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

GUEST BLOG: "Life-Long Singing: An ACDA Priority" by Tim Sharp

       Of the many areas of interest that overlap the attention of choral directors, lifelong singing opportunities is a topic that unites and captures all of us. Knowing that singing can be enjoyed at many levels, throughout all stages of life, motivates our profession, and keeps us searching and learning. This is true of our membership, and is absolutely reflected in the visioning, planning, and working of ACDA.
       Lifelong singing experiences and opportunities emerged as a major theme in the work that resulted from our strategic planning over the last two years. While much of our choral energy throughout the years has been focused on choral music making in and through traditional institutions, as we think about singing throughout life, there are new frontiers for us to engage that will require new approaches.
       One of my ongoing initiatives has been to assist our membership in creating opportunities that would make the choral experience available to all children. Two important steps toward this early singing experience initiative have begun. The first is thinking and planning currently underway by two of our Repertoire and Standards Committee children’s and youth areas toward criteria to help seed and support new and existing children’s choir efforts. The simultaneous second step is the effort toward the creation of ongoing, sustainable funding sources to support new and existing children’s choir efforts. As these tools and resources solidify in the coming year, we will move closer to helping the front end of the lifelong singing journey, and one that is not necessarily fulfilled through traditional institutions.
       Thanks to the thinking and work of our children and youth Repertoire and Standards leadership, I now have language for a Project: Youth Ascend initiative that will move us closer to seeding projects for new children’s choral work. More work will be done on this initiative toward the development of criteria for funding, but for now, here is the language that has been created for this future effort:
 Working toward the mission of the American Choral Directors Association, which includes inspiring excellence in choral music through education, an initiative Project: Youth Ascend, will fund programs that empower more children and youth to sing. Funded projects will identify new ways to attract singers and serve new populations. Programs must be new projects, not existing ones, reaching children who may not experience choral music otherwise. Programs may reach underserved populations or may find new ways to attract and engage young people to experience choral artistry and community.
       At the other end of the continuum lies a new lifelong singing challenge for our work. This is the creation and expansion of singing opportunities for senior adults. We are very aware of the great numbers of individuals moving into their mature and senior adult years, and there is strong evidence to support the idea that new choral experiences and opportunities are needed for older singers. The needs on this other end of the lifelong singing continuum are unique to older singers, and will present new challenges to our approaches and processes. Once again, traditional methods and traditional institutions may not be the natural point of departure for this rapidly growing choral area.
       Our work with older singers is beginning to take shape as we think through pedagogical issues, literature, and other unique methods and approaches that are tailored for older and aging singers. I am encouraged that the conversation is taking place throughout our association, and articles, workshops and interest sessions are emerging to address this choral singing opportunity and challenge.
       Together we will approach engagement in choral singing, and new opportunities for choral singing, through our current tools and through new tools still under development. In the meantime, it is important for all of us to know we have called lifelong singing a priority and worthy of our collective time and resources.                        ~Tim Sharp
on June 27, 2013 4:31pm
I appreciate that Tim Sharp recognizes the lifelong singing challeges for senior adults.  I suggest, however, that adults of every age have difficulty continuing their singing in a meaningful and artistic way.  As soon as senior adults are mentioned, the comments rush into the problems of aging with their condescending solutions.  Such solutions obscure the real difficulty for adults in the vocal arts.  I think this is why ACDA is, at this time, of no help to the adult singer of any age.
I suggest that ACDA first must recognize that it is still primarily locked into the educational institution model.  Yes, churches are given some support, but ACDA gives only lip service to the secular community choir.  Except for some very well-organized businesslike nonprofits, secular community choirs suffer and bleed.  What does the state or regional community choir chair actually do to promote health and artistry in community choirs?  Neither my state's community choir chair nor women's choir chair could even tell me what other women's community choirs are in the state as I attempted to form a coalition of mutual concerns and support for women's community choirs.
Community choirs must require very high participation fees if they are to survive, thus leaving out an increasingly larger population of prospective singers.  Low-income earners need the joy and personal growth that results from singing as much or more than any other population.  Where can they go?  Small community choral organizations are faced with immense financial pressures not found in educational institutions.  They must pay their director and accompanist, unless they can negotiate with qualified volunteers.  (There is an entire book waiting to be written about such negotiations.)  Community choirs must pay for rehearsal and performance venues; schools, city recreation departments and churches must charge for use of their facilities.  Liability insurance is necessary and expensive.  Then there are the costs associated with materials, sound systems, and publicity.  None of these expenses address the need for the artistic growth that is needed if the group is to survive.  Most of the women in my vocal ensemble work full time, take care of their children and grand children and run their homes.  They do not have time to engage in ellaborate fund-raising schemes.
A retired public school teacher, I am acutely aware of the essential value of regular adjudicated festival experiences to spur artistic growth in a choral group.  But there are absolutely none available to a secular community choir.  The many colleges and universities in my area hold festivals only to recruit young people into their programs. (Once they graduate, they're on their own.)  I would like to organize and host an adjudicated festival, but without a campus or funding for expenses, it is impossible.
If ACDA does care about lifelong singing, I suggest that a more careful study of the needs and characteristics of secular adult choral groups is needed before presuming to build programs for them.  Finally, keep in mind that many singers in their 80's do not need the condescending drivel that I see in books and articles about singing seniors.
Carla Strandbeg, Director
Women Of Note
Long Beach, California
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 29, 2013 2:40pm
The take-home impression I left China with during my last visit there was the amazing variety and quality of senior adult choral groups I heard. I had the pleasure of adjudicating a choral festival in Beijing, and what I heard and saw was an impressive array of ensembles made up of older singers. It was in China that I realized the USA is facing a tsunami of older singers that have the desire, skills, discretionary time (serious leisure), and to some degree, discretionary resources, to contribute to choral music making. I also realized that older singers, as well as choral singing in general, will benefit from the attention we need to give to this area. It further demonstrated for me the genuine gift that choral singing is to life-long learning and artistic participation.