SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) - November 2009


Message from the President - Sheri Nelson
Formative and Summative Assessment

At Alta Loma High School we are in the process of preparing for a midterm WASC revisit.  As I sat in my WASC focus group meeting reviewing our action plans and the WASC committee’s areas of recommendation, I realized that the Arts classes can be the model for the other content areas.  One of our areas of recommendations praised the school for its increase in department and district-wide benchmark tests but recommended we create an emphasis on school wide use of formative assessment to guide instruction.

Summative assessment (assessment OF learning) would include activities such as chapter tests, quarter bench mark tests, final exams, and our CA standardized tests.  Formative assessment (assessment FOR learning) would include assessments, both formal and informal, that a teacher uses to determine what material the students have mastered and thus inform the teacher when the class is ready to move forward.  We all know classes where the teacher has a pacing guide that includes the day or week they will give a chapter test and regardless of the results of that test the class will move onto the next chapter in the book.  Many subject areas are sequential.  If a student did not master solving a one-step equation in Algebra how successful will they be at solving a two-step equation?  If a large portion of the math class failed the test why would you move onto the next concept or chapter?

The Arts Department is a model on the use of formative assessment.   The Arts use formative assessment DAILY.  While rehearsing the “B” section of a piece we assess our students’ rhythmic accuracy, pitch accuracy, diction, tone quality, dynamics or balance.  During the rehearsal we must determine if the focus of today’s lesson has been achieved and the students are ready to move on to a new section or a new area of focus.  If we did not achieve our goal for the day we will return to the same section and re-teach the concept.  We will determine if the students need more time and practice or if we need to re-teach the same concept from a different approach?  We use formative assessment EVERYDAY in our rehearsals.

In an educational climate that is focused on standardized testing and API scores we must be advocates for the Arts.  During our WASC focus group I took the opportunity to speak on behalf of choral music, and all of the Arts, and our daily use of formative assessment.  We focus on student learning.  Our curriculum pacing is not determined by a calendar, rather on student mastery.  We must take every opportunity to remind our colleagues, administrators, school board members, and parents that music is essential and we are a core class according to No Child Left Behind.  Our class can even be the model for education practice such as formative assessment.


The Southern Regional Honor Choirs Are Here! - Tammi Alderman - VP, High School Honor Choirs
Two years ago this month, during his first year as the SCVA VP in charge of the Honor Choirs, Rodger Guerrero 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 24th at Point Loma Nazarene University)!

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 see how well-prepared our singers seemed to be this year.  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.  Secondly, our students are talented, intelligent, dedicated, and determined.  Most importantly, they care about choral music.  Take a look:

                                                                        SCVA Women’s Choir 2009
SCVA Mixed Choir 2009
                              Soprano Average:         85.8
Soprano Average:         87.3                             Alto Average:               81.2
Alto Average:               79.9                             High/Low Score:          98/71
Tenor Average:             86.7
Bass Average:              86.8                            
SCVA Men’s Choir 2009
High Score (Women/Men):       99/100             Tenor Average:             73.1
Low Score (Women/Men):       71/80               Bass Average:              74.5
                                                                        High/Low Score:          80/66

Final Thoughts About the Numbers
There is one negative result from the audition numbers this year.  According to our statistics, 495 singers actually showed up to audition out of 599 who registered online.  While the total amount is a good one, I am concerned about the large percentage (17.4%) 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 20th and 21st 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 (268!), 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 Dan Jackson (Point Loma) and Jeffe Huls (Santa Monica High School) 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!  We need help at the October 24th rehearsal as well as during the Honor Choir Weekend on November 20th and 21st.

Please contact Tammi Alderman at or John Hendricks at ASAP and offer to help out!



I love the choral festival experience for many reasons: seeing and hearing the great work of my colleagues, having my students exposed to so many high quality performances (and good audience etiquette!), and feeling inspired to keep working by encouragement from the adjudicators.  Now that I’m in my tenth year of teaching, I started wondering what I would learn from analyzing my festival scores.  And then I became curious about festival scores in general, so I decided to investigate the festival scores to see what results would emerge.

SUPERIOR                 173                  68%
EXCELLENT              82                    32%
GOOD                         1                      0%
TOTAL                        256                  100%

Here are the ratings earned by choirs at SCVA festivals in Spring 2009. A total of 478 score sheets were received, and the ratings of 256 choirs were calculated from this data. Score data was received from 35 of 39 festivals, about 90%.  (Complete score sheets were received from 33 festivals, and partial score data was received from 2 festivals.) No score sheets were returned with a director request for comments only. Please note the directions for calculating festival ratings below.

A = 4.0            100%               AVG SCORE  RATING          % Equiv
A- = 3.7           92.50%            3.65 – 4.0        SUPERIOR     91.25%
B+ = 3.6          90%                 3.0 – 3.64        EXCELLENT  75%
B = 3.3            82.50%            2.0 – 2.99        GOOD             50%
B- = 3.0           75%                 0 – 1.99           FAIR               47.5%
C+ = 2.9          72.50%
C = 2.5            62.50%
C- = 2.0           50%
D = 1.9            47.50%                                               

Calculating Festival Ratings - Each choir is rated by two SCVA certified adjudicators.  Choirs earn letter grades from A to D in nine categories (below). Letter grades are converted to points and averaged. There is a total of 16 grades for each choir (excluding scores for Repertoire). Average score determines the rating. Percentage equivalents included for reference only.

TONE                          3.639
INTONATION           3.586
DICTION                    3.723
ACCURACY              3.688
BALANCE                  3.692
BLEND                       3.703
PRESENTATION       3.816
REPERTOIRE             3.900
TOTAL AVG              3.693

Here are the 2009 average festival scores as calculated from 478 score sheets. There were 24 adjudicators who judged at SCVA festivals in 2009, and approximately 140 directors who attended festivals. Together, this is about 70% (about 160 members) of the total membership of SCVA who participated in the festival process. There were 204 high school choirs directed by 93 high school directors that attended SCVA festivals.  There were an estimated 105 junior high and middle school choirs directed by an estimated 45 junior high and middle school directors that attended SCVA festivals. Assuming an average ensemble size of 30, there were over 9,000 choral music students who had the festival experience through SCVA festivals. (Wow! That’s a lot!)

Compiling and calculating this data has been a very involved process.  Many thanks go to:
- The 30 SCVA Festival Hosts – hosting a festival is a very big job and the evaluation responses show that you are all organized and running great festivals, THANK YOU!
- Our SCVA Adjudicators – THANK YOU for your continued service, and for your consistent high quality judging that encourages both choral directors and choral music students.
- Chris Hall, Executive VP – for the past 5 years Chris has scheduled adjudicators for every festival, and distributed and collected all the forms and documents needed to run the festivals.  She collected all the judging forms and sent them to me so I could begin analysis for this report, so this could not have been written without her! THANK YOU, CHRIS, and Happy Retirement!!
- Maria Fritts and Mark Freedkin – THANK YOU for your tireless work!

Below is a summary of the responses from the Online Festival Evaluation for Directors.  THANK YOU to those who responded to the evaluation, we do read your responses and comments carefully. There were 56 responses to the evaluation, 52 from high school directors and 4 from middle school directors.  This is only about 40% of the directors who participated in festivals, and we would like to have a higher percentage of directors respond to get a more complete understanding of the festival experience.  If you did not complete the evaluation for 2009, please complete it for 2010.

It is encouraging to me as a festival coordinator that the high proportion of YES answers compared to NO seems to indicate that directors are satisfied with their SCVA festival experience.

4          100                 The adjudicator gave ratings that were too high.
7          97                   The adjudicator gave ratings that were too low.
94        10                   The adjudicator gave ratings that were fair/accurate.
99        5                     Comments for improvement were constructive and helpful.
1          103                 Comments were condescending or sarcastic.
98        6                     Comments related specifically to items checked (+) or (-).
38        6          60*      Subjective comments, if used, were minimal/labeled as such.
23        41        40*      The 2 adjudicators were in major disagreement in these areas:
56        0                     Prior to the festival, did you receive info from the host?
55        1                     Was the piano in good condition and tuned?
54        2                     Was the facility appropriate for this event?
42        14                   Were your adjudication tapes complete and audible?
55        1                     Were the participating choirs appropriately classified? (novice/adv./etc.)
55        1                     Were your forms returned promptly at the end of the festival?
54        2                     Were your student guides helpful?
49        7                     Did the festival begin on time?
56        0                     Would you attend this festival again or recommend it to others?
34        1          22**    Did you use the SCVA website for festival planning?  If yes, was it helpful?
11†      25        15**    Is there a festival adjudication system that you think would be more effective than the SCVA letter grade system?

Each responder is rating the two adjudicators from their festival so the total response number is doubled.
* Responder selected “N/A” as their answer.
** Responder gave no answer to this question.
† Of the 11 YES responses, 6 suggested a point system, and 2 suggested a rubric based system.

THANK YOU to the Choral Directors who attend SCVA festivals!  SCVA could not continue to host and organize festivals without your interest and continued support and participation!

A special welcome to Brian Holm, the new Executive VP!

As far as I know, this is the first time SCVA has tried to analyze its festival score data. What does the data mean? We are still in the process of interpreting this data.  We value your input and insight, so please email your thoughts and questions on this report to me at


Young Women’s and Young Men’s Harmony Festivals - Mark Freedkin, VP - 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 5th annual “Diva Day” Young Women in Harmony Festival, sponsored by the Harborlites Chorus, will be held on Saturday, February 6, and the 10th annual “Young Men’s Harmony Festival” will be held on Saturday, February 20, 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 13. After November 13, 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:


Junior High Honor Choir - Debbie Montpas, VP, Junior High Honor Choir


Tony Azeltine has decided to step down as VP for the Junior High Honor Choir.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Tony for taking the helm for this choir for the past four years.  He has done an outstanding job and his leadership will be greatly missed!   In the meantime, I will be stepping back into the role of VP for the Junior High Honor Choir and will be aided by Cecile Blanchard and Vanessa Ventre.

This year all Honor Choir members will be required to attend ONE REGIONAL REHEARSAL to receive and read through their music.  Those regions will be comprised of the Santa Monica, San Gabriel Valley, and Riverside areas.  The specific dates and sites are still to be determined. On SATURDAY, MAY 1st we will combine all of the students for ONE ALL-DAY REHEARSAL WITH A PERFORMANCE THAT EVENING.  We also plan to reduce the participation fee to make it easier for more students to participate in the Honor Choir during these difficult economic times.  It is our sincere hope that these new procedures will help you to encourage your students to audition for the Honor Choir. 

If you value the Junior High Honor Choir, it is time for YOU to step forward and start helping out.  If YOU don't, who do you think will?  For those of you who teach middle/junior high schools, you know how incredible these students can be.  If you are a high school director, encourage your 9th grade BOYS to audition so we can give our singers an SATB experience.  As directors, we validate our students' efforts by participating in the Honor Choir auditions and rehearsals ourselves.  Organize a car pool, help with sectional rehearsals.  It's time that YOU get INVOLVED in the Junior High Honor Choir THIS year!!!!

E-mail me about VOLUNTEERING for any of the following opportunities:
1.  HOSTING an audition site on EITHER January 30 or February 6
2.  ADJUDICATING auditions on either or both of the above dates
3.  HOSTING a REGIONAL rehearsal in the RIVERSIDE area
4.  Leading a SECTIONAL REHEARSAL at one of the Regional rehearsals
5.  Assisting with the ALL-DAY REHEARSAL and the PERFORMANCE on SATURDAY, MAY 1 (site is still to be determined)

I hope I can count on you to help me create a wonderful musical experience for these eager young singers.


Vocal Solo Competition - Colleen Kennedy, VP, Vocal Solo Competition

- Saturday, December 5, 2009: Online application and payment deadline
- Saturday, January 16, 2010: Preliminary round
- Saturday, April 10, 2010: Final round
- Final performances/scholarships awarded at the Jr. High/Middle School Honor Choir concert on May 1, 2010 (site TBD)

Please contact me at colleenbkennedy AT gmail DOT com with any questions.


Other Important Information
On-Line SCVA Membership Application (not required for Honor Choir audition or participation)
On-Line Festival Host Application