February 1959, a group of 35 choral conductors from around the United
States met in Kansas City, Missouri, during the Music Teachers National
Association's (MTNA) biennial conference. This group created the
American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and approved its original
ten purposes, which still stand largely unmodified today.
The Purposes of ACDA
- To foster and promote choral singing, which will provide artistic, cultural, and spiritual experiences for the participants.
- To foster and promote the finest types of choral music to make these experiences possible.
- To foster and encourage rehearsal procedures conducive to attaining the highest possible level of musicianship and artistic performance.
- To foster and promote the organization and development of choral groups of all types in schools and colleges.
- To foster and promote the development of choral music in the church and synagogue.
- To foster and promote the organization and development of choral societies in cities and communities.
- To foster and promote understanding of choral music as an important medium of contemporary artistic expression.
- To foster and promote significant research in the field of choral music.
- To foster and encourage choral composition of superior quality.
- To cooperate with all organizations dedicated to the development of musical culture in America
(The last two purposes were added in the 1975 Constitution and Bylaws revision.)
- To foster and promote international exchange programs involving performing groups, conductors, and composers.
- To disseminate professional news and information about choral music.
(Pictured above from left to right: ACDA Steering Committee members J. Clark Rhodes, Elwood Keister, Curt Hansen, Harry Robert Wilson, R. Wayne Hugoboom, and Archie Jones)
The Association evolved over its first decade to include divisions modeled after those of the National Association for Music Education (MENC) and state chapters. ACDA was founded to serve the professional needs of all choir directors, and as a result, membership grew steadily from the initial 35 choral directors who attended that meeting to 111 charter members. By 1970, membership had grown to include 4,000 choral conductors, conducting all varieties of choirs. By 1978, that number had reached 10,000. In 2003, membership reached an all-time high of 21,000. While ACDA's numbers may have increased exponentially, the Association has always remained true to its purposes.
From its origin, ACDA has promoted excellence in choral music through its workshops, symposia, choral program exchanges, international efforts, and especially through its conventions. Early conferences were held in conjunction with MENC conventions. Like present-day conferences, they offered reading sessions, interest sessions, panel discussions, and concert sessions. In 1960, at the first conference held in conjunction with MENC, five choirs performed. By 1971, the Association had matured to the point where it could offer its own independent convention. That conference took place in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Muehlebach Hotel, just as the organizational meeting did. The first international choirs performed at the 1973 convention, also held in Kansas City, Missouri, and by 1977, convention attendance had grown to the point where dual-track interest sessions were added. The 1980s saw a refinement of the convention system. Performance halls were used instead of ballrooms beginning in 1981. Honor choirs began singing at ACDA conferences in 1983. Again, by the 1990s, conference attendance had grown to a point where dual and triple tracks became necessary. Dual tracks were offered beginning in 1993, and the first triple-track conference followed in 1999. The most elaborate track system was offered in 2005, where conference attendees followed six tracks. In its history, the conferences have been expanded and refined but always with the commitment to improving the experience of choral music excellence and education. (Above, John Haberlen conducts the Georgia State University Choir.)
Throughout its history, ACDA has honored both its members for their contributions to the choral art and quality choral composition through its competitions and commissions. From the Schmitt and Pepper Awards for Choral Composition in 1962 to the Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition, ACDA has worked to recognize and reward superior choral music, research in the choral art, excellence in conducting and teaching, quality newsletters, superb student organizations, and promise for the future of choral conducting. Awards and recognitions have included:
- Recognition awards and certificates (1962, 1964, 1971, 1975)
- Schmitt & Pepper Awards for sacred and secular choral composition (1962)
- Life Memberships (1964, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1973)
- Distinguished and Special Service Awards (1973, 1979)
- Past President recognitions (1975, 1985, 2009)
- Industry Special Service Award (1975, 1977)
- Conference dedications (1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1989)
- Don Malin Award (1987-1992)
- Choral Journal Editor recognition (1989)
- Student Scholarship (1991-1993)
- Outstanding Student Chapter Award (1979-)
- Julius Herford Dissertation Award (1981-)
- Robert Shaw Award (1991-)
- Student Conducting Award (1993-)
- Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Award (1999-)
(Above, Choral Journal Editors are honored at the 1989 Louisville National Conference.)
Equally important have been the pieces commissioned by ACDA, reflecting the Association's commitment to fostering superior-quality composition. A partial list includes:
- 1966 Lamentations of Jeremiah by Daniel Pinkham
- 1968 The sun, the Soaring Eagle, the Turquoise Prince, the God by William Bergsma
- 1971 Parables by Ulysses Kay
- 1973 Trilogy for Chorus and Brass Ensemble by Robert M. Beadell
- 1983-1987 Hugoboom Commissions
I Think I Could Turn by Michael Hennagin
Three American Lyrics by John Rutter
Dan-u-el by Kirke Mechem
- 1993-present Raymond W. Brock Commissions
Over the course of ACDA's 50-year history, its leadership has helped it remain true to its purposes. Its executive directors have wisely guided it to its current status as the preeminent professional organization for American choral conductors. Its Executive Committees and National Boards have shaped the education and caliber of choral conductors for fifty years through national, division, and state conventions, workshops and clinics, repertoire, and commissioned pieces. The organization that decided 50 years ago to promote excellence in choral music through performance, composition, publication, research, teaching, and advocacy has maintained and evolved those goals into the organization that exists today. These ideals will continue to hold fast yet advance as ACDA enters its next fifty years and beyond.