David Mennicke - All State ACDA of MN Presentation

David Mennicke, Concordia University, St. Paul

ACDA of Minnesota
Summer Dialogue 2009

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A Place at the Banquet Table:

Vocal, Physical, Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual Placement

in the Choir Family--


  1. Vocal Placement (What. . .)
  1. Body alignment
  2. Low breath, open throat, palate as trap door, temple
  3. “Parachutes”
  4. Long vowel-short consonant (rock skipping)
  1. Physical Placement (Where. . .)
  1. Spacing (physics of sound--30 inches apart for balanced hearing; sound energy drops 6 db 1st ft, then drops 6db every doubled distance)
  1. Mixed formation for:
  1. Max. volume (λ apart—low C multiples of ca.18 ft; high C, multiples of ca.15 inches)
  2. Vocal Freedom
  3. Musical independence
  4. Different kind of listening
  5. “Blend” if listen and 1.d.
  6. “Belonging” if success is set up
  1. Room acoustics vary the physics tremendously—adjust to what works!
  1. Intellectual Placement (When. . .)
  1. Literature—varied in style, place, text, time—choose so it’s worth their time (and yours)!
  2. Musical skills to develop sequentially (sol-fa, tuning, count-singing in healthy servings!)
  3. All sense internal rhythmic subdivision—provides common heartbeat, understanding

(not control or being a “puppetmaster”)—the musical timeline and life pulse—from which

we urge ahead or ease off,  but still gives us all a common baseline. Make subdivision clear in your gesture so as to invite singers into the joy of the phrase—like leading in dance.

  1. Social Placement (Who. . .)
  1. Choir as family—places at the table to fill
  1. Director as guide, parent not pal, sets and models expectations, and also listens!
  2. Older “siblings” lead
  3. Younger follow, provide new energy
  1. Develop opportunities for “kids” to take on responsibility,

            contribute to expectations, decision-making

  1. (Healthy) family rituals, patterns, traditions
  1. Spiritual Placement (Why. . .)
  1. Choir singing as expression--feelings
  2. Choir singing as community/unity—common purpose (Concordia=with one heart)
  3. Choir singing as meaning—music and texts of substance, covering range of life experience. Arrange programs around themes, ideas, in shared relationship at the table.

Lay out expectations, assume the best, and 90% of the time, we will receive the best.

Live in joy, not fear.     Give blessing, not curse.

Choose life, not death.     Love, not hate.

Love is the miracle at the core of the best of all existence—from Harry Potter to West Side Story, from Moses to Christ, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love requires risk, vulnerability; we “woo” our singers into a relationship of full of love and life.

Maurice Skones: “The only unforgivable sin as an artist, or as a human being for that matter, is to believe that you have it all figured out.”

August Mennicke: "People will forgive their pastor any number of shortcomings, as long as they know that the pastor loves them, and trusts them.”