National Conference Thoughts from our Student Conference Scholarship Winner!

Attending the 2019 ACDA National Conference in Kansas City, MO was a humbling experience for me as a prospective young music educator. Not only was there much to learn from leaders in the field presenting their own professional experiences but there were also many concerts to attend and immerse myself in rich choral literature performed by top national and international ensembles. It was a long weekend filled with opportunity to be curious and open minded toward new ideas.

I’ve found that attending and participating in state, divisional, or national conferences over the course of my undergrad career are valuable experiences that have helped shape me into the young educator I am today, and I find this to be especially true of ACDA conferences. I have always tried to engage myself with this organization and in return I have been rewarded with educational and professional experience. I would highly encourage all collegiate students to take full advantage of these opportunities because now is the time in our lives to be sponges and absorb as much as possible!

-Kaylin Spaulding, student member (Western CT State University)

The speech I didn’t give… (by Matthew Harrison)

(who says all they want to say off the cuff anyway?)

Location:  Guilford High School cafeteria

Time:  Post caffeine haze, sometime after lunch

Event:  Connecticut ACDA Fall Conference

(Scene begins as Amanda Hanzlik calls my name from the podium)

Amanda Hanzlik:  (whispered to me) Say something pretty…

Me:  Dear Colleagues:

I am so thankful, honored, and humbled to receive the 2018 Connecticut ACDA Choral Director of the Year Award.  No one can possibly understand how much of a needed adrenaline shot this recognition represents.  Though, I bet each and every one of you knows exactly what I mean (fueling our existence with tiny classroom victories and caffeine).  Our lives are seasonal… dictated by the ebbs and flows of our scholastic calendars.  Perspective is skewed in our daily lives, toiling in the choral trenches, because we often fail to anticipate how much we need a life of our own… something that is far less seasonal.  Yes - work hard… but don’t forget that you can not pour from an empty cup.  Dipping into the ephemeral waters of classroom/student success to fill your reservoirs is dangerous and unsustainable. 

As a thirty-something, who has spent the better part of a decade in the greatest vocation that I can imagine, I try my best to maintain a daily spirit of thankfulness, service, and gratitude.  The first part of my career was spent in an urban school in northern Virginia, where the most important thing was to simply show up.  Since this school was on probation with the state due to low graduation rates, getting students to show up was a major focus.  So often we hear that we are the only reason why some students show up… but we all know that showing up is not simply a box we check or a hoop that we jump through… showing up means EVERYTHING.  We know that phoning it in is never an option because our time with our kids is so finite that a waste of our most precious resource would diminish our purpose.  We teach people not music.

Our presence in the classroom can be the only source of light in the unimaginably dark worlds in which some of our students exist.  Our presence can spark the creativity that someone needs to dream bigger than they ever imagined that they could.  Our presence can help heal the wounds of a community that has seen horrific tragedy.  Music… my friends… is one of the fundamentally human languages that transcends all of our differences.  We program repertoire that expands and challenges our limited perspective of the world and injects it with the optimism inherent in the act of immersing ourselves in aesthetic beauty.  Never forget… we are marching towards a brighter future because of the work that we do every day.  This work matters!  Because of our collective convictions, our world is a more tolerant, harmonious, and empathetic place.  

I am thankful to be able to serve ACDA and CMEA in capacities that can influence positive change.  We must always strive to better serve our students by creating equitable and unique opportunities.  I helped to shape our vocal adjudications statewide to make our process more transparent.  In the southern region, choral educators were able to lobby for and create a new high school treble choir… which helped to generate the momentum necessary to push for our new All-State Treble Choir.  We wield such power when we all join together… next up, Middle School All-State!  We are only limited by the scale of our own dreams and ambitions. 

I was honored to be the first choral artist to be granted a residency at one of our national parks, and my suite for accompanied treble choir will be published by Pavane in 2019 (Glacier Suite, I. Glacier, II. Stag, III. Forest).  Amanda Hanzlik programmed one of my pieces from my time as Artist-In-Residence at Glacier National Park, Will You Go?, as part of her dynamic repertoire list for the Rhode Island Junior High School Mixed All-State Choir (how cool is it that Amanda was asked to conduct an All-State Choir!?  Totally deserved, btw…. She is an inspiration for us all as a wellspring of positivity and vision.  #choralrockstar).  As an organization, ACDA has been progressive, welcoming, and imaginative in the various connections and collaborations that we achieve together, and I am proud to be a part of this thriving, student-centric community.  Let us continue to grow, learn, and create together to benefit our students.  

Being in the presence of such choral giants, I am truly humbled to have been selected to receive this award.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants… who are yours?  I accept this award with deep gratitude.  

Matthew Harrison

Hamden Hall Country Day School, Middle/Upper School Vocal Music Specialist

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Director of Choirs, Organist

Connecticut Chapter of ACDA, Liaison Committee

Connecticut Music Educators Executive Board, Membership Chair

President's Message - March 2019

Hello all!

Please forgive my tardiness with this month's President's Message - as many of you know, I was in Kansas City the past few days at the ACDA National Convention, so I missed getting this out on the first of the month! Read on for all the latest...


Upcoming Election

Thanks to all who submitted nominations! As soon as all materials are collected, we will put out candidate information and run the election online. Keep an eye out for announcements very soon!

National Conference in Kansas City 

What a great CT showing at National this year! I was especially pleased to see student representation from each of our three collegiate chapters: CCSU, WCSU, and UConn. As for the events, I wouldn't even know where to begin recounting my experience - The Aeolians from Oakwood University, Seraphic Fire, John Rutter, the Legacy Directors' Choir, Jake Runestad's commissioned piece...there are just too many transformative experiences to list...not to mention the camaraderie of friends both new and old. This year, our CT party was co-hosted by our friends from Vermont ACDA - we had guests from Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Iowa join the fun as well! Be sure to check out our Facebook page for photos and videos from the convention, and don't forget to tag @CTACDA in your own posts! 

Later today I will be adding all the titles from the conference reading packets to our Reading Session Database - just open the Google Sheet and sort by "year" (2019) and "recommended by" (ACDA National) for the newest titles. I have high school, middle school, contemporary/commercial, and community - if anyone has any of the other packets they are willing to share, please contact me!

Kudos to Lynne Gackle and her amazing team for putting together a fantastic event! I hope some of you will be able to join us in Rochester next year for Eastern Division.


All-State Boot Camps

High School directors, make sure your All-State singers sign up for one (or more!) of the preparatory "Boot Camps," sponsored by ACDA to help students learn their music before the festival. They will be held from 2-5pm at:

  • EO SMITH HIGH SCHOOL - Storrs March 24th

  • ST. LUKE'S SCHOOL - New Canaan March 31st


  • NORTHERN REGION - TBD March 24th

Participation is strongly recommended for all All-State singers. Directors are not required to attend with students - parents may bring them. Students may attend any session, regardless of their region. Share this link with your students so they can sign up today - oh, and also, there will be snacks! :)


The choirs of ACDA members Ellen Gilbert and Chris Stanley will be featured at the CMEA In-Service Conference as showcase ensembles this year! Mystic Middle School's "Stonington Singers" - who will be premiering a piece by CT's very own 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Rob Hugh - will be followed by Stonington High School's "High Keynotes" on Thursday, April 11th! 

Friday will showcase Amanda Hanzlik and the E.O. Smith High School Chamber Singers, who will be premiering a commissioned work by Dr. Jacob Narverud. Their performance will be followed by an ACDA sponsored K-12 reading session, led by UConn's Dr. Cara Bernard and Dr. Narverud himself!

With so many sessions lined up in such a wide variety of content areas, narrowing it down can sometimes be overwhelming. For your convenience, I have put together a curated list of sessions/events targeted specifically at choral music. The schedule may change, so be sure to double check details with CMEA resources before attending. If I missed anything, please let me know! 


In case you didn't know...this year at CMEA All-State, the Mixed Choir will be conducted by Michelle Jensen from Azusa Pacific University, and the Treble Choir will be conducted by T.J. Harper from Providence College. 


Choral Calendar

I hope you have been enjoying your weekly concert bulletins! The next one will be arriving later today, and it is a big one!! Remember, to view and navigate the full calendar, visit the member resources section of our website. To submit a concert, create an event in your phone or Google calendar, and add as a guest/invitee in the edit screen. Alternatively, feel free to email event details to the appropriate R&R chairperson for submission.


Do you have a potential interest session in mind? Something you feel passionate about or are particularly knowledgeable in? Something you'd like to bring to the table or shared with your colleagues? Our interest session proposal form is open all year-round for the Summer and/or Fall Conferences - put in your proposal while the idea is fresh!

Member login

A reminder that if you ever have problems logging into the Member Resources section of our website, please let us know!

I hope everyone stayed safe with last night's snow - just think, before you know it we will be releasing SUMMER Conference details!! In the meantime, stay warm, and don't hesitate to contact me personally with questions, concerns, suggestions, or ideas.

Happy March!

Rachael Allen
President, CT-ACDA

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Questions? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
Log Out