uncomfortable to give someone else a compliment because we feel it might diminish us and our achievements? I don’t have the answers, but I do know for the good of choral music, our singers as well as classical music, we need to find the answers.
Speaking of rock stars, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were friends as well as rivals and respected each other.  We can all agree, in rock and roll and music in general, these gentlemen are legends.  If Ringo and Mick can respect each other, we should be able to respect our colleagues too.
READ the entire series on choral ethics by Marie Grass Amenta.
       Choral Ethics is Not an Oxymoron
       Choral Ethics (Part 1): Songs My Mother Taught Me
       Choral Ethics (Part 2): Amateur Versus Professional
       Choral Ethics (Part 3): Kindness is NOT for Wimps
       Choral Ethics (Part 4): Reaping What We Sow
       Choral Ethics (Part 5): “Maestra Manners” Explains All
       Choral Ethics (Part 6): Judging Our Colleagues
       Choral Ethics (Part 7): Our Choral Culture
       Choral Ethics (Part 8): Don’t Shoot the Piano Player
       Choral Ethics (Part 9): Preaching to the Choir
       Choral Ethics (Part 10): Audition Time is Here
(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!)
The Lord's Prayer by Dustin Oldenburg SATB a cappella (click for PDF and AUDIO)
Level: High School or higher
Uses: Sacred, General Concert Use
Program Themes: Songs of Power and Peace
This Piece Would Program Well With:  Prayer by René Clausen  available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus.
This week, just to be different, I offer you a choral director's puzzle.  Listen to the impeccable tuning and blend of the recording of Dustin Oldenburg’s The Lords Prayer and comment with your questions or observations.  Of course the savvy ChoralNet user could find the answer right on this site. 
For some of us directors of a certain age, the Internet is still a mysterious and magical place. There are times that I forget I have the power of Google at my fingertips.  Sometimes I am struck by the amazing things I learn or discover from simply spending time clicking on things.  I encourage ChoralNet users that were born before the Internet not to be content getting ChoralNet in your email.  Come to and read ChoralBlog and ChoralBuzz, join Communities that interest you, take the first step and leave a comment or post a question in the forums.  ChoralNet is a microcosm of the Internet rolled up in a friendly supportive package. 
I apologize to Dustin for not writing more about his beautiful piece but researching it led me to a site you all might want to click on called ChoralTracks.  To see Dustin Oldenburg's The Lord's Prayer on ChoralTracks click here.
The Lords Prayer is available from the composer's website.
(Original publication: February 10, 2013)
This is just one of the 74 choral conductors on the ACDA Wall of Honor. LEARN MORE about the Wall of Honor and MEET ALL of the award recipients.
As you know if you've read many of my posts, I enjoy reading in other areas, from psychology to sports/coaching, and trying to learn things from them I can apply to music and conducting.
I think that the biggest thing I've taken from Daniel Coyle's two books has been the idea of gradually building the "white matter," or myelin, in the brain. If you've read much about the brain over at least 50 years or so, some of the structures (neurons, axons, dendrites, the synapses, etc.) have been understood to some extent for a long time. The idea of the insulating properties of myelin, which is much more recent, which gets put down only as a connection is fired, and builds gradually, is a great help to understanding how practice works. It tells how important it is to practice the correct things in the correct way (because you don't want to lay down myelin—or reinforce—the wrong things). And it also tells us about the patience needed as our brains repeat the correct actions many times and gradually build stronger and stronger connections as the correct skills are ingrained and gradually become more automatic, more unconscious . . . so your conscious brain can do what only it can do in leading the whole show.
It changes the nature of how we practice our own skills (conducting & rehearsal technique), but also, how we teach our singers to sing better, to be better musicians, better ensemble singers, better expressive singers. I know I will think much more about my own skills and these processes because of this.
And on to an announcement that I'll finish up being a ChoralNet blogger soon. For one thing, I've written a lot and need to work on some other things. But primarily, my life will be especially busy next year. Now, all of us are busy—I'm not special in that way, given the lives we all lead as conductors and teachers! But next year, with Jerry McCoy's retirement at the quickly-approaching end of this  school year, I'll be taking on his role for the 2015-16 academic year, administering the choral program, conducting the A Cappella Choir, and teaching all our graduate students in conducting (including writing and running their exams and supervising quite a few final papers). At the same time, I'll keep conducting the Collegium Singers (our ensemble that sings with our period-instrument orchestra) and remain chair of the Division of Conducting & Ensembles.
It'll be busy, but a great challenge and great fun at the same time—Jerry set very high standards. I'm looking forward to it . . . but trying to keep up with writing a weekly blog is a bit much.
I'll say more later, but it's been a great privilege to be able to share with (and learn from) you over the past several years. Thanks to Scott Dorsey and Phillip Copeland for asking me to do this—it's been fun!
CHORAL ETHICS (Part 10): AUDITION TIME IS HERE by Marie Grass Amenta
"We don't want nobody that nobody sent." Timothy O'Sullivan, Chicago Ward Committeeman, 1948
It’s that time of year; we are finishing the academic year or our concert cycles and by rights, we should be able to relax.  You and I know that isn’t the case at all.  If we are in an academic setting, we hold auditions for the fall semester’s elite groups or screening auditions for incoming students before the end of the semester.  If we conduct in the professional realm or conduct a community group, after our last concerts of the year we hold auditions in the late spring or summer before rehearsals begin again in the fall.  A professional symphony chorus in my area holds auditions and re-auditions every May. While our singers, administrators, parents and the community think we are getting ready for that hiking trip through the Smokies, we are hearing “O Caro Mio Ben” for the umpteenth time and trying not to twitch.
I have talked about auditions in general ways in previous installments of this series but have not spoken of singer auditions specifically.  Even non-auditioned community choruses have a sign-up period.  And we usually have them once or twice or three times a year so we should know what we’re doing by now, right? So how are your auditions going?
One of the biggest problems with auditions in regards to Choral Ethics is the lack of an audition plan, or the perception of the lack of plan by those auditioning. If singers who audition for you don’t understand your plan, they will believe you are not being fair when you are just sticking to your plan. And if they believe you are not fair, all sorts of misunderstandings occur.  Taking time to be clear about expectations can make a world of difference in auditionees’ perception of you, your ensemble and organization.
Another Choral Ethics issue is how you, the auditioner, behave during the audition. Do you act bored, or interested? If you are forced to hold auditions no matter what, how do you present yourself? Do your auditionees feel they have a chance of making it by your behavior? You may not need extra sopranos now, but you may down the line. If you have ticked off enough singers in previous auditions by your attitude, you may be sure they have told everyone. Let’s talk about what happens when they do.
Twenty years ago, Judy*, was re-locating to a new community because of her spouse’s job transfer. She thought she’d audition for a highly regarded and highly auditioned community chorus, Hotspur Chorale*, while she applied for school music jobs in the area. Her neighbors gushed over the Hotspur Chorale; they sang with the local professional symphony on a regular basis, had interesting and unusual repertoire and singers were a mixture of local music professionals and highly skilled amateurs. She was very excited to be able to do something of this caliber while she was waiting for her new job to begin.
Judy had an exquisite mezzo voice.  She had sung in professional choruses while in music school and her previous singing experiences were nothing to sneeze at. She had several degrees in music and was an accomplished Kolday specialist. Any community choral director would be thrilled to have someone like her audition. Not the director of the Hotspur Chorale! He looked at her audition form, rolled his eyes, and asked her to vocalize for him but didn’t tell her what he wanted.  She sang her standard warm ups, he sighed and seemed disappointed.  He asked her to sing a prepared piece but hadn’t told her before she would need to, or that she would need to bring her own accompanist. She sang her favorite Cherabino aria without accompaniment from memory. He acted bored and she left.
Never in Judy’s professional life had she been so ticked off after an audition.  When she heard back from Hotspurs Chorale; they were delighted to welcome her to their organization. Only problem was she wasn’t so delighted to join their organization.  In fact, she was so not delighted, she still tells anyone who will listen—her music students and their parents, neighbors and those new to the area—not to bother auditioning with that director.  She tells folks no one needs to be treated that way.  Oh, and they need mezzos this year!
*Name Withheld by request
READ the entire series on choral ethics by Marie Grass Amenta.
       Choral Ethics is Not an Oxymoron
       Choral Ethics (Part 1): Songs My Mother Taught Me
       Choral Ethics (Part 2): Amateur Versus Professional
       Choral Ethics (Part 3): Kindness is NOT for Wimps
       Choral Ethics (Part 4): Reaping What We Sow
       Choral Ethics (Part 5): “Maestra Manners” Explains All
       Choral Ethics (Part 6): Judging Our Colleagues
       Choral Ethics (Part 7): Our Choral Culture
       Choral Ethics (Part 8): Don’t Shoot the Piano Player
       Choral Ethics (Part 9): Preaching to the Choir
(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: Lent, Good Friday, General Concert Use, Choir Retreat
Program Themes: Suffering and Hope
This Piece Would Program Well With: Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd available from JWPepper and Sheet Music Plus.
There is A Green Hill Far Away should be in every high school choral library.  It is a wonderful teaching resource for the late Renaissance style even though it is newly composed.   Short and strophic, slow moving and heartfelt, use this piece early in the school year. It will help your students learn to sing in harmony with beautiful phrasing.  
(Original publication: February 3, 2013)
This is just one of the 74 choral conductors on the ACDA Wall of Honor. LEARN MORE about the Wall of Honor and MEET ALL of the award recipients.
Last time I wrote about StaffPad, a new Windows 8 notation program that works on pen input to allow users to handwrite a score into the computer. While StaffPad is a very exciting product, it's not the first viable handwriting notation program, and more people are interested in mobile device solutions than ones which require a hybrid Windows 8 device. Neuratron offers NotateMe (and NotateMe Now) for iOS or Android devices as a way to write scores using finger or stylus input. I wouldn't view these as full replacements for Sibelius or Finale, but rather as ways to make quick edits or jot musical ideas on the fly. It's an app that has really resonated with a lot of users, but in the end my recommendation on it is somewhat lukewarm, for reasons I'll describe. Let's take a look at the apps and then some possible workflows using them in combination with other mobile or desktop software.

Neuratron Builds On Its Strengths

Longtime Sibelius users know Neuratron as the company behind PhotoScore (PhotoScore Lite comes packaged with Sibelius), the powerful OMR package for scanning printed music into a notation program. Optical Music Recognition (OMR) is the process of identifying a shape and comparing it to given examples within the software in order to guess what the image should translate to in the notation software. Neuratron has applied the same process in NotateMe, only the software analyzes your drawn input rather than a picture. Aside from the written input, NotateMe allows users a more traditional method of dragging noteheads or symbols into the score, which gives you a safety net if a particular note or shape just isn't being recognized. You'll get less of this over time--NotateMe analyzes your particular handwriting and adjusts over time. The "learning" score in the lower-left shows you how far NotateMe is in the process of analyzing your script, as you get closer to 100% the accuracy improves greatly. As with any software, though, you may have to make slight adjustments to how you notate in order to have it be recognized. A sample score of "Amazing Grace" gives you a chance to make your adjustments while letting NotateMe learn your style.
Neuratron's OMR engine is a different approach than StaffPad uses: StaffPad tracks movements and interprets them to create a note, while OMR basically "scans" the drawn image and attempts to compare it. Of these two approaches, OMR has the longer history and thus Neuratron can build on their own expertise in the technology. On the other hand, I can see from a technical perspective how StaffPad's approach has more potential for being faster and more accurate (while requiring more processing power and a more sophisticated input device than the iPad affords). It will be worth watching these two approaches continue to develop given the current interest in pen and touch computing devices and software. Regardless, NotateMe translates the written input very well and once you and the software have each adjusted to each other, you'll likely find it to be a quick and fluid way to write script.
  It's Learning!
As seems to be the new standard in mobile app-space, NotateMe comes in two variants: NotateMe is the paid version ($39.99 for both iOS and Android), and NotateMe Now is free. NotateMe Now is limited to one staff, and does not have either the "Red Pen" (for annotating or making notes) or "Text Pen" (for entering lyrics, dynamics/style markings, or chord symbols) features of the paid version. As a free single-staff app, though, it's a great option for classrooms or studios where students may be doing dictation exercises, simple melodic compositions, or writing exercises. From the export screen, files can be shared as MIDI, XML, or PDF (paid NotateMe only), and can be e-mailed, saved locally, or saved directly to Dropbox if configured on your device (paid NotateMe only). MusicXML can be transferred to Sibelius or Finale for further editing, or to use their sound libraries for playback/recording. If you use another cloud storage or LMS system, the "Open In" link will allow you to share the files out through the method of your choice. NotateMe also has a number of in-app purchases, including a PhotoScore add-in ($29.99) which uses your device camera to capture and scan printed music into NotateMe to edit. NotateMe's website also teases that audio dictation options are "coming soon" as another in-app purchase.
 Getting files out of NotateMe

Screen Size

I've talked to many colleagues who use NotateMe on a regular basis, and use NotateMe Now either personally or with their students to great success. Despite that, and despite my excitement about handwriting as an input mode for notation, I've never fully embraced NotateMe. My personal bias against phone and tablet devices as production devices always comes down to the use of screen real-estate, and there are apps which make full use of the available screen size to let you do great work on a small device. Unfortunately, I don't think that NotateMe does a great job of this, and it's why my experience with it has been slightly underwhelming. Whether composing or reading music, it's helpful to be able to view measures in context of the larger musical structure, which requires seeing more of the page than just one measure at a time. On the other hand, though, drawing on a small surface such as a phone or tablet screen requires that you have a large enough workspace to write with fidelity. Fingers and large styli like the common iPad styli are, for lack of a better term, blobby enough that the writing has to be very large in order to be accurate. NotateMe has the standard pinch-and-zoom function, but I find myself constantly zooming in and out, which interrupts my thought process. There are ways around this: A stylus such as the Adonit Jot, which fools the iPad screen into letting you see a more defined point, help with this. If NotateMe took a page out of art and design apps and integrated support for an active Bluetooth stylus such as the Adonit Touch or Script, this would create even more refined input. I think the simplest option, though, would be to reconsider the app display. When pinching-and-zooming, both the input and display stay linked in size. This means that you're always choosing to be zoomed in or out on both the input and display. If you were able to zoom each independently, you could see your output in a larger musical context while still writing in a larger input window. Similarly, being able to drag the center bar to resize the two panes would let you use more of the white space which ends up being wasted in a zoomed-out view.
 The zoomed-in view gives you lots of writing space, but limited viewing of the overall score.
 The zoomed-out view lets you see the larger context, but wastes lots of white space and gives a tiny input space.

Your Mileage May Vary

These are personal preference concerns, and you may not find them as much as an issue as I-- again, the app has many fans who appreciate the big picture of being able to jot musical ideas down or do a quick edit of existing music and either send to Sibelius or Finale for further work, or quickly distribute to an ensemble or class. With the exceptions noted above, NotateMe Now is free and fully-functional, so I believe that it's worth a look to see if it's something that you find valuable. The most compelling aspect of the product, to me, is that Neuratron offers their Software Development Kit (the code which powers NotateMe) to other developers, meaning that other app designers can license the software and build upon it. I hope that future iterations of NotateMe will think more creatively about how to capitalize on the available screen space. Have you used NotateMe? How have you found the experience? Comment below!
More from Daniel Coyle:  Tip #52 - Think like a Gardener, Work like a Carpenter
". . . the truth is, talent grows slowly. You would not criticize a seedling because it was not yet a tall oak tree; nor should you get upset because your skill circuitry is in the growth stage. Instead, build it with daily deep practice."
Coyle mentions hearing the phrase, "Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter," at Spartek, the Russian tennis training center that's shown enormous success.
Whether it's our own skills or those of our singers, we have to understand that, like gardens,  we take tending and only grow and develop over time.
Ever try to reach someone for an important matter only to discover that they had changed their e-mail address (or phone number, or postal address)?  Annoying, isn’t it?
Multiply that by tens of thousands, and you might begin to understand the challenge of keeping track of ACDA members.
We are a mobile society - the average American moves 14 times in their lifetime.  When YOU last moved, did you tell your car-loan company?  How about your grandmother, did you let her know?  Well, then how about sharing that information with your professional association, too?
ACDA is here to serve its members and the choral community.  Unfortunately, some choral conductors act as though they are wearing woodland pattern camouflage . . . they simply disappear in the trees!  ACDA wants to help you; help you with the Choral Journal, help you with information, help you with support.  But we can’t help you if we can’t find you.
You can easily and quickly update your own membership information online on the ACDA website.  Simply log in, click the [MORE] button on the right, choose "Update Membership," and update the necessary fields.  It’s that simple. 
But remember to check your spelling!  Garbage in, garbage out . . .