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American Choral Directors Association

ACDA in Pictures

20 May 2009


At the 1960 convention, a discussion about membership recruitment ultimately led to the creation of the ACDA divisions.  These divisions were based on existing MENC structure which had six divisions.  ACDA would break from this structure in 1979 by dividing the North Central division into the Central and North Central divisions. 

16 April 2009










In 1962, ACDA held its first competition for members.  Members were invited to submit sacred and secular compositions and two $500 awards were offered to the winners.  Richard Toensing won for his sacred composition "Gloria Domine" and Walter Wade won for the secular piece "Arise my Love." 

Tri State Music Festival logo 



Throughout the decade that preceded the founding of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), discussions about forming a national choral association specifically for choral directors would occur.  The idea for what would become ACDA gathered momentum in the early 1950s, but real progress was made during the years 1955 and 1956 at the Tri-State Music Festival in Enid, Oklahoma.  Archie Jones, director of choral music at the University of Texas, and Robert L. Landers, director of the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants, served together as clinicians and judges at this annual event and it was here that the seeds for ACDA were planted.


Archie Jones, Founding Member of ACDA

Archie Jones (above) stated in a letter dated March 4, 1970, “During the summer of 1957, I had Harry Wilson come to the University of Texas for a choral clinic.  [Wilson was a professor of music education at Columbia University.] One of the evenings I took Harry out to my cottage about twenty miles from Austin for a ‘cook-out’.  After dinner we sat around … discussing choral music in general.  I suggested that we needed a choral organization paralleling the American Bandmasters Association.  Harry was so receptive to the idea that we decided to go ahead with the idea.”


Robert L. Landers, ACDA Founding Member 

In 1957, Archie Jones, Raymond Rhea, and Warner Imig continued the conversation regarding the formation of a professional association.  They were joined in enthusiastic discussion by Earl Willhoite and Roger Wagner.  On December 2, 1957, Robert L. Landers (above) sent a letter to 100 choral conductors selected by Jones, Klein, and himself.  In the letter, he outlined a plan to establish an American choirmasters association, which would function as a 175-member honorary choral conductors association.  It was to be patterned after the American Bandmasters Association.  Lander’s letter proposed that he, Jones, and Klein function as the executive committee of the new association until a committee could be elected.  The letter further proposed that these three be joined by eight others who would form the charter membership that would establish a steering committee for the operation and planning of the association.


Elwood Keister, ACDA Founding Member

With the penning of Robert L. Landers’s letter, ACDA was truly formed.  Commenting on this action, Elwood Keister (above), director of choral activities at the University of Florida, stated, “We had all done a lot of thinking about it, but we had never taken the initiative.  The impetus came from the man who wrote the first letter say ‘why don’t we get together and organize.’” Prior to the formation of a steering committee, Archie Jones stated, “ We need a set of purposes, a much larger membership list, and some decisions as to the qualifications of new members �" in short, all the think that needs must go into a new organization.”  Jones’s challenge led to the expansion of the charter member list, the consideration of establishing a relationship with a mature professional organization, the drafting of an outline of a constitution and set of bylaws, the determination of organizational function, and the planning of the initial meeting of the association.

Duane Haskell












By May 1958, 100 choir directors had shown interest in a national organization for choir directors and by February 1959, the number had grown to 134!  In order to facilitate an initial gathering, the charter members contacted already well-established music organizations and enlisted their help.  Duane Haskell, Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) President, offered enthusiastic help for the fledgling group.  He offered them a special committee through MTNA and affiliated status when formally established.  And therefore, it was with the help of MTNA that ACDA was born.


















In early correspondence, ACDA is referred to as the "American Choirmasters Association".  Many, including the aboved pictured Helen Hosmer of the Crane School of Music, felt that choirmaster was too closely associated with church music and ignored college and high school members.  At the organizational meeting, Robert Mitchum of Wabash College motioned that the group adopt the name "American Choral Directors Association".  The motion passed and we have been known by this name since ever since.

In the years before the internet, how did choral directors exchange repertoire?  One of ACDA's earliest projects addressed that very issue.  The program was initiated at the organizational meeting and involved each member bringing 200 choral programs (printed copies) to be shared with the group for the purpose of exchanging ideas and literature.  The Choral Program Exchange was ACDA's first service project and was led by Elwood Keister.  Below is the cover of the 1964-1965 booklet which was produced with the help of the Choral Journal staff.










The first annual ACDA conference was held in Atlantic City, NJ, March 16-17, 1960.  Five choirs participated.  They were UPPER DARBY HIGH SCHOOL CHOIR, Upper Darby, PA, Clyde R. Dengler, director; THE WILLIAM MURRAH SINGERS, Wm. B. Murrah High School, Jackson, MS, William J. Herring, director; UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE CONCERT CHOIR, Newark, DE, Ivan Trusler, director; THE CHORALETTES, Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, NY, Walter Ehret, director; and SINGING CITY CHOIR, Philadephia, PA, Elaine Brown, director.

1960 program