ACDA Western Division - Its Beginnings 52 Years Ago

charles hirtIntroduction
was organized as an independent organization to foster the art of choral music in the United States. Many choral directors had become dissatisfied and concerned because MENC had turned out to be predominantly band- and orchestra-oriented with very little choral music at their conferences.

From 1961 through 1969, some choral seminars and choral performances were held in conjunction with MENC conferences. Chairing those sessions during that time were Dr. Jane Hardester, Lee Kjelson, Dr. Howard Swan and K. Gene Simmonds. At the 1969 MENC Western Division Conference in Hawaii, Gene was appointed by MENC Western Division President, Dr. Mike Hartsell, to plan all choral activities for the conference and did so under the umbrella of ACDA.

The ACDA Western Division continued to sponsor choral sessions in conjunction with MENC and in 1975, sponsored three sessions and organized a Northern California Honor Choir for the MENC Division Conference in San Francisco. In 1977, Ginger Colla, ACDA Western Division President, served as organizing chair and planned three choral sessions for the MENC Division Conference in Salt Lake City. There was an attempt to have ACDA become the official choral representative of the MENC Divisional Board, but this union was not successful

frank poolerOpus 1
The initial activities of ACDA included the structuring of geographic divisions paralleling MENC's regional divisions. In the spring of 1966, Dr. Howard Swan, ACDA Western Division Chairman, invited several choral conductors in the area to an afternoon meeting at Occidental College. There were thirty to forty directors who attended. It was held in the choral room, and Howard's Occidental Glee Club performed for us. Afterwards, he discussed the art of choral music and the role that he predicted ACDA would play in fostering choral music in America and perhaps throughout the world. A few weeks following this meeting, Gene received a call from Howard to come to his home. Howard asked Gene if he would be interested in assuming the leadership of the ACDA Western Division. Gene inquired about the responsibilities, and Howard replied. "There are no guidelines, no history, no budget, and you can take it wherever you like." After a few weeks of contemplation, Gene told Howard he would accept his invitation. (Note: In the first few years, officers were not elected by the membership.)

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In 1967, Gene assumed the responsibilities of the first ACDA Western Division Presidency. (Title was changed from Chairman to President.) Having attended the early meetings of the ACDA National Conferences in Kansas City, he planned an all-day conference at Rio Hondo College, Whittier, CA in the spring of 1968, and followed the format of the national conference — outstanding performing groups and guest speakers. Approximately one hundred directors attended. (Howard was right… there was no budget, no guidelines, no assistance…it was a solo endeavor.) State presidents were appointed for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah, and the division presidents became a part of the ACDA National Board that met in Kansas City prior to the National office moving to Lawton, OK. On January 30 and 31, 1970, the first independent ACDA Western Division Conference was held in Knuth Hall at San Francisco State University and was planned and chaired by Gene Simmonds. About four hundred and fifty directors attended, and several groups from the division were invited to perform.

roger wagnerPresenters/speakers: *Lois M. Wells, Joseph Klein, Maurice Allard, *Harold A. Decker, Rudolph Saltzer, William Hall, Roger Wagner and *Charles C. Hirt.

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Having served two terms, Gene knew it was time to turn the leadership over to another. Jane Hardester was a great organizer and with a unique talent for delegating duties and involving others in the planning process. Jane also served two terms as ACDA Western Division President ,and on February 11 and 12, 1972, she organized and hosted the second Western Division Conference at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, CA. The program theme was "Choral Music as a Social Force in the '70's". Featured speakers and presenters were: Dr. Elaine Brown and Sonja Garfinkle from "Singing City", Philadelphia, PA, Paul Salamunovich, Jester Hairston, Frank Pooler, Albert McNeil, *Dr. Morris Hayes and *Dr. Howard Swan

The division was represented by 14 high school, university, community, and church choral groups from the various states. Jane appointed Ginger Covert Colla as the first Western Division President Elect, because she believed that the structure of Division Boards should be consistent with the structure of the ACDA National Board and would insure the continuity and philosophy of the ACDA Western Division.

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ACDA Western Division has developed into a unique organization that continues to serve and inspire choral directors and actively promotes the art of choral music.

By K. Gene Simmonds, Past President, Charter Member and Life Member
Contributors: Jane Skinner Hardester, Past President and Charter Member; Ginger Covert Colla, Past President; and Charlene Archibeque.

  • Advocacy Resolution
    Whereas, the Human spirit is elevated to a broader understanding of itself through the study and performance in the aesthetic arts, and Whereas, serious cutbacks in funding and support have steadily eroded state institutions and their programs throughout our country, Be it resolved that all citizens of the United States actively voice their affirmative and collective support for necessary funding at the local, state, and national levels of education and government, to ensure the survival of arts programs.


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