Published: Jan. 19, 2016 By


Students from the university's ACDA chapter sing carols with residents at Presbyterian Manor in Boulder.

One of the most universally enjoyed and accessible forms of musical expression is singing. It brings joy, camaraderie and even stress relief without the cost of an instrument. That’s why College of Music students like Caroline Vickstrom are working hard to get more people involved in choir.

“We spend so much time as students in the practice room alone, or in the library,” she says. “With choir, you get to make music with other people. It’s nice to make that connection.”

Vickstrom is president of the University of Colorado Boulder chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, or ACDA. The group of singers—mostly choral music education majors—meets once a month for professional development and networking. But Vickstrom says the group is about more than this unique opportunity for career building.

“It’s a valuable experience to be able to talk to grad students about what they’ve learned, but we’re also getting out into the community and singing for people of different backgrounds and different generations,” she explains.

That outreach component is part of a new push by ACDA to be more involved in the community. And in a place like Boulder, faculty advisor Andrea Ramsey says the atmosphere couldn’t be more encouraging.

“The arts are so supported here,” she says. “When we meet every month, we have local high school and middle school choir teachers come talk to our students and share their experiences, and they’re always happy to do it.”

Ramsey, Associate Director of Choral Studies at the College of Music, stepped up to fill the faculty advisor position for ACDA this fall. She says she was involved in ACDA as a student herself, and wanted to do what she could to promote the organization that did so much for her.

What pleased Ramsey was how little guidance her officers have needed. “Once we set up a solid structure with our meetings, they were really able to take the format and run with it. They’re very active in recruiting and making the meetings better, and I’m proud of our leadership.”

In addition to regular meetings, ACDA this year took its first step toward community involvement at the Presbyterian Manor senior community in Boulder.

“Someone from Presbyterian Manor actually came in to audition for a choir, and then we started the conversation about having our choral students visit and sing along with the residents there,” Ramsey explains.

“They had a group that met once a week called the Happy Harmonies, so we paired our group up with theirs.”

Vickstrom, a double major in vocal performance and choral music education, says the experience was one she’ll remember as she begins her career.

“It was really good to make that intergenerational connection,” Vickstrom says. “Some of the women were telling me about choir when they were in school, and what’s changed. They were really talented musicians.

“Afterward one of our grad students told me the visit reminded her why she does what she does. It made her day and their day better, and made me feel good too.”

A small group of students sang at Presbyterian Manor in November and plans to return.

The almost imperceptible way music brings people like the ACDA students and music lovers at Presbyterian Manor together, even for an afternoon, gets to the heart of one of Ramsey’s other goals for ACDA: involving more students.

“There are only a handful of things you can do your whole life, and singing is one of them,” she says. “Singing in a choir is a powerful way to come together. You’re a unique thread in a big quilt of sound. And the best part is, there’s a choir for everyone at CU.”

“It doesn’t matter what major you are. You can always be in choir,” Vickstrom adds.

The CU-Boulder American Choral Directors Association chapter meets again Thursday, Jan. 21, in Waltz Music Library. Upcoming guests for their meetings include Janice Vlachos of Fairview High School (Feb. 18) and Emily Crile, Associate Director of the Colorado Children’s Chorale (March 17). Find more information at the group’s website.