Conference Preview Interview with 2016 Headliner Z. Randall Stroope

by Jed Scott, ACDA Webmaster/Editor

Z. Randall Stroope is one of two headliners for the 2016 ACDA-Michigan Fall Conference. He graciously took a few minutes to answer some questions about his work and what he hopes to share with the Michigan choral community on October 28 & 29.

Hi Randall, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
My pleasure.

We’re excited to be welcoming you in a couple of weeks to headline the ACDA Michigan Fall Conference! Is there anything you’re particularly excited to share with us that weekend?


Z. Randall Stroope

I am very excited to be back in Michigan, and I say that sincerely. We will read a lot of music, and share ideas. Things I discuss are based on practical experience and what I think “works.” Of course there are “many roads to Rome,” but teaching is exciting to me and I am always happy to talk about that.

I know you’re a very frequent flyer and present/guest conduct all over the U.S. and world. What keeps you going? How do you refill the well?

The writer, B.B. White said, “Always be on the look out for the presence of wonder.” I find wonder and energy everywhere I go. That translates into a deeper and stronger stream of personal energy, and I “ride that horse” as far as it can take me. Naturally, one has to love to travel, meet people, make quick adjustments with those unfamiliar with you and your style, and try and balance several aspects of a career. But, always look for magic. “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” (Dahl)

I’ve seen you in Michigan multiple times over the past few years. What do you love about Michigan?

What’s not to love? I have driven over the Upper Peninsula, stayed at Mackinac Island, spent a lot of time with my relatives in Battle Creek, and enjoyed the beauty of the State. And, of course, there have been many clinics and lovely musical times there. Most of all, the people are dedicated, passionate, skilled, and seem to be embracing the future with positivity and excitement. My impression.

In addition to being a renowned conductor, you’re a prominent choral composer and arranger. How do those two skills inform each other for you?

Conducting and composing form a circle, really. I am not sure when one begins and the other ends. The information input that a conductor receives from daily working with singers – colors, registration, balance, sonority – and all of the ingredients in the rehearsal room – is critical to a composer. Otherwise, it would be like a master chef who writes recipes for a living but is rarely in a kitchen. Awkward. I tuned pianos to get through college, and if I left it for a week or two for spring break or choir tour, tuning felt a bit clumsy the first time out until it settled back in – it requires daily input in the ear. In reverse, then, I really don’t know how much that composing informs conducting – I began writing when I was about 8 years old, and I don’t remember being without it. I do know many phenomenal conductors who don’t compose or arrange. All conductors have their flow, and should respect each other’s journey to get where they are today. My practical side says, however, that if one never encounters art outside their own classroom that their total view of art may be summed up in 60 chairs, 3 music stands, and a worn out podium.

There is always a big coalition of college students at our Fall Conference. If you were to pass anything on to yourself at that age, what would it be?

1. Maintain a child-like imagination.
2. Be a guardian of the art, not a pillager for one’s own elevation.
3. Know that nothing – NOTHING – is a substitute for hard work.
4. Be a servant first.
5. Never leave the workplace at the end of the day without a good reason to return the next.
6. Contribute something profound every day. Learn something profound twice a day.
7. Create an environment where students in your class seriously consider ow gratifying it would be to be a choral director.

If someone is on the fence about coming to the ACDA-Michigan Fall Conference, what would you say to convince them?

In the average teaching career of a choral director, one directly works with about 5,000 students. So realize two things – #1 – in a room of 200 directors, ONE MILLION students are directly affected because of their teaching. #2 – having read #1, don’t you think it is important to be the best one can be?

You can register for the ACDA-Michigan Fall Conference today by clicking here!