Providing Peak Experiences
by Kirk Aamot, President, MT ACDA

As music teachers we look for “peak experiences” that will allow our students to experience art in a new and inspirational way. This may mean encouraging them to audition for All-State so they can work with a guest conductor. It may mean taking our choirs on tours so they can sing in venues that will inform or otherwise enhance their performances. Or we might join with other choirs in our area so our students can share the music-making experience as part of a larger group.

As teachers, one peak experience we enjoy is attending state, divisional and national conferences. These conferences are great opportunities to learn from one another. Every fall I remind my choral methods students that they are only beginning a life-long process of learning how to teach music and that being active members of Nafme and ACDA are wonderful ways to continue that learning process.

Last October the Montana Choral Directors Association voted to send two teachers from our state, Kaytee Ambrozich and Katie Rowold, to the Northwest Division ACDA Conference. They received a complimentary ACDA membership and had their conference expenses paid by our state organization. Through this initiative, MCDA provided them with a “peak experience,” one that will encourage and equip them to continue to inspire their students. In this edition of Cadenza, Kaytee and Katie wanted to thank the members of MCDA for this opportunity and share a little of what they learned.

“My name is Kaytee Ambrozich and I am the K-12 music teacher in the Seeley Lake, Montana area. I would like to thank ACDA for the opportunity to attend the Northwest conference. The experience was extremely valuable for my professional development. As an educator, I walked away from the conference with many techniques and ideas for my choir (and band) classes.

The sessions with Geoffrey Boers about mirror neurons has greatly benefitted my teaching style. Before, I often struggled to communicate with my students how singing should feel. When implementing the use of mirror neurons by having my students mirror the physical motions I was making, the techniques I wanted to explain were immediately understood. I have observed an increase in musical technique and proficiency, but most importantly, empathy within my choir.

As a newer member of the Northwest area of the country, attending the conference was a perfect way to see just how vibrant music education is in the Northwest. Each Honor Choir demonstrated superior musicality and passion throughout their performances and each session I attended was full of dedicated music educators with many tips and tricks they were willing to share with me. Again, I would like to thank ACDA for the wonderful opportunity to attend the Northwest conference.”

“Greetings, fellow music educators! My name is Katie Rowold. I taught 6 - 12 choir in beautiful Polson, MT this past academic year. Next year, I will teach 5 – 8 choir. I am grateful for this opportunity to thank the MCDA for sending me to the Northwest Division ACDA Conference in Seattle, and to highlight my ‘peak experiences!’

Attending this conference provided several opportunities for personal and professional growth. In Polson, we were fortunate enough to have two of our PHS choir members (Russell Matt and Olivia Hewston) selected to perform with the NW ACDA choirs. I was delighted to be able to travel with them and provide additional support and encouragement. The sessions available at the conference, particularly the VOCES8 Method, led by Paul Smith, and Troy Bashor’s Percussion Techniques for the Choral Classroom, included many ideas that I was able to apply to my program immediately upon returning to Polson. Finally, attending the Northwest Division ACDA Conference provided the best opportunity to fellowship, glean ideas, share experiences, and forge highly valuable relationships with choral colleagues in our area.”

We, like our students, can benefit from “peak experiences.” Often they help motivate and equip us to continue serving our students. Hopefully, MCDA will continue to be able to provide similar experiences for new teachers in our state for years to come.