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The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Are there any Asians in ACDA?

We talked about the high percentage of caucasians at the recent ACDA leadership conference in Dallas and I blogged about it here the other day.
 
The general feeling was that we better start paying attention to the cultural diversity of the United States and especially the Latino population.
 
But what about the Asian population?
 
A recent study shows that
Asian immigration has grown rapidly in recent years, with nearly 3 million arriving since 2000. At the same time, Latino immigration, especially from Mexico, has slowed sharply, mainly because of the weakened U.S. economy and tougher border enforcement. As a result, the number of newly arrived Asian immigrants has outpaced Latinos each year since 2009, according to Pew’s analysis of census data. In 2010, for instance, 36 percent of new U.S. immigrants were Asian, compared with 31 percent who were Latino.
I believe that our primary goal should be about excellence in choral music.  So how does that relate to race?  Does it?
on June 22, 2012 4:36am
The segment of the total Asian population that is involved in choral music is quite small, like the Latino population.   German immigrants bonded together in the 19th Century for singing societies. Many of these Sängerbund-type groups still exist today.  This does not seem to be the case in our time, with any immigrant ethnic group. The economic stress of the Great Recession tends to push cultural activity (i.e. classical, choral music) behind in everyday life, perhaps not completely so.  However, cultural, communal singing is not necessarily what ACDA is, or should be, about, in my opinion, despite the occasional ChoralNews article on the subject.  Chorus America seems to be covering that ground; that's only my opinion...
 
Reaching out to prominent ACDA members from minority groups, such as Dr. James Kim, Colorado State University (see article in today's ChoralNews, "New ensemble gives Bach to audience,)" might be a good start.  Who better to help determine what the needs of a particular ethnic segment are, and how ACDA could serve them.  Facilitating language and giving guidance in our post-graduate educational system might be a high priority, in my unqualified opinion.   Perhaps this is an unexplored aspect of "mentoring," an important new activity of ACDA.  All of us know excellent minority choral conductors in the profession.  I know mentoring within the ethnic group is not a new concept for African-American choral conductors.  Reaching out to them, with a program such as "mentoring" within their ethnic groups, for the greater good of the US and international choral life, cannot do anything but good.
 
Just as a side, and I'm not trying to open a new can of s**t here, but how is ACDA doing on women's issues?  I know we have had women as past presidents, who are some of the stars of the profession, Hilary Apfelstadt, Colleen Kirk, Margaret Hillis (?), and so many at the state levels.  Can the lessons and methods towards inclusiveness ACDA used in that area be applied?
 
What is ACDA trying to do here?  Include more minority members?  Encourage more leadership by minority individuals?  Is ACDA in the "membership polling for ideas stage?"  Tempus fugit.  Just do it.  We learn as we go.  Because they are minorities, rarely will they seek it,  we have to ask for them to lead, recruit them.  
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 22, 2012 5:34am
Hi Philip,
The real question Philip is in your final statement- "primary goal should be about excellence."  While that should be "one" of our goals I believe that if excellence is ACDA's primary goal it is a short sighted goal.  Those of us who have worked in the High Schools are very aware that much of our success is the result of the feeder program.  Yes, one can accomplish much without a feeder program but those choral programs that are truly outstanding are built from the bottom up.  ACDA needs to focus first on developing a love of singing, second on helping to develop the tools to sing well and in a wide variety of genre and cultures, and finally on developing future choral conductors.  Without the first two there will be no choirs for the conductors to conduct.  
 
However- to your question about race- None of this has anything to do with race and this is where ACDA misses the boat.  The real issue is socio-economic.  Communities with limited financial resources generally do not develop choral programs and this in spite of the fact that singing is perhaps the least expensive of all the arts form to develop.   The costs associated wtih developing a choral program are minimal compared to other "extras" (forgetting the whole place in the curricullum debate) in our schools.  It is a complicated issue because associated with socio-economics are cultural biases, expectations, and general level of education but it is where ACDA needs to focus if it wants to maintain excellence and especially if it wants to grow.  ACDA membership has been static or declining for years.  A fertile and very productive arena for ACDA would be to focus on elementary, middle school, and high school, especially the public schools, and especially those with limited financial resources.  Alternatively ACDA can remained focused on "excellence" and essentially rely on the work of other organizations (MENC) to provide them with the vocalists to showcase.
 
A suggestion as a very modest but doable beginning: For every National and Division Conference , for at least the two years leading to the conference, dedicate a percentage of the conference costs to special outreach programs in the host city.  This should include not just teacher training and performances (assemblies) but community or school based choral programs.  Start and subsidize choral programs for the youth in the host city and develop the infrastructure so hopefully some can continue once ACDA leaves the city.  
 
We need to take choral music to those who need it the most rather than just focus on rewarding those who already have it.
 
Thanks,
Bob Eaton
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 22, 2012 6:34am
Clearly the issue here is not that there are no Latinos, African Americans, Asian, or non Caucasians in Choral Music. Rather it's that the non-caucasians involved in choral music are not joining ACDA!!! How about an outreach to church choirs, community groups, etc?
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 22, 2012 7:44pm
I am an Asian (from the Philippines to be exact).  I am just curious Philip where does your question lead to?  You know, when we talk about excellence in choral music, we, Asian, are not far behind.  There are international choral competitions held in different Asian countries.  One is in Busan, Korea, which is becoming popular now, in fact it is being participated in by some groups from other parts of the world. There were very good Asian choirs who participated in this competition
 
Speaking about choral excellence, we have a group here in the Philippines, the world-renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers, who became the WORLD'S BEST CHOIR in the 1997 and 2007 European Grand Prix held in Tours, France.  They were the very first choir who won this prestigious award twice.  There are also other groups here in our country who participated in international competitions and won. They are the University of the Philippines Singing Ambassadors, the Univeristy of the Philippines Concert Chorus, the Ateneo Glee Club, the University of Sto. Tomas Singers, and the Imusicapella, just to name a few.  Even our children's choir also won in internation competitions like the Loboc Children's Choir.
 
So, I think race has nothing to do with excellence in choral music because even Africans are very good in choral music.  Music is a universal language, it is the only medium where peoples from different nations can understand and unite themselves.  Try singing our ethnic music and you will see.
 
Yours in music
 
Elmer
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 25, 2012 7:53am
"...even Africans are very good in choral music..." Yes, they are, but Elmer, that's an unfortunate way of saying it. Perhaps you'd like to reword that sentence so as not to inadvertently offend our friends in Africa?
 
I have seen far too many school and community choirs where they either have no "people of color" or just one or two, despite the more diverse makeup of the community in question. Sure, there are a number of other factors involved (different cultural traditions perhaps being the primary one), but I do think that significant ethnic imbalance in ensembles shouldn't be simply accepted as the status quo, but that we should try to find ways to pro-actively attract as many kinds of people to our ensembles as possible (this is also true of the professional choir in which I've been singing for about 20 years).
 
Excellence in choral music alone is not enough.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 25, 2012 9:27pm
Thank you Sir David.  I didn't mean any offense on what I have said about Africans.  I love African music and I have high respect on them.  I love the way they perform their music, maybe because music for them is a social activity where everyone participates.  That's the reason why they perform very well.  I dream of watching one of their best groups, the Soweto Gospel Choir, who are really great singers.
 
For whatever it's worth, I apologize if I may have offended anyone.  I stand corrected.  Thanks again Sir David and God bless!
 
 
Elmer
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 26, 2012 8:32am
No problem, Elmer--I knew that your meaning and intentions were good, but that written language sometimes gets in the way of expressing what we really mean (I have personally demonstrated that problem on numerious occasions!).
 
I have been lucky enough to have attended performances of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, including in the famous Sydney Opera House, and agree that they're wonderful. I also travelled to the Incheon Choral Festival a few years ago and heard wonderful performances by Asian ensembles (from Korea and Indonesia).
 
However, the primary topic of this discussion is the stark difference between the ethnic makeup of ACDA's membership and the communities (in the United States) where they serve (or work). The issue of the ethnic makeup of the ensembles has also been raised. The demographics of the population of the United States is changing, with the populations of ethnic minorities growing, while the current majority population ("whites" for lack of a better word--I don't much care for it, however) is declining proportionally and also aging. If the ethnic makeup of those participating in choral music in the United States (both directors and singers) doesn't change, then it follows that our numbers will likely decrease. I don't think that's "fuzzy math," is it? :-)
 
Peace,
David T
on June 23, 2012 7:53am
Dr. Copeland,
 
I'll admit that I've been brainwashed into the Darwinian-based term "race" and it's subsequent negative connotation, so it took me a minute to get to my conclusion as I was stymied by my own inferences. Yes, it does relate to people groups, because all people groups have the opportunity for, if not a vast repertoire, of choral music. So, the relation is multi-cultural or world music and our approach to including it and performing it. There is probably room for a discussion on choral music in the Asian population and/or reaching out to create opportunities for such, which would have to be done at the level of the community (whether its a community in a church, school, or city).
 
So, should we aim to include more music from Asia?
 
Jeff