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

President's Message - Feb 2019

Dear Friends -

Happy February! As your CT-ACDA President, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to increase awareness of our events and to that end, here is your first monthly message! There is a lot coming up, so be careful not to miss anything--


Elections - In addition to our usual biennial election of a President-Elect, this year we also need to elect a President (to fill the vacancy left by our dear colleague Dr. Cory Ganschow - our loss is Illinois’ gain!). Please nominate yourself or a colleague via this form by next Friday, Feb. 8. No candidate may run unopposed, so we need at least two nominees for each position!


Student Scholarship
Congratulations to the winner of our first ACDA Conference Scholarship, Kaylin Spaulding from WestConn! Each year, CT-ACDA will award one student $200 to help with the cost of attending the Division/National Conference. To win, you simply must be a student member and attend our state conference - double entries for students who volunteer to help out!

National Conference in Kansas City - Feb. 27th is the ACDA 60th Anniversary Jubilee National Conference!! I am excited as always to be attending, and I promise to share as much great stuff as possible on social media for those who can’t be there. Are you planning to attend? Be sure to let us know on the Facebook Event page so CT people can connect!


All-State Boot Camps - ACDA will be sponsoring “All-State Boot Camp” sessions in each of the four regions to help students prepare their CMEA All-State music, get excited about the festival, and make connections with other singers prior to the big event. The boot camps will take place on March 24 and 31st, specific locations and times TBA. Stay tuned for details!

ACDA at CMEA - We are collaborating with CMEA for a great In-Service Conference/All-State Festival! There will be three fabulous Showcase Choirs as well as some new CT-ACDA sponsored events like a K-12 choral reading session with special guest composer Jake Narverud, and Happy Hour with the All-State choir conductors Michelle Jensen and TJ Harper - more details coming next month!


Choral Calendar - Feb. 4 will be our first #musicmonday! Each week, members will receive a bulletin of all the concerts on our choral calendar for the upcoming week. We hope for this calendar (on the member resources section of our website) to become the place to check dates and find concerts to attend. Want your event publicized to every member of CT-ACDA? Simply "invite" to the event in your phone/online calendar. Alternatively, feel free to email event details to the appropriate R&R chairperson

Website - Check out our new Student Chapter page. Find contact information for CT-ACDA Student Chapters, as well as contact information for their advisors and student officers.

Member login - Your login and password for the Member Resources section of the website should be your primary email on file with ACDA and your ACDA member number. If you have any problems logging in, please let us know, and we will help you out!

If you made it this far, congratulations! As always, don't hesitate to contact me personally with questions, concerns, suggestions, or ideas. Have a great February!

Rachael Allen
President, CT-ACDA

Jamie Spillane -“Love more, spread joy!"

Dr. Jamie Spillane is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Connecticut. Widely admired for his charismatic leadership style, musical versatility, and commitment to educational excellence, he is in high demand as a guest clinician, adjudicator, and festival conductor throughout the United States. Dr. Spillane was the 2015 recipient of CT ACDA's Choral Director of the Year Award, and he will be conducting the UConn Chamber Singers in a performance at the at the Fall Conference of CT ACDA on October 29, 2016.

In a recent interview with CT ACDA board member, Tom Brand, Dr. Spillane shared some fascinating thoughts about leadership, education, and the difference between a "crowd" and a "choir", as well as advice for inexperienced conductors and reflections on his own journey as a musician. The following are some excerpts from that interview:

Please describe your musical background, current activities, and major influencers.

*Growing up in a musical family that continually sang together, I was lucky to have early study through high school and beyond in cello, voice, and percussion and there were many patient mentors who helped guide me. Continuing on to Ithaca College I pursued cello and voice. I sang all four years in Lawrence Doebler’s Ithaca College Concert Choir and played in the Ithaca College Orchestra under Pamela Gearhardt. After a lucky summer spent singing and dancing at Walt Disney World I finally settled on a Vocal Performance degree with an eye toward a career in musical theater. After a not especially happy time in New York City, I decided to continue my education at UConn and received a Masters of Music Education. My first teaching positions were in Puerto Rico and Fairfield, CT, but then I was then lucky to be selected as the choral director at Ledyard High School. Seemingly in the place at right time, the job fit me and the program thrived. The Ledyard choral program is where I learned to teach and my success there brought opportunities to conduct many choral festivals as well as teach summer courses at UConn and CCSU. After 14 years, I decided to pursue further study and spent three important years in the doctoral program at the University of Arizona where I studied with Dr. Bruce Chamberlain and conducted the U of A Symphonic Choir. The most important aspect of this experience was the invaluable time spent with my twenty-two fellow choral graduate conducting students, many of whom now lead collegiate choral programs throughout the world. Following graduation, I taught at Iowa Wesleyan College for seven years and had great opportunities to tour with my choir throughout the United States and Europe and often conducted the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra and chorus in major choral works. I taught for a year at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY which was a very rich musical environment and then I was selected for the position at UConn. At UConn I am Director of Choral Studies and oversee the choral program that includes eight choral ensembles and that currently has three doctoral and one masters student. Recent conducting activities include taking the UConn Concert Choir and Chamber Singers to Europe, conducting the MCP National Festival Choir in Carnegie Hall, and directing many all-state and festival choirs and providing clinics for school choirs and teachers. Major influences in my life include my high school directors Art Booth and James Sandahl, college professors, Lawrence Doebler, Pam Gearhardt, Peter Bagley, and Bruce Chamberlain, valuable further study with Robert Page and Helmut Rilling and especially time spent listening to and working with professional choirs, Robert Shaw, King’s Singers, Voces8, the Real Group, New York Voices, Chanticleer, and more. Important choral friends and colleagues include, Lee Nelson, Russell Hammond, Brandon Johnson, Scott Buchanan, Brian Lanier, Nicole Lamartine, Janet Galvan, and Aaron McDermid.*

Please discuss your philosophy and values as a conductor and leader.

*My basic philosophy of being a leader of any kind starts with, “Love more, spread joy.” All music begins with the people who create it. A leader has to believe in the value of their students and work to be a window into understanding the music itself. Exhibiting an enthusiasm for learning and having a deep-seated passion for creating excellence in the arts motivates students to have real interest for the concerted discipline it takes to study and succeed. The goal of choral performance is not just to just have audiences understand the music, the music must move and inspire those who listen.*

What types of goals do you usually focus on when directing an honor choir, and how do those goals compare to the ones you typically have when working with your own ensembles?

*In directing an honor choir, there is so little time to bring the collected group of singers from being a crowd to become a choir. A crowd is a large group of people without specific focus or like-minded goals; ideally, a choir is a group of people where music, text, and vocal production, all come together in a finely organized dance of expression. My goal in directing an honor choir is to reinforce all the important aspects of good singing the singers have been taught by their own dedicated choir directors and to inspire these singers to be even more diligent in pursuing excellence every day as they go back to those choirs. In directing my own choirs we more have the benefit of time. Time to rehearse, time to finely tune the choir as far as vocal production, diction, and organization of singers, time work on more challenging literature that could never be learned in one or two short days. The goals are the same, the time is different.*

What advice do you have for inexperienced conductors?

*Inexperienced conductors must find good mentors. I was lucky as a young teacher in Connecticut to find friendly colleagues in Scott Campbell, Michele Holt, Russ Hammond, and especially Tahme Adinolfi among others who all were so giving of their time and experience to help guide me and share thoughts in literature selection, vocal production, organization, and choir building. Peter Bagley has long been a strong mentor for all Connecticut choir directors and his enthusiastic support of my program was important and powerful. I also passionately encourage every conductor to become a member of ACDA. What I have learned at state, divisional, and national conferences is worth at least another graduate degree and the experience I received by being in many leadership positions has served me well. Most of all this organization has given me choral friends throughout the world that I can continually call on for advice and support.*

What are some of your favorite choral works and composers?

*There are too many to mention but - of course, I love the many large choral works including: Handel’s Messiah, Requiems by Brahms, Durufle, and Faure, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, the Bach Magnificat and his Motets. I was lucky enough to do some of the earliest performances of Stephen Paulus’ Holocaust Remembrance Oratorio - To Be Certain of the Dawn and his music and his friendship remains very important to me. Contemporary composers, Aaron McDermid, Eric Whitacre, Daniel Elder, Paul Mealor, Morton Lauridsen, and provide some of my favorite new music. I am continually fascinated by the Britten War Requiem and it is forever on my playlist. Currently we are rehearsing the Frank Martin Mass with the UConn Concert Choir and the work just keeps on giving.*

Please share something about yourself that is unrelated to music.

*I am the son of a naval architect and I spend as much time on the water in a kayak as possible. I would happily be on the water every day. I am also passionate about photography. I love to catch people in action, especially in concert, and I love to photograph and share the beauty of this amazing earth.*

This interview is also published at

A complete biography of Dr. Spillane can be found here

Information about upcoming events in the U-Conn Music Department can be found here

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Questions? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
Log Out