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Hi, guys - I'm back

HC/DC was super, super, super -- a fantastic experience!   Perhaps, for those lucky enough to go many times, it becomes possible to say "199x" was the best because...", but for me, Director's college was so good that it is almost inexpressible. I learned more in a week than I'd ever have learned had I not gone, and it set me on the path to learn a great deal more. Perhaps I could refer you to some professional promo materials for a more accurate description, but, of course, y'all are among those who know these things.

8:30-10 General HC/DC Session (G Lyne, et al).
10-12 Directing I (Bill Biffle).
12-1 DC General Session (Bill Rashleigh, et al).
1-2 Lunch
2-4 Sound Production (Bob Mucha)
4-5 Theory III (Tom Parker)
5-6 Director's General Session II (Rashleigh/Lyne et al)
6-7 Supper
7-8 Leadership (Massey) or Performance (Ev Nau)
8-10 HC/DC General Session
And one night there Joe Liles held a gospel sing from 10-11.

Wed and Sat the schedule varied just a bit, but was no easier. The biggest challenge was the matter of pace. By Tues night I'd almost killed myself, and learned that the most important principle was to go straight to bed (after ice cream and some singing, of course), and to sleep to the very last minute. The only thing I missed was part of one DC General Session the first day, because I accidentally went to lunch at 12, instead of 1.

I arrived and hauled my suitcase up the stairs to DC registration and met... (lordy, there are too many big names to go on like this. Did you see the Harmonet msg re. "Reflections on HC/DC" by Keri somebody? She was in my directing class, along with other rank beginners like Bob Calderon and 3-4 music educators-- Ha. Anyway, her msg did a super job of name dropping and noting big highlights. Suffice it to say that wherever she was, I was.) Back to registration: Reed Sampson gave me a book bag with all my info in it. Then Greg Lyne shook my hand, put a theory test in my hand and told me where to go to take it.   A good thing I didn't know about that in advance or I'd have been paranoid, but it turned out to be one of my two little victories. I tested out of Theory I and Theory II (which would have been pretty boring basics) and got to start with some really interesting stuff in Theory III. (My other little victory was qualifying for AHSOW - I'm in! -yellow shirt and all. Of course, that happened late on Monday night, and was part of why Tuesday was such a bear.)

Guys, there were just too many highlights to begin. The really big three for me were 1) The general directors sessions with Rashleigh and Lyne, 2) Bill's Directing course, and 3) Mucha's Sound Production class. I was a pig at the trough of knowledge - and I'm suffering now with indigestion caused by information overload. I fear it will slip away before I can get it properly organized and incorporated into behaviors that will benefit the chorus. There's a subtle sadism at work here. It's not really fair to have Lyne and Biffle etc as goals before you can even properly control your left hand! And, what Bill was able to do with a chorus compose exclusively of chorus directors is hardly conceivable in a small struggling chorus with a beginning director.

Here's an example, from Bob Mucha's class: We arrived at his class the first day to find an unfamiliar new tag on the black board. He said "I want you to look at this tag and visualize your part, but don't sing or even hum it. You need to be able to visualize the music on the page. I'll give you a minute, then we'll blow the pitch and see how it goes." - Pitch blown, the first chord was dead on and we sang the notes almost perfectly the first time. And by the time he got through tweaking, it was a glorious sound. What a chorus to be part of!

The important thing, of course, is that I really did come away with the tools necessary to make major progress as a director. The big challenge ahead is to internalize all that info and put it into practice. I'm certainly not a natural talent at this, so we'll just have to see how it goes. The single most important lesson to me was the importance of a positive, supportive style of directing rehearsals, and the clear picture in my mind of Greg Lyne in action. What a fantistic role model. I may never become a decent director, but at least I can try to be a nice guy while I work on it. If I don't get impatient with the chorus, maybe they won't get impatient with me.

I asked one of my classmates, an experienced choral director new to barbershop and recently hired to direct a medium sized chorus (forget where) for his reactions to the experience. He said "I still have real problems with my own chorus, but what I have learned is that this is a really impressive organization to be part of."   Another music educator in our class, also brand new to barbershop, told me that barbershop took ensemble singing to a higher level than he'd known was possible - that the courses in Directors College were at a higher level and better taught than in his Master's program. Since barbershop is almost the only musical training I've had, that made me feel real good!

One final point. The experience really convinced me that SPEBSQSA has a good handle on the KIBBER question. There's a super balance of preserving and perfecting pure barbershop while at the same embracing all that we wish to do along with it in pursuit of quality entertainment packages.

Well, I could go on for a long, long time - but you probably get the point. Charlie, Steve, I just want to say thanks for all the work you and all those other district and Society officers, coaches, and judges have done to make this all possible. Whatever the debate may be between KIBers and progressives, there's simply nothing to compare to the musical experience made possible through SPEBSQSA. It's a hell of an organization.



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