ACDA Western Division - Its Beginnings 55 Years Ago

Charles HirtIntroduction
ACDA/MENC ACDA 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.)

Opus 2
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.

Opus 3
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.

Opus 4
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.

Western Conferences

1966 Occidental College
(First Independent Meeting)
1968 Rio Hondo College, Whittier
(First All-Day Conference)
1970 San Francisco State University
1972 Coronado, CA
1974 Coronado, CA
1976 Palo Alto, CA
1978 Tempe, AZ
1980 San Diego, CA
1982 Pasadena, CA
1984 Los Angeles, CA
1986 San Jose, CA
1988 Los Angeles, CA
1990 Fresno, CA
1992 Honolulu, HI
1994 Sacramento, CA
1996 Pasadena, CA
1998 Reno, NV
2000 Los Angeles, CA
2002 Honolulu, HI
2004 Las Vegas, NV
2006 Salt Lake City, UT
2008 Anaheim, CA
2010 Tucson, AZ
2012 Reno, NV
2014 Santa Barbara, CA
2016 Pasadena, CA
2018 Pasadena, CA
2020 Salt Lake City, UT
2022 Long Beach, CA
2024 Pasadena, CA

Western Presidents

1964-1967 *Howard Swan
(First Division Chairman)
1967-1971 *K. Gene Simmonds
1971-1975 *Jane Hardester
1975-1977 Ginger Covert Colla
1977-1979 David Thorsen
1979-1981 Douglas McEwen
1981-1983 Joseph Huszti
1983-1985 Linda Allen Anderson
1985-1987 Sharon Breden, C.S.J.
1987-1988 William Hatcher
1988-1989 Sharon Breden, C.S.J.
1989-1991 Gary Unruh
1991-1993 Jo-Michael Scheibe
1993-1995 Mary Breden
1995-1997 James O. Foxx
1997-1999 Thomas Davies
1999-2001 Ron Kean
2001-2003 Steve Hodson
2003-2004 Elizabeth Kamerin
2004-2007 Edith A. Copley
2007-2009 Dean Semple
2009-2011 Cheryl A. Anderson
2011-2013 Kathryn Smith
2013-2015 Steve Hodson
2015-2017 Anna Hamre
2017-2019 Travis Rogers
2019-2020 Kim Ritzer
2020-2022 Lou De La Rosa
2022-2024 Michael Short
2024-2026 Julie Dana

* Member of the original 81 Charter Members

Western Conference Honorees

1992 Ralph Woodward, Sr.
1994 David Thorsen
1996 Charles Hirt
1998 Rodney Eichenberger
2000 Paul Salamunovich
2002 Jane Hardester
2004 Albert McNeil
2006 Frank Pooler
2008 Sr. Sharon Breden, CSJ
2010 William Hatcher
2012 Dean Semple
2014 Morten Lauridsen
2016 John Alexander
2018 Polly Vasché
2020 Donald Brinegar
2022 Charlene Archibeque
2024 Joseph Huszti