NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel College Concert Choir is no stranger to statewide choral showcases in the form of the Kansas Music Educators Association annual meeting. This year, the choir has stepped up a notch.
The 60-voice choir, under the direction of William Eash, will perform March 21, 2014, in Little Rock, Ark., for the Southwestern Division convention of the American Choral Directors Association.
The Bethel College Concert Choir was one of 18 choirs selected to perform at the convention and one of only five traditional college choirs.
“There is one collegiate jazz choir,” Eash said, “and the remainder are high school choirs, community choirs, women’s choirs and men’s choirs.”
ACDA is the umbrella organization for all choir directors across the country. The SWACDA territory includes Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
“ACDA member directors cover all aspects of the choral spectrum, from elementary school, middle school, high school and college to community and church music,” Eash said.
“Each year, the organization gathers to hear the most recent research on singing, discover new music, listen to choirs and network with other choral directors. In preparation for these events, any choir director who is a member of ACDA may submit recordings to audition their choir for the performance aspect of the convention.”
The auditions are blind auditions – selected professionals from within ACDA listen to unlabeled CDs.
“You are required to submit a recording that contains one selection from each of the previous three years of choral singing,” Eash said. “This ensures that there is a record of excellence in the choral program.
“Convention planners look to select choirs representing a broad spectrum of literature within high school, elementary, jazz, church and collegiate programs. This year is the divisional convention that features choirs from the SWACDA. Next year is a national convention.”
Bethel President Perry D. White, who has masters and doctoral degrees in choral conducting and has taught vocal music and led choirs at the middle school, high school and college level, is still an active member of ACDA and “will likely remain so into retirement age,” he said. “I have attended [ACDA conventions] throughout my career as a choral director and as many as I could after moving into administrative work. It is the most renowned choral organization in the world.
“It is truly exciting to have your group selected and one of the highest honors a music program can receive,” White continued. “As Bill pointed out, the audience is comprised of choral directors from every level. As such, they are the most critical audience a group can perform for, but also the most influential when it comes to building a reputation and recruiting base.
“We are so pleased for Bill, the program and our students. What a tremendous accomplishment.”
Bethel’s choral program “is consistently strong enough to compete with the large state institutions in Kansas,” Eash added, “so our application to KMEA is often favorably reviewed. We are only allowed to apply every other year. In the past eight years, our applications have always been rewarded with an invitation.
“Given the size of the territory of SWACDA and the number of institutions in the area,” he continued, “it is significant that this small college was offered an invitation.
“In fact, I have been attending these conventions for my entire professional career and I do not recall a choir from a college of 500 ever performing on a national or divisional stage. This year, the college choirs represent student populations ranging from 500 to 3,200 students, with one representing a campus of 18,000.”
Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.