SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) - November 2008


Message from the President - Sheri Nelson
Religious Music in Public Schools

“Not to use religious music in the public schools out of the mistaken conviction that it is necessarily illegal or harmful or insulting to certain segments of the community would be to deprive the music curriculum of a wealth of viable material and the students of an education as historically, culturally, and musically rich as they deserve”  (Aquino, 1976)

Have you ever had anyone question the sacred music performed by your choirs?  I had to defend my music selections a few years back when one student's parents, along with a religious leader from their church, asked the principal to have a meeting regarding the music that would be performed at the department's Winter Concert.  I did not change my programming but I was thankful I had previously researched the topic and was able to discuss the educational reasons for the selections.  I hope you find the following information helpful if you ever need to defend your use of sacred music. 

When programming your music you may wish consider the questions Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E Burger in 1971 believed should be asked of each school-sanctioned observance, program, or institutional activity involving religious content, ceremony, or celebration:
 1. What is the purpose of the activity?  Is the purpose secular in nature, that is, studying music of a particular composer’s style or historical period?
 2. What is the primary effect of the activity?  Is it the celebration of religion?  Does the activity either enhance or inhibit religion?  Does it invite confusion of thought or family objections?
 3. Does the activity involve excessive entanglement with a religion or religious groups, or between the schools and religious organizations?  Financial support can, in certain cases be considered an entanglement.

If the use of sacred music is an issue for your entire district, not localized with the administration at your school site, you may wish to look at adopting a district policy.  There are many court decision regarding religion and the public schools and in Florey vs Sioux Falls School District (1978) the plaintiff complained about the use of the hymn "Silent Night" in the school's Christmas program.  The Sioux Falls School District won the case, which was upheld by an appeals court, but the district went on to create a new district policy.  Below is just a sample of their policy:

The practice of the district shall be as follows:
 1. The several holidays throughout the year which have a religious and a secular basis may be observed in the public schools.
 2. The historical and contemporary values and the origin of religious holidays may be explained in an unbiased and objective manner without sectarian indoctrination
 3. Music, art, literature, and drama having religious themes or bases are permitted as part of the curriculum for school-sponsored activities and programs if presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of the particular holiday. Among these holidays are included Christmas, Easter, Passover, Hanukkah, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween.

The American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Music Educators National Conference (MENC), National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA), National School Board Association (NSBA), and the Department of Education all have very similar statements and policy’s regarding religious music in the public schools.  The common thread among them all is that the music needs to be chosen for an education purpose other than its sacred text.  The American Choral Directors Association guidelines are:

- The school's approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
- The school may strive for student awareness of religions but should not press for student acceptance of any one religion
- The school may sponsor study about religion but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
- The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views but may not impose any particular view.
- The school may educate about all religions but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
- The school may inform the student about various beliefs but should not seek to conform him or her to any particular belief.

I know that there are schools within southern California that do not have an administration or district that support your decision to include sacred music in your program.  If you ever wish to have more information the topic or a list of sources please feel free to contact me.

“If it is possible to study Communism without indoctrination or to examine the ills of contemporary society without promoting the seed of revolution, then it must also be possible to study sacred music (with performance-related activities) without parochialistic attitudes and sectarian points of view” (Schwadron, 1970)


The Southern Regional Honor Choirs Are Here! - Rodger Guerrero, VP of High School Honor Choirs
One year ago this month, during my first year as the SCVA VP in charge of the Honor Choirs, I wrote an article concerning maybe our toughest job as choral educators: playing the role of counselor to students faced with recent disappointment or failure.  I would like to include an excerpt from it here in the hopes that it might assist any colleague in helping singers to find solace after failing to audition successfully into the Honor Choirs.  Please feel free to contact me if you need a perspective from another source.

The Highs and Lows of the Audition Results
The auditions have been completed and the Honor Choir lists have been posted.  Packets containing music to be performed, practice CD’s, instructions, directions, and congratulatory letters have been mailed out and received.  Directors, brimming with pride at the achievements of their singers, have perhaps publicized their students’ success via school newspaper articles, bulletin announcements and assemblies.  Singers are excitedly learning the music as fast as they can, bursting with anticipation of that first rehearsal (October 25th at Riverside Community College)!

On the other side of the aisle, letters to those who did not audition successfully were also mailed out and have been received.  For these singers, the endless practice of scales, sight-reading, tonal memory, and Italian arias was only met with disappointment and “failure.”  These singers are perhaps sluggish to get back to work, seeking new goals and new sources of self-confidence.  Those who teach these singers must dig deeply into their bags of motivational tricks to help them cope, sometimes seeking miracles to aid them in this restorative process.  It is the part of the choral teaching job that no music school can ever prepare one for and for which no amount of money is sufficient repayment.

It’s Always about the Journey
John Jay once said, “Experience is a severe preceptor, but it teaches useful truths, and however harsh, is always honest.  Be calm and dispassionate, and listen to what it tells you.”  In time of disappointment, it is easy to complain or rationalize away negative results as being the fault of others.  It’s much harder to look failure in the face, compose oneself and calmly say “Alright, maybe I had a bad day.  Maybe I did not perform as well as I had hoped.  I can and will do better the next time.”  All successful journeys contain at least one breakdown along the way.  For as Robert Shaw once wrote, “There is no easy-on, easy-off button for Truth.  There is no landscaped approach to Beauty.”  Teachers can more effectively aid students in quickly returning to the path by daring to share with them failures they have personally experienced and recovered from.  Share with them obstacles that you have overcome.  Enable them to see that failure should never result in a fear of trying.  Help them to gain a healthy perspective about this experience by revealing to them personal examples which exemplified your ability to maintain balance when something in your life didn’t go as planned.   Be honest with them about your life, and they will respond in kind.

Honor Choirs by the Numbers
Having looked at the score sheets of every singer who auditioned, I began to suspect that singers were much better prepared than last year.  Seeking proof, I turned to Tammi Alderman (computer whiz that she is!), and asked her to make some numerical comparisons between the audition scores from the last two sets of Honor Choirs.  What we discovered is that this year’s singers did, in fact, surpass the preparedness of last year’s singers.  Every single average score for every single voice part of every single choir improved!  Optimistic realist that I am, I attribute this to two important factors: First, SCVA High School Directors did a phenomenal job of teaching!  We already know that some of the finest directors of high school programs in the country exist here in Southern California.  Now we have more proof!  Secondly, our students are talented, intelligent, dedicated, and determined.  Most importantly, they care about choral music.  Many who did not audition successfully this year would have earned a spot in one of last year’s choirs.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look:

SCVA Mixed Choir 2008                              SCVA Mixed Choir 2007
Soprano Average:         89.0                             Soprano Average:         82.8
Alto Average:               84.9                             Alto Average:               81.3
Tenor Average:             88.7                             Tenor Average:             84.5
Bass Average:              89.4                             Bass Average:              84.3
High Score (Women/Men):       100/98             High Score (Women/Men):       97/99
Low Score (Women/Men):       77/82               Low Score (Women/Men):       68/77

SCVA Women’s Choir 2008                          SCVA Women’s Choir 2007
Soprano I Average:      87.4                             Soprano I Average:      79.5
Soprano II Average:     86.8                             Soprano II Average:     80.6
Alto I Average:             83.5                             Alto I Average:             76.1
Alto II Average:            81.7                             Alto II Average:            78.9
High/Low Score:          97/75                           High/Low Score:          96/68

SCVA Men’s Choir 2008                              SCVA Men’s Choir 2007
Tenor I Average:          77.2                             Tenor I Average:          68.3
Tenor II Average:         73.2                             Tenor II Average:         69.0
Bass I Average:            76.3                             Bass I Average:            68.7
Bass II Average:           75.9                             Bass II Average:           70.5
High/Low Score:          82/67                           High/Low Score:          77/60

Final Thoughts About the Numbers
There is one negative result from the audition numbers this year.  According to our statistics, 479 singers actually showed up to audition out of 560 who registered online.  While the total amount is a good one, I am concerned about the large percentage (14.5%) who sign up but do not show up.  I’m sure there are many legitimate reasons for this, but it’s still a problem in my mind.  I would love hearing from SCVA members about possible solutions, so feel free to contact me if you have any.

We Need Your Help!
The weekend of November 21st and 22nd is quickly approaching.  Please consider volunteering to help us with something during that weekend.  Consider that while we love being able to provide a phenomenal music experience for such a large group of singers (272!), it is extremely tough to manage that many teenagers when the singer to teacher ratio is somewhere between 50:1 and 100:1.  So many of you have already given so much by hosting or adjudicating during the auditions, and we are immensely thankful for this!  It must be noted that John Byun (Riverside CC) and Jeffe Huls (Santa Monica H.S.) are going way beyond the call in hosting the rehearsal day and concert weekend.  THANKS TO BOTH OF YOU!!

All directors with multiple students in the choirs should seriously consider helping.  Help is needed conducting sectionals, setting up chairs, picking up food, taking attendance, with riser and seating deportment, acting as “the ears” in on-stage rehearsals, running errands, ushering during the concert, cleaning up after the concert, helping to move equipment on and off of the stage, acting as a personal assistant to one of the conductors, and MUCH, MUCH MORE!  Besides, with the ACDA Regional Conference happening nearby (register online at, I’m sure that many of you will already be around to give us a hand!

Please contact Rodger Guerrero at or Tammi Alderman at ASAP and offer to help out!


Vocal Solo Competition - Colleen Kennedy, VP of Vocal Solo Competition
I cannot stress strongly enough the value to your students, and to your choirs, of participation in the SCVA Vocal Solo Competition. It’s so much more than a competition. The process of preparing and performing a solo for adjudication, in and of itself, provides singers with a tremendous opportunity for growth as musicians. Add to that watching and listening to their peers and receiving guidance by leaders in the field, and you’ve got one powerful experience. The educational masterclass aspect of the competition is emphasized throughout the process, so that everyone, novices to veterans, can benefit from participation. Some choral directors have found the solo competition experience so valuable that they require members of their ensembles to participate.

Change in Requirements
The SCVA Board recently voted to revise the vocal solo competition policies so that the choral requirement for the vocal solo competition it is now in line with the honor choirs. Specifically, applicants for the solo competition are now required to be active members in their school choral program. As with the honor choirs, exceptions may be considered for students who are home-schooled or whose schools do not have choral programs. The Board feels that this revised requirement will maintain consistency among the various SCVA events, and it will also better serve the stated goal of the SCVA to promote choral music in the schools.

Once again, we have a wide selection of preliminary round sites to choose from this year. Many thanks to our colleagues who have volunteered their time and facilities. Special thanks to first-time hosts Joyann Gongaware of West Valley High School and Tiffany Tarleton of San Juan Hills High School.

Fullerton Union High School, Fullerton              Scott Hedgecock
Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood    Rodger Guerrero
Mark Keppel High School, Alhambra               Tony Azeltine
Matilija Jr. High School, Ojai                            Don Orser
Oak Park High School, Oak Park                     Heidi Cissell
San Juan Hills High School, San Juan Capistrano           Tiffany Tarleton
Segerstrom High School, Santa Ana                  Mark Henson
West Valley High School, Hemet                      Joyann Gongaware
Whittier Christian High School, Whittier            Allison Harned

Suggested Repertoire
A list of suggested repertoire and song books, compiled by Heidi Cissell at Oak Park High School, will be available online in the event details information.

Online Application
As with the other SCVA events this year, the vocal solo competition application will go completely digital this year. The online application is up and running on the SCVA web site at Click the Events link, then the Details link for the Vocal Solo Competition application deadline date of 12/05/08. A link will be on the front page soon, and details will be added to the Events calendar.

Application Info
 - Please remind participants to make sure that they are available for all dates and times before completing the application. The competition is a significant time commitment.
 - Participation is open to students in jr. high/middle school (grades 6 – 8) and high school (grades 9 – 12).
 - Participants must be active members of a school choral program. (Note: This requirement has been revised from previous years.)
 - Chorus membership must be confirmed by the choral director.
 - The non-refundable application fee remains $20.
 - Applications must be accompanied by a school check or money order payable to SCVA, or an SCVA e-Payments receipt. Please, no personal checks or cash.
 - Directors or sponsors must be current members of SCVA, having paid their 2008-09 dues, in order for their students to participate.

Performance Info
 - Each participant will sing one classical piece (art song or aria).
 - Selections should be appropriate to the singer’s age and experience level.
 - Participants have a total of 8 minutes to perform and work with the adjudicator.
 - Singers must provide their own skilled accompanists for the preliminary and final rounds.
 - More than just a competition, the preliminary and final rounds are in masterclass format, lasting approximately 3 to 4 hours, including breaks.
 - Participants are expected to check in before the masterclass starts and remain until the end to receive their certificates and adjudication forms.
 - Depending on the number of finalists, there may be two sessions for the final round (as happened last year). If so, participants will only need to attend one of the sessions.
 - Scholarships will be awarded, and final placement of the high school finalists will be announced, at the Jr. High/Middle School Honor Choir concert.

Dates to Remember
 - Saturday December 5, 2008: Application deadline
 - Saturday January 10, 2009: Preliminary round
 - Saturday March 14, 2009: Final round
 - Sunday May 3, 2009: Final performances at the Jr. High/Middle School Honor Choir concert


Vocal Jazz - Christine Enns, VP of Jazz Choir
SCVA Vocal Jazz Festival Tuesday March 10th, 2009 - with Christine Helferich-Guter  and Kerry Marsh

We finally have our date set for our SCVA Vocal Jazz Festival! We are pleased to announce that Christine Helferich-Guter, director of Cal State Long Beach Vocal Jazz and Kerry Marsh, director of Cal State Sacramento Vocal Jazz will be our adjudicator/ clinicians. Cal State Long Beach will close the evening with a performance by their wonderful jazz group, Pacific Standard Time! After receiving your emails, many of you suggested we do a festival around February/March as it would help students prepare for competition and spring performances.  On Tuesday March 10th, 2009 we will be hosting our festival/clinic with an added “vocal solo” portion. Please mark your calendars as this will be a great gathering of vocal jazz students and teachers throughout Southern California.  For those participating in competition, students will also get great exposure and coaching from our very experienced clinicians. Early applications are being accepted now, space is limited so do not delay! If you have any questions please email me at Please put this date on your calendar!!!  The festival is open to all levels, novice through advanced.  The fee is only $150 per group plus an additional $5 per student participant for the concert.

 Time:  12:30pm – 6:30pm with concert beginning at 7pm  (may change slightly based on the number of groups attending)
 Location:  Valencia High School, 27801 N.  Dickason Dr. Valencia, Ca. 91355
 Equipment: 16 microphones
 Provided: Piano, Bass Amp (drumset may be provided if requested)
 Cost: $150 per group

Please note: No cash or personal checks accepted.  Payment may be made by school or booster club check, money order, or PayPal.  If using PayPal, please include your confirmation slip with your application.

LAST CHANCE!  CMEA/IAJE California All State Vocal Jazz Auditions:
This is a wonderful audition opportunity for Vocal Jazz Students. Only 16 students are chosen throughout the state. Duane Shield Davis has been selected as the 2009 California All State Jazz Director. He is presently the Director of Vocal Music at Grand Rapids Community College as well as Chorus Master for Opera Grand Rapids. He has also served on the adjunct faculty of Western Michigan University where he directed Gold Company II and Gold Company.

If you would like to see more information or would like to apply for the CMEA/IAJE California All State Vocal Jazz Auditions, go to

Rehearsals March 12-13, 2009  Concert, March 14, 2009, 11:15 AM  Ontario, CA Convention Center
Conductor: Duane Shield Davis - Audition Deadline: November 20, 2008

California 2007-2008 Vocal Jazz Festivals/Workshops to Consider
(This list will be updated, please email for inclusion in this list or if you have any corrections).

 - November 7-8th, 2008: Cuesta College Vocal Jazz Workshop, San Luis Obispo, CA
 - December 13th, 2008: Cal State Sacramento Winter Jazz Festival, Sacramento, Ca.
 - January 23rd and 24th: Folsom Jazz Festival, Folsom, CA
 - March 7-8th: Columbia College Vocal Jazz Festival, Sonora, CA
 - March 27-28th: Oceanside Jazz Festival (Mira Costa College), Oceanside, CA
 - March 27-28th Santa Cruz Jazz Festival
 - March TBA: Val Verde Jazz Festival at Rancho Verde H.S., Riverside, CA
 - April 3rd-4th: Fullerton College Jazz Festival, Fullerton, CA
 - April 3rd -5th Next Generation Festival, Monterey, Ca.
 - April 24-27th: Royal High School Vocal Jazz Festival, Simi Valley

Jazz Festival Application Form


Young Women’s and Young Men’s Harmony Festivals - Mark Freedkin, VP of Barbershop Harmony Festivals
We are pleased to invite you to this year’s Barbershop Harmony Festivals for Young Women and Young Men.  Both events will be held at the Robert B. Moore Theater on the campus of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.  The 4th annual “Diva Day” Young Women in Harmony Festival, sponsored by the Harborlites Chorus, will be held on Saturday, February 7, and the 9th annual “Young Men’s Harmony Festival” will be held on Saturday, February 21, sponsored by the Masters of Harmony. Both of these events will provide a unique musical opportunity for your singers and will provide a positive boost to your choral music program.

Each event will consist of morning and afternoon clinics and rehearsals, followed by a public performance in the evening with the respective adult choruses.  There will also be a clinic for music educators who would like to participate in a hands-on demonstration of how the barbershop style is taught and how it can be used to attract more young men and women into your program.

The early application fee is only $20 per singer for applications that are submitted by November 14. After November 14, the application is fee $25 per singer.  The sponsoring choruses will cover the remaining costs for all sheet music, practice CDs, rehearsal facilities, guest clinicians and performance costumes. Each singer will receive a commemorative t-shirt. We will also provide lunch and dinner for the singers, choral directors and any adult chaperones accompanying the singers.

Please download and print the appropriate application forms from the SCVA website. Complete and return the applications and forms, along with payment by cash, check or money order payable to Harborlites (for Diva Day) or Masters of Harmony (for the Young Men’s Festival).  Each event will be limited to a maximum of 250 participants, so be sure to submit your applications early.  Note that these festivals are separate events, and you must send the appropriate forms and payments to the proper recipient.

Young Women’s Festival Only:
In order to accommodate more schools, we are limiting the number of singers per school to twelve (12). Ideally we suggest 1-2 tenors, 3-4 leads, 2-3 baritones and 3-4 basses. This will allow you to perform the music as a group and use this group to help your other students learn the joy of singing four-part harmony, barbershop style. Send applications for all students you wish to participate, indicating those students beyond the initial 12 that you wish to put on the Waiting List. We will try to accommodate as many as we can.

Young Men’s Festival Only:
There is no limit to the number of singers from your school who wish to participate, but please submit your applications early to ensure that all of your singers can be accommodated.

We look forward to receiving your applications. Please contact us if you have any questions about our festivals.

Diva Day (Young Women’s Festival)           Young Men’s Harmony Festival
Karen Ridout                                                    Mark Freedkin
Harborlites Chorus                                           Masters of Harmony
Home: (714) 847-0787                                    Home: (949) 559-9621
Cell: (714) 319-2325                                       Cell: (714) 357-1187
Email:                             Email:


WEBSITE UPDATE - Mark Freedkin, SCVA Webmaster
To avoid missing important communications from SCVA, please ensure that your e-mail account can accept e-mail messages from  Doing so will help us maintain a low "SPAM rating" for our website.


JUNIOR HIGH/MIDDLE SCHOOL HONOR CHOIR - Tony Azeltine, VP of Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir

Please encourage your 9th graders to audition for the Junior High/9th Grade Honor Choir 2009.  Their presence makes the difference!!

WE NEED ADJUDICATORS and HOSTS for January 24 and 31, 2009. Why not consider hosting or adjudicating Junior High/9th Grade Honor Choir auditions?  Please e-mail me at, or phone me at 626.572.2267 ASAP!!

Have your students save these dates for Junior High/9th Grade Honor Choir events.  Please help them remove and AVOID conflicts!

January 24 and 31, Saturdays:              Honor Choir Auditions, 9-12 A.M.
March 21*, April 25, and May 2:         Honor Choir Rehearsals, *PENDING Confirmation
May 3:                                                 Honor Choir and Vocal Solo Finalists Concert
                                                            3:30 P.M. at a site to be determined.
*The March 21 rehearsal is pending conductor confirmation.


MEMBERSHIP - Lisa Lopez, VP of Membership
If you are receiving this newsletter, you have successfully completed your online application. Did you remember to follow-up with your payment? Your membership dues can be paid with PayPal or a check, made payable to SCVA, and mailed to: Lisa Lopez   400 N. Pierre Road, Walnut, CA 91789. If you know of a colleague who has not been receiving their newsletter, please tell them they must go online and complete a membership application to be added to the mailing list.


Other Important Information
On-Line SCVA Membership Application