Student Activities

Being a Savvy Professional

by Dr. Josh Palkki

There’s an old adage that “there is no second chance to make a first impression.” Another old saying is that you should always be writing your letter of recommendation by your actions. In the choral education profession, both are true!! The choral world is surprisingly small and many people know one another. Therefore, it’s imperative that you are always acting as a savvy professional.

You may be thinking, “but I’m just a college student” or, “it can’t be that big of a deal to make a few small mistakes.” I’d argue that nothing could be further from the truth. Here a few handy tips for being the best professional you can be:

  • Be overly professional in your written communication. Write emails in a formal manner, including a formal greeting (e.g., “Dear Dr. Istad”). If you’re not sure if someone should be addressed as Mr., Ms., or Dr., do some research!
  • Dress for success… especially at professional development events. Build your professional wardrobe so that when you’re observing in schools and attending conferences you look your best (and yes, even if you see college professors in jeans, you might consider wearing something much more formal).
  • Remember the “OTB” rule. This is one I’ve borrowed from my colleague Prof. Christine Guter, who wrote:
    • “Never, ever, never say ANYTHING demeaning or derogatory about anything or anyone (person, place, or group) the person you are slamming could be the son of the woman sitting next to you the group’s director could be in the bathroom stall one over from you the very person you are insulting could be in the same restaurant “OTB” means “on the bus” – that means only when we are completely out of the city and on the way home can you have your freedom of speech back. If you hear someone from our group saying something that fits in this category, politely remind them by saying “OTB”.”

Use these tips to help you be successful! If you need any help or have questions, please let me know!


Professional Engagement: Your Responsibility (yes, now!)

by Dr. Josh Palkki

You’re a busy college student. You’re juggling classes, private lessons, part-time jobs, and a personal life. I remember how busy I was as an undergraduate student! Luckily I had professors who basically forced me to start attending professional conferences. Music education classes were canceled on the days of our state music education conference and we had required professional development hours for each of our methods courses. And I’ve never looked back.

You may think “I don’t have enough money” or “I can’t miss class.” These are valid concerns, certainly. I’ll suggest some solutions to these concerns below.

Here are some reasons that attending professional conferences is important for you NOW:

  • Networking. You are likely looking for a student teaching placement and you’re definitely looking for a job! The old adage “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” has been quite true for myself and most choral educators I know.
  • Inspiration. Choral music education is a tough business. Even as an undergraduate student, you may be feeling a little bit burned out or stressed out. Conferences are a great place to get inspired and enriched.
  • Professional Development. This is something you need for your entire You will be a lifelong member of the CCDA/ACDA community, and it’s great to get in the habit of attending conferences now.

CCDA and ACDA will be part of your teaching career as long as you’re in the classroom. You will turn to these organizations for honor choir events, professional development, inspiration, and connection. ACDA and CASMEC conferences are powerful—amazingly fun, moving, and informative. You will want to attend these!

Some workarounds for potential pitfalls:

  • “I don’t have enough money.” Can you find funding at your school? I know that many CSU campuses offer travel grants through Associated Student organizations. Several of our ACDA Student Chapters offer financial support for conference travel. You also may be able to volunteer and get FREE registration (this is a possibility for the Western Division Conference in Pasadena—email me for more info!). Also, student registration is significantly cheaper than full registration.
  • “I can’t miss class.” Can you present this to your professors as a vital professional development opportunity? Approach your music education professors and/or student chapter advisor and see if they can help you reach out to your other professors.
  • “I won’t know anybody.” Choral directors, in general, are welcoming folks! I guarantee you that if you start introducing yourself to folks, you’ll make connections (if you’re having trouble, come find me and I will help you!).

Professional organizations and professional development will be a part of your life for a very long time. Why not jump in and get started now?! I’ll see you in San José and Pasadena!

Check out the Facebook group that is linking student chapters nationwide. Then visit the Choralnet Student Forum to share and receive wonderful information and insight from your colleagues.

New what?  …The New National Music Standards

by Dr. Christopher Peterson

When it comes to professional organizations, I always tell my students to join two organizations that will help them grow and stay connected to the field of music education. I feel fortunate to have received this advice from my teachers and mentors many years ago. Now, I can’t imagine how my teaching career would have turned out without following that advice. Being an active member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) has positively influenced my professional and personal life. I enjoy being connected to my colleagues (by attending conferences and other special events), learning about new research, reading about teaching strategies, and staying current by reading the periodicals, websites, and blogs published by these two fantastic organizations. This fall I learned about the new Core Music Standards, an example of how these organizations have helped me to stay current. I knew that this was a project in the making, but my initial reaction was…new what?

The new standards were presented on the NAfME website and in an article in the Music Educators Journal (MEJ), “The New National Standards for Music Education” by Shuler, Norgaard and Blakeslee. Officially released to the public on June of 2014 by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, the new standards replaced the ones published 20 years ago in 1994. In the MEJ article, the authors offer a great overview of the new standards and a chart comparing the 1994 standards and the new ones. They explain the focus of the new standards saying; “the new standards are designed to help students develop artistic literacy… such literacy includes but extends beyond the ability to read and write notation”. The NCCA standards define music literacy as the ability to convey musical ideas and understand musical ideas conveyed by others (Shuler, Norgaard and Blakeslee, 2014). For that reason, the standards emphasize three artistic processes: creating, performing, and responding / connecting.

For each of these artistic processes, the new standards specify Enduring Understandings, which are the “big ideas” that are essential to the field. Paired with each Enduring Understanding there is an Essential Question, meant to help the student uncover the above-mentioned Enduring Understandings (Shuler, Norgaard and Blakeslee, 2014). The standards also provide descriptions for different levels of mastery on each of the Essential Understandings; novice, intermediate, proficient, accomplished and advanced. Within the three artistic processes, there are eleven anchor standards, and thirteen process components.

The NCCAS standards offer a great framework to design curriculum, and are a great tool to continue to improve music education in our schools. Certainly, there is a lot more to the new standards than what I just mentioned here. However, the important point is that being part of our professional organizations allows us to connect not only to one another but also to the newest developments and research in our field to help us make informed curricular decisions. If you would like to know more about the new standards, and many other relevant news join or renew your memberships and take advantage of all the great things your professional organizations have to offer.

Helpful websites:


Coming Events…

Summer Conference at ECCO will take place from July 26-29, 2015 and this is a must! Dr. Edith Copley will be the headliner. If you are interested in applying for a student scholarship, an application form is available by clicking here).


Thou Shalt Not Steal!… It Is Part of the Trade

by Dr. Christopher Peterson.

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will”. (Vernon Howard) When it comes to teaching, it is ok to steal (borrow). Some of the people that we have learned about in our method classes were really good at doing that. A great example of this is, Hungarian composer and educator Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967). He researched, adopted, and implemented best practices in music education from different parts of the world. Kodály learned and used the philosophical underpinnings from Pestalozzi, the Galin-Paris-Chevé method (rhythmic syllables), Curwen Tonic-Solfa method (invented by Sarah Glover), and by doing so helped develop a sequential approach for teaching music, that improved music literacy in Hungary. Well, in all fairness, Kodály’s long time friend and colleague Jenö Adám made great contributions to this teaching approach as well. You see, we should all do the same (a little help from our friends can go a long way).

From who should you steal (learn)? Everyone has something to offer. Yes, your professors should be on your list. However, consider spending time observing experienced and effective teachers, currently in the trenches. Teachers with great classroom management, sequential approach to teaching musicianship, and commitment to artistry are a great resource. More often than not, they will share with you the things that work for them, or their “bag of tricks”. Your peers have rich and diverse musical backgrounds; learn from them. Moreover, go to concerts, look for great recordings, and watch good performances on Youtube.

Good places to steal from? While you are pursuing your studies, and once you have graduated, your professional organizations can supplement your education and assist you in the process of becoming an effective educator. The National Association for Music Education, the American Choral Directors Association, the Organization of American Kodály Educators, just to name a few, are excellent organizations with great resources. Join at least two of them, visit their websites frequently, and read their periodicals. And of course, attend conventions and day events as often as you can. For example, CCDA will offer its Fall Regional Convention on Saturday, September13, 2014, I hope to see you there and have a chance to meet you (it is not very expensive and it is just one day). Our Summer Conference at ECCO will take place from July 26-29, 2015 and this is a must! Dr. Edith Copley will be the headliner, and I promise you it will be a treat. Every year we offer scholarships for the summer convention to full-time college students completing their undergraduate degree. This could be a great steal (opportunity), make sure that you apply! In addition, the Choral Leadership Academy will be back at the California All-State Music Education Conference in Fresno from February 19-22, 2015. The CLA is for high school and college students that want to pursue a career in choral music education. Another important event is the National ACDA Conference taking place in Kansas City in 2019.

So, plan now! there are so many opportunities throughout this school year to continue “stealing” and developing the habits that will bring you closer to be the professional that you want to be. Always put yourself in a position that you could steal from others, but always remember to give credit and say thank you! Keep stealing!



Student ACDA Chapters