Ontario District Leadership Academy 2014

This Year two of our members obtained scholarships from Sing Canada to attend the Ontario district Leadership Academy, and another member was a presenter there. Here are their stories:

Rob Jackson

Leadership Academy from the ‘Joe Barbershop’ viewpoint.

The leadership academy, formerly known as ‘C.O.T. School’ was being run under a new format this year and I had the privilege of attending with thanks to the Sing Canada Scholarship.

Of course, this being something new and being tried for the first time there were a few hitches and missed cues but in spite of this the weekend went off really well for me.

After the first general session we broke up into our respective groups. I waved goodbye to Joy as she headed off for the director’s sessions and I headed off to a session titled Artistic and Creative Choreography which was presented by Pat Brown. (Pat, as you may recall, coached NGH on two or three occasions and was the MC for one of our shows).

Pat talked about the development of the MC and the relationship to the show. He explained how the show had to keep moving, to avoid dead spots in order to keep the audience in the moment.

Pat went on to tell us about where in the chorus to place the strong singers and the less strong singers as well as how to consider the members with problems in executing the moves. (older members with arthritis for example).

We discussed our own limitations in setting up a show and producing good choreography. When to change or delete a move usually tends to be a difficult decision. Pat also stressed the importance of knowing our strengths, our members and our audience.

There was discussion of avoiding complicated lighting and sound cues. Quite often the first time we see the performance venue is the day of the show and it will be different from the rehearsal venue. Pat made a few suggestions on how to prepare the chorus for these differences. One was to sing the song with our ears covered so we couldn’t hear the rest of the chorus as well. This, he told us, would prepare us for a ‘dead’ stage where often you couldn’t even hear your own voice. It helps when you trust you are singing correctly.

The second session I attended was presented by Barry Towner and dealt with the contest judging arrangement.

Barry explained the process which a judge goes through from being a candidate to being a certified judge. He stressed that a major part of the judges’ job is to help a chorus/quartet improve their performance. “It’s difficult,” Barry told us “to explain to a quartet like Ringmasters who scored 92 out of 100, just where they lost 8 points and what to change to make them better.”

Barry explained that a chorus can enter a competition for an evaluation only. This means that the final score and placement is not listed in the final results but the judges will still impart a coaching session to help them make an improvement.

There were a lot of details which I got wrapped up in and forgot to make notes of. Barry is sending out an electronic copy of his power point presentation to those of us who requested it. I am waiting anxiously for it.

The final session came after lunch and dealt with marketing the Chapter. It was presented by Jonathan Foster who is the IT man for TNL.

Jonathan went over the: who, what, why, when, where and how of selling the chapter. Jonathan went over the various social media available to us, (several of which I had never heard of). There followed a detailed discussion of using Facebook as a marketing tool with references to the marketing of Toronto 2013.

By the end of his presentation my mind had long hit saturation leaving me with a burning desire to find a book called Facebook for Dummies.

I have many pages of scribbled notes which I am in the process of untangling. Fortunately, Jonathan also promised a copy of his PowerPoint presentation to anyone interested and I happily added my name to the list.

Over all I was satisfied with what I came away with. It was a day of good fellowship, a shared meal, meeting people from different choruses and learning new things. I would like to go again next year and would not hesitate to recommend it to other chorus members.

Joy Brunel

On Saturday, January 11, with the help of funding from Sing Canada Harmony, I attended the 2014 Ontario District Leadership Academy, held at the Delta East Hotel, in Toronto. Its new format this year, condensed the curriculum into one day, and opened up the courses to men and women from the Barbershop Harmony Society, Harmony Inc., Sweet Adelines and other singing organizations throughout Ontario. The focus was on providing individuals with the tools to fulfill leadership positions, both on and off the podium, with the intention of strengthening the level of quality singing in their organizations and promoting the smooth running of its leadership team.

The day started with the usual business of registration, introductions, announcements and a warm welcome from board chair, “Digger” MacDougall. Everyone seemed in a mood to participate, so we soon moved to our assigned “classrooms”.

Not surprisingly, my course choice was “Chorus Director”, facilitated by Jordan Travis and Chris Arnold. About twenty other men and women joined me in this course, and we kicked things off by giving our name, affiliation and the reason for which we were attending the seminar. It was interesting to hear each individual’s story, but encouraging when we realized that we all had similar challenges to deal with in our organizations.

Chris made a list of these challenges and soon had them divided into three areas of concern: vocal production, music presentation, and a cross-over, catch all category. These established, we proceeded to discuss such things as: the best way to introduce new material to the chorus and then how to promote its learning; how to encourage more focused practice of the music; what is expected at competition performances, in terms of the chosen music; how to approach a new song with the best potential for easy yet precise learning; and methods of achieving good to great singing techniques. Jordan shared with us his “ladder to excellent vocal production”, which included aspects of breathing, resonance and articulation, among others.

We had three, two-hour sessions, interspersed with coffee breaks and an excellent lunch put on by the hotel. At lunch there was much singing!! A pick-up performance by Sweet Adeline and Harmony Inc. ladies was well-received, as was that of a new quartet being formed by Jordan Travis (l), Pat Brown (t), Chris Scappatura (br) and Chris Arnold (bs). Apparently they still need a name – any suggestions? We all sang along in tags and polecats, and the harmony was impressive.

Directly following lunch, Barry Towner visited our room with a talk on competition judging, its history and the requirements of becoming a judge. It is a long and arduous process, not to be taken lightly!

Our sessions went quickly, but we managed to fit in a few tags and a bit of singing here, too. All too soon the day was over, and we headed up to the central meeting room for the wrap-up and closing addresses. Chris Scappatura, who is taking over the head spot from Digger MacDougall, was passionate as he encouraged each of us to spread the word of our day at Leadership Academy and bring more participants to the fold next year.

For me, it was an exhilarating day of camaraderie with my fellow musicians and directors. I am very thankful to Sing Canada Harmony and its donors for lifting the financial burden from my shoulders by sponsoring me with a scholarship. It is this kind of support that allows us to grow as musicians, and take what we learn back to our chapters and into the community, sharing and perpetuating the vocal music experience. I encourage any or all of you to take advantage of the precious resources offered us, and make a point to attend the 2015 Leadership Academy! You won’t be sorry!

A Presenter’s point of view.
(Bruce Herdman)

When I was asked to write about Leadership Academy from a presenter’s point of view I wondered what a reader could possibly find interesting about a lecturer’s ‘take’ on a day crammed full of instructions, suggestions and recommendations.

Let me give some background. For over 45 years Leadership Academy, formerly known as Chapter Officer Training Seminar (COTS), was a weekend event held at YMCA Geneva Park just outside Orillia on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake Couchiching. From Friday evening to Sunday noon, those men who had volunteered to be leaders of their chapters attended classes to learn how to do the jobs for which they had accepted responsibility or how to do them better. Of course, many hours of fellowship were shared on those weekends. And, in addition to concentrating on the courses, each class was required to learn a song and perform it for the rest of the academy at a ‘show’ on Saturday evening.

Leadership Academy 2014 saw a complete overhaul, changing from a weekend event to a one day affair. Part of the reason for the change was to make the event more affordable from both a dollar and time invested point of view. So, what changes did this presenter have to make?

As District Treasurer, my assignment has been to describe the Chapter Treasurer’s responsibilities while Barry Lajeunesse, District Secretary, explained the role of the Chapter Secretary. In the past and again this year, Barry and I shared classroom time, presenting a ‘Chapter Secretary and Treasurer’ track.

This year, the challenge was to decide how to condense what had taken two-plus hours to present in the past into the roughly 65 minutes now available and still maintain the thrust of the message – and do some singing, besides.

The topics I covered were:

  • The role of the chapter treasurer – paying bills, collecting dues, banking, record keeping

  • The need to file an income tax return and detailed instructions on how to do that

  • Provincial legislation regarding the new Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act (ONCA)

  • A question and answer session

I chose to assume that the people who had volunteered to be Chapter Treasurer had a fundamental understanding of the tasks involved, allowing me to concentrate on the more esoteric responsibilities of the position – filing income taxes and preparing to comply with the more stringent requirements of ONCA. And by suggesting that, if they had questions or needed help completing their tax returns, for example, they should not hesitate to call and ask me for that help. (PS – I still found time to teach the group 2 tags – Danny, My Boy and Mickey Mouse. We are, after all, a singing society.)

The class was quite attentive, asked some good questions and seemed to get what they were looking for out of the day. And for most people it was no more than an hour’s drive home – a far cry from the Friday noon to Sunday evening past Leadership Academies had demanded.

There were some glitches for sure, but some pretty good minds are addressing those problems and it is hoped that next year’s attendees at Leadership Academy will find the event even more informative and enjoyable.

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