At a recent ACDA state meeting, our president, Richard Ingram, had us break into small groups and discuss the future of our state chapter and some visions we have. When it came around to me, I shared with the group how ACDA had impacted me in the last 20 years since I first became part of this amazing organization. Someone said "You need to write that for Bella Voce!" So here it is...
During my final semester at Wayne State University, Dennis Tini, our director of choral activities, encouraged us to form a student chapter. Being the sucker that I was (am? LOL) I agreed to be president. We set out to sign up members and made the decision to fly to Phoenix for the upcoming national convention. After all, who wouldn’t want warm weather in the middle of February?!
A few months later, we were whisked off to sunny Arizona and dropped our bags in the room to explore downtown Phoenix. The shopper that I am, my first destination was the exhibits where I was stunned at how much there was for the choral musician.
While browsing the aisles, I ran into our glee club director, Janice Fulbright, who had also traveled with us to Arizona, and was a former singer with Robert Shaw in Atlanta. She grabbed me by the arm and said "Come here…". The next thing I knew, I was shaking hands with Roger Wagner, who was in his last years of life, and in a wheelchair. He was gracious to me, asking what I was studying and what my future plans were. During the next few hours, I must have walked around with a smile plastered on my face. How could anyone like Roger Wagner have any interest in what an undergraduate was doing?
During my elementary years, I was totally focused on the organ, having started studying at the age of 7. But that totally changed when I was placed in choir at Interlochen. The feeling intensified when I began my undergraduate degree with the influences of Harry Langsford, Malcolm Johns, Dennis Tini, and many others who would conduct groups at WSU. Having the chance to spend 4 days totally immersed in the choral art was a dream come true back in that winter of 1991. From the Tapiola Children’s Choir, the exhibits, the camaraderie of my fellow students, to sitting front and center (complete with score!) watching Helmut Rilling put his singers and instrumentalists through the rigorous Bach B minor mass, to hearing Robert Shaw deliver one of his final speeches in public, this convention started to form me into the musician I am today.
To say that I’m grateful for ACDA is an understatement. What this organization can do for everyone is only limited by the imagination of its membership. Your Michigan leadership is here to serve you, our fellow colleagues. As our national leadership continues to lead us speedily into the 21st century, let us all remember that it’s up to each individual on every level, whether rural church musicians, urban college faculty, or music conservatory professors, to spread the "gospel" of ACDA. Share your testimony with a colleague who isn’t a member and encourage them to be part of our future. Can I get a witness!?
Craig Scott Symons has been Director of Music and Organist at First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak since 1995, and teaches vocal music for Kensington Hall, a middle school for boys at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills. A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy, he holds a BM degree from Wayne State University, and MM and DMA degrees from the University of Michigan.