Highlights From the 2022 ACDA Midwest Conference

One of my favorite events to attend is the ACDA Conference.  For those that are unfamiliar, ACDA rotates every-other year, regional conferences with their national conference.  This year was a “regional conference year”, and this year the Midwest region was holding their conference nearby in Chicago.


Many years I’m unable to attend, either because the conference is too far away, or my schedule wouldn’t allow me to go.  But I was so excited that this year, I could make it work!


ACDA conferences are great–there are wonderful choirs performing and lots of engaging interest sessions.  But this year, after two years of not being able to attend a conference in-person, the best part was getting to reconnect with old friends, and make some new ones!


That being said, I thought I would share some of my favorite parts of the conference–my “conference highlights”, if you will 😉


First off, let’s talk about the Interest Sessions.  I had the opportunity to go to several sessions, and while they were all tremendous, there were a few that stood out.


My friend and colleague David Haas presented a session on “Digital Audio Workstations”, which focused on software DAW’s (such as Logic Pro, GarageBand, etc.) and how they can be used not only in rehearsals, but into performance as well.  David was so kind to allow me to share his presentation, which you can find here.  If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toes into incorporating digital audio software into your curriculum, this is a great place to get inspired!


Dr. Stephen Sieck from Lawrence University presented a session on the sensitive topic of “Isn’t Music a Universal Language? Conversations About Cultural Appropriation for the Hesitant.”  In his session Dr. Sieck helped to define cultural appropriation, discussed what culturally responsive pedagogy looks like, and gave some examples of what questions choir directors should be asking themselves when programming music that is outside of their own culture.  A thoughtful and highly informative session!  I picked up a copy of Dr. Sieck’s book, “Teaching with Respect: Inclusive Pedagogy for Choral Directors”, which I am excited to dive into over spring break.


Dr. Kimberly Dunn Adams from Western Michigan University, presented a session called “Our Dance: Gestural Creativity and Connection”, in which she focused on body awareness, conducting vocabulary, and using non-musical ideas to inspire conducting gesture.  It was a great session, and I hope she presents more sessions in the future!


One session that I was hoping to get to, but missed due to scheduling was “Honoring Trans and Gender Expansive Singers”, led by Matthew Garrett & Joshua Palkki.  I hope to have one (or both) on the podcast in the future, but in the meantime I will be picking up a copy of their book, “Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Students in Music Education”.


Next, let’s talk about the performances.  There were many incredible choral performances, but for me, my favorites were (in no particular order) The Wartburg Choir, the Iowa State Singers, and the Luther College Nordic Choir.


The Wartburg Choir, conducted by Dr. Lee Nelson, always sounds fabulous.  They have an amazing gift of tweaking their sound to perfectly fit the specific style of the piece.  All of the pieces of their set were tremendous, but it was the piece “Stone” by Jacob Narverud and Ryan Main that was my favorite.  “Stone” was really interesting, combining choir, electronic soundscapes and percussion to bring Robert Bode’s text to life.


The Iowa State singers, led by Dr. James Rodde, are SO CONSISTENT.  They always sing with a warm, beautiful tone, and are always so precise.  They premiered “Replenish” the first movement of a new piece by Eriks Esenvalds called “Naming the Rain”. Judging by the audience response, this will quickly become another choral favorite from Esenvalds!


The Luther College Nordic Choir, conducted by Dr.  Andrew Last, closed out the conference.  They always sing with such beauty and sensitivity, qualities that were really brought out in their performances of Zachary J. Moore’s “I Won’t Forget” and James Deignan’s “Next Year”, after which there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.


Another great part about attending a conference like this is that you get some great repertoire ideas, remembering that the music one hears tends to be on the advanced side 🙂 In addition to the pieces I listed above, here were some of the pieces that I heard that are now on my future “to-do” list:



Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening, Eriks Esenvalds, SATB

Tuttarana, Reena Esmail, SATB and SSAA

Shelter This Candle, Connor Koppin, SATB

Soon We Will Be Done, arr. Kyle Pederson, SATB

O Pulse of My Heart, Karen Marrolli, SATB & soloist, piano, violin

Get Away Jordan, arr. Stacey Gibbs, SATB & soloist

To See It, from “How to Go On”, Dale Trumbore, SATB

Come to Me, Ily Matthew Maniano, SATB

Bar Xizam (Upward I Rise), Abbie Betinis, SATB & soloists

Walk Out On the Water, arr. Geung Kroeker-Lee, SATB, percussion, bass

So Breaks the Sun, Shavon Lloyd, SATB



The Sun Never Says, Dan Forrest, SSAA & soloists, cello

Breathe in Hope, Dale Trumbore, SSAA

Caritas Abundat, Michael John Trotta, SSAA, violin, percussion

Fire Dance of Luna, Darius Lim, SSAA, percussion



She Rises, Catherine Dalton, TTBB

Let Us Plan Our Gardens Now, Dominick DiOrio, TTBB, soloists, djembe

Come and Go To That Land, arr. Brandon Waddles, TTBB


Already penciling in next year’s conference in my calendar!  Maybe I’ll see you there? 😉




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