Part 2: HISTORY OF THE WASHINGTON CHAPTER, THE AMERICAN CHORAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION
A History of the American Choral Directors Association
in the state of Washington
Compiled by Howard Meharg
The first state convention
(convention photos by Coyne
The first state convention was held October 11 and 12, 1985 in Ellensburg. These dates were chosen because they were state in-service training days for teachers.
Dr. Eph Ehly, University of Missouri (Kansas City), talked about “Rehearsal Techniques to Motivate Your Singers,” Susan McBerry of Portland State University, did a session called “Training Young Treble Voices and Working with Boys’ Voices,” Larry Marsh (Linfield College) and Howard Meharg (Longview) spoke on “Back to Basics: A Review of Techniques for Producing Good Choral Sound.”
Other topics were: “Vocal Jazz Techniques,” with Phil Mattson, “Music in the Church,” by Paul Olsen (Spokane), “Adding Variety to Your Rehearsal” by Bruce Browne (Portland), “VoiceForum: A Seminar on Vocal Health,” by Alan Keaton, M.D., and Paul Ingham, Vocal Health Research.
Performing groups included the Northwest Girlchoir, Rebecca Reitz, director, Shorecrest High School Choir, Neil Lieurance, director, the p.m. singers, Phil Mattson, Male Ensemble Northwest, and the Whitworth Community Presbyterian Sanctuary Choir, directed by Paul Olsen.
To top it off, a convention choir was formed. Dr. Eph Ehly conducted this group.
It should be noted that even though the first state convention of WA ACDA was separate from WMEA, it was not altogether disconnected. Peggy Burrough was WMEA president. Neil Lieurance, who was serving as WMEA Choral Officer, noted in a letter to President Bob Cathey, that he should be sure the program stated, “This workshop is being partially funded by the Washington Music Educators Association.” (WMEA provided a $500 grant.)
It’s also worth noting that total income from the first convention was over $4,600. Registration fees accounted for over $3,000 income. WA ACDA ended in the black by $700…much to the relief of the whole board. But, perhaps even more importantly, evaluation material turned in by participants rated the whole event as “first class.”
Meanwhile, despite earlier mention of plans to completely merge with ACDA by 1982, minutes of the PSCCG showed discussion about that group being able to compete with ACDA and concerns about ACDA being sensitive to the needs and services to local members. A February 2 motion was presented to effectively dissolve PSCCG by July 1, 1985. The vote was to occur March 2. No record could be found as to the actual vote, but it is assumed that the group was “absorbed” into ACDA, essentially through an almost seamless transition of the leadership of PSCCG being elected into leadership positions in WA ACDA, i.e., Rush Chase, and Paul Schultz. Schultz, particularly, during his term in PSCCG demonstrated considerable sensitivity to the concerns of members about directors of small church choirs being “lost” in the now larger concerns of ACDA. Even at that, according to Schultz, there were a few members of PSCCG who did not become members of ACDA.
Other WA ACDA events were going on besides the state convention at this time. A church music workshop was held January 25, 1986 at University Place Presbyterian Church in Seattle. Charles Peterson, western division chair, set it up. The focus was on anthems for Lent and Easter. Directors were invited to bring two anthems that had worked for them. Bob Northrup, choir director at the host church, presented his choir in a short demonstration program.
Two festivals were organized in the Puget Sound district, the first was on April 20, in Marysville, the second on July 20, in Tacoma. The first eight directors to apply became the festival program. Charles Peterson and Deuane Kuenzi chaired these events. A later report said the July 20th festival failed to materialize.
The ACDA also co-sponsored Eric Ericson’s (Sweden) visit to the area to conduct the Pacific Northwest Chamber Chorus, Joan Catoni-Conlon, Director, in Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio.” This was presented August 26, 1986.
The organizational structure that had developed for ACDA can be seen by taking a look at the board. By this time the ACDA board consisted of President, Bob Cathey, President-Elect, Paul Schultz, Western District, Charles Peterson, Southwestern District, Lee Jennings and Noel White, Eastern District, Randi von Ellefson, and State Newsletter Editor, Fran Jones. R&S Chairs were to be appointed by their peers holding that position at the divisional level or, if unfilled by October 1 of the appropriate year of the term, by the state president. The R&S leaders were not official members of the board.
Planning for a second state convention followed the exultation at the conclusion of the first. Some 140 people had attended the 1985 event. 1986 promised an even larger response and, indeed, it happened.
In the July, 1986 newsletter, Bob Cathey said, “…the central (center of the state) location proved to be a drawing card...Judith Burns (CWU) was a capable and gracious hostess, and will be doing the job again this year.”
Twyla Brunson handled the registration for the ’86 convention. Cost was $20. A single room at the convention headquarters hotel, The Ellensburg Inn, was $36.00. Of course there was always Ellensburg’s RegaLodge at $21.00.
One hundred-seventy-four people registered for the second state convention. With performing choirs, vendors, and CWU student assistants, the total number of participants approached 300. Guest clinicians included Doug McEwen, Arizona, Doreen Rao, Glen Ellyn Childrens’ Choir, Donald Collins, Cambiata Vocal Institute, Steve Harter, Central United Protestant Church, Richard Sparks, PLU, Charles Peterson, studio voice teacher, Dr. Alan Keaton, Laryngologist, and Roger McRea, Temporal Acuity Products (computers and music writing software specialist).
Performing groups included: The Most Happy Fellows (barbershop), Tacoma, Curtis High School Choir, Bob Northrup, conductor (Tacoma), Mission View Elementary School Choir, Sonja Yeager, Conductor (Wenatchee), The Adelphian Concert Choir, UPS, Paul Schultz, Conductor, The Seattle Girls’ Choir, Jerome Wright, Conductor, Central United Protestant Church Chancel Choir, Steve Harter, Conductor (Richland), and the West Valley Junior High School Choir, Roger Stansbury, Conductor, (Yakima)…this group serving as a demo choir for Don Collins from Conway, Arkansas, expert on changing voices.
Again, the board and planners breathed a sigh of relief when the final financial report was presented by treasurer Rush Chase. The net gain for the 1986 state convention was $26.00.
On Saturday, February 7, 1987, the Western Washington District of ACDA, again led by Charles Peterson, held “A Choral Symposium on the Young Voice.” This was on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. Peterson and Vicki Reiels and Karen Fulmer talked on “Care and Development of Young Voices.” Another session was on the topic of the changing voice. Jerome Wright had an interesting title for his session, “Didactic Deployment of Delectable Descants to Delight Developing Dilettantes.” The final session of the day was a festival presentation by four childrens’ choir from the area. Eighty people attended.
To work into the rotation and not compete with the Northwest Divisional convention or the national convention, WA ACDA decided (especially after some word from Gene Brooks, Executive Secretary of the national group) to wait until 1988 for the next state convention.
But that didn’t stop the board from scheduling a fall workshop on the campus of the University of Puget Sound at Kilworth Chapel. It was set for October 9 and 10, 1987. Since the workshop was for band, orchestra, and choral directors there were sessions for each. Vocal sessions included “Learning to Listen in Rehearsal,” presented by clinician Howard Meharg, “Motivation, Before, During, and After Rehearsal,” by Paul Schultz, “Rehearsing Repertoire that Works,” by Dave Cross and Don Barrows, and later in the day three simultaneous reading sessions led by Cheryl Falk, Cathy Bennett, and Dan Jackson. Male Ensemble Northwest sang an evening concert.
It may be interesting to note that a precursor of things to come occured in the summer of 1988 at Kilworth Chapel on the campus of the University of Puget Sound. In fact, the event was called "Summer Institute." It was sponsored in part by the national ACDA and was designed for training junior high choral directors. The event featured Linda Anderson and Sally Herman, both of whom "have gained national prominence for the excellence of their junior high choruses at state, division, and national ACDA conventions." This version of the "Summer Institute" was held on two campuses that summer, Ohio State in Columbus, as well as at UPS, Tacoma.
The third state convention was set for October 14-15, 1988. A newsletter article by Karen Fulmer said, “The bi-annual ACDA of Washington State Convention has moved from Ellensburg to Yakima in order to offer more session space, larger performing facilities and an opportunity to become acquainted with the city of Yakima. The local organizing committee, chaired by Scott Peterson, has done a tremendous job preparing for the convention.” So, Yakima it was…at A. C. Davis High School, where Deb Wagner directed choral music.
Program chair Karen Fulmer arranged to get some major headliners for this convention. Weston Noble from Luther College, Emily Crocker, Composer and Educator, and the performing group, Chanticleer. State clinicians included Cheryl Falk, Paul Schultz, and Dave Cross. Twyla Brunson handled registration. Member attendees paid $35 for a registration fee that year. Paul Schultz reported in a January, 1989 newsletter (edited by Robert Bode), that despite registration numbers being down slightly as compared to the second state convention two years before this, that the event broke even. Treasurer, Robert Northrup, actually reported a profit of $254.02.
Survey results from the third state convention showed tremendous enthusiasm for the quality of the event. Karen Fulmer’s analysis reported in the same newsletter (January, 1989), noted, however, that only 29 survey forms were received. When asked whether the October date was better than a summer convention, 95% said “yes,” keep it in October. However, a follow-up survey was also sent to state members who did not attend the convention. Fifty-nine members responded saying they had previous commitments on that weekend and many of these indicated their places of employment did not allow release time to attend such in-service offerings. Karen, in retrospect, says she believes this was the beginning of school districts making use of the October in-service days for district-level training.
Planning for the next biennial convention began almost immediately, but a major planning session was held October 14, 1989, in Tacoma. Karen Fulmer had taken over as president on July 1. She noted that the planning session was open “to any interested ACDA member.”
That fall newsletter praised Ed Schaefer and ACDA members in the Spokane area for planning “several events for the Eastern Division.” It also mentioned Robert Metzger and the “Western Division Board,” calling attending to the leadership of Jerome Wright in presenting a “fabulous Music Technology and Choral Exposition Workshop” during the past summer at Shoreline Community College.
Other choral events during the summer of 1989 included one at Whitworth College, Spokane, entitled “Popular Choral Symposium,” with Gene and Audrey Grier, Roger Emerson, and Eugene Butler. Randi von Ellefson, director at Whitworth, headed this up. On July 31 through August 4, Pacific Lutheran University featured Paul Salomunovich. Richard Sparks, PLU’s director, organized this workshop.
“Go for Greatness” was the theme of the 1990 state convention held in Longview, Washington, at Mark Morris High School. Donald Neuen, Director of Choral Activities at the Eastman School of Music, was the featured clinician. Linda Spevacek, from Moscow, Idaho, composer, consultant and active clinician presented several sessions on elementary and middle school literature and vocal techniques for this level. Paul Klemme, then on the faculty at WSU, gave two sessions on the use of organ with choir…this at Trinity Lutheran Church in Longview. Dennis Coleman, Director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus, talked of funding community choral groups.
Male Ensemble Northwest members worked with a male chorus organized by SW Division Chairman, Noel White. The chorus sang a concert on Friday afternoon of the convention.
Friday evening, February 12, a banquet was held at the Red Lion Inn in Kelso, followed by a concert at 8 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran in Longview. The George Shangrow Chorale (Seattle) and Male Ensemble Northwest sang.
During this convention an award was presented to Paul Schultz for his leadership in WA ACDA. The board had decided to…”recognize members who have shown dedication to the organization, professional leadership, and a commitment to excellence in choral music.”
With the help of Hinshaw Music (Don Neuen’s sponsor), the state in-service fund, and WMEA, once again the state convention was on sound financial footing. Just over 100 people registered for the event. The cost to ACDA members, again this year, was $35.00.
Scott Peterson made his debut as president in July, 1991. Elections were held for President-Elect with a nice spread in the April edition of the state newsletter showing Janet Reiter (Vancouver) and Ed Schaefer (Spokane) as candidates. Ed was elected and was took office on July 1.
Robert Bode resigned as newsletter editor and C. Glenn Burnett was appointed as editor by President Peterson. Glenn, whose first name is also Coyne, is the son of Coyne Burnett, who edited “Voice,” the WMEA magazine, for so many years. Glenn’s inherited sense of humor showed up immediately in his editorial column called “The Other Side of the Coyne.”
The 1992 state convention site was announced for Spokane. Again, the in-service days for schools, October 9 and 10 were chosen. Ed Schaefer, director of choral music at Gonzaga, in his role as president-elect, was the program chair.
The May, 1992, edition of the Washington ACDA newsletter announced that James Litton, of the American Boy Choir in the other Washington, would be the featured clinician. The article by Peterson noted: “As you can see, we are trying to broaden the spectrum of session subjects so as to appeal to more of our members and potential members.”
Meanwhile, Pacific Lutheran University scheduled Dale Warland for its Summer Choral Workshop. This event was August 3-7, 1992. And just across the river, Sheet Music Service of Portland was advertising a August 14-15 event with Jonathan Willcocks and Anton Armstrong, followed by a September 19 event with Andre Thomas and Don Hinshaw.
The 1992 state convention in Spokane, despite being in the “far east” with regard to the zip codes of the largest number of Washington’s ACDA members was well attended. Well over 100 members registered. Program chair and President-Elect Ed Schaefer, said: “I must confess that when the idea was proposed to me to have the state convention at St. John’s Cathedral (Spokane) and to bring James Litton, director of the American Boychoir, as the headliner, I had mixed emotions. Personally, I thought it was a fantastic idea. However, I was a bit nervous about the appeal such a convention might have for a membership that is weighted heavily with teachers.”
Apparently Schaefer’s fears (and, we’re sure, President Scott Peterson’s) were allayed. Along with Litton, clinicians from within our own membership (Geoffrey Boers, Cheryl Falk, Paul Bruggemeier, Karen Martin, Cindy Busler, Felip Holbrook, Paul Klemme, and Joan Conlon) proved to be “of the highest caliber.” “Mr. Litton’s quiet passion for his work and the humility with which he created such incredibly beautiful and inspiring music” struck Ed as making the convention a huge success. “Thanks must go to the Seattle Girls Choir, Jerome Wright, Musical Director, and to the Spokane Area Children’s Choir, Tamara Schupman, Music Director, for the absolutely outstanding Evensong and concert…,” said President, Scott Peterson. Another convention goer responded, “It was as if God opened the door to heaven for about 20 minutes and let us listen!”
Peterson, in the January 1993 issue of the state newsletter, said: “I am happy to report that Howard Meharg of Mark Morris High School in Longview, will be our new president-elect as of July 1, 1993 when our current president-elect, Edward Schaefer of Gonzaga University, becomes president. Howard ran against Cindy Busler of Kalles Junior High School in Puyallup and I have to say that the Washington State Chapter could not lose with the quality of candidates from which to pick.”
Cindy Busler accepted the role of state newsletter editor in 1993.
In the September, 1993 issue of the WA ACDA newsletter, President Schaefer put out the call for suggestions for the state convention 1994. In addition to the state board involvement, Ed encouraged members-at-large to offer ideas. “We need to hear from you! Please call or write your R & S chair and let us know where you need help---or better yet, where your expertise can help others.”
President Schaefer also called attention to a workshop sponsored by ACDA that was to be held in Yakima June 23-25, 1994. “A Trio of Northwest Women” provided was reported to be one of the better workshops on the subject of Junior High/Middle School choral music. The “trio” was Linda Spevacek, Audrey Snyder, and Catherine Bennett, true experts in this field. Karen Martin, who was serving as Women’s Choirs R&S Chair at the time, said, “I felt exhilarated at the depth and breadth of what was offered. I also felt a huge disappointment that so many of my colleagues chose not to be there. I also felt the icy waters between the mainland ACDA and our Junior High/Middle School island.”
The 1994 state convention of October 14-15 turned out to be the last of the state conventions. Dubbed “the Unconvention or ‘Trying on New Clothes’,” it was designed just a bit differently. The general sessions were to be followed by small group sessions during which we were to experiment with the theories presented. Rodney Eichenberger, Professor of Choral Music Education at Florida State University, was the headliner. His focus was on four topics: Multi-neural Networking, Language/Para-language, Non-verbal Rehearsal Techniques, and Warm-up Techniques in Holistic Style.
The evaluations following this convention were astonishingly in the “Great” and “Good” categories. Every respondent on the evaluations rated Eichenberger in the “Great” column.
Another feature of the “Unconvention” of ’94 was a hymn sing/concert presented Friday evening…”In Our Music, We Are One.” Margaret Gries and Paul Klemme served as organists. In one section of the event, a set of three anthems was sung…by the audience. The concert portion, tied perfectly to the entire service, was presented by the Central Washington University Chamber Choir, directed by Geoffrey Boers.
Rod Eichenberger’s keynote address is available here…and is still timely today.
In the January, 1995, issue of our newsletter, Ed Schaefer reported, “If any of you have read the most recent issue of the Choral Journal, you are, no doubt, beaming with pride over the accomplishments of our Washington State colleagues and the recognition they are receiving at the national level. There are three groups and a clinician from our state making presentations at the national convention. The Central Washington University Chamber Choir, Geoffrey Boers, director; The Walla Walla Master Singers, Robert Bode, director; Male Ensemble Northwest (several Washington members); and Karen Fulmer leading an interest session regarding our involvement in securing lasting place for choral music in the educational reforms that are now taking place.”
As Ed Schaefer prepared to leave office in 1995 he wrote (in January) a review of his goals for his 1993-95 term. One of his goals had been to "examine throughly what need ACDA might fulfill by sponsoring summer workshops. If it is determined that ACDA can provide a service in an area that is not being met any other way, we would establish a series of summer workshops." While he questioned "both the rationale and the efficiency of ACDA launching a regular series of summer workshops...in an environment that is nearly saturated with them already," he went on to add the important thing was meeting the needs of our members. In short, it is obvious that Ed and his leadership team had been pondering some changes, including dropping the October state convention concept and moving to summer events.
Board meeting minutes for June 16, 1995 give a strong hint of “something big” on the horizon…changes in direction for WA ACDA activities. Despite good attendance at the state conventions each even numbered year, there was concern that fewer and fewer teachers were able to free themselves of their school district obligations during the in-service days of October each year. Discussion favored moving the convention to the summer and co-sponsoring it with Malecki Music…with more emphasis on the reading of music. While a headliner “might be engaged” (quoting the minutes), it was felt that the R&S Chairs would be well qualified to staff such a convention. During this meeting it was announced that Twyla Brunson had been elected to the office of President-Elect.
Following a leadership training session in Lawton, Oklahoma, headquarters of the national ACDA, that stressed advocacy for the arts, Howard Meharg wrote a letter to then Governor Mike Lowry on August 14, 1995. Lowry responded on September 29, saying he “generally support(s) any programs that contribute to a better informed and educated public. NEA, NEH, and PBS are certainly part of this framework.”
In a bit of dreaming, President-Elect Howard Meharg called a meeting of as many college/university directors as he could assemble in Seattle at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, on Friday, January 5, 1995. He asked, “Is it feasible to think, plan, perate, a 5-14 day Choral Summer Institute co-sponsored by the WA-ACDA and the college/universities of this state? Envision a panel of representatives from both boidies ultimately being chosen whose job it is to plan and run the event. Envision the state of Washington becoming a choral “destination” of national and international renown based on:
- Excellent planning, "curriculum," materials, leaders of unmistakable repute.
- The finest facilities, using curent university and/or church sites.
- Touting the cool summer weather of the NW.
- Possible combinations with/interweaving of events with choral "camps" for high school, junior high school, and children's choirs.
- Sharing of costs, risks, profits between co-operating organizations.
The meeting was interesting and the discussion lively, but one would have to say that nothing specific developed from it; except to say that some of the ideas generated translated into elements of the current Summer Institute that had its debut in August, 1996.
“Welcome to Washington” was the headline in the October, 1995 edition of the state newsletter. “We welcome Leslie Guelker-Cone to Washington ACDA. Leslie is the new Director of Choral Activities at Western Washington University.” She had taught previously at the University of Hawaii, and at California State, Fresno. Her first teaching position, however, was a park Middle School in Kennewick, Washington. She reported she was “thrilled to be coming ‘full circle’ and returning to the Pacific Northwest.”
In September of 1995, the board committed completely to the Summer Institute concept to be held at the University of Puget Sound, co-sponsored by the University, WA ACDA and Malecki Music. Meharg, Boers, Fulmer, Tripp, Schultz and Brunson were charged with the responsibility for developing a program for the summer of 1996 and were to present their plan to the board in January, 1996.
The board also encouraged in-service workshops for October, 1996, to be developed in four locations: Cheney, Bellingham, Ellensburg, and Longview. Regional representatives were to head these workshops.