Summer Conference at ECCO 2017

Join us for our annual Summer Conference at ECCO July 23-26, 2017. ECCO is the Evergreen Conference Center Oakhurst, located between Yosemite National Park and the picturesque town of Oakhurst. Click here for maps or directions.

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GRAMMY® Award winning conductor Jerry Blackstone is director of Choirs and chair of the Conducting Department at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance where he conducts the Chamber Choir, teaches conducting at the graduate level, and administers a choral program of eleven choirs. In February 2006, he received two GRAMMY® Awards (“Best Choral Performance” and “Best Classical Album”) as chorusmaster for the critically acclaimed Naxos recording of William Bolcom’s monumental Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The recent Naxos recording of Milhaud’s L’Orestie d’Eschyle, on which Blackstone served as chorusmaster, was nominated for a 2015 GRAMMY® Award (“Best Opera Recording”). In 2006, the Chamber Choir performed by special invitation at the inaugural convention in San Antonio of the National Collegiate Choral Organization and, in 2003, the Chamber Choir presented three enthusiastically received performances in New York City at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). For significant contributions to choral music in the state of Michigan, he received the 2006 Maynard Klein Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACDA-Michigan chapter.

From 2003-2015, Blackstone served as conductor and music director of the University Musical Society (UMS) Choral Union, a large community/university chorus that frequently appears with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Ann Arbor Symphony and presents yearly performances of Handel’s Messiah and other major works for chorus and orchestra. In March 2008, he conducted the UMS Choral Union and the DSO in a special performance of the Bach, St. Matthew Passion. Choirs prepared by Blackstone have appeared under the batons of Valery Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Leonard Slatkin, Hans Graf, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Adams, Helmuth Rilling, James Conlon, Nicholas McGegan, Peter Oundjian, and Yitzak Perlman.

Blackstone is considered one of the country’s leading conducting teachers, and his students have been first place award winners and finalists in both the graduate and undergraduate divisions of ACDA’s biennial National Choral Conducting Awards competition.

Blackstone has appeared as festival guest conductor and workshop presenter in thirty states as well as New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Recent appearances include festivals and conference presentations in Australia, New Zealand, China, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Utah, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Michigan.

GIA Publications recently released his 2016 rehearsal techniques video, Did you hear that? which deals with the conductor’s decision-making process during rehearsal. Santa Barbara Music Publishing distributes Blackstone’s acclaimed educational video, Working with Male Voices and publishes the Jerry Blackstone Choral Series, a set of choral publications that presents works by several composers in a variety of musical styles.

Prior to coming to the University of Michigan in 1988, Professor Blackstone served on the music faculties of Phillips University in Oklahoma, Westmont College in California, and Huntington University in Indiana. He holds degrees from the University of Southern California, Indiana University, and Wheaton College.


Additional Highlights of the Conference:

Vespers – an ecumenical reading session of sacred music in the context of an evening service. Christopher Gravis, Minister of Music and Arts at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach; Director of Choral Activities – CSU Los Angeles

High School Nuts ‘n’ Bolts – Discussion topics will include: starting a voice lesson program in your school, fundraising, organizing a donor program, setting up Singing Valentine Grams, team building philosophies/strategies, and Recruiting from Within (building up your best students and getting them ready to be the next leaders of your choir.) Eric Graham, Choral/Vocal Music Director – Marina High School

Middle School Nuts ‘n’ Bolts – Tried and true repertoire, growing a program, utilizing technology in class, and the importance of building a community. Angelina Fitzhugh, J.L. Stanford Middle School

Elementary Nuts ‘n’ Bolts – Engaging Repertoire, Interactive Rehearsals, Musical Skill-Building Activiites. Beth Klemm, Artistic Director Central Coast Children’s Choir; Choral Director Atascadero Unified School District

Community Choir Round Table – Discussion, ideas, and techniques to inspire you. Facilitated by Kristina Nakagawa, Artistic Director of Resounding Achord

Utilizing Latin American repertory to teach developing choirs – In this session Dr. Angel M. Vázquez-Ramos will share strategies on how to teach and incorporate Latin American choral repertory in the curriculum for developing choirs. Dr. Angel M.Vázquez-Ramos, Director of Choral & Vocal Studies – CSU Bakersfield

Score Study, What? –  Do you ever feel like you never have time to do your score study? Designed for Elementary, Middle and High School teachers, this session will take a look at easy steps you can take with only 10 minutes in your schedule. These steps will assist in classroom management, better singing, emotional connection to text and give you some extra time in your day so that you can do all the other things that are being asked of you.  Lori Marie Rios, College of the Canyons

Baroque Repertoire for all Voices – We will explore choral and solo vocal repertoire from the Baroque that is easily teachable and accessible to singers of all levels. Dr. John Russell, Palomar College; San Diego Master Chorale

Conducting Class & Masterclass – brush up on your technique and learn a few new tricks to communicate more concisely with your conducting gesture. Both a Conducting class and Masterclass are available at ECCO at no additional cost. Each is designed to give choral conductors the opportunity to work with master teacher and coach/mentor on skills to help them meet challenges beyond their university training. The conducting class, led by Dr. Buddy James, includes coaching with Dr. James and podium time in a smaller classroom situation. Conductors for the conducting class will be able to sign up at the registration table when they arrive for the conference. The Masterclass features coaching with Dr. Jerry Blackstone, the conference headlining speaker, and includes public podium time during one of the conference plenary sessions. Three conductors will be selected via application for this masterclass. Conductors interested in participating in the 2017 ECCO masterclass should submit this application and the required supplemental materials on or before June 20, 2017.

Voice Class – take home some good pedagogy and techniques for helping your choir sound their best!

“Root” BEERCHOIR – Have you ever thought about bringing choral singing to the public instead of making the audience come to you? Join us for this special social hour session to share in a beverage (or two!) while singing some classing drinking songs. See how opportunities like a tribe-style or activity-based choir (beer, yoga, coffee, etc.) can be powerful networking tool, while providing an opportunity for community members outside of your organization to participate in choral music. Kristina Nakagawa, Artistic Director of Resounding Achord

Choral Chestnuts – A reading session of tried and true “chestnuts” presented by our Howard Swan award recipient.

Improve your improv – Don’t know where to start?? Looking for new and creative ways to build confidence in your singers while training their ears and building literacy?? This session, specifically designed for elementary and middle school teachers (but open to all) will add some new tools to your belt and give both you and your students the confidence to scat sing. Motive, repetition, sequence, and more!! Tamara Stephens, Music Director-Phillips Brooks School

Singing in the Lion’s Mouth: Programming Holocaust-Related Music – Nick Strimple, Professor of Choral and Sacred Music, USC Thornton School of Music.

THE REHEARSAL –LA Répétition or Die Probe? – Reflecting on 57 years of rehearsing choirs and preparing for performances, John Alexander discusses the evolution of his ideas regarding conducting an efficient, educationally productive , and artistically satisfying  rehearsal. Participants for  the session should bring their  music  from the Sunday evening Chestnuts session

Plug in, Log in,….TEACH! Finding Efficiency & Success with Technology – We will explore lots of various uses of technology, ranging from the most useful apps, Google classroom, and several “tech toys” that will change the environment of your rehearsal. Students will become more engaged, your life will become easier, and learning will be taken to new heights.   This session will provide something for everyone, from the biggest techie to those who are hesitant to venture from the “old school.”   Bring your ideas for a time of sharing at the end.Kevin Tison, Director of Vocal Music – Fountain Valley High School