Professional Development Day Sessions and Presenters

See below for more information on the day’s sessions. Sessions are listed in alphabetical order. Information on the presenters can be found at the bottom of this page.

Session Descriptions:

Composition in the Choral Classroom - Evan Eliason, presenter:
Participants will be led through techniques for seamlessly incorporating composition activities that their students will truly enjoy! The goal of these activities is to not only motivate young composers, but also deepen all students awareness of musical elements in any music they sing. By reversing the reading process and transcribing what the student is hearing as they compose, they will also make great gains in their musical literacy, intonation, and tonal memory.

Effective Leadership: Conducting Mastery - Dr. David Means, presenter and clinician:
This workshop will focus on conducting technique as it relates to rehearsal technique. Attendees will be asked to participate in group conducting examples and 3-4 volunteers will be asked to conduct in a master-class type setting.  Note: This session will be offered two times.

Learning to Listen: Empowering the Individual and the Ensemble - Alyssa Cossey and Becky Marsh, co-presenters:
Imagine a rehearsal in which ensemble members can both self-assess and contribute to the ensemble using a tool they have had their entire lives: their ears.  Because “ear training” and “aural skills” often focus on isolated tasks outside the context of a choral rehearsal, singers may struggle to connect these tasks in the choral setting. Additionally, many directors are challenged with finding strategies that support singers in developing their abilities to listen to themselves, within sections, and across the ensemble. By reexamining the art of listening, directors can empower singers to be active participants in the choral music-making process. This session will explore various ways in which directors can design rehearsals to foster different types of listening required for successful ensemble singing.

Mind the Gap: Strategies and Tools for Middle School Singers - Alyssa Cossey, presenter:
Many teachers who find themselves in middle school settings feel they have a gap in their teacher training as middle school students embody the space between elementary general and high school choral classrooms.  However, middle school students are not simply an “in between” group of students; they are a unique population with their own strengths and needs. With the help of some core strategies and techniques, teachers of middle school singers can build classroom environments where singers feel safe and affirmed and can build their musicianship.  In this session, participants will explore research on the middle school brain and strategies for applying it in the choral classroom.  Attendees will also gain tools for voicing changed and unchanged voices, repertoire suggestions for both single-gender and mixed ensembles, recommended seating arrangements for effective rehearsals and performances, fun skill-building and motivational activities to use every day, and ideas for how to create a classroom that welcomes and celebrates all students and voice parts.   

Rehearsal Hacks: Practical Choral Rehearsal Techniques - Christopher Harris, presenter:
This session identifies engaging yet simple, practical, and immediately implementable approaches to choral rehearsal that help build independent, literate, responsive, thoughtful musicians. These highly effective rehearsal strategies have been employed by great conductors for decades. Many of these techniques that have proven successful have been borrowed by the presenter, and can be tweaked to fit the needs of any conductor at any level of musical instruction. The presenter will use members of the audience to demonstrate these rehearsal techniques in real time.  
*Relevant warm-up exercises
*Daily music literacy exercises
*Daily vocal technique
*Strategies and exercises for more effective rehearsal management and engagement

Taka...what?! Takadimi in the Choral Classroom - Becky Marsh, presenter:
In the past two decades, the Takadimi rhythm system has emerged as both a popular and effective tool for teaching young musicians how to internalize and read rhythms. As a beat-oriented system, Takadimi eliminates some of the challenges of traditional rhythm systems while building upon the best pedagogical practices for teaching rhythmic fluency, which makes it an effective tool for ensembles in a variety of contexts.  This participatory session serves as an introduction to the Takadimi system and techniques to incorporate it into every day instruction and rehearsals.  Together, we will explore many aspects of this teaching tool: What is Takadimi?  Why might Takadimi be a good fit for me and my singers?  How do I teach and use Takadimi?  Where do I go to find more information and resources as I begin to use Takadimi?  Because of its relatively new existence, Takadimi has not been a part of the formative music experiences or teacher training programs for many music educators and conductors.  The goal of this session is to equip its participants with a foundational understanding of the Takadimi rhythm system and to empower them to use it with music learners of all ages and skill levels.

Teaching for Transfer: Making every moment count - Dr. Robert Sinclair, presenter:
Why can’t they remember stuff from one rehearsal to the next?  Maybe it is that we have assumed that the fact that the group sounds better, each individual understands the concept or skill being taught.  We will explore teaching methods specifically designed to help students take skills or concepts from one moment in rehearsal and intentionally develop it in another.  We will discuss warm-up or technique time, skill building like sight reading or count singing, and look at ways to apply those skills into your daily rehearsal schedule. 

Presenter bios:

Alyssa Cossey is a doctoral student in choral conducting at Michigan State University, where she studies with Dr. David Rayl, Dr. Sandra Snow, and Dr. Jonathan Reed.  She received her MM in Choral Conducting at California State University, Fullerton and her BA at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Ms. Cossey was the choral director at San Dimas High School and Lone Hill Middle School in the Los Angeles area. In her eight-year tenure the Choral Department grew from 19 to more than 300 singers. Becky Marsh is a native of Irmo, South Carolina.  After earning her Bachelors degree in Music Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she served as the choral director at East Gaston High School in Mt. Holly, NC.  While there, Ms. Marsh’s ensembles consistently received superior ratings at the North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication, and the Chamber Choir was selected to participate in the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall.  Additionally, East Gaston’s male and female a cappella groups were invited regularly to perform at school and community events. 

Evan Eliason has been directing the choral program at Maryknoll High School for the past year here in Honolulu, prior to that, he directed choral programs at La Mirada High School in Los Angeles 4 years. In addition to his work as a conductor, Evan has created many compositions and arrangements for both his school and professional choral groups. In an effort to prepare his students for future musical endeavors, Evan has a keen interest in developing his student's knowledge of music theory, compositional ability, and use of music production software as will be demonstrated in the clinic session.

Christopher H. Harris, native of Fort Worth, Texas, is a conductor, singer, and choral composer.  He received his Master’s in Choral Conducting from Ithaca College and his Bachelor’s in Music Education from Texas Southern University.  Prior to entering graduate school, Harris taught in Houston, Texas. His groups received numerous sweepstakes awards at state UIL Concert and Sightreading Competition as well as honors to perform with the Bay Area Chorus and an invitation to perform as a demonstration group at the Texas Choral Directors Convention.

Becky Marsh is a native of Irmo, South Carolina.  After earning her Bachelors degree in Music Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she served as the choral director at East Gaston High School in Mt. Holly, NC.  While there, Ms. Marsh’s ensembles consistently received superior ratings at the North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication, and the Chamber Choir was selected to participate in the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall.  Additionally, East Gaston’s male and female a cappella groups were invited regularly to perform at school and community events. 

Dr. David Means is Director of Choral Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, TX and the conductor of the Valley Symphony Chorale. He is also organist at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in McAllen, and recently founded Rio Grande Valley’s premier chamber choir, the Valley Choral Artists. Dr. Means came to south Texas from Austin where he was Head Choral Director of the Grammy Award winning Fine Arts Academy of Westwood High School in the Round Rock ISD. Means has also taught at the University of Southern California, Christopher Newport University, Hill College and has more than twenty years’ experience successfully teaching public school choirs in Texas and California, including teaching high school and middle school choir in his home town of Cuero, TX. Dr. Means earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree in piano and voice from Howard Payne University (teachers included John Ratledge, Elem Ely, Linda Hibbs Dougherty, Alan Smith, Bettsy Dunn Curtis), a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Baylor University (teachers included Hugh Sanders, Robert Young, Karen Peeler, Joyce Farwell, Joyce Jones) and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music from the University of Southern California (teachers included William Dehning, James Vail, Morten Lauridsen, Bard Suverkrop, Hans Beer). He was awarded the prestigious USC Outstanding Choral Student Award and at that time was the first doctoral student in history to completely finish the degree in three years. Means is active as a guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician,   having taught, judged and performed across Texas, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Canada and Japan. In addition to TMEA and UIL adjudication, he also regularly leads workshops for music teachers and conducts workshops for singers. Last July he served on the prestigious jury of the Preveza International Choral Festival in Preveza, Greece, and next March he will adjudicate the popular American Classic Madrigal Festival in San Antonio, TX. Next season’s engagements include being a featured clinician for the TCDA summer convention in San Antonio and his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 2018.

Dr. Robert L. Sinclair serves as Director of Choral Activities for VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. His educational background includes three years at Luther College, where he sang in the Nordic Choir under the direction of Weston Noble.  After transferring to Sam Houston State University, he completed his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees with B. R. Henson.  In December of 2000, Sinclair completed a Ph. D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Music Education) at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he worked with Drs. David Rayl and Wendy Sims.  He is an active clinician for junior high and high school students across the nation and abroad including Japan, the Bahamas and Australia.  Dr. Sinclair has presented sessions for the Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Texas Music Educators Associations as well as the Central, Southern and Southwest divisions of the American Choral Directors Association. 

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