Chora Link - November 2018
Peggy Dettwiler

Eastern Region President



One of the biggest challenges of any organization’s board is to establish a vision for the institution its members are leading. At our September board meeting and since, in numerous phone and email conversations, we have shared ideas about the focus and direction of the 2020 ACDA conference.
Various mission statements have been expressed including: “We need to create a welcoming space where everyone who comes to the conference feels at home.” “We need to develop experiences that break the mold and are devoted to creative and alternative work extending beyond conventional choral practice with programs rooted in principles of equity, justice, inclusion, and diversity.” “In this critical time with so much division, we need to find more ways to present music as a force for good.”
A beautiful theme emerged from the conversations: “Open Ears, Open Hearts.”
As your newly minted president, I share a story that has inspired me to lead our ACDA organization focused on this mission. It has evolved from a personal, life-changing illness.
In 1981, I experienced a debilitating disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, commonly named French Polio. It is an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system causing paralysis. Within days of coming down with what seemed like a common cold, I experienced weakness in my muscles so acute that I became totally paralyzed. I was hospitalized for two months and on a respirator for three weeks, unable to speak because I was intubated with a tracheal tube. During this period I was fully conscious – having lots of time to think about life and music! And here are the life lessons: 
1. Despite the fact that my body was completely “out of commission,” I felt like a whole person with the full range of emotions. I came to the conclusion that our bodies are our houses, not who we are

Lesson: People with disabilities are human beings with many of the same dreams and feelings, but they might not be able to express them as well in their physical presence.
2. From day one, the doctor told me I would get worse, but then, the disease would go into remission. Having hope makes all the difference when facing any difficulty! 

Lesson: Singing can bring joy into daily living, hope for more happiness in the future, and inspiration to face the challenges along the way.

3. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t receive a visitor or a get-well card. Remember this when others are ill or struggling! 

Lesson: In addition to visiting the lonely and sick people in your life, reach beyond to the marginalized, the imprisoned, the homeless. They desperately need your support.

4. I found my inner strength through this illness. Life is unpredictable. There will be good and bad days. Strive to make something positive rise from the ashes.
After physical and speech therapy, yoga, acupuncture, electro-stimulation, cranial-sacral massage, thermage, and healing touch, I am still left with permanent facial and vocal-fold weakness; something I deal with on a daily basis in my choral conducting career. Yet, I don’t believe I would be where I am today without that illness. From growing up as a farm girl to standing on the Carnegie Hall stage, I discovered a fearlessness to take risks, to stand up for the truth, and to seek joy in what life might offer.

Lesson: Choral music can heal a broken spirit. And it can challenge us to be a force for good. 

For 2020, we shall work to include choirs who have a mission rooted in principles of equity, justice, inclusion, and diversity and give them a stage to inspire us.

This mission fully supports the Vision Statement found in the National ACDA
2018 Strategic Plan:

“To create powerful artistic experiences and be advocates for cultural and educational change that we might transform the lives of singers and listeners alike.”
(Lynch: p. 5: Global Concepts)

Peggy Dettwiler
Kansas City, MO


February 27 - March 2, 2019
Kansas City, MO

For more information, click below:

The December Choral Journal
will have full information.
Upcoming Events in the Eastern Region
DELAWARE - Vocal Jazz Honor Choir, Feb. 21-23, 2019 - Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE
Contact: Kathleen Shannon -

MASSACHUSETTS - Contemporary A Cappella Festival, Dec. 8 - 1st Lt. Charles W. Whitcomb Middle School, Marlborough, MA
Contact: Shannon McNulty -

NEW JERSEY - Collegiate Chapter Leadership Summit, January 10, 2019 - location TBA.

NEW YORK - 22nd Annual NY ACDA Treble Choir Festival, March 30, 2019 - Clarence Presbyterian Church, 9675 Main St., Clarence, NY

RHODE ISLAND - Winter Workshop , Feb. 9, 2019 - Rhode Island College, Providence, RI

VERMONT - Winter Madrigal Festival, Dec. 7 - Cathedral of St. Joseph, 20 Allen St., Burlington, VT
Links to State Chapters