SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) - January 2009


Message from the President - Sheri Nelson
I hope that you’ve all had time to relax and recover from the busy holiday season.  I know that for many the spring will be just as busy as December as your choirs participate in festivals, competitions, tours, spring concerts and auditions for next year’s ensembles.  SCVA will also be busy as we provide our membership with a variety of activities.   We begin with the Vocal Solo Competition, Diva Day, Young Men’s Harmony Festival, Vocal Jazz Festival, Show Choir Competition and then end our season with the Junior High Middle School Honor Choir.  Make sure you check the SCVA website ( for information on all of our activities.

One of the great things about professional organizations like SCVA, MENC, and ACDA is the opportunity we have to network with our colleagues.  We walk away from events with a few new tricks in our bag that a presenter suggested during a workshop or a friend suggested over lunch.  We can also learn from each other through the newsletters.  In that regard, I would like to ask for your input on successful techniques you use to recruit new members and fundraise.

In a time of great economic instability there are more families struggling.  With our state budget in crisis our districts are also struggling to provide.  My own district has put a spending freeze on the ongoing visual and performing arts grant until they see if it is part of the state’s midyear budget cuts.  Have you discovered some creative fundraising ideas that don’t involve selling candy?  Share your success stories!

Each spring I take several of my choirs to our feeder schools to promote the choral music program at our school.  What do you do to recruit students?  Each year more schools are finding they are losing kids to double blocking.  Those students with low standardized test scores are being enrolled in a second Math class, English class, or study skills course.  We may not win the battle with administration when their goal is that API score, but what CAN we do to help promote our programs and increase enrollment?  Please share your ideas.  I am sure there are directors out there who would love some fresh ideas.  Please email me ( your recruiting techniques and your fundraising ideas so that all of our singers (and hopefully some new singers) are able to have a rewarding, memorable experience. 


by Jennifer Stanley, VP of High School Festivals, and Maria Fritts, VP of Middle School/Junior High Festivals

As music educators, we are in a very unique position for assessment because of festivals.  No other discipline allows teachers to have their students assessed by experts in their field and receive instant feedback.  Choral directors who attend festivals have positive experiences with adjudicators who understand their teaching situations, and the adjudicators actively work to reinforce their teaching.  Attending festivals is an excellent way to expose your students to great choral literature, and for them to see other students working on the same choral concepts you are teaching.  Since it is a positive experience for everyone involved, make sure that you ATTEND A CHORAL FESTIVAL THIS YEAR!

Thank you to all the directors who are hosting festivals! With our festival hosts, we have been able to schedule 40 festivals in many different locations throughout March, April, and May. The festival application follows this article.  Applying early will increase your chances of being accepted to your first choice festival.  As a courtesy to others, please do not bring more than two choirs to one festival.  The application deadline is March 2, 2009, and late applications will not be accepted.  Please check your school’s testing schedule and spring break when scheduling your festival.  Please be aware of the location of your festival so you can begin planning for transportation.

The SCVA website has information to assist you and your students in your festival preparation.  The schedule of festivals, festival application form, PayPal payment system, festival adjudication form, adjudication scoring scale, festival code of conduct, festival listening guide, festival host guide, and list of recommended choral literature are there for your use. Please let us know if we can post other useful information for you.  For more information or questions, please contact Maria Fritts at or (951) 926-6776; contact Jennifer Stanley at or (626) 258-5292.

Festival Listings
Festival Code of Conduct
Festival Application


2009 Junior High Honor Choir - Tony Azeltine, VP, Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir
By now, all of your students interested in this year’s honor choir should have registered on-line for auditions.  Now, all of us need to assist our students in preparation for the audition day fast approaching.  Maybe include the skill sets in your warm-ups, including triads, major scales, and tonal memory.  Many of us find it useful to teach a Spiritual, Folk Song, or one of the Twenty-Four Italian Art Songs by rote.  Tonal memory becomes part of students’ learning processes and overall musicianship rather quickly with this method.

Another way you can help make this choir special is to let us know if any student needs financial assistance.  This not only means assistance in payment of fees, but transportation to any audition or rehearsal.  Would any of you be willing to assist your students once or twice with transportation to these events?  This would help ease the burden on the parents, who will be driving long distances four times over the course of the Honor Choir events.  If any student needs assistance, please notify me directly.

This year, with massive district cutbacks, I have had trouble nailing down rehearsal sites for little or no charge to the choir.  Some districts wanted as much as $3,600!  Other venues are unavailable because of construction.  It’s great that so many of us are finally getting good facilities, whether new or refurbished!  But thankfully, Debbie Montpas has been able to procure her site for the first rehearsal.  It will be the March 28 date on your SCVA calendar, at Mesa Robles M.S. in Hacienda Heights.  Check-in will be at Noon, downbeat at 12:30 P.M.  Hopefully, by the time you read this letter, we’ll have all the other locations confirmed.  Times, however, are firm.  Refer to the SCVA website for details.

Below is an updated list of audition sites for the Junior High/9th Grade Honor Choir:

January 24                                          January 31
Mark Keppel HS, Alhambra                 Mesa Robles MS, Hacienda Heights
Matilija JH, Ojai                                   Manhattan Beach MS, Manhattan Beach
Segerstrom HS, Santa Ana                   La Habra HS, La Habra
St. Jude Episcopal Church, Burbank     Arlington HS, Riverside
Granada Hills Charter HS

Thank you for all your assistance, co-operation, and encouraging e-mails.  But most importantly, thank you for keeping choral music alive in Southern California.  We at the high schools so depend on you for any success we enjoy.  Be assured that we take none of you for granted.  I hope to meet each of you at the performance on May 3.

If you haven’t been contacted by me to adjudicate, your email address may not be correct in my file.  Please email me and let me know you would like to assist with adjudication this festival season: Chris Hall ( Thank you all for assisting with making our festival season an educational and rewarding one for all students and choral teachers.


2008 High School Honor Choirs Concert: They Were the Music - Rodger Guerrero   VP - High School Honor Choirs

An absolutely magical night…
Absolutes have never been more appropriate than when used to describe the thrilling performances by the 2008 SCVA Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed Choirs at Santa Monica High School on November 22nd!  The 6th edition of the Men’s Choir was by far the best ever.  From the dulcet, double-choir tones of O filii et filiae to the profoundly passionate The Awakening to the outrageously vigorous sounds and choreography of There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame, the men demonstrated complex musicianship skills and musical awareness exponentially superior to any of the past five SCVA men’s ensembles.  No SCVA Women’s Choir in recent memory has ever demonstrated as much resilience, moxie and progress in the face of as difficult a program as this year’s women did.  From the gorgeous simplicity of How Can I Keep from Singing to the lush but demanding and intricate Hosanna to the vocal agility and clarity of Dancing Song to the astounding tonal variety of the Witches’ Chorus, the 2008 Women’s Choir performed with mesmerizing excellence and consistency.  The program for the Mixed Choir was by far the most challenging I can recall listening to, and the singers handled it with astonishing ease and expressiveness.  From the complex meters of the Alleluia to the pristine beauty of I Am Not Yours to the ferocious text and rhythms of Daemon Irrepit Callidus to the unbridled delight of Rejoice, the Mixed Choir performed at an unheard of level.  It was like listening to an All-State Honor Choir, for sure!  And I must add that there has never been a more remarkable group of male voices in the Mixed Choir, especially in the Bass Section!  Wow!  What a performance!

It was truly an honor to watch the magic and artistry of each of the three conductors, Dr. Christopher Peterson, Desiree La Vertu, and Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe.  It was fascinating to watch every singer consider each facet of the music as presented by these master teachers.  All of the individual, musical reflection and intellectual analyzing metamorphosed into profound, unified music-making.  Yet as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once wrote, “We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”  Thanks to the efforts of these three exceptional choral educators, every intellectual thought could be viewed through 269 pairs of intensely vivid eyes.  The joy expressed on the face of every singer was truly indicative of the overwhelming meaning and value of the Honor Choirs experience.  If “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself,” as Erich Fromm once so eloquently stated, then the three conductors just succeeded in creating and inspiring an entirely new generation of lifelong singers.  These kids LOVED the Honor Choirs experience, were TRANSFORMED by it, and will NEVER forget it.

Continually thanking, thanking, and thanking…
Tammi Alderman is an incredibly fast thinker, splendid problem-solver, natural-born leader, and gracious and giving human being.  Besides creating, formatting, and updating all of the computer-generated lists, schedules, etc, she also took care of the T-Shirts, stepped in to help out at rehearsals, ran an endless number of errands, and kept communication lines open with the California ACDA Board.  She never offered anything but a wholly positive attitude to every menial task, despite also having to handle an immense amount of additional responsibilities as a result of her husband’s serious accident this past fall.  THANK YOU, TAMMI!  Mark Freedkin is a selfless, stick-to-it-and-get-it-done website genius.  He has made life so much easier for all of SCVA.  THANK YOU, MARK!  Jeffe Huls is a tireless worker possessed of the patience of Job.  His willingness to host the Honor Choirs weekend and selflessness in making sure that all of the details were covered were both amazing.  He is the perfect Site Host.  THANK YOU, JEFFE!  The SCVA Board is replete with supportive, helpful, caring, and visionary conductors.  Many of them helped out with multiple aspects of the Honor Choirs even though they have their own SCVA responsibilities to complete.  THANK YOU SHERI (especially for the laughs and sanity), CAROLYN (the fastest bill-payer, check-writer in the choral world), LISA, KAREN (especially for your Newsletter patience and great emails), TONY, JENNIFER, CHRISTINE, and MARK!  And to John Byun, our Rehearsal Site Host, Brian Dehn, Scott Hedgecock, and Rich Messenger, our Rehearsal Conductors, all of the audition site hosts, adjudicators, sectional rehearsal leaders, accompanists, T-Shirt “hander-outers,” check-in table monitors, ushers, errand-runners, etc, THANK YOU for doing the sometimes thankless and indistinct jobs which truly enable the Honor Choirs to succeed!  A Successful Honor Choirs experience could not have been accomplished without any one of you.

All endings are simply new beginnings…
The concert part of my term as SCVA VP in charge of the High School Honor Choirs is at an end.  I only have a few articles to write, some bills to pay, Concert CDs to deliver, and recommendations to make, both to SCVA and ACDA.  I have honestly enjoyed every aspect of this job, from the endless hours of planning, organizing and menial labor, to responding to the countless emails from directors, students, parents, and administrators, to the tons of sensitive conversations and decisions, to the wonderful music-making.  I enjoyed serving every participating director and singer to the best of my abilities.  I hope that I have served you well.  While I have never expected more from my choral students at Harvard-Westlake than from myself, I do expect excellence from each one of them.  I’ve always believed that as a teacher I must act as the pacesetter, the lighthouse for excellence in my students.  Or as Peter Loel Boonshaft so eloquently stated in his book, Teaching Music with Passion, “Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise; risking more than others think is safe; dreaming more than others think is practical; and expecting more than others think is possible.”  The Honor Choirs experience has been an excellent one for me, so much so, that I am now officially addicted to it.  I hope that many more of you will feel this same way next year.

Tammi Alderman will take over as SCVA honor Choirs VP #1 next year, and she will do a phenomenal job.  However, in order to help her improve upon the process, I wanted to, like last year, engender some feedback from all those directors whose students participated in and/or auditioned for one or more of the Honor Choirs.  As before and thanks to our aforementioned SCVA “Web Genius,” Mark Freedkin, an online Honor Choir survey has been created in order to help you in this endeavor.  Each participating director will again receive an automated email announcing the posting of the Honor Choirs Survey as well as a link to the survey page.  The survey is inclusive of nineteen topical questions for which you may indicate your agreement or disagreement with on a scale of 1-5.  You may also post specific comments for each question.  Two final questions will hopefully enlist your suggestions for future Honor Choir conductors and sites.  When you have completed your survey, both Tammi and I will receive an automated email message with a link to the Survey Administrator page.  There we will be able to view, categorize, and combine the results.  Tammi will then post them in a future SCVA Newsletter article, so keep your eyes and ears poised.

I have also included a copy of the survey for those who are still uncomfortable with online technology.  Simply mail it to me at my school address as listed below.  Last year, less than 25% of participating directors responded, despite multiple attempts to elicit replies from participating directors.  This response was simply too small in order to gauge the general sentiment of SCVA members.  I am hoping that more directors will respond this time around so that SCVA’s efforts to continue to meet the needs of its members are met.  The SCVA Board always welcomes input from member directors.  All SCVA members have a voice.  Please help us by communicating with us today!

Please complete the survey online or mail yours to me at the school address listed below NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 13, 2009.

Rodger Guerrero, SCVA VP, High School Honor Choirs
Harvard-Westlake School
3700 Coldwater Canyon
North Hollywood, CA 91604

On-Line Honor Choir Survey Form


Other Important Information
On-Line SCVA Membership Application