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Interest & Literature Sessions

The following sessions have been selected as interest and literature sessions for NCCO7, November 2 - 4, 2017, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Art of Successful Programming: Study, Selection, and Synthesis

It seems that many concert programs are presented without enough concern for the overall flow, purpose, and direction. Often, many wonderful selections are included, but rarely do they work together in tandem or with enough significant diversity and color changes that warrant the complete attention of the audience. In this age of diminishing attendance, fiscal resources, and rehearsal time, we can still bring a life-giving performance through more study, careful selection of repertoire for that particular situation, and tap fully our ability to creatively weave the material to capture audience and singer.

We'll look at diverse models for programming and discuss why some attract audiences while others repel. We'll explore our preferences for certain kinds of repertoire and how to stretch our tastes more completely. In addition, we'll study the connection of repertoire to ensemble's abilities and how to expand those skills. Also addressed, will be the aspect of fine tuning the concert itself with sets that work together seamlessly. Finally, we'll consider engaging the audience for the full duration of a performance. Finally, we'll discussion how not to water down the repertoire but, rather, increase the aesthetic experience and satisfaction in every rehearsal and performance.

SPEAKER: Prof. Richard Bjella, Texas Tech University


Director of Choral Studies at Texas Tech University, Richard Bjella has distinguished himself as a conductor, clinician, choral pedagogue, and choral arranger. In 2014 Bjella was appointed artistic director of the San Antonio Chamber Choir, the only professional choir in the San Antonio area. Before TTU, Bjella served as the director of choral studies at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Bjella has presented workshops at several ACDA national and regional conventions, has been Artist in Residence at Westminster Choir College, Iowa State University, Southwest Missouri State University, and the University of Delaware. He has been a headliner for events from Alaska to Florida for teachers and students alike. It has also been his honor to conduct and present masterclasses outside the United States in Columbia, Haiti, Korea, Lithuania, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, England, and festivals and workshops in 32 states.

An active choral arranger, Bjella's settings have been performed in over 35 states, and in several countries around the world. He is also active in the promotion of creative choral programming and is a contributing writer for the book, The Oxford Handbook of Choral Pedagogy (2017) with his chapter, "The Art of Successful Programming: Study, Selection, and Synthesis."

A New Paradigm in the Teaching of Conducting

Conducting has been taught the same way for decades. Beginning with elementary technical aspects, the average conducting course quickly moves to analyzing and conducting through entire pieces in a “masterclass” format, often including some form of video playback review and general musicianship training. While this format has some advantages, much is lost in specific skill development, individual feedback, out­of­class practicing, and podium time. Informed by the work of noted pedagogues such as Kenneth Phillips and Rodney Eichenberger, as well as some less than optimal teaching situations, Dr. Joshua Bronfman has developed a unique approach to the teaching of undergraduate and graduate conducting that maximizes discrete skill development, increases individual feedback, optimizes effective podium time, expands individual accountability, and simplifies grading. In this session, Dr. Bronfman will discuss how he created this system, show how it works for both undergraduate and graduate conducting students of varying skill levels, and provide examples of how every teacher of conducting can implement part or all of this method into their own conducting curriculum.

SPEAKER: Dr. Joshua Bronfman, Sam Houston State University


Dr. Joshua Bronfman is Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor at Sam Houston State University, where he directs the SHSU Chorale and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in choral conducting and choral literature. He is also creator and host of Choral History, a podcast dedicated to conversations with choral conductors from around the world. Prior to his appointment at SHSU, Joshua spent a decade as Director of Choral Activities at the University of North Dakota, Artistic Director of the Grand Forks Chorales, and conductor of the Grand Forks Master Chorale. Joshua received his Ph.D. in Choral Music Education and Choral Conducting at Florida State University, his Master’s degree from Oregon State University, and his Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Prior to pursuing his graduate degrees, Joshua was a music specialist in Oregon where he taught at the elementary and middle levels.

Vocal Health Pedagogy as an Integral Part of the Choral Rehearsal: Developing quality choral blend while teaching healthy singing practices

This presentation seeks to provide resources and a strategy to address the needs of singers as they age, beginning with training choristers to develop healthy singing practices as individuals and continuing to build on technique both within and out of the choral rehearsal. The approach utilizes a seven-step rehearsal process designed to strengthen individual voices in order to improve the overall choral tone. Using this multi-step approach, singers are guided through a progression of posture exercises, breath centering and strengthening exercises and, finally targeted vocalizes that are tailored to the ages and skill levels of the singers. Other factors are addressed also, such as, priming the setup of the room, assessing the emotional status of the singers (connecting the whole person to the music and the task at hand), and the use of some of the latest technologies to enhance the rehearsal and ongoing productivity of the individual singers.

SPEAKER: Dr. Melodie Galloway, University of North Carolina-Asheville


Melodie Galloway holds an MM from Florida State University in Vocal Performance and a DMA in conducting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her experience as a soprano soloist includes opera, musical theatre, and jazz. Her conducting credits include a Carnegie Hall invited performance of Rutter's Requiem for the Children. In May 2017, Dr. Galloway conducted combined choirs in performances of Dan Forrest's Requiem for the Living, including the Czech Republic premiere, in Prague, Brno, Vienna and Salzburg.

Dr. Galloway directs UNCA's Asheville Singers, which have been chosen to perform each year, including an invited, private audience with President and Mrs. Obama in 2012, as part of the Holiday Open House Performances at the White House. She is in demand as a clinician, guest artist and lecturer, and is a scholar of jazz and classical idioms in choral music. One of her recent papers, Coloring Outside the Lines: Conflicts and Resolutions in Dave Brubeck's 'Jazzy' Mass, was presented at the Leeds College of Music International Jazz Conference, Leeds, UK.

Dr. Galloway is Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Department at the University of North Carolina--Asheville, where she is the Coordinator of Choral and Vocal Studies.

SPEAKER: Mr. Chuck Taft, University of North Carolina-Asheville


Chuck Taft is a gifted choral conductor who has spent the past 20 years studying, developing, and practicing his craft in various settings as a music director and conductor, specializing in the older voice. He leads the Reuter Center Singers – UNC Asheville, the Givens Estates Choir, and is director of worship arts at Biltmore United Methodist Church. This past year he served as season conductor of the Blue Ridge Orchestra. Mr. Taft holds a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Western Carolina University and is pursuing a Master’s at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.

He regularly serves as music director and conductor for regional theater companies. Mr. Taft has served as conductor of the Asheville Chamber Players and as music director, chorus master and conductor for various productions of the Asheville Lyric Opera and at many area theaters. As adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina at Asheville for seven years he conducted the University Singers and UNCA Community Chorus. In addition to pursuing his performing arts endeavors, Mr. Taft is a published author. He enjoys performing, playing soccer, reading, and relaxing at the piano, but mostly finds inspiration and delight from his talented and loving eleven-year-old daughter, Céilí.

Choral Works in Lesser-Sung Languages

Exploring lesser-sung languages in choral music can offer surprising satisfaction for the singer: vowels that might create a warmer or brighter/more nasal or more open singing experience; consonant combinations that might create an opportunity for a new type of expression; and, most importantly, sentiments, sayings, or thoughts expressed in other cultures that might offer a new understanding or outlook of the world. In this session, we will explore works in languages lesser-sung in the United States, such as Estonian, Aramaic, Basque, and languages of Africa, among others. Exploring the music of these languages and cultures can bridge the gap for students in our country and build a bigger sense of empathy and world belonging.

SPEAKER: Mrs. Susan LaBarr, Composer


Susan LaBarr (b. 1981) is a composer and choral editor living and working in Springfield, Missouri. Her compositions are published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Walton Music, and Morningstar Music. In 2015 and 2016, Susan completed commissions for Seraphic Fire, the National ACDA Women's Choir Consortium, and for the Texas Choral Director's Association's Director's Chorus. She served as the Missouri Composer Laureate for 2012 and 2013, and has been Composer-In-Residence for the Tennessee Chamber Chorus and the Chattanooga Girls Choir (Tennessee). Her arrangement of Quem pastores laudavere appeared on New York Polyphony's 2014 Grammy-nominated album, Sing Thee Nowell.

Susan has sung professionally with the Tennessee Chamber Chorus and CORO Vocal Artists. Central to Susan's musical vocabulary is the knowledge she gained from studying with Alice Parker at her home in Hawley, Massachusetts, where she attended the Composer's Workshop and Melody Studies Workshop in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Susan attended Missouri State University in Springfield, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in music and a Master of Music in music theory. Susan, her husband Cameron, and their son Elliott reside in Springfield, Missouri, where Cameron is the Director of Choral Studies at Missouri State University and Susan works as Editor of Walton Music.

SPEAKER: Dr. Richard Sparks, University of North Texas


Richard Sparks has been chair of conducting and ensembles at the University of North Texas since 2009. He taught at Mount Holyoke College and was DCA at Pacific Lutheran University from 1983--2001, where he led the Choir of the West on multiple tours and made eight recordings.

Sparks' DMA is from the University of Cincinnati and his dissertation (Swedish A Cappella Music Since 1945) won ACDA's Julius Herford Award in 1997 and was later published asThe Swedish Choral Miracle. He later conducted the Swedish Radio Choir in 2002, 2007, and 2008, including preparing them for a Brahms Requiem with Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic including a DVD on the BIS label.

Sparks is an active guest conductor, including the Anchorage Music Festival, Portland Symphonic Choir, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Exultate Chamber Singers (Toronto), and the Canadian National Youth Choir. He founded Seattle Pro Musica, conducted the Seattle Symphony Chorale, founded Choral Arts Northwest in Seattle, and led Pro Coro Canada (Edmonton, Alberta), 1999--2011.

Sparks has led UNT's Collegium Singers to the Boston Early Music Festival three times and also to the Berkeley Early Music Festival in 2012. They sang at the last NCCO conference.

Implementing Audience Engagement Practices in Higher Education Choral Music Performances

As conductors, to what extent do we actively consider the experiences we wish for our audiences to have? Despite our own convictions of the transformative power of a well-executed program, traditional concert models tend to place the concertgoer in a passive role, in which we assume a program’s content will be as stirring for viewers as it is for those performing. Beyond our programming choices, speaking from the stage during a concert, or providing written program notes, what measures can be taken to help our audiences extract meaning from a performance? Moreover, what benefits might be gained from thinking creatively about audience engagement in the academic setting? Research efforts by Alan Brown and others demonstrate a growing trend among arts organizations to implement diverse and creative audience engagement strategies. This presentation will examine the purpose, design, and implementation of such practices through a survey of examples seen throughout our field and in relevant research. Additionally, the discussion will consider the value of audience engagement vis-à-vis our goals for student development: to impart on our students not only a love for performing, but also an appreciation for their audiences, and a commitment to advocate for the fine arts.

SPEAKER: Dr. Andrew Morgan, Hendrix College


Andrew Morgan is Director of Choirs and Assistant Professor of Music at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where he conducts the Hendrix College Choir and teaches courses in music history. He has led several initiatives to commission new works at Hendrix College, including the 2017 premiere of Down Deep by Dominick DiOrio (honoring the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis), and developed the annual Candlelight Carol Competition, now in its third year. Beyond choral music, his teaching interests include pop music history and the intersection of music and politics. Dr. Morgan completed doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota with Kathy Saltzman Romey and Matthew Mehaffey, where his research examined audience engagement practices implemented in the graduate recital setting. While in Minnesota, he conducted performances with several university ensembles and members of the Minnesota Chorale. He has participated in numerous conducting festivals and masterclasses with organizations including NCCO, Chorus America, and the Conductors Institute. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors of the Arkansas chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. A native of Wisconsin, he is a proud Green Bay Packers fan, home chef, husband to Julia, and father of Henry & Oliver.

Irish Language Choral Music

This repertoire session represents pieces from composers who work extensively in the Irish language. While some of the selections utilize traditional Irish texts and/or tunes, others are original poetic expressions in the Irish-Gaelic dialect. With Irish-language choral works difficult to find, this session will expose the audience to various styles and composers and provide a means to access the language.

SPEAKER: Dr. Stacie Rossow, Florida Atlantic University


Stacie Lee Rossow holds a Bachelor's and a Master's Degrees from Florida Atlantic University and received her Doctorate in Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami. While at the University of Miami she was awarded the Theodore Presser Award for Research in Music for her work in Irish choral music. Her thesis, entitled The Choral Music of Irish Composer Michael McGlynn, was the first on Mr. McGlynn and is currently held in the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin. In 2015, Dr. Rossow was awarded the Faculty Talon Award for Excellence in Leadership at Florida Atlantic where she is now Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Choral and Vocal Studies.

A faculty member at the inaugural Anúna Summer School in Dublin, Dr. Rossow has taught at four subsequent summer sessions. She has served as the studio conductor for three Anúna recordings and has premiered several of Mr. McGlynn's works with her own ensembles. An active adjudicator and clinician, Dr. Rossow has presented on such topics as Irish choral music, Irish composer Michael McGlynn, and Braille music notation for the music student. Her current area of research is intended to define the National Choral Compositional School of Ireland.

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