SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) – November 2005


Message from the President – Grace Sheldon-Williams, President
By now we are all in the thick of things.  Fall concerts are behind us, and December performances are just around the corner.  SCVA is well underway with the annual Fall In-Service workshop, Jazz Festival, and High School Honor Choir concert later this month.  Thank you to Mark, Matt, Kathy and Rich for their incredibly hard work on these events.

I urge you to check the SCVA website on a regular basis for updates regarding SCVA events and services that are of interest to you.  Many thanks to our webmaster Mark Freedkin.

Now to the serious stuff.  Here are some good reasons for being a…

 - The rest of the choir exists just to make you look good.
 - You can entertain your friends by breaking their wine glasses.
 - When sopranos want to sing in the shower, they know the tune.
 - It’s not like you are ever going to sing the alto part by accident.
 - Great costumes—like the hat with the horns on it.
 - How many world famous altos can you name?
 - When the fat lady sings, she’s usually singing soprano.

 - You get really good at singing E-flat.
 - You get to sing the same note for several consecutive measures.
 - You don’t really need to warm up to sing 12 consecutive measures of E-flat.
 - If the choir really stinks, it’s unlikely the altos will be blamed.
 - You get to pretend that you’re better than the sopranos, because everyone knows that women only sing soprano so they don’t have to learn to read music.
 - You can sometimes find part-time work singing tenor.
 - Altos get all the great intervals.
 - When the altos miss a note, nobody gets hurt.

 - Tenors get high…without drugs.
 - You can show the sopranos how it SHOULD be sung.
 - Did you ever hear of anyone paying $1,000 for a ticket to see The Three Basses?
 - Who needs brains when you’ve got resonance?
 - Tenors never have to waste time looking through the self-improvement section of the bookstore.
 - When you get really good at falsetto, you can make tons of money doing voice-overs for cartoons.
 - Gregorian chant was practically invented for tenors.  Nobody invented a genre for basses.
 - You can entertain your friends by impersonating Julia Child.

 - You don’t have to tighten your shorts to reach your note.
 - You don’t have to worry about a woman stealing your job.
 - Or a pre-adolescent boy stealing your job.
 - Action heroes are always basses.  That is, if they ever sang, they would sing bass.
 - You get great memorable lyrics like bop, bop, bop, bop.
 - If the singing job doesn’t work out, there’s always broadcasting.
 - If you get a cold, so what.
 - For fun, you can sing at the bottom of your range and fool people into thinking there’s an earthquake.


VOCAL SOLO COMPETITION - Rodger Guerrero, VP Vocal Solo Competition
I am excited and honored to have been appointed the new SCVA Vocal Solo VP!  I cannot express how meaningful, educational, and even life-altering the          competition has been for my students at Harvard-Westlake.  In preparing for this   year’s event, I have gained great respect for Colleen Kennedy, whose excellent organizational and communication skills helped to solidify the competition during her tenure as Vocal Solo VP.  I only hope that I can endeavor to coordinate it as well as she did.  Luckily my accompanist, Mark Hilt, will be helping me out!

The first order of business is to congratulate last year’s Vocal Solo Competition winners, who performed at the Jr. High/Middle School Honor Choir concert on Sunday May 15, 2005:

Jr. High/M.S. Winner            Breeanna Jenkins, Sandburg Middle School
6th place         Amanda Corbet, Edison High School
5th place         Spencer Case, Harvard-Westlake School
4th place         Lindsey St. Onge, L.A.  County High  School for the Arts
3rd place         Scott Hurst, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts
2nd place        Amanda Workman, Los Osos High School
1st place         Kate Pynoos, Harvard-Westlake School

I have hosted a preliminary site each of the past four years.  While it requires some work, the rewards are innumerable!  Just ask any of last year’s other hosts: Melanie Alpert, Alta Loma School District; Linda Corwin, Corwin Vocal Studio; Sandra Cupp, Niguel Hills Middle School; Scott Hedgecock, Fullerton Union High School; and Mary Purdy, Canyon High School.  Special thanks go to Rick Soto at Orange Coast College for providing the semi-final round facilities. Finally, thank you to Debbie Montpas, VP for the Jr High/Middle School Honor Choir, for organizing the performance for the finalists on May 15 and La Habra Hills Presbyterian Church for hosting the event.

It is marvelous to observe the transformation of the singers at the hands of our superb adjudicators!  The education and experience they receive during the eight-minute vocal session are absolutely priceless.  Last year’s clinicians were especially outstanding: Al Brightbill, Rhonda Dillon, Karen McBride, Matt Scully, Bonnie Snell, and Diana Zaslove in the preliminary round; and Dr. Nicole Baker and Don Brinegar in the semi-final round.  Thanks to all of you!

Nearly 120 singers participated last year. While this is wonderful, I know that there are many more out there who could truly benefit from this experience.  Please, encourage your students to participate!  If you’re concerned that the sites are too far away, then host one yourself!  Only 20 singers are needed at each site in order to cover the cost of adjudicators, scholarships, and other operational expenses.  All you need to do is make your choir room available for a few hours on a Saturday morning, shuffle some papers, and the rest is done for you. It’s easy!

Sandra Cupp, Scott Hedgecock, and I are already planning to host sites this year.  Many more are needed, as last year’s six were simply not enough.  I would especially like to challenge directors/voice teachers in the far south, South Bay, and West LA regions to host and send students!  It’s wholly rewarding, looks great on a college résumé, and singers can earn scholarships.  Most importantly, become involved in the Vocal Solo competition because it’s the right thing to do for your students.  They deserve this opportunity to learn and become better singers and overall musicians.


2006 Vocal Solo Competition Information

Application Info
Participation is open to both junior high/middle school and high school students, though the two levels do not compete against each other. The application fee remains at $20. This fee is non-refundable. Applications must be accompanied by a school check or money order payable to SCVA. You can also pay online by visiting and selecting e-Payments. Please, no purchase orders, personal checks or cash. Each applicant should include a self-addressed envelope with their application for notification. Participants must be active members in a choral ensemble. Church, temple and community groups meet this requirement. The application must be signed by the choral director. If the choral director is not a member of SCVA, then the application must be signed by both the choral director and the private voice teacher. Directors and/or voice teachers must be current members of SCVA, having paid their 2005-06 dues, in order for their students to participate. If your membership isn’t current, please contact Shawn Taylor, complete the membership application included in the SCVA newsletter, or visit

Performance Info
Each participant will sing one selection of a classical nature (art song or aria). Selections should be appropriate to the singer’s level of experience. Participants will be given a total of 8 minutes to perform and work with the adjudicator. Keep in mind that a longer song means less time to work with the adjudicator. Singers must provide their own skilled accompanists for the preliminary and semi-final rounds. (Keep costs down by sharing an accompanist.) An accompanist will only be provided for the final concert performance. The preliminary and semi-final rounds are in master-class format, lasting approximately 3 to 4 hours, including breaks. Participants are expected to check in before the master class starts and remain until the end to receive their certificates and adjudication forms. Please remind participants to make sure that they are available for all dates and times before completing the application. Also, please help our participants by not scheduling a gig for your choir on the same day that any of your students is scheduled to sing in the competition, or excuse those students from the gig. Singers arriving and leaving throughout the class can be distracting.

Up to five semi-finalists may be selected from each preliminary site at the high school level, along with one junior high/middle school semi-finalist. Singers selected to continue to the semi-final round may either perform their selection from the preliminary round or prepare another. At the semi-final round, the judges will select six high school finalists and one junior high/middle school finalist. The high school finalists will consist of the two best female singers, the two best male singers and the next two best singers at the judges’ discretion. Final placement of the high school finalists will be announced at the Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir concert.

Dates to Remember
 - Applications postmarked no later than Saturday, December 10, 2005
 - Preliminary rounds (various sites): 9am - 1:30pm, Saturday, January 14, 2006
 - Semi-final round (site TBD): 9am - 2:30pm, Saturday, February 25, 2006
 - Scholarships awarded after final performances at the Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir Concert (date, site, & time TBD)

Mail application packets to:
  Rodger Guerrero
  SCVA Vocal Solo Competition
  3700 Coldwater Canyon
  North Hollywood, CA  91604

For more information please visit and select Events and/or Newsletter.

Vocal Solo Application Form


Men’s and Women’s Clinic/Workshop - Ron Soderwall, VP – Young Men’s Clinic
Now is the time to start planning to send both your men and women singers to one of the finest gender related choral events in Southern California.In addition to the annual Young Men’s Harmony Festival that is co-sponsored by SCVA and the Masters of Harmony (six-time International Chorus Champion of the Barbershop Harmony Society), the Harborlites (current Sweet Adelines International Chorus Champion) will be organizing a Young Women’s Harmony Festival so that the young women in our choirs can enjoy the same experience as the men.

The dates for these two all-day festivals will be:
   Young Women’s Harmony Festival: February 11, 2006 – Orange Coast College
   Young Men’s Harmony Festival: February 18, 2006 – Orange Coast College

Having sent men to the Young Men’s Harmony Festival each year, I have personally benefited from the training that they received from the Masters of Harmony.  And then, to top off a full day of workshops and two great meals (all provided), the evening concert with the combined 320 singers filling the OCC stage was unbelievable!  This year I am sending all the female and male singers in all of my choirs as a required attendance and I have included the modest registration fee in their yearly choir participation fee (negating one other event in their calendar).  Yes, this event is that important to my singers.  And I am expecting the same high quality training and performance from participation in the Young Women In Harmony Festival for the ladies.  Please see the following article, and be sure to visit the Events page on the SCVA website for applications and more information.


Young Men’s Barbershop Harmony Festival – Mark Freedkin, Barbershop Harmony Society (SPEBSQSA)
We are pleased to announce another unique opportunity for your young male singers that will provide a positive boost for choral music at your school.  Building on our successful choral programs during the past six years, the Masters of Harmony and SCVA will hold a Young Men’s Harmony Festival starting at 10:00am on Saturday, February 18, 2006 at Orange Coast College.  The day-long event will consist of a morning and afternoon clinic and rehearsal, followed by a public performance in the evening with the Masters of Harmony.  In addition to providing an outstanding musical experience for your singers, all of the proceeds from this event will go to support choral music education programs in our schools.

About four weeks prior to the event, we will provide sheet music and downloadable voice-dominant MP3 audio practice tracks for several songs arranged in the barbershop style.

The cost is only $20 per singer for early registration.  Local barbershop sponsors will cover the remaining costs for all sheet music, audio practice tracks, rehearsal facilities, guest clinicians, and performance costumes.  A commemorative T-shirt will be provided to each singer.  We will also provide lunch and dinner for the singers, as well as a catered dinner for any music educators who attend the rehearsal and clinic.  We request that you or a parent accompany your singers at the event to help maintain discipline during the long day.

To qualify for the early registration fee, complete the enclosed application and parental consent/medical form for each singer and send payment by cash, check or money order payable to “Masters of Harmony” to the address below NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 20, 2005.  Thereafter, the registration fee will be $25 per singer.  Any male student who is currently enrolled in a school choral music program is eligible to participate.  There is no limit to the number of students you can nominate from your choral program.  We can accommodate up to 200 singers, so don’t delay!

For more information, please contact:
  Mark Freedkin
  Home: (949) 559-9621
  Work: (949) 470-3117

Young Men’s Barbershop Harmony Festival Application


Hosting a Festival is a Great Experience!
Jennifer Stanley, VP of High School Festivals
Linda Nason, VP of Junior High School Festivals

Host Application Extended to November 10th!!! Sign up NOW!!!

It is never too early to start planning for festival season!  We have been working this summer to make the festival process easier for everyone, especially festival hosts.  Whether you are the director of an elementary, middle school or high school choir, there are many reasons to consider hosting a festival:

 - The registration form is easy.
 - You get free festival registration for one of your choirs at each festival you host.
 - You don’t have to get a bus to go to festival.
 - You provide schools in your area a quality performance opportunity.
 - You and your students get to see other choirs and hear quality literature.
 - Your students have the comfort and familiarity of performing in their regular auditorium (home court advantage!).
 - Students enjoy the responsibility of assisting in the running of the festival.
 - You get excellent networking opportunities with other directors in the festival, and with the adjudicators.

SCVA will provide for each festival host:
 - A list of participating choirs with contact information for each director
 - Plaques delivered to your school for each participating ensemble
 - Certified adjudicators scheduled for each festival by SCVA

A regular festival has eight participating choirs and two adjudicators. One adjudicator tapes his/her comments, and the other writes comments on the score sheet.  Both adjudicators’ scores are averaged to determine the rating (if desired by each director).  If you would like to host a clinic festival, please indicate that on your form; a clinic festival has a maximum of six participating choirs and one adjudicator.  After each choir performs, the adjudicator works with the ensemble onstage.  SCVA may convert a regular festival to a clinic festival if there is low enrollment.

If you are interested in hosting an ELEMENTARY FESTIVAL, or if you have questions about elementary festivals, please email us!

Please contact us with any questions you may have!

Festival Host Application Form


The Regional Honor Choirs Are Set! - Rich Brunner, VP-HS Honor Choirs

Talking About Students’ Audition Results

The auditions are over and the Honor Choir members have been selected.  Some of your kids might be ecstatic and some might be upset.  We love to help our students succeed.  We work with them on their music.  We make them practice their scales, their triads, their tonal memory and their sight-reading.  We admonish them to sing with gusto and to give the audition everything they’ve got.  And if they get in, great!  You have more work to do with them.  And if they don’t get in, fine.  You still have more work to do with them.

The process continues for your students.

Whether or not a student of yours makes the Honor Choir shouldn’t be the point.  We live in a society that tends to praise success more than failure, but failures are a part of the process.  And loving the process frees you up to continue loving the process, instead of looking for reasons why this student made it or that student didn’t.  Lloyd Cory once said: “It’s 100 times easier to criticize than to create.”  I hope that you will be the example of creativity to your students.  Show them how to continue to work hard and tell them that not making it into Honor Choir isn’t about who they are as a person, but rather about their preparation.

The process continues for you.

Two thoughts I would like to offer.  The first is to remember that it is very difficult to affect change if you are sitting on the outside complaining.  A wise man once said “Rail at the stars and see how indifferent they are to your railing.”  If you think changes should be considered, get closer, get involved.  The second is a story about a teacher last year who had a number of students audition and none of them made it.  This person was confused but confident that there was something to learn.  They came to the Honor Choir weekend last year, observed the quality of the students there and began to understand that they were going to have to raise the stakes for the auditions.  This year that person had several students make the Honor Choirs.

There are often students who have a bad day, or who find themselves freaking out unexpectedly.  Perhaps they just finished memorizing their song the day before the auditions and are tentative.  You can plan for numerous contingencies, but don’t beat yourself up if you left something out or didn’t start early enough.  Learn from the experiences this year and spend more time preparing next year.

The judging process is also not perfect…it’s done by human beings like yourself and often their judgments don’t agree with your assessments.  But this process is all about creating opportunities for our kids.  How you and your students embrace the opportunity is totally up to you and them.  A favorite phrase declares, “If you love only the results the process is a chore.  Love the process and the results will follow.”

Helping with the Weekend

Again, the process continues.

Approximately 250 students will be descending on Orange Coast College on November 18th and 19th and with them they will bring over 100 teachers, 500 or more parents and siblings and another 100 or so friends and classmates. 

During the rehearsal process, working with and managing the choirs is great fun but a definite challenge.  It’s even more of a challenge when the singer to teacher ratio is 1:50, or worse 1:100.  Needless to say, we need a great deal of help on those two days.  Kathy and I so much appreciate all the help teachers gave us with the adjudication last month and we don’t want to overtax your goodwill.  But to those of you who had students audition for the Honor Choirs last month, please consider helping!  Even if it’s only for an hour or so, we need you.  It’s not glamorous work (and some of it is downright tedious) but it all needs to get done.

For those of you who have three or more students (Northern California Regionals say 2 or more) singing in the Honor Choirs, you will be expected to assist with the organization of the event on that weekend (Friday and Saturday).  This could include conducting a sectional, accompanying a sectional, picking up pizzas, helping set up chairs, etc.  Plan to be available.  Please assist us in continuing to provide this musical experience for our singers.

Please contact Rich Brunner at or Kathy Cobb-Woll at if you can give us some of your time. Thank you so much, in advance!


Junior High Honor Choir - Tony Azeltine, VP-Jr High Honor Choir

I think back on all the memories of my musical life, and always arrive at some special performances that were hallmark.  Not strangely, those hallmarks are usually attached to some particular honor choir that I was a part of.  I will ever be grateful to the teachers that took the time to participate in the professional associations that offered these experiences, and cared enough for me to be a part of these events.  My life interest in music really sprang out of these happenings.  And I’m sure all of you are nodding and remembering those really special performances that defined your musical life.

Now, as instructors, we have the opportunity to pass on these experiences to our students.  The SCVA Junior High Honor Choir may well be the one event that spurs your students to a life-long love of music. It is an auditioned group of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders (yes, high school teachers, don’t forget the ninth graders. They are your future leaders, are they not?), and this year, Lori Marie Rios has kindly consented to conduct this group.  The location has yet to be firmed up at this printing, but the concert will take place Sunday, May 7, 2006.

Talk this up with your students now.  Auditions will be Saturday, January 28, and February 4, 2006. As soon as audition sites are confirmed, I will have them posted on the SCVA Website.

If you are interested in assisting as a judge, audition site host, aide-at-large, or any other way, please contact me at (626) 572.2267, or e-mail me at


Fall In-Service - Mark Henson, Past President

An energetic group of veteran choral directors, new teachers, retirees, and college music students gathered last Friday for our annual Fall In-Service.  It was a wonderful day of learning, sharing, and celebrating choral music and teaching.

The day began with a reading session featuring music for developing choirs – accessible music for choirs at a variety of levels.  Tim Lutz led the session and also demonstrated a variety of vocal and physical warm-ups designed to engage young singers.  Sincere thanks to Dave Buckeyene and JW Pepper for supplying the reading packets, and to Patty Breitag for accompanying the session.

Next, the participants were treated to the wonderful sound of the 90-voice “Bass Clef Choir” from Northwood High School in Irvine.  Director Zach Halop shared techniques for working with young male voices and for choosing quality repertoire to inspire and excite the singers.  The pride, discipline, and vocal technique displayed by this group were truly inspirational.

Back by popular demand, Debby Jay led a “hands-on” participation in Alexander Technique called “Creating the Right Conditions for Effortless Singing” or “Singing in the Key of Ease.”  Participants were guided through the steps of relaxing the body, releasing pressure and tension, and preparing physically for the act of singing.

Viletta Skillman shared techniques for teaching musicianship in the choral classroom.  Her packet included a variety of exercises and musical examples designed to guide students through the process of developing as sight-readers and choral musicians.  Also discussed were techniques for keeping the students motivated and for assessing their progress.

Board members Linda Nason and Jennifer Stanley presented an information session dealing with hosting and participating in SCVA festivals. Among the topics discussed were maintaining consistency between festival sites, and the SCVA Code of Conduct.  Over 9,000 students had an SCVA festival experience last year!

The day concluded with roundtable discussions of a variety of music education topics.  This was a lively forum for educators at all levels and all stages in their careers to share ideas, successes, challenges, etc.  Thanks to Ruth Freiman, Grace Sheldon-Williams, Sheri Nelson, Jennifer Stanley, Linda Nason, and Rodger Gurerro for facilitating the discussions.  I will be compiling the information from this session into a future newsletter article. 

If you’ve not attended an SCVA Fall In-service, I hope you’ll plan to in the future.  It was a day of inspiration!


Other Important Information
SCVA Membership Application