2018 SWACDA Conference Interest Sessions
Oklahoma City


All Roads Lead to Repertoire: Creating a Successful Program through Appropriate Literature

Amy Johnston Blosser, Presenter

The responsibilities of choral directors in the classroom are numerous and can often seem overwhelming. The focus of this session will be how the selection of literature is the crux of the choral program and the basis for all other decisions that are made throughout the academic year. ACDA’s National Chair for Repertoire and Resources will demonstrate the relationship between literature selection and vocal technique, music literacy, and creative opportunities for students. This session is intended for directors of younger singers middle school through high school, and the tools and ideas presented can be immediately applied to their programs.

Amy Johnston Blosser is the National Chair for Repertoire and Standards for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). Prior to this position she served as the National Repertoire & Standards Chair for Senior High School choirs and for Central Division. As R&S Chair, Blosser has been active in planning Interest and Reading Sessions at Division and National Conferences in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Oklahoma City and Dallas. She has chaired ACDA Conference Honor Choirs at the division and national levels, and has served as a member of the ACDA Honor Choir Handbook committee and R&S Committee Structure Task Force which reported to the national leadership conference in 2010.

She is the choral director at Bexley High School in Columbus, Ohio, where she conducts six choirs grades 7-12, serves as vocal music director for annual musical productions, and is the Fine Arts Department Chair.

Groove for Thought Discusses Singing in a Vocal Jazz Ensemble

Members of Groove For Thought discuss the nature of singing in a small vocal jazz ensemble. Topics may include: similarities and differences of small ensemble singing versus large group choral singing, solo delivery, phrasing, literature, rhythm section techniques, grooves, and stage presentation.

This session is Friday, March 9, at 12:30 in Room 4-5 in the Cox Convention Center.


African American Spirituals and Gospel

Christopher Smith, Presenter

Have you ever programmed a spiritual or gospel piece but were at a loss as to how to give it life beyond the printed page? African American spirituals are well known to have risen out of the hard labor context of American slavery. How did the rhythm of work songs influence the singing of these spirituals, and how can we use this knowledge to develop a coherent performance practice of the spiritual? This session will also examine gospel music to similarly develop a historically informed performance practice for choir. Specific examples from the repertoire will be presented, and a few excerpts will be rehearsed.

Christopher Smith is director of choral activities and assistant professor of music at MidAmerica Nazarene University, in Olathe, KS. He is also conductor of Allegro con Spirito, a junior high and high school men’s choir, of Allegro Choirs of Kansas City. He currently serves as College/University Choirs R&R Chair for KCDA and the Men’s Choirs R&R Chair for SWACDA. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s from East Carolina Universityand a doctorate from the University of Kansas.

Choral Techniques in the Digital Classroom

Kari Gilbertson, Presenter

Participants will explore lessons in Voices in Concert that are designed to build specific choral techniques and skills. Digital tools such as the “iOctavo” will be used to demonstrate a new level of choral instruction in part learning, style acquisition, articulation, and melodic line treatment. Collaborative learning using an iPad/tablet or classroom laptops will be demonstrated to show how small group, student-led rehearsing can build musicianship.

Kari Gilbertson has been teaching choral music for the last twenty-four years. She has teaching experience at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. In 2013, Gilbertson was named the director of choral activities at Lake Highlands High School in Richardson ISD. She has had the privilege of receiving such professional honors as PTA Lifetime Member, PTA Teacher of Excellence, and was Secondary Teacher of the Year for Richardson ISD in 2001.

The Choral Treasures of Catalonia

Jill Burgett, Presenter

This session focuses on familiarizing listeners with an overview of choral music from the region of Spain known as Catalonia. Despite a history of successive and extensive periods of political oppression over the centuries, the Catalan people have managed to preserve their language, culture, and music. Today’s robust choral scene in Barcelona and the surrounding region reflects the strong and unique choral history of the Catalan people, specifically fueled by the purpose of Catalan historical and cultural preservation. Musical examples will be presented by the University of Northern Colorado Chamber Choir.

Jill Burgett is director of choral music ed/associate director of choral activities at University of Northern Colorado, conducting the Women’s Glee and the UNC Chamber Choir, teaching choral methods, and conducting courses. Her doctorate is from Ball State University. She has served on the Indiana and Colorado ACDA boards and Central Region board as College and University R&R Chair. She has served on the NCCO board and as president of Colorado ACDA. Burgett is an active festival clinician and all-state choir conductor.

The Engaged Singer

Daniel Gutierrez, Presenter

Getting real musicality/artistry out of middle schoolers can be challenging. Having a “full bodied” performance, physical engagement from head to toe, can bring a choir’s singing to the next level and create an engaging performance for an audience member. This session discusses strategies to get your choirs moving and singing with organic movement that will impact students and audience members.

Daniel Gutierrez is the vocal music director at Reed Academy. Daniel is an active conductor, clinician and presenter throughout the country.  Daniel has been named a KSPR 10 Springfield “Hometown Hero”, Springfield Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and Southwest Missouri Teacher of the Year in 2017, a 2017 quarterfinalist for the GRAMMY National Music Educator Award, the 2017 Springfield Rotary Award for Outstanding Community Service, 2017 honoree for Springfield Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and the recipient of the 2017 MCDA Podium Award. Daniel's choral groups have won numerous choral festivals, received numerous invitations to perform at the Missouri Music Educator Association Conference, Southwest American Choral Directors Association Conference and the National American Choral Directors Association Conference. Daniel is also scheduled to be an All-State choir conductor in Florida, Colorado, and Virginia, South Carolina, and Minnesota.

Engaging Choral Classroom: Choral Lesson Planning

Sandy Knudson, Presenter

This session will outline successful lesson plans that engage young singers. Many young conductors want help with how to teach a piece and how to plan a rehearsal. This session will give many ideas for the creative use of solfége, teaching strategies, pacing, kinesthetic involvement, and musicianship training based on repertoire. Participants will try some of these techniques, and the clinician will address ways to help young singers take ownership of their repertoire

Sandy Knudson is the artistic director of the Norman Children’s Chorus and has successfully taught K-5 classrom music for thirty years. She holds a master’s degree and Kodály certification from the University of Oklahoma. Since 1990, Knudson has served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma Kodály certification program, where she teaches solfége, conducting, and choir. She holds National Board certification in Early and Middle Childhood Music.

Fix it on the Fly: Improving Conducting for the Busy Choir Director

Joshua Bronfman, Presenter

This session will outline a method for self-guided improvement in conducting while maintaining the busy life of a school choir director. Through lecture, discussion, and audience participation, Joshua Bronfman will demonstrate how this method can be utilized to facilitate ongoing growth in conducting technique and effectiveness.

Joshua Bronfman is director of choral activities 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. Bronfman received his bachelor’s and doctorate from the Florida State University, and his master’s from Oregon State University.

Healthy Vocal Technique for a Lifetime of Singing

Dana Ihm, Presenter

This session will provide healthy vocal strategies for older singers. As we age vocally, we need to be reminded of good vocal technique. This workshop will include tips and suggestions for working with older singers in a variety of settings and improving tone production, breath support, and inner hearing. Vocal care will also be addressed.

Dana Ihm received her bachelor’s and master’s from Pittsburg State University, and her doctorate from the University of South Carolina. Ihm has led choir tours extensively throughout the United States and Europe. She has served on the boards and planning committees of both the state and regional organizations. Ihm is currently the R&R Community Choir Chair for Colorado ACDA and the Reading Session Chair for SWACDA.

Increasing Retention with Intergenerational Projects

Joshua Hawkins Nannestad, Presenter

Recruiting is only the first step! School and church music programs share a vested interest in young people: first engaging them in musical activities and then retaining them as they mature. We all hope that our musical programming will make lifelong musicians of our young people, but by performing works that are consciously intergenerational, we can deepen connection between our younger and older musicians and therefore improve retention. Examples of the most important characteristics for such works will come from the gold standard, Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, an intergenerational opera suitable for church, school, or community programs.

Joshua Hawkins Nannestad, DMA, is assistant professor of choral music education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where he conducts the Symphonic Chorus. His degrees are from Boston University, Gordon College, and Saint Olaf College. He has been published in Choral Journal, the Boston Musical Intelligencer, and MassSINGS; he has also guest conducted widely, served on the Executive Boards of Massachusetts ACDA and Oklahoma ACDA, and presented for conferences of ACDA, NAfME, and CMS.

Maximizing Rehearsal Efficiency

Stephen Caldwell, Presenter

An oft-repeated complaint is that there is never enough rehearsal time. On further analysis, however, a staggering amount of wasted time may be lost to a variety of pedagogically poor procedures. A minute here, two minutes there add up to significant amounts of lost rehearsal time. How do we maximize our rehearsal efficiency? It begins with knowing how to DIRECT: Deconstruct, Isolate, Rehearse, Elucidate, Construct, and Test. This session will explore each of these six rehearsal steps and demonstrate practical examples for how to implement them into daily rehearsal to help maximize rehearsal time, better engage singers, and manage classroom.

Stephen Caldwell is the director of choral activities at the University of Arkansas, where he conducts the Schola Cantorum and Women’s Chorus, and teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in conducting, pedagogy, and literature. He often serves as a vocal and pedagogical consultant for music programs at public schools and has adjudicated choral festivals at all levels.

Mentoring the New Choral Conductor: Creating a Meaningful, Lasting Relationship

Amy Johnston Blosser, Presenter

The number of college students who will soon be new conductors and conductors with less than five yearsof experience is on the rise. Even with strong undergraduate programs preparing students through ensemble and studio work and methods classes, there is still much left to trial and error. What do you do when you are asked to conduct the pit orchestra and have never worked with instrumentalists before? How do you communicate appropriately? How does one program on little to no budget? This session is intended for newer conductors as a way to provide suggestions that are applicable for all age levels.

Amy Johnston Blosser will be the clinician for this session. (See her bio above.)

On the Right Track: Conducting Exercises for Developing Listening, Gesture, and Creativity

Rodney Eichenberger and Jason Paulk, Presenters

This session includes a lecture and demonstration format with ENMU Chamber Singers and beginning conductors (along with audience participation). Examples of exercises for developing listening, gesture, creativity, and ownership will be implemented with all those in attendance. The process recommended here is aimed at relieving all students of self-consciousness and putting them in a position of always being right in early lessons by enabling them to make musical decisions and take ownership of their performance.

Rodney Eichenberger (Emeritus Professor of Music, Florida State University) continues to maintain a busy professional schedule. He has conducted eighty all-state choirs in the Unuted States and guest conducted or lectured at more than eighty-five universities in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. International appearances include guest conducting the Korean National Chorus in Seoul, the Pusan, Korea City Choir, and International High School Honor Choirs in Tokyo and Berlin.

Jason Paulk is director of choral activities and professor of music at Eastern New Mexico University. His degrees include a bachelor’s from Stetson University, two master’s from Westminster Choir College, and a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Paulk was the winner of the 1997 ACDA Undergraduate Student Conducting Competition and was recently awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching at Eastern New Mexico University. Hal Leonard has just released a new textbook by Paulk and colleague Ryan Kelly titled Handel’s Messiah: Warm-ups for Successful Performance.

One Voice, One Sound, One Dream: Building a Meaningful Tenor/Bass Ensemble

Mark Rohwer and Lindsay Swartwood, Presenters

For a male and a member of a Tenor/Bass choir, singing is built upon myriad emotions and experiences. Any current choral educator knows that it can be difficult for guys to be comfortable and open as singers and members of choirs. Tenor/Bass choirs need special attention regarding unique vocal pedagogy, distinct social dynamics, and often-neglected emotional needs; these choirs are also deserving of a much more wide-ranging repertoire than they are often handed. Drawing on their experiences with a successful tenor/bass choir, the clinicians address these issues from the perspective of a male and female director.

Mark Rohwer is the director of choral activities at Flower Mound High School in Flower Mound, Texas. Rohwer has been at FMHS since its opening in the fall of 1999. Under Rohwer’s direction, FMHS have received consistent and numerous awards and have performed at Texas MEA and Southwest ACDA Region conferences. The Men’s Chamber Choir performed at the 2017 ACDA National Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

Lindsay Swartwood is the associate director of choral activities at Flower Mound High School, where she has worked since 2014. Swartwood previously directed choirs in Krum ISD and Mesquite ISD. Choirs under her direction have received awards at ensemble contests and have been successful at solo and ensemble, region, and state contests.

Practical Singing: The Four Things about Singing Every Choir Director Should Know

Kevin Wilson, Presenter

Kevin Wilson, Director of Vocal Pedagogy at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, will discuss the body systems at play for singing with current scientific research and vocal examples to help you communicate efficient voice use in the choral ensemble. Discussion will include the reality of lotion, potions, and myths in choral singing.

Kevin Wilson, native Oklahoman, is the Director of Vocal Pedagogy and Associate Professor of Voice at the Boston Conservatory of Music. He is the director of the annual Vocal Pedagogy Professional Workshop each Summer in Boston. Kevin has presented lectures and master classes on vocal health and musical theater and classical pedagogies throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Most recently he was an Artist in Residence with Arizona State University and a featured presenter for The 21st Century Genre Fluid Singer at the Pan-European Voice Conference in Ghent, Belgium.

R.E.C.H.A.R.G.E.: Ideas to Rejuvenate or Reimagine Your Teaching

Robert Ward, Presenter

It never fails that attendees say that they look forward to “recharging” at SWACDA. But what does that mean? Aside from spending time with colleagues and being inspired by wonderful clinics and performances, what can you do to take that inspiration and make a tangible difference in your school, church, or community? Robert Ward will share some of his own experiences and provide thoughts about how you can go about making positive changes to your mode of operation

Robert Ward serves as the director of choral activities at Emporia State University, where he conducts the A Cappella Choir, Tallgrass Chamber Choir, the Emporia Chorale, and teaches courses in vocal music education. Ward holds degrees from Oklahoma State University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of North Texas. As a singer, Ward has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Singers, Taylor Festival Choir, Texas Choral Artists, The Choral Pickup, Vox Humana, and the South Dakota Chorale.

So You Want to Start a Vocal Jazz Ensemble?

Craig Curry, Presenter

What does it take to start and develop a vocal jazz ensemble? What skills and resources (musical and otherwise) does a director need, and how are they developed? In this session, we will take a look at repertoire, stylistic issues, vocal technique, improvisation challenges, and sound reinforcement options. The Friends University Jazz Vocal Ensemble will demonstrate repertoire excerpts and rehearsal and vocal techniques unique to jazz.

Craig Curry serves as Composer-in-Residence at Friends University (Wichita, KS) and is the founding director of their Jazz Vocal Ensemble (or “JVE"). Under his direction, JVE has blossomed into a leading collegiate jazz vocal ensemble, as evidenced by their appearances at KMEA (2017, 2015, and 2012), SWACDA (2014—where they opened for Pentatonix), and the international JEN conference (2013). They were recently honored to open for Take 6 last December in Wichita. Craig, who teaches vocal jazz improvisation and Senior Seminar at the university, is widely-published and his choral and piano music is regularly performed in schools, concert halls, and churches nationally and abroad. He holds degrees from the University of Miami (MM) and the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (BM). Additional information on Craig and his music is available online at craigcurrymusic.com

Striking the Right Chord: Building a Sense of Harmony and Identity within the Non-Auditioned Choir

Sheri Cook-Cunningham, Presenter

Choir directors face a myriad of challenges in building their choral programs, from recruiting and retaining singers to finding repertoire, to developing the desired choral sound in their choir. Directors of non-auditioned choirs, however, face a unique challenge: establishing a unified identify for their ensemble that makes students want to sign up for their choir. This session will provide proven strategies for developing a sense of identity for a non-auditioned choir by integrating elements of F.U.N. (Flexibility, Unique Games, and Necessary Skills) into every rehearsal. During this session, you will hear from student singers and conductors regarding their motivations for participating in this unique type of ensemble.

Sheri Cook-Cunningham is the assistant professor of choral music education at the University of Central Arkansas, where she teaches courses in choral methods, graduate music research, conducts the University Chorus, and supervises music interns. Cook-Cunningham earned her bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her doctorate at the University of Kansas. As an active researcher, Cook-Cunningham has presented her work locally, regionally, and nationally.

Teaching Transgender Students: What Every Music Educator Should Know

Loraine Sims, Presenter

This session will give a general introduction of the special considerations for providing an inclusive environment for transgender or non-binary students in the choral music classroom. The goals will include developing a basic vocabulary of terminology specific to this population and to help create an awareness and sensitivity for successful work with these students. The session will end with a Q&A.

Loraine Sims is associate professor/vocal studies division chair at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Recent performances include the 2016 National NATS Conference and a repeat performance for the 2017 ICVT in Stockholm, Sweden. Professional activities include the 2017 NOA Conference, the 2017 ICVT, the 2016 National NOA/NATS conference, the 2016 National MTNA Conference, and the 2016 National NATS Convention. Sims is a past Southern Region Governor of NATS.

This is Us: Creating, Changing, and Inspiring Choir Culture

Ashley Dame and Nathan Dame, Presenters

The students that make up our choral ensembles may hold their own cultural ideals, but their unique paths cross each time they enter our classroom, tasking us with the responsibility of creating, changing, and inspiring a culture of choral music. This session will take the audience through four seasons of comedy and drama over thirty episodes broadcasted through experience in rural, suburban, and urban markets and with new, exemplary, and rebuilding programs. Regardless of your situation, tune in to join the clinicians as our stories unfold in front of a live studio audience.

Ashley Dame is in her eighth year of teaching and serves as associate choral director at Wylie East High School. Choirs under her direction consistently earn superior ratings and best in class designations at regional and state contests and have been featured at the 2012 TMEA and 2014 Southwest ACDA Region Conferences.

Nathan Dame is in his eleventh year of teaching and serves as associate choral director at Lovejoy High School.

Through the Lens of the Learner: Selecting Quality Repertoire for the Emerging Choir

Denise Eaton, Presenter

Veteran music educator Denise Eaton will share effective methods of selecting repertoire for the emerging choir by considering specific needs of young students. Eaton will share numerous sequential teaching strategies, score study techniques, and ideas for creating effective teaching materials. A complimentary music packet will be provided.

Denise Eaton has taught high school choir for 29 years: 12 as the Assistant at Sam Rayburn High School and 17 as the Head Choral Director at Spring High School. Her choirs have appeared six times at TMEA and SWACDA conventions. Her choirs have won the prestigious American Classic Madrigal and Chamber Choir Festival an unprecedented six times. Awarded the 1998 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award, Eaton has also served on the UIL Sight-Reading and Prescribed Music List committees. Eaton has conducted over twenty-five Texas Region Choirs, the 2010 Northwest Arkansas Region Choir, the 2002 Arkansas All-State Treble Choir and the 2007 ACDA Louisiana All-State Treble Choir. Known for her innovative teaching styles, she has presented over forty workshops in Texas, Georgia and Alabama.. She is the Choral Editor for Carl Fischer Music Publication, LLC and BriLee Music Company. Eaton earned the BME from the University of Texas at Austin the MM in Choral Conducting from Sam Houston State University.

Unraveling the Mystery of Choral Music Publication: Tips to Help Your Composition Get Published

Patti Drennan, Presenter

Have you penned the next epic choral work and need to know how to get it published? Patti Drennan will share from her 30+ years experience in writing for school and church choirs and will offer advice regarding the music writing process, original vs. public domain music and texts, song formatting and organizational ideas, publisher protocol and contact information, and more. Handouts will be distributed and a Q&A segment will be available at the end of the session.

Patti Drennan earned a bachelor’s at Oklahoma State University and a master’s at the University of Oklahoma. She taught choral music for grades 9-12 for twenty-eight years in Norman, OK. During her tenure she was named Director of Distinction Award given by the Oklahoma Choral Directors Association. An active composer and arranger, Patti has over 475 choral octavos and keyboard books published with ten major publishers. She served as a clinician for workshops in twenty-two states, three times in Canada, and has presented four sessions at TMEA.

Using Snapchat and Social Media for Choral Recruiting and Marketing

Jeffery Wall, Presenter

In today’s world, a social media presence is imperative to the life-blood of a choral program or organization. When targeted appropriately, the different social media platforms can help conductors and singers remain connected outside of the rehearsal room and even provide informal means of assessment. They can assist in keeping audience and donors engaged and informed, providing a glimpse into the choral process beyond the concert hall. The various social media platforms also serve as a means to reach potential singers and retain singers by engaging in a familial community online. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat will be explored in terms of knowing the different uses for each platform and the targeted audience.

Jeffery Wall is chair of the department of music and director of choral activities at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He came to NSU in 2013 from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where he was the Elmer F. Pierson Distinguished Professor of Music. He taught public school grades 7-12 in Lubbock, TX. Wall is co-artistic director and conductor of Vox Solaris, a professional-level chamber choir headquartered in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Well-Tempered Collaboration: Effective Conductor/Pianist Collaborations

Michael Hanawalt and Justine Sasanfar, Presenters

An effective working relationship between a conductor and pianist can greatly enhance productivity and musicality in the choral rehearsal. Discover what pianists and conductors should expect of each other as musical partners and learn strategies for making this collaboration as constructive as possible. This session, featuring members of both the choral and piano faculty of Wichita State University, looks at the pianist/conductor relationship from both sides and offers insights from experienced collaborators designed to enhance the effectiveness of the choral rehearsal by working to strengthen this essential working relationship.

Michael Hanawalt is director of choral activities at Wichita State University, where he conducts the Concert Chorale, the Women’s Glee Club, and teaches courses in conducting and choral literature. Additionally, he serves as chorus director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus and director of music at University Congregational Church. Hanawalt was a founding member of the professional male vocal ensemble Cantus, serving as both its executive director and singing as part of the touring ensemble.

Justine Sasanfar is assistant professor of piano pedagogy at Wichita State University, where she coordinates the piano pedagogy and class piano programs. Passionate about nurturing joy for music at the piano, she has taught students of all ages and abilities in private and group settings. In collaboration with her husband, Michael Hanawalt, she has published choral arrangements with Boosey & Hawkes and Colla Voce. She earned a bachelor’s from St. Olaf College, master’s degrees at Michigan State University, and a doctorate from the Florida State University.

Working with Adolescent Changing Voices

Ryan Olsen, Presenter

Adolescent voices are in an almost constant state of change throughout much of middle school, high school, and early college. While the boys’ changing voice is the most commonly discussed and studied, girls’ voices change as well. Singers who identify as LGBTQ, particularly transgender singers, may face an additional voice change that many conductors/teachers feel ill-equipped to help with. This session will present information, techniques, and effective exercises based in the latest vocal pedagogy science to help teachers who work with singers going through various voice changes that occur during adolescence.

Ryan Olsen is assistant professor of choral music education at Colorado State University, where he conducts the Concert Choir and teaches undergraduate and graduate music education and conducting courses. He received a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a doctorate from Arizona State University. He is an active conductor, clinician, and presenter and is an advocate for the use of early music as audiation, sight-reading, and performance tools.

Working with Transgender and Non-Binary Singers

Loraine Sims, Presenter

This session will explore the specific considerations that music educators should know about teachingtransgender singers. It will include a discussion of the effects of hormone therapies on voices and possible outcomes for those students who are in transition. Examples will be explored that represent the choices these individuals may need to make regarding the use of their singing voices. The session will end with a Q&A.

Loraine Sims will be the clinician for this session.