In the November Choral Journal I wrote about the four areas of focus from the
American Choral Directors Association’s new mission statement. Those areas are Education, Performance, Composition, and
Advocacy. I identified these areas as
the four pillars of our mission statement, which states…. The
mission of the American Choral Directors Association is to inspire excellence
in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.
near the beginning of a new year, I would like to comment on the word that
precedes those four areas of focus:that word is excellence. This is a tough assignment, so I saved it for the start
of a new year so I could get my own thinking off to a good start. Many people
have attempted to define excellence over the years, and the best that most come
up with is a pursuit of the term.
forced to come up with a definition of excellence on my own, I would have to
say that excellence is defined as “better than….” Of course, this begs the question, “Better
than what?” And the answer to that question is, “Better than very good.”
Historically, ACDA has sought to make
improvements in every area of choral practice by establishing a standing
committee on Repertoire and Standards. This standing committee and the
representatives in every state and division chapter for repertoire and
standards accepts their leadershipposition with the understanding that they
will help to keep choral standards very high. The ACDA Bylaws statethat
their task is “to improve the quality of choral performance and literature in
the United States”.
If you want to
achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing
Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
The seminal management book In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters
and Robert Waterman, published in 1982, remains one of the best selling and
widely read business books ever. Peters and Waterman found eight common themes
which they argued were responsible for the success of the chosen corporations. They
examined 43 of Fortune 500's top performing companies. Peters later said that
the essential message of In Search of Excellence was simply People, Customers,
and Action. The book turned these soft factors into hard ones, when previously
the only “hard factors” were considered to be numbers.
is a summary of the eight themes from In
Search of Excellence, with my paraphrase of them as adapted to our work in
the American Choral Directors Association:
- A bias for action, active
decision making - 'getting on with the mission of ACDA’
- Close to the member - learning from
the people served by the ACDA.
- Autonomy and entrepreneurship - fostering innovation
and nurturing 'best practices'.
- Productivity through people - treating grassroots
members as a source of quality.
- Hands-on, value-driven - mission that
guides everyday practice - leaders showing their commitment.
- Stick to the knitting - stay with the
- Simple form, lean staff–keeping our
- Simultaneous loose-tight
- autonomy in leadership but keeping to centralized purposes and mission.
The question for ACDA
is how to consistently apply these eight steps to our professional association.
One of our national leaders suggested that we think about it this way:
American Choral Directors Association inspires its members.
The members inspire the music.
The music inspires
profession inspires the art.
The art inspires
inspires the civilization.
civilization inspires the future.