SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) – November 2003


An Inspiring Fall In-Service - Mark Henson, President
Thanks to Ken Tuttle, we enjoyed an inspiring Fall In-Service on the beautiful campus of Orange Coast College.  What a wonderful way to spend the morning: Listening to the beautiful sounds of the Irvine High School Chamber Singers, conducted by Rich Messenger.  Ricardo Soto, our gracious host for the day, demonstrated rehearsal and conducting techniques which can be used to improve the tone and precision of our choirs.  I'm sure "we're all rolling up our pants" in our classrooms now!  (See what you miss when you don't go to the in-service?)

Eric Whitacre shared excerpts of his music as well as details of the journey which led him to choral music and, more recently, opera.  I'm sure we're all looking forward to the opening of Paradise Lost.

After lunch, Mary Ester Blakley and the Advanced Treble Choir from Cerro Villa Middle School in Villa Park presented a lovely program of pieces, demonstrating the fine work that can be done with middle school voices.  The singers performed with poise and confidence, and are a most gracious group of young ladies.  Congratulations Mary Ester and singers!

Greg Ellis followed with a presentation on Music and the State Standards.  If your district is looking for a presenter who actually understands the standards and can bring them to life in a meaningful way, Greg is the one to do it!  (Can I be your agent, Greg?)

The day concluded with two interest sessions.  Bruce Munson of Sibelius demonstrated many of the new notation, musicianship, and classroom products available to music teachers.  If you are afraid that these computer-based products will be too difficult to use, don't be.  Visit to use product demos, and call Dave Buckeyne at Pepper who will take care of all your ordering needs. 

Ken Tuttle shared his experiences in developing a choir for special needs students at Redlands High School.  His presentation was both informative and moving.  Contact Ken if you'd like to receive his curricular information on the Redlands "Notebusters."

If you missed this year's event, we hope you'll be able to attend next year.  What would you like to see included on next year's agenda?  Send me an email with your thoughts.

Thanks again, Ken, for a wonderful day!


Congratulations to Executive Vice-President Grace Sheldon-Williams and Glendale High School, one of five schools in the United States to be named a 2002-2003 Creative Ticket National School of Distinction by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Glendale High was nominated for the award by the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE), which honored the school with the state-level Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award in May.

Grace coordinated and wrote the award application.  Selection criteria included having the arts as an essential component of the school's curriculum, imaginative learning approaches, cultural learning through the arts, parental involvement, and community connections.  As part of the award, the school received an honorarium and an invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in March.

Other 2002-03 award recipients were the Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, CO; Lusher School in New Orleans; Rollings Middle School of the Arts in Summerville, SC; and Denver School of the Arts in Denver.  Past California winners of the national award are Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and Roosevelt High School/Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno.

For more information about the California Alliance for Arts Education:   For more information about the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:


High School Festivals - Joe Modica, Vice President - Sr. High Festivals
The festival list and application will appear in the next newsletter and on the SCVA website.  Please remember check testing dates at your school BEFORE signing up for a festival.  Whenever possible, I will try to fit you into the festival which is your first choice, but please realize that it is not always possible.

Thank you for your interest in our high school choral festivals.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.


Vocal Solo Competition - Colleen Kennedy, Vice President - Sr. High Festivals
I am continually amazed at the level of skill and artistry exhibited by the young musicians participating in the SCVA Vocal Solo Competition. Overall, the 150+ singers who participated in 2003 really enjoyed the experience. Despite some logistical issues, the competition was a great success. Scholarship winners were:

First place - Lindsey Scott, LA County High School for the Arts
Second place -
Erin Miller, Fullerton Academy for the Arts
Third place -
Jonathan Lee, Harvard-Westlake School
Fourth place -
David Blair, Fullerton Academy for the Arts
Fifth place -
Christopher Nelson, Newbury Park High School
Sixth place -
Tawny Triska, Laurel Springs School
Jr. High finalist -
Jennifer Lehmer, Las Flores Middle School (3rd year in a row!)

I would like to thank our adjudicators for lending us their expertise. In the preliminary rounds we enjoyed the talents of Al Brightbill, Jayne Campbell, Suzanne Harmon, Dr. Susan Kane, Meredith Kiesgen and Jeralyn Lambourne. In the final round, we were honored to have Lynn Adcock and Dr. Philomen Theodoro, both of whom offered encouraging and valuable comments for the participants.

Many thanks to Scott Hedgecock for shepherding me through my first year, and securing the site for the final round.  Thanks also to last year's site hosts Jane Atherstone, Anne Cherchian, Rodger Gurrero, Scott Hedgecock, and Jennifer Stanley.

In working on the Vocal Solo Competition this past year, I learned quite a bit. First, coordinating this event requires the help of many colleagues. We had six preliminary round sites last year but could have used at least one more.  If you can host this year (or host again), please contact me. It would be especially helpful if those directors and voice teachers with many students participating would offer to host at their own site.

I also learned that the students in the competition really need the support of their sponsoring teacher. Be prepared to guide them through the entire process, particularly your inexperienced singers. Make sure that they thoroughly read through all of the information and that they understand what to expect. Two of the biggest issues last year were accompanists and scheduling. Your students need to know up front that they must have a skilled accompanist for both the preliminary and final rounds of the competition. Also, if they choose to participate, they must make the competition a priority. Last year there were far too many singers arriving late and leaving early; even some “no-shows.” Many of these students plan to make music their career. We should do our part to teach them professional standards of behavior. To address this issue, the Board has adopted a Solo Competition attendance policy similar to the Honor Choir policy with which most of us are familiar: The choirs and voice studios of students who drop out of the competition, except in case of emergency, may be barred from participating in the competition the following year.

That being said, do encourage your students to take part this year. For only $20, not only will they get the opportunity to work with some of the best singers/vocal pedagogues in Southern California, they also have a chance to earn scholarship money - over $1,000 in all!

Participation is open to both junior high/middle school and high school students, though the two levels do not compete against each other. The application fee remains at $20 and is non-refundable. Applications must be accompanied by a school check or money order payable to SCVA. (Please, no purchase orders, personal checks or cash.)  Make sure that applicants note the title and composer of the piece on each application. If it becomes necessary to change the selection, they can notify the site host. Each applicant must include with their application a self-addressed - but not stamped - envelope for notification.  Participants must be active members in a choral ensemble. (Church, temple, and community groups meet this requirement.)  Finally, directors/teachers must be current members of SCVA, having paid their 2003-04 dues, in order for their students to participate. Please contact Shawn Taylor if you have any concerns about your membership status.

Each participant will sing one selection of a Classical nature (art song or aria). Singers will be given a total of eight minutes to perform and work with the adjudicator. I can’t emphasize this enough:  Singers must provide their own skilled accompanists for both rounds. An accompanist will only be provided for the final concert performance. The preliminary and final rounds will take the form of master classes, which will last approximately 3 to 4 hours, including breaks. Participants are expected to check in before the master class starts and remain until the end to receive their certificates and adjudication forms. Please remind participants to make sure that they are available for all dates and times before completing the application. Also, please either avoid scheduling a performance for your choir on the same day that any of your students is slated to sing in the competition, or excuse those students from the performance.. Singers arriving and leaving throughout the class can be distracting.

Up to five finalists may be selected from each preliminary site at the high school level, with one junior high/middle school finalist to be selected from each site. Singers selected to continue to the final round may either perform their selection from the preliminary round or prepare another. At the final round, the judges will select six high school winners and one junior high/middle school winner. The high school winners will consist of the two best female singers, the two best males singers and the next two best singers at the judges’ discretion. Final placement of the high school winners will be announced at the Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir concert.

Applications postmarked no later than Saturday December 20, 2003
 - Prelim rounds (various sites):9am - 1:30pm, Saturday January 31, 2004
 - Final round (site TBD): 9am - 2:30pm, Saturday March 6, 2004
 - Scholarships awarded after final performances at the Junior High/Middle
 - School Honor Choir concert  (date/time TBD)

Vocal Solo Application Form

Colleen Kennedy, Vocal Solo Competition
   3436 Jasmine Ave. #1
   Los Angeles CA 90034


The New Adolescent Bass (Reprinted with permission from the Cambiata Vocal Music Institute of America)

There is a dramatic type voice change which occurs with some boys.  Directors may encounter a few young men who appear to have moved completely through the voice change from boy trebles down to adolescent basses in a period of two to three months (usually over the summer).  These young men may have a range of about F (below the bass clef) upwardly to F (fourth line, bass clef).  When asked to move above the F, it seems as if the voice is locked and can go no higher in modal phonation.  They may have nice high voice phonation with the ability to sing with ease notes in falsetto upwardly from F (first space, treble clef) to F (top line, treble clef) or even higher.  But the ability to phonate in falsetto seems to bottom out around the lower F (first space, treble clef).  The pitches in the vicinity of middle C between approximately F (fourth line, bass clef) and F (first space, treble clef) are not present.  They have this terrific gap in the voice with several pitches absent, possibly as many as an octave.

Often these young men have not had singing experience prior to the onset of puberty.  Therefore, it may be assumed that the presence and width of the gap is exacerbated because the muscles controlling phonation for the purpose of singing were never exercised and trained.  It is most likely that this type of voice change is predominantly genetic.  At this point in time, research needs to be done to determine exactly why the gap occurs.  With or without the facts, the reality is that they are an obvious presence in the choir and it is the director's responsibility to teach them.

Usually these type voices change occurs with boys whose vocal maturation is fast.  That is the good news because they should begin to add the upper pitches (using modal phonation) rather quickly, one at a time.  The director simply must be patient.  In the meantime, consider the following:

   Keep them singing, using the comfortable pitches in their individual ranges.  Vocal rest only extends the maturation process.

   At cadence points when the baritone part is written soh down to doh, teach these young men to sing the soh an octave lower (they will sing soh up to doh).  When, at cadence points, the baritone part is written soh up to doh, teach them to sing doh an octave lower (they will sing soh down to doh).

   Most importantly, when the baritone part moves above the F (fourth line, bass clef) pencil some optional notes in his printed music that are comfortable for them within the F to F octave.  Sometimes, writing those notes in the part one octave lower will work, and it sounds okay for the most part.  If this does not render a satisfactory sound, pencil in the third or the fifth of the chord for them to sing, whichever one is best suited for each individual range.

   Finally, read Chapter Ten, "Proper Vocal Technique for Adolescent Voices" (pages 184-204) in the book, Teaching Choral Music  (Don L. Collins, 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, 1999.)  Establishing good breath control and resonance will be most helpful for these young men at this point in their maturation process.

Good vocal technique will be helpful for all choir members in freeing their voices in the upper areas of their comfortable singing ranges. It is best not to attempt to extend the boys' ranges during the height of the mutation process, just keep them singing comfortably until they get through this stage of their maturation.  Range extension is okay with the girls at this age, with limits.

Passing upwardly through the passaggio (from modal voice into falsetto) is very difficult, if not impossible for them.  The "blank spot" around middle C is manifested because the vocal folds will not come together in modal phonation (possibly due to the fast growth) resulting in a very wide passaggio (passage), which is extremely difficult to negotiate.  Hence it is important to keep them singing in modal phonation where it is comfortable.  Asking them to move from modal phonation into falsetto usually results in the voice breaking or cracking.  It is not recommend to vocalize boys in falsetto phonation until their voices have begun to settle after maturation which may be as late as their junior year in high school with some boys.  In other words, for these boys who are experiencing this more dramatic type change, the technique of beginning an exercise in falsetto and singing downward through the passaggio is only helpful after their voices have settled .  Exercises beginning in falsetto should only be used with boys who have been trained as treble singers, and with boys whose voices change smoothly and move gradually downward (and who experience minimal cracking and breaking).  Many directors refrain from using this technique altogether until they are assured that the voices have settled.

Remember, usually this dynamic type change occurs quickly, so it should be a consolation that within a couple/three months, with good vocal technique, those upper notes will return to their voices -- just be patient and keep them singing comfortably with modal phonation.  It may be a good idea to share the thoughts in this article with them.  They need to know that what is happening to them is quite normal, and that their future as singers is bright!

CVMIA is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to promulgating tenets of the Cambiata Concept, a comprehensive philosophy and methodology of teaching vocal music to early adolescents.


Young Men’s Barbershop Harmony Festival – Mark Freedkin, SPEBSQSA Liaison

We are pleased to announce another unique opportunity for your young male singers which we hope will provide a positive boost for choral music at your school and throughout Southern California.  To build on our successful choral programs during the past five years, the local chapters of SPEBSQSA and the Southern California Vocal Association (SCVA) are organizing a Young Men’s Harmony Festival starting at 10:00am on Saturday, February 21, 2004 at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.  The day-long event will consist of a morning and afternoon clinic and rehearsal, followed by a public performance in the evening with the Masters of Harmony, five-time International Barbershop Chorus Champions.  In addition to providing an outstanding musical experience for your singers, all of the proceeds from this event will go to support choral music education programs in our schools.


About four weeks prior to the event, we will provide sheet music and voice-dominant practice tapes for several songs arranged in the Barbershop style.


The cost is only $20 per singer.  Local Barbershop sponsors will cover the remaining costs for sheet music, practice tapes, rehearsal facilities, guest clinicians, and special performance costumes.  A commemorative T-shirt will be provided to each singer.  We will also provide lunch and dinner for the singers, as well as a catered dinner for any music educators who attend the rehearsal and clinic.  We also request that you or a parent accompany your singers at the event to help maintain discipline during the long day.


Please complete the enclosed application and parental consent/medical form for each singer and send payment by cash, check or money order payable to “Masters of Harmony” to the address below NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 20, 2003.  Any male student who is currently enrolled in a school choral music program is eligible to participate.  There is no limit to the number of students you can nominate from your choral program.  We request that you select your better singers to represent your school.  We can accommodate a maximum of 250 singers, so don’t delay!


The Barbershop Harmony Society is dedicated to preserving and encouraging vocal music of all kinds in our schools and our communities, through financial support and by being strong advocates for the arts.  In partnership with the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and other organizations, the Society is actively involved in the effort to help revitalize music education and to “Get America Singing...Again”.  Support from local Barbershop harmony programs has earned the enthusiastic endorsement of the SCVA.


We look forward to receiving your applications.  Please contact me if you have any questions about the Young Men’s Harmony Festival or any of our Young Men In Harmony programs.

Barbershop Harmony Festival Application Form


Other Important Information
SCVA Membership Application
Festival Host Application Form