SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) - October 2010


Message from the President - Rodger Guerrero
In his chapter contribution to the Decker-Herford edition of Choral Conducting Symposium, Daniel Moe writes, "The conductor must be utterly convinced about the worth of a work before he (or she) embarks on the long, arduous journey toward ultimate musical disclosure in performance” (Decker-Herford, 1988). So the details of the beginning of school are past and our years have finally begun, right? Our choir membership is stable so we know who we have and pretty much what they can do. We’ve begun our usual voice building, musicianship, sight reading and aural skills exercises, and maybe, just maybe, our singers have conquered an octavo or two. Everything we’re working on with our singers places them at the center because we are wholly about facilitating their learning and thinking. We want to produce good musical experiences, of course, but we are most concerned about helping our singers in a lifelong musical learning process. We want to develop in them a passion for further musical experiences. We do so by providing them with a base of concepts that will further thinking and appreciation for the choral art. But if we are all about our singers, does the music we choose for them actually reflect that philosophy?

Research on collegiate teaching indicates the major influence upon what students learn is not the methodology of teaching but the specific course textbooks. No matter how demonstrative, dynamic, and well-prepared a professor might be, studies clearly indicate that students learn more from reading and studying the textbook than they do from the teacher (I don’t know about you, but my ego just took a major hit!). While the studies are not inclusive of performance-based classes, could one infer that singers too just might be learning more from the actual music they perform than from the conductors who teach it to them? Don’t get me wrong: effective, student-based teaching should be at the core of our belief systems. However, what music we choose and how singers relate to and are interested in it might just have more impact upon their learning than how we present it to them.

The question is, "How does a conductor decide upon 'the worth of a work?'". In his 1998 book, Conducting Choral Music, Robert Garretson highlights eight considerations conductors should make when choosing music (pp. 248-249). While this information is surely familiar to many of us, I thought that I would list them here in light of their incredible importance to the education of our singers:

1. Is the text worthwhile? Does it contain a message of sufficient value?
2. Is the music artistically conceived, and does it reflect the mood of the text?
3. Does the selection fit the needs and interests of a particular age group for which it is being selected? Does the music have emotional appeal for the singers?
4. Does the music fit the physical limitations of the singers? Is the tessitura of the parts too high or too low? Are there extreme, awkward jumps in the voice parts that might prove difficult to execute?
5. Are the voice parts handled in such a manner as to make each part sufficiently interesting?
6. If the selection is an arrangement, is it done in an authentic musical style? Is the authenticity of the music sacrificed for clever musical effects?
7. Does the music justify the rehearsal time necessary to prepare it?
8. Are all the various types and styles of choral music being represented in your selections, so that the singers may have the broadest educational experience possible??

You might take note that #8 has been emboldened and underlined. In last year’s ACDA Western Regional Convention, choirs performed 20th and 21st music at a ratio of about nine to one in comparison with music from all other historical eras. If students learn more from the music then they do from us, then perhaps their frame of historical reference is unbelievably microscopic. I cannot imagine a U.S. or World History teacher spending 90% of instructional time covering only current events. Can you? Luckily for SCVA members, our phenomenal website (thank you Mark Freedkin!) contains a comprehensive Recommended Festival Music List. While I haven’t counted the total number of octavos, rest assured that there are hundreds and hundreds of them from all of the musical eras. Each listing includes the title, composer, publisher, and publisher number. Most importantly, the difficulty level of each piece is labeled Easy (E), Medium (M), Difficult (D), or some combination of two of the three. Thanks to the efforts of Past President Sheri Nelson, Festivals VP Jennifer Stanley, and many others, these lists have recently been updated and expanded. Check them out today (but update your membership first!).

Whatever we choose, we must remember to place our singers’ educational welfare at the center of our search. We should choose music that will be meaningful and relevant now and in the future. We must educate them in order to kindle their musical fires forever.


Vocal Jazz - Christine Tavares, VP of Jazz Festival
Hey Choral Directors! Christine Tavares here, your Jazz Rep! There will be more information from me in the next newsletter, but just wanted to give you a SAVE THE DATE for the SCVA Vocal Jazz Festival! It will take place this year on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011! Stay tuned for more information!

Also, California ALL STATE JAZZ CHOIR'S director this year will be Darmon Meader from the New York Voices! Audition packets are available at

Deadline to apply is early November, so don’t delay!


Fall In-Service - Sheri Nelson, Past President
Join us for the annual SCVA Fall In-Service on Friday, October 22, 2010. This year’s workshop will include our Adjudicators Clinic. Scott Hedgecock will walk us through the thought process of an adjudicator before we hear the Bernardo Yorba Middle School Vocal Ensemble, directed by Linda Nason, and the Redlands High School Chamber Singers, directed by Ken Tuttle. This workshop is the first step for those who wish to become an SCVA Adjudicator. It is also a great opportunity for all us, even if we don’t wish to be an adjudicator, to hear two outstanding ensembles.

The reading session this year will focus on new music that is being added to the SCVA Recommended Literature List. We had a total 287 piece submitted from our membership last year. A committee has been reviewing your submissions and we will reveal the new additions to the list on Oct. 22 along with a reading session of a few of those pieces. I want to thank in advance Greg Ellis who has agreed to present the middle school selections and Ron Soderwall for presenting some high school selections. Other interest sessions include:

- The Choral Director as Voice Teacher (Dr. Andrew Crane and the CSUSB Chamber Singers)
- First Things First: What Matters MOST in the Choral Profession (Dr. Andrew Crane)
- Vocal Jazz Workshop (Christine Tavares)

You can look forward to being inspired by our outstanding clinicians. The In-Service is also a great networking opportunity -- Invite your colleagues!!

Register today at

The venue for the day will again be the Placentia Presbyterian Church located at 849 N. Bradford Ave. in Placentia. The In-Service will officially begin at 9am but please arrive at 8:30 for registration and a continental breakfast.


2010 High School Honor Choirs Are Here! Already? Tammi Alderman, VP - High School Honor Choirs

Approximately 260 students will be descending upon California Lutheran University for the High School Honor Choirs rehearsal on Saturday, October 30th (THANK YOU, WYANT MORTON!). And on November 19th and 20th, Honor Choirs Weekend, they will once again gather at Santa Monica High School (THANK YOU JEFFE HULS!) for two days of intense rehearsal which will culminate in another spectacular SCVA Honor Choirs Concert on Saturday evening. They will bring so many parents, siblings, friends and classmates with them, that the 1,200 seat concert hall will be absolutely packed! If you have never attended an SCVA High School Honor Choirs concert, take advantage of the opportunity this year. The raucous atmosphere and phenomenal musicianship displayed by the young singers are not to be missed!

While working with and managing the three choirs during rehearsals is great fun, and unbelievably rewarding, it is also incredibly challenging. With the singer to teacher ratio anywhere from 50:1 to 100:1, the odds are daunting that we can manage to remain sane throughout the weekend! Honestly, a great deal of help is needed. John and I so much appreciate all of the help teachers gave us with the adjudication process, and we don’t want to overtax your goodwill. But to those of you who had students audition for the Honor Choirs (even if they didn’t make it)…HELP! If it’s only for an hour or so, we need you. It’s not glamorous work (and some of it isn’t pretty) but it all needs to get done. Besides, the camaraderie is wonderful.

We especially look forward to accepting help from directors whose students auditioned successfully for one or more of the choirs. We realize how thankful you are and know that you want to show your students how much it means to you that they are there. We are confident that you will contact one of us and ask how you can help! Please give us some of your time.

This year’s Honor Choirs conductors, Vijay Singh (Central Washington University), Kimberly Barclay Drusedum (Green Valley High School – Henderson, NV), and Jeffery Seaward (College of the Sequoias) have chosen incredible literature for the students. Every singer will be challenged by it but will also experience the kind of profound music that can change lives. And all three conductors will demand the best the students can give. They exemplify David Frost’s quote: "Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally." Each will guide and inspire the singers in a wholly unique way; each is a master teacher; all three are conductors who have “polished their own lanterns so that others may follow their lights” (Roshi). Don’t miss this chance to come and observe and learn. And while you’re at it, please stop by and offer to help John and me out. In fact, email us and make a reservation to volunteer today!


What Helps the Most? BE A FESTIVAL HOST!!
Jennifer Stanley, VP of High School Festivals
Maria Fritts, VP of Junior High & Middle School Festivals

“I think the SCVA festivals are some of the most effective that we attend.”
            – Craig Gruenberg, Granada Hills CHS Choral Director

10.  It’s easy to register a festival ONLINE at SCVACHORAL.ORG - register by November 1.
 9.  You get free festival registration for one of your choirs at each festival you host.
 8.  You get excellent networking opportunities with other directors and adjudicators.
 7.  Your students have the familiarity of performing in their regular venue (home court advantage!)
 6.  SCVA enrolls choirs in your festival and gives you contact information for each director.
 5.  SCVA provides all forms and plaques needed to run the festival.
 4.  SCVA schedules certified adjudicators for your festival.
 3.  You don’t have to get a bus to go to festival.
 2.  You can choose the date that works best for you, and set the date on your calendar NOW!
 1.  You provide an opportunity for many students to see other choirs and hear quality repertoire.

Submit your festival host registration at SCVACHORAL.ORG - deadline is November 1, 2010.

If you are interested in hosting an ELEMENTARY FESTIVAL, or if you have questions about elementary festivals, please email Maria Fritts.

Please contact us                      Jennifer Stanley                         Maria Fritts
with questions you have! 
                                                (626) 258-5292                       (951) 926-6776


Vocal Solo Competition: A Broadening View - Dr. Rich Brunner, VP, Vocal Solo Competition
A year ago this month, Colleen Kennedy, the Vice President of the Vocal Solo Competition wrote these words:

I cannot stress strongly enough the value to your students, and to your choirs, of participation in the SCVA Vocal Solo Competition. It’s so much more than a competition. The process of preparing and performing a solo for adjudication, in and of itself, provides singers with a tremendous opportunity for growth as musicians. Add to that watching and listening to their peers and receiving guidance by leaders in the field, and you’ve got one powerful experience.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Colleen for her tremendous work on shaping the vocal lives of so many Southern California singers. And, second, she is absolutely right: the Vocal Solo Competition is so important to the health of all the Choral Activities within the scope of SCVA.

With that in mind, I am pursuing a number of changes in the Vocal Solo program, with the possible inclusion of a new competition for Jazz Singers and/or Musical Theater performers. However, by the time you read this article, the new board will have only just met and these changes will have just been discussed and voted on. In the meanwhile, here are the important first dates to keep in mind. I have also included my handy step by step process for learning a new song!

Sing well and don’t forget to breathe!

Dates to remember:*
- Saturday, December 11, 2010: Online application and payment deadline
- Saturday, January 22, 2010: Preliminary round
- Semi-Final or Final round TBA
*please keep checking the website for any possible changes or additions!

Learning A New Song

A Step at a Time
There are three primary components to learning any new piece of music that contains words: the melody, the rhythm, and the text. Break up the learning process into four principle exercises as follows:
1. Sing the melody on a neutral syllable.
2. Speak the text out of rhythm.
3. Speak the text in rhythm.
4. Sing the melody with the text.

If, while singing the piece, you stumble over part of the melody, repeat step #1 (at least for the section that is problematic) and then try it with the text again. If you stumble over text, repeat step #3. If you still stumble, go back to step #2 and repeat it until you can do step #3 without stumbling.

Memorizing & Performing

Graphing the text
Memorizing the poem is very helpful, charting the shape of the text is also very important:

1. Is the text strophic – several verses with the same length and rhyme scheme;
2. If so, is the music also strophic – having the same basic music for each verse of text;
3. If the poem rhymes, what is the rhyme scheme – ABBA, ABAB, ABCABC;
4. When that is determined then decide if the music follows the rhyme scheme;
5. If there are any foreign words or English words that you don’t know the meaning of, look them up in the dictionary.
6. Write out your song lyrics as a poem from memory as practice. Then type out the words on a separate sheet of paper. The poem, or “monologue” will then be that last thing you see as you memorize.

Always have a back-up plan
For the most part, memorization is handled by one of three processes: physical memory – seeing a picture of the music or the words in front of you; tactile memory – the way you know how a certain high note or low note feels, or remembering the vowel shape on those notes can help you remember the words; and emotional memory – having a mental image of the place or person that is being described, not just a generic picture of the country or some random person, but a place or person that has meaning for you and will help you keep the focus of the song. When one of these memorization components gives out there are always two back-ups…IF you do the prep work.

Performing the Song
After memorizing and before you perform the song in public for the first time, you should go through this check list and make sure you’ve done everything. The more prepared you are the better you will sing:

1. Do three or four dry-runs making sure that you get through the piece WITHOUT STOPPING: this is very important because in front of a live audience you are never sure what obstacles you will have to face. Sing the song moving around, doing the dishes, playing a computer game: distractions occur so prepare yourself for them.
2. Do you have a specific person or place in mind for your particular song? If not, Remember: don’t just sing words: sing thoughts, sing ideas, sing feelings. This is part of emotional memory so don’t forget this step.
3. Don’t give the accompanist a Xerox copy that is torn, taped and re-taped, placed in clear, shiny protective sheets, is in the wrong key, or looks like it’s a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy! Accompanists hate that. If you have the full vocal score or if the song is in a collection, make sure the book will stay open. The accompanist has only two hands and needs them both to play. Accompanists are artists, not magicians, so be sure to give them the music exactly the way they need it and you want it.
4. For your audition, never tell them that you are sick, have been sick, will be sick, could be sick, think you are getting sick, or are afraid of getting sick. TRUST ME: they don’t care and most of the time they wouldn’t have noticed had you not said anything. (Okay, that’s harsh…of course, they care, but all that information is best kept to yourself – it wastes energy and sets you up to do less than your best!) Besides, at any given time every other singer around the world has a cold, is getting one or is recovering from one. It is a fact of a singer’s life that they have to sing under less than perfect circumstances, so learn to live with it. If you are so incapacitated that you can’t sing well, or can’t stand up - don’t go to the audition!

Remember to HAVE FUN! What’s the point unless enjoying singing is your primary motivation!


Young Women’s and Young Men’s Harmony Festivals - Mark Freedkin, VP - Barbershop Harmony Festivals
We are pleased to invite you to this year’s Barbershop Harmony Festivals for Young Women and Young Men.  Both events will be held at the Robert B. Moore Theater on the campus of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.  The 6th annual “Diva Day” Young Women in Harmony Festival, sponsored by the Harborlites Chorus, will be held on Saturday, February 5, and the 11th annual “Young Men’s Harmony Festival” will be held on Saturday, February 12, sponsored by the Masters of Harmony. Both of these events will provide a unique musical opportunity for your singers and will provide a positive boost to your choral music program.

Each event will consist of morning and afternoon clinics and rehearsals, followed by a public performance in the evening with the respective adult choruses.  There will also be a clinic for music educators who would like to participate in a hands-on demonstration of how the barbershop style is taught and how it can be used to attract more young men and women into your program.

The early application fee is only $20 per singer for applications that are submitted by November 12. After November 12, the application fee is $25 per singer.  The sponsoring choruses will cover the remaining costs for all sheet music, practice CDs, rehearsal facilities, guest clinicians and performance costumes. Each singer will receive a commemorative tee shirt. We will also provide lunch and dinner for the singers, choral directors and any adult chaperones accompanying the singers.

Please download and print the appropriate application forms from the SCVA website. Complete and return the applications and forms, along with payment by cash, check, or money order payable to Harborlites (for “Diva Day”) or Masters of Harmony (for the Young Men’s Festival).  Each event will be limited to a maximum of 250 participants, so be sure to submit your applications early.  Note that these festivals are separate events, and you must send the appropriate forms and payments to the proper recipient.

Young Women’s Festival Only:
In order to accommodate more schools, we are limiting the number of singers per school to twelve (12). Ideally we suggest 1-2 tenors, 3-4 leads, 2-3 baritones, and 3-4 basses. This will allow you to perform the music as a group and use this group to help your other students learn the joy of singing four-part harmony, barbershop style. Send applications for all students you wish to participate, indicating those students beyond the initial 12 that you wish to put on the Waiting List. We will try to accommodate as many as we can.

Young Men’s Festival Only:
There is no limit to the number of singers from your school who wish to participate, but please submit your applications early to ensure that all of your singers can be accommodated. We also request that you select your better singers to help maximize the musical quality of the event.

We look forward to receiving your applications. Please contact us if you have any questions about our festivals.

“Diva Day” (Young Women’s Festival)       Young Men’s Harmony Festival
Karen Ridout                                                    Mark Freedkin
Harborlites Chorus                                           Masters of Harmony
Home: (714) 847-0787                                    Home: (949) 559-9621
Cell: (714) 319-2325                                       Cell: (714) 357-1187
E-mail:                           E-mail:


Junior High Honor Choir - Vanessa Ventre, VP, Junior High honor Choir

Dear Colleagues,

As most of us kick off month two of school, it is time to start preparing your best singers and musicians to audition for the 2011 Junior High Honor Choir!

I am pleased to announce that our guest conductor is Mr. Lou De La Rosa, Director of Choral and Vocal activities at West Valley College. Mr. De La Rosa has been a guest conductor for CMEA and we are so fortunate to have him conduct this year’s SCVA Junior High honor choir!

The Honor Choir is open to all 7th, 8th , and 9th graders as well as 6th graders in a middle school choral program. High school BOYS in 9th grade are especially encouraged to audition so we have a solid bass/baritone section. Boys with unchanged voices are also encouraged to audition. Last year we had an exceptional group with almost 100 singers and we hope to continue this tradition!

The Audition will include:
1. Sing a major scale up and down (a cappella)
2. Sing a major triad and minor triad up and down (a cappella)
3. Sing an octave (a cappella)
4. Sight read one melodic and one rhythmic example
5. Sing tonal memory patterns
6. Sing “America”/ “My Country Tis of Thee” (a cappella)

Our all day rehearsal with the clinician and concert will be April 30th at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California. I am in need of hosts for the honor choir auditions Saturday January 29th and Saturday, February 5th. I would also like to lock in sites for the regional rehearsal either March 19th or 26th. Please contact me if you can host ASAP!

Thank you!

Vanessa Ventre
SCVA Vice President-Junior High Honor Choir  
(310) 393-9227 ext 73156


As choral directors, it is our responsibility to offer as many genres of choral music for our students to learn, experience and enjoy. We all have had singing experiences in the college level in choirs that were classical or jazz, women or men’s groups, chamber choirs, touring choirs and perhaps opera or musical choruses. All of those choirs gave us the diverse repertoire that we share with our students. Show choir however, is not represented as much in the college ranks. This is a genre that is most popular in high school but is a genre that perhaps is misunderstood by many choral people. Those of us who do offer this choice in addition to our well-balanced choral programs have students who graduate from high school with many memories and choral experiences that add to their appreciation of music.

Show Choir has been a part of many of our high school and middle school traditions for as long as we can remember. It has seen many transformations through the years and today it is as strong as ever especially in the southern California area. Show choirs have various styles, sizes and individual concepts that make this genre unique. The southern California competition circuit begins at the end of January and goes through the end of April with many high schools hosting one day and two day competitions that feature novice mixed, novice women, intermediate mixed, intermediate women, advanced mixed and finally advanced women divisions. Junior High and Middle School Show Choirs are also represented with many competition offerings. Each year our local competitions welcome new highs schools in our area along with high schools that travel from other parts of the country to participate in these events. There are also many National Competitions throughout the country that many of our local high school show choirs have won over the years. Congratulations to all of those amazing programs and choral directors.

There may be high schools in southern California with show choirs that have never participated in show choir competitions. Maybe they are unaware of the many show choir competitions that are available for their students. It is my hope that those directors will consider participating in these educational and fun events for their students in the coming years. 
At the beginning of the school year, I began asking myself questions: If I were a choir teacher looking to experiment in something new, like show choir for my students, where would I go for information? These are a few additional questions that I came up with - maybe you have some as well.

What do students gain from a show choir experience?

Show Choir:
- Builds self-confidence
- Gives another positive music performance experience for students
- Makes lasting friendships
- Teaches students how to listen and perform
- Keeps students active (physical education)
- Offers traveling opportunities

What is the cost to students in a show choir program? Each show choir director has different show concepts and many choreographers have unique visual concepts but that is what makes this genre so unique. We all have different methods of how we pay for our programs. Some rely on fundraising, sponsors or student participation fees. Generally, show choir program costs vary:

- per the number of costumes and props
- per number of students in each show choir
- per fundraising events and sponsorships
- per number of show choir competitions that you participate in 
- per choreographer fees
- per amount of platform risers necessary (if they need to be purchased)
- per music selections or hiring of music arrangers

Will I have to hire additional personnel? Most likely.

- Choreographer
- Musicians to accompany the groups at competitions
- Costume designers (perhaps)
- Technical crews (these can be parent volunteers or students)
- Truck for carrying props, platform risers (perhaps – again, parent volunteers)
- Arrangers (perhaps). There are many published offerings for show choirs as well as local show choir arrangers that can be hired to write music or even a whole show

What effect has “Glee” had on increasing participation in show choir? Has this program really changed anything?

- Students are more aware of the existence of show choir
- My experience is that it hasn’t made much difference in the numbers of students who participate in my program, but it might help in starting a new show choir. 

What is the choir director’s role in show choir?

- To coordinate the type of program and show
- To prepare the students with the learning of the music selections
- To support the student’s musical growth
- To give students more opportunities for personal growth and self-confidence
- To teach the appreciation of all kinds of music

How do we sell our show choir programs to those who don’t have them ?

- Invite high school choir directors and their choirs to show choir competitions
- Host a show choir in-service session
- Tour high schools that don’t have show choir

Is it worth our time?

If our goal is to put students first and give them a lasting musical education, then the amount of hours shouldn’t come into the equation. Most school districts will pay a small stipend for extra hours spent but most of us who have been giving students this opportunity will all say that the time spent is worth it when we hear the quality of music that our students learn and perform; the level of competition that is offered; the camaraderie that choir directors have with each other; the positive support generated by other schools and audiences during competitions and the pursuit of excellence that all students try to achieve in their performances. 

In the long run, as we fight budget cuts and receive less support from school administrations, it would seem that the more different kinds of opportunities we can offer our students for excelling in something they enjoy doing, the more our programs should survive these economic times. Consider adding a show choir program to your school.


Other Important Information
On-Line SCVA Membership Application (not required for Honor Choir audition or participation)
On-Line Festival Host Application
Calendar of Events