ACDA Western Division Honor Choirs

Looking Back, Looking Forward
by Polly Vasché

As a self-proclaimed Honor Choir Junkie since singing in the All-Southern California High School Honor Choir (1957, LA Shrine Auditorium, Charles Hirt conducting), I will always be devoted to all things Honor Choir. Thank you, ACDA, for this great joy throughout my career.

When Dean Semple called just after the 2006 Salt Lake conference and asked me to chair the Western Division Honor Choirs for Anaheim in 2008, I hesitated at first. Although I had managed several state and divisional honor choirs, I had not been solely responsible for PR, applications, auditions, selection, budget, contracting of conductors and accompanists, housing, meals, t-shirts, programs, and a myriad of other details which would impact literally hundreds of young singers and their families. It was a daunting prospect, one for which there were precious few guidelines at the time. But as a retiree, I welcomed the opportunity to volunteer.

Fortunately, Shirley Nute, Coordinator for Salt Lake, proved to be a wonderful mentor with much wit, wise counsel and savvy advice. For the next ten years I had the joy and privilege of working with five Western Division boards and the planning committees for Anaheim, Tucson, Reno, Santa Barbara, and Pasadena. Singers from five states represented a variety of ages and grades from children through college and adult choristers as we rotated choir voicings to extend this unique opportunity to a broad range of our constituents. Numbers were lower in some years, but have rebounded to our maximum of 200 voices per choir in recent times.

Meeting and working closely with fifteen world-class conductors has been fascinating and incredibly educational in itself. But the heart of the operation has truly been the many individual choir managers who did the heavy lifting in so many vital ways. Evolving technically during these ten years meant mp3 voice files replacing CDs, which had replaced cassette tape auditions at the outset, as well as all online paperwork replacing hard copies sent via US mail, and now the payment of fees online replacing cumbersome checks as well. In retrospect, it was quite primitive just a decade ago, but changes are sure to continue. The link on the WD website is another example of the ease and possible foibles of contemporary communications.

My thanks go to so many people involved in producing these Honor Choirs, from leadership in the ACDA national office to our WD Presidents-Elect, who really design and create these conferences, to the Honor Choir Managers, and above all to the hundreds of teachers and parents who make it all happen, expending significant time, effort and funds for their talented singers. And finally, huge thanks go to my husband Burt, aptly named Co-Coordinator in 2016, without whom I could not have survived the almost daily problem-solving and tech challenges.

It is now a great pleasure to introduce Curtis Mannah who, after managing the High School Honor Choirs in both 2014 and 2016, will be our new Honor Choirs Coordinator for Pasadena in 2018. A graduate of CSU Fresno, Curtis teaches vocal and classroom music in Hayward and is vocal music director for the Hayward-La Honda Music Camp. He has chaired California ACDA Regional and All-State Honor Choirs and served as Guest Conductor for San Joaquin County and the MENC Bay Section. Curtis lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife Pamela and their children John and Victoria. Thank you Curtis – you’ll do a fantastic job!!

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