SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) - May 2010


Message from the President - Sheri Nelson
As SCVA’s concludes its 70th season I hope this organization will continue to support, advance and enrich the choral music programs of Southern Californians for another 70 years.  We have seen a season of traditions beginning with our Fall In-Service, High School Honor Choir, and our numerous Festivals.  We are now ending the season with our Show Choir Competition, our largest Junior High Honor Choir in recent years, and the presentation of the scholarships to our Vocal Solo Winners.

While keeping the traditions this organization was founded on, we have worked to modernize many areas of the organization beginning with the addition of more on-line submissions ranging from membership renewals to festival registrations.  I hope that we can continue to update SCVA with your contributions to our Suggested Festival Repertoire List.  We have had more than 160 songs submitted as of today.   Keep your submissions coming as we now form a committee to review your suggestions and add new literature to our list in more than a decade.   As technology advances we must move forward and we took a huge step in that direction with a pilot program this year. We embarked on a "trial" of digitally recording the adjudicators’ comments as MP3 files verses recording on cassette tapes.  Thank you to Yamaha for the donation of 6 digital recorders and to all of the brave festival adjudicators and hosts who were willing to be part of our "trial ".  We value all of the input you have given as we continue to look into the most effective way to transition from the cassette recorders of the past.

“There is no higher religion than human service.  To work for the common good is the greatest creed.”—Albert Schweitzer

Our election for the 2010-2012 SCVA Board is quickly approaching.  If you are interested in being in the company of lively, enthusiastic, caring colleagues then you will want to join our board.  Please contact myself or Mark Henson if you are interested in a board position or would like to suggest a colleague.

This is my final newsletter article as my two year term as SCVA President is over.  I look forward to my new position as Past President and planning your Fall In-Service.   It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you, the membership, and I want to thank the marvelous colleagues who have served on the board in the past two years!  You are all "superior" to me.

SAVE THE DATE: SCVA Fall In-Service will be Friday October 22, 2010 at Placentia Presbyterian Church. If you have any suggestions for a great presenter or a topic you would like to learn more about please contact I am open to any suggestions you might have as I begin to plan the day’s activities.


Junior High Honor Choir - Debbie Montpas, VP, Junior High Honor Choir
The Junior High Honor Choir and the Vocal Solo Competition finalists gave an outstanding performance at Mark Keppel High School on Saturday, May 1st.  We were honored to have Dr. Christopher Peterson from Cal State University Fullerton as our guest conductor this year.  Our sincere thanks go to Dr. Peterson and to the students in the Honor Choir for all their hard work and dedication in preparing their music.  You did an outstanding job and SCVA is very proud of your efforts!!

My heartfelt thanks to the directors listed here who have given so freely of their time and talent for the benefit of the Honor Choir.  Your help is greatly appreciated!  Thank you to CECILE BLANCHARD, VANESSA VENTRE, and TONY AZELTINE for all your help with so many of the audition, regional rehearsals, and performance details. The Honor Choir simply couldn’t have happened without your help! Thanks also to TIM LUTZ, SCOTT HEDGECOCK, JUDY LEE, LINDA NASON, and ROBIN WADSWORTH for their help with Regional rehearsals; to the directors who opened their sites for the auditions:  GREG ELLIS (McFadden IS), TIM LUTZ (Arlington HS), LINDA NASON (Bernardo Yorba MS), TONY AZELTINE (Mark Keppel HS), HEATHER GOLD (Manhattan Beach MS), VANESSA VENTRE (Lincoln MS), and DEBBIE MONTPAS (Mesa Robles MS); and to our adjudicators for selecting our outstanding young singers:  LESLIE BENJAMIN, ELENA BENEFIELD, TAMARA CRAVER, RICHARD STEFFAN, RUTH FREIMAN, VALERIA ORLANDO, TIM LUTZ, VICKI SALMON, SHAWN TAYLOR, CECILE BLANCHARD, COLLEEN KENNEDY, SUSAN JUSTIN, VALERIE VINNARD, KORY REID, TONY AZELTINE, TAMMI ALDERMAN, AMANDA BENAVIDES, ROB PETERSON, DAVE WILLERT, and BETSY OLSEN. 

When I volunteered to be VP for the Junior High Honor Choir it was with the agreement that it would be for this year only. As I step down, I look forward to helping whomever the membership chooses to take over this position.  The 2010 Junior High Honor Choir was the largest group we have had in many years and more students auditioned than ever before.  Perhaps it is time for us to consider offering an additional TREBLE Honor Choir to allow more qualified students the opportunity to participate. We always have so many treble singers who don’t get into the choir because we don’t have enough changed voices for a balanced choir.  Is it time to begin a new TREBLE Honor Choir? Did your students and their families appreciate the ONE Regional Rehearsal with the all day rehearsal and performance?  Let me know what you think.

It has been an honor and a privilege of serving SCVA once again. I have been a member since 1976 and have held many Board positions since 1984.  This was the second time I’ve been the Junior High Honor Choir VP. I want to encourage all of you young directors to step forward and volunteer your services for the benefit of our organization and our singers.  SCVA can only be as strong as its volunteers who energize and revitalize the various programs we offer.  If you don’t step forward to help, who do you expect will carry on our choral traditions? 


High School Honor Choir – Tammi Alderman, VP of High School Honor Choirs
Looking forward...

We’ve reached the homestretch of our school year, and most of us are probably in the final stages of preparing for festivals, tours, or spring musicals.  Others are looking towards their Final Concerts, perhaps already considering what their musical lives might be like next year without those dedicated, talented, experienced, but graduating seniors.  Still others are likely pondering over potential summer activities, choral and not.  With all of our minds filled with tasks to be completed and music to be learned and perfected, it probably seems crazy to think about next year.  Yet, insane as it may be, plans for the 2010 SCVA High School Honor Choirs have been in the works since January!  Honestly, it takes months to set up all of the details in order to foster a phenomenal experience for the singers.  Thus, the following specifics are already fairly certain:

1.      Santa Monica HS will again host the Honor Choirs weekend, and the dates are November 19th-20th.

2.      Auditions will occur the last Saturday in September (25th) and the first Saturday of October (2nd) as they have for quite some time.

3.      All applications will be accepted online only, and the deadline will, occur ten days prior to the first weekend of auditions (Wednesday, September 15th).  The computers will accept NO LATE APPLICATIONS!  Audition times will be posted online on September 18th.

4.      The Saturday rehearsal will be on October 23rd and will take place somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.  We have been rotating the rehearsal site each year to hopefully help ease travel on all of us from time to time.

5.      Jeff Seward from College of the Sequoias has graciously agreed to conduct the 2010 SCVA Men’s Honor Choir!  I am currently negotiating with two other, similarly high profile collegiate conductors to work with the Women’s and Mixed Choirs.  While I could not divulge their names at press time, suffice to say that your students who make the choirs will absolutely love singing for them!

6.      To support the growth of our young men’s voices and in looking to ever improve the quality of male choruses,  the men’s scores will be distributed evenly between the Mixed and Men’s Honor Choirs – just like we always have done with the women.  The 1st ever California All-State Men’s Honor Choir took place this past March and was a HUGE success.  This process is new this year, but will not have any affect on who is accepted, only in which choir they may sing.  For this year, the men will be placed at random.  Beginning with the 2011 honor choirs, men will be placed into the opposite choir in which they sang the previous year.

7.      We are attempting to make all part-learning tracks available online.  If we can do this in a timely manner, a set of part CDs will be sent to each director and the director will be responsible to make a copy for any student who is unable to download the tracks from the SCVA Website.

8.      The audition fee will again be $5 per student and must be paid online or by school check (or money order) within 30 days of registering for auditions.

9.      Audition locations and times will be posted on the SCVA website in early August.  Students will be able to register for auditions beginning August 30th.

SCVA High School Honor Choir Audition Timeline
Date                Event                                                                          Location
Early Aug         Audition Locations and Times Posted                            Online
Aug 30             Audition Registration Opens                                          Online
Sept 15            Audition Registration Closes                                         Online
Sept 18            Individual Audition Times/Locations Posted                   Online
Sept 25            Honor Choir Auditions – Weekend 1                            Various
Oct 2               Honor Choir Auditions – Weekend 2                            Various
Oct 13-ish        HC Members Posted; Forms & Music Mailed              Online
Oct 30             Honor Choirs Rehearsal (9:00 am - 4:00 pm)                San Fernando Valley
Nov 19-20       Honor Choirs Weekend (ALL DAY, Fri & Sat)           Santa Monica HS
Nov 20            Honor Choirs Concert (7:30 pm)                                  Bovard Aud – SaMoHS
                        (Tickets $10; available concert weekend only)

If you are interested in being an adjudicator for the SCVA High School Honor Choir Auditions, please contact John Hendricks at or Tammi Alderman at and let us know.  Audition times and locations will be available sometime during the summer, but we’d love to add you to our mailing list sooner.  We truly appreciate all you do for your kids and what you have done in the past for kids in all of Southern California.

Looking back on last year with THANKS…
It takes a large number of people to pull off an event involving nearly 300 high school students.  I know that I’ll never be able to give all of my colleagues the credit and reward due them, but I feel it necessary to publicly thank many (even if it is months later).  Rodger Guerrero was more help than he could ever know.  I could not have even attempted such an endeavor without his wonderful guidance the last two years.  John Hendricks is an incredibly gracious and giving human being, took care of things before I knew they needed doing and kept me calm through many hard days.  Jae Park (future choir teacher extraordinaire) was my right-hand-man at school and helped with absolutely everything from an office standpoint (making labels, sorting music, stuffing envelopes, creating spreadsheets, etc.) in addition to running my classes while I was emailing/calling conductors, teachers, students and parents.  Most important, however, may be his willingness to make coffee runs at any time on any day for the many of us trying to stay awake and alert for the kids. He never offered anything but a wholly positive attitude to every menial task.  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.  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 support and sanity-checks), Carolyn (the fastest bill-payer, check-writer in the choral world), Lisa, Karen (especially for your Newsletter patience and great emails), Jennifer, Patty, Colleen, Brian, Maria, Debbie, Christine, and Mark!  And to Dan Jackson, our Rehearsal Site Host, Rodger Guerrero (again), Marti Martinez, and Rich Brunner, 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.


A HISTORY OF SCVA FESTIVALS - Jennifer Stanley, VP of High School Festivals
SCVA was established in 1939 by several prominent LA area choral conductors as an organization to support choral conductors and advance vocal music in Southern California. Charter members of SCVA included

 - Ralph Peterson (Los Angeles City College, 1935-65, and first SCVA President)
 - Howard Swan (Occidental College, 1934-71, and first SCVA VP of College Level)
 - Charles Hirt (USC, 1941-76, and Hollywood Presbyterian Church, 1941-71)
 - Joseph Klein (Glendale private vocal studio, 1932-1988, and Glendale First Presbyterian Church, 1939-65)
 - Ray Moremen (UCLA, 1937-66)
 - Wilbur Schowalter (Redlands HS, ca. 1950) 

Many early members of SCVA were school choral directors in Los Angeles county school districts including LA City Schools (now LAUSD) and districts in Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley.

The organizational structure of SCVA influenced the design of other professional choral organizations including ACDA, founded in 1959. For more information on the history of the Western Division of ACDA, see

Festivals were one of the original purposes for the creation of SCVA and have remained a major part of the organization throughout its history.  SCVA members, led by Howard Swan and Charles Hirt, saw a need to provide non-competitive festivals for choirs and glee clubs where the singers had the opportunity to hear other ensembles in a collegial, educational environment.  They established the SCVA festival system that is still in use today:  a volunteer festival host schedules a non-competitive festival for choirs of the same grade level (high school or middle school) and the choirs are evaluated by two certified adjudicators. The festival is designed so that each choir hears the performances of all the other choirs.

The original SCVA festival adjudication form (written by Howard Swan and Charles Hirt) provided space for written comments and the assignment of letter grades for each selection sung.  The original categories were Interpretation & Artistic Effect, Intonation, Accuracy, Rhythm, Tone, Diction, Presentation, and Appearance.  This same form and grading system are still in use today, and now include categories for Blend, Balance, and Repertoire. For a PDF of the current form, go to

In the 1950s, many SCVA high school festivals added a required piece to be performed together under the direction of one of the festival adjudicators.  The combined piece was sung either at the middle or end of the festival.  Over a 20 year period, adjudicators at these festivals included John Alexander, Don Bremer, Jester Hairston, William Hall, Jane Skinner Hardester, Hall Johnson, Albert McNeil, Frank Pooler, Ray Moremen, Paul Salamunovich, K. Gene Simmonds, and Howard Swan. Some choirs were not as prepared on the combined piece  as others, so a drawing was initiated at the beginning of each festival. The choir "winning" the drawing was required to add the combined number to its own performance. 

In 1955, it was reported that SCVA sponsored 25 choral festivals; festivals at that time usually had 10 choirs enrolled. In a 1959 interview for Jane Skinner Hardester’s master’s thesis, Lois Wells, then President of SCVA, stated that, “SCVA sponsors some 32 [choral] festivals in the southland each spring, covering an area from Ventura to San Diego and from Palm Springs to Santa Monica.  In 1959, more than 35,000 singers participated in festivals.”

The 1960s brought many improvements to SCVA festivals. Training sessions for current and potential adjudicators were scheduled to improve the level of effective and informed adjudication. To help adjudicators make more specific comments to the choirs they heard, the adjudication form was revised to include information on the experience level and ages of the students, the school and its choral program, and the experience of its conductor.  To ensure the quality of music sung at the festivals, SCVA started the Festival Music List. At that time two of the three pieces sung by a choir were required to come from the SCVA Festival Music List.

In 1977, a San Gabriel Valley newspaper reported that 35,000 choral music students annually participated in SCVA festivals.  SCVA organized 46 high school choral festivals in 1979.  During this time, adjudicators also began making taped festival comments in addition to the written adjudication forms.

The early 1980s was a time of rapid change for school choral music in southern California.  Reduced support of music programs in public schools (starting with the implementation of 1978’s Prop. 13) created many challenges for choral programs that included less experienced music students, and reduced enrollment and instruction time. The required piece in concert choir festivals had become somewhat controversial with some directors finding the literature very challenging, and some finding the literature under-prepared. There were also new choral directors coming into the profession interested in the relatively new areas of vocal jazz and show choir.  To meet the changing needs of its membership, the SCVA Executive Board decided to eliminate the required festival piece; SCVA also began organizing specialized festivals for vocal jazz choirs and show choirs to meet their specific logistical and musical needs. 

The use of festival ratings (superior, excellent, good) was a topic often discussed by the SCVA Executive Board during the 1980s and 1990s.  Some board members felt that the original intent of the organization was to have non-competitive and unrated festivals, while other board members encouraged SCVA to bring their festival practices closer to organizations like SCSBOA (Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association) which included ratings and sight reading as a part of each festival.

In the mid 1990s a system for rating choirs was established and implemented.  The system assigned a rating (superior, excellent, good) based on the average score of the letter grades from both adjudicators. To match the festival practices of other organizations, festival certificates were replaced with festival plaques at this time.  This transition was enacted by the SCVA Executive Board led by presidents Anne Cherchian and Vance Wolverton, and by Todd Helm, VP of HS Festivals.  The scoring system was adjusted in 2000 to have more rigorous standards, and in 2005 to correct a scoring omission. 

SCVA continues to be the primary sponsor of choral festivals in southern California. In 2009, SCVA organized 39 choral festivals that were attended by approximately 70% of the SCVA membership with an estimated 9,000 students. Online festival host registration and online festival evaluations were implemented during the year. For more information on 2009 festivals, see

In 2010, there are 45 SCVA festivals for middle school and high school concert choirs, as well as specialized festivals for show choirs and vocal jazz.  SCVA continues to offer annual adjudicator certification workshops.  The 2009-2010 SCVA Executive Board has implemented online festival registration, is working to replace adjudicator cassette recording with digital recording, and is updating the Festival Music List to include newer and more diverse choral repertoire. To suggest iterature for the SCVA list, go to

Many thanks to the people who provided information for this article: Tony Azeltine, Karen Bluel, Don Bremer, Don Brinegar, Anne Cherchian, Donnelly Fenn, Greg Ellis, Mark Freedkin, Maria Fritts, Scott Hedgecock, Todd Helm, Mark Henson, Warren Marsh, Debbie Montpas, Sheri Nelson, Shirley Nute, Mary Purdy, Lori Marie Rios, Nancy Schwartz, Grace Sheldon-Williams, Ron Soderwall, Jennifer Stanley, Ken Tuttle, Christine VanderLeest, Vance Wolverton, and the Arroyo HS A Cappella Choir Historians (1955-present).

To correct, add, or update information in this article, please email Jennifer Stanley at


Vocal Solo Competition - Colleen Kennedy, VP of Vocal Solo
On Sunday, April 10, 2010, the finalists from the preliminary round of the Vocal Solo Competition participated in the second-round master class. SCVA congratulates all of the dedicated and talented young singers (and their teachers!) on their achievement.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Anne Cherchian (Bell Gardens High School) and Sheri Nelson (Alta Loma High School) for their help in organizing this final round. Also, my thanks to our site accompanist, Elaine Ono.

We had two excellent adjudicators for the final round. Baritone Carver Cossey did a beautiful job drawing shy singers out of their shells and encouraging them towards more expressive singing, while mezzo Rhonda Dillon shared with the singers her extensive knowledge and understanding of both art song and operatic repertoire.

The winners of this year’s competition are (in alphabetical order):
  Brandon Dennewitz    12th Grade       Fullerton Union High School
  Alexander Garrett       11th Grade       Santiago High School
  Christina Lammell       10th Grade       Santa Monica High School
  Laura Miller                12th Grade       Oak Park High School
  Kathleen Moriarty      8th Grade         Sacred Heart School
  Savannah Pletcher      12th Grade       home-schooled
  Alex Rosen                 12th Grade       La Caņada High School

The finalists performed at the Junior High Honor Choir concert on Saturday May 1, at Alhambra High School. All of the competition winners were awarded their certificates and scholarships that evening.


Website Update – Mark Freedkin, Webmaster
We have made significant progress in automating many of the application and registration processes over the past year.  We hope you have found these new capabilities helpful and easy to use.  If you have any comments, questions or problems with any of the pages on our website, please contact Mark Freedkin at or (714) 357-1187.

PayPal Helpful Hint: How to Consolidate Multiple Items into a Single Invoice
When using PayPal to pay the application or registration fee for multiple festivals, you don’t need to check-out after submitting each festival registration.  Instead, you can add each festival registration to your current shopping cart, and then click on the Continue Shopping link to return to the Festivals page.  After you have completed all of the festival registrations, you can then proceed to the checkout page and receive a single invoice that lists all of the festival registrations.


Other Important Information
On-Line SCVA Membership Application