Moody Music Building David Mandt Interest Session Professional Development at Lunch Clinician Interest Sessions In the Recital Hall

Alabama ACDA Summer Conference

Our Alabama Choral Directors Association Summer Conference will be on The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Monday and Tuesday, July 17-18, 2023. Please mark your calendars to reflect these dates. The conference will include much of what we return for year after year: guest clinicians, interest sessions by Alabama choral directors, reading sessions that encompass all ACDA Repertoire & Resources (R&R) areas, food, fellowship, and fun.

NAfME Members: Alabama ACDA will cover new ACDA membership for AVA (Alabama Vocal Association) members who are attending the summer conference for the first time. Include a completed ACDA Membership Form with your registration.

All attendees are invited to a Monday evening pre-concert social from 5:15-7:15pm. The annual after-concert Karaoke Fest will follow the concert. Come share your talent, or just come and (tastefully) criticize everyone else’s!

Reserve Your Stay We have reserved rooms at the premier hotel in Tuscaloosa, Hotel Capstone, at reduced rates. Group rates will be available now through June 16. Click Here to reserve your room.

Summer Conference

  • When:July 17-18, 2023
  • Where:Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Who:All ACDA Members


Conference Schedule
Conference Program

Guest Clinicians

  • Marques L. A. Garrett
  • Univ. of North Texas
  • Gretchen Harrison
  • Allegro Choirs of KC


Marques L. A. Garrett

University of North Texas

Gretchen Harrison

Allegro Choirs of Kansas City

Quint Harris

Cahaba Chamber Chorale

Guest Clinician Interest Sessions

Embracing Historical Composers
It can be a joyful and rewarding time for choristers and conductors to experience the music that helped pave the path for our living composers. This session will explore the lives and representative music of several historical composers in the hopes that we find ways to connect to our rich musical past and readily implement it into our various curricula.

Contextualizing Negro Spirituals
Participants will learn historical and cultural elements related to the Negro spiritual. A brief history of the concert arranged spiritual will remind us of where this practice began, how it developed, and where we are now. References will be made from historical and contemporary scholarship and will be used for the performance practice considerations to be discussed and practiced.

Engaging Singers in Rehearsals
Participants will explore tools and techniques to actively engage ensemble members throughout the choral rehearsal process. This session will highlight best practices in motivation through accountability and ownership.

Music In the Middle is Fundamental!

Fundamental: Emphasizing the FUN!
The new school year brings opportunities for fresh starts and fresh ideas. This session will include new activities, games, warm-ups and teaching practices that will bring a breath of fresh air to your rehearsals, especially at the beginning of a new performance year. This is a participation-based session. Be ready!

Fundamental: Emphasizing the Mental and Emotional
The 12-14 year old’s brain changes more than in any other time of life–except in the toddler times. Perhaps you can see a connection between toddlers and tweens?? This session will focus on brain development as it relates to music education. You will leave with ideas to engage these passionate, confused, volatile and giving children so you can be their best choir teacher.

Fundamental: Music for the Middle
This repertoire-focused session will introduce you to mostly new publications that will allow your choirs to grow emotionally and mentally along with musically.

The Trussville Community Chorus was founded in the fall of 2021 under the direction of Ben Cook and Daniel DeShazo. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to join, and there is no screening or audition process; members range from career musicians to relative novices. The Chorus performs in spring and Christmas concerts as well as in various community events throughout the year. In the fall of 2022, they performed their first masterwork, Joseph Haydn’s Te Deum in C Major, Hob. XXIIIc:2, alongside the Chancel Choir of Trussville First United Methodist Church and the Hewitt-Trussville High School Chamber Choir. The Trussville Community Chorus is a member of the Arts Council of the Trussville Area and is currently directed by Ben Cook and Allen Gillespie.


The Cahaba Chamber Chorale is a professional vocal ensemble located in central Alabama. A premiere professional vocal ensemble that showcases the diverse, breadth of talent in our region — fostering the human spirit through education, advocacy, and performance of choral music, whilst singing together to build community. The ensemble is made of up of professional singers, vocalists, teachers, and professors from several states across the southeastern region.

The original meaning of the word Cahaba, taken from the Choctaw (Cahawba), is “waters from above”. The Cahaba River flows through the highlands of central Alabama supporting one of our planets most bio-diverse river systems. It is our goal to elevate Alabama’s rich tradition of choral music and the choral art for a higher purpose in our community and beyond.

As humans, our spirits are awakened through the power of music, moved by the lyricism and our senses engaged unexpectedly by the experience.

The Cahaba Chamber Chorale exists to serve our community and region, bring together the people and celebrate the common bond we have through the traditions of choral music and singing. We foster the human spirit and elevate every individual through the power of voices blended in song.

This is the vision of Quint Harris, DMA, the Director of Music Ministries at VHMC — he will be serving as the Artistic Director for the Cahaba Chamber Chorale.


Guest Clinician Bios

A Virginia native, Marques L. A. Garrett (he/him) is an Assistant Professor of Music in Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the Glenn Korff School of Music. His responsibilities include conducting the auditioned Chamber Singers and non-auditioned University Chorale (soprano-alto) as well as teaching graduate choral literature. Before earning his PhD in Music Education (Choral Conducting) at Florida State University, he was the Director of Choral Activities at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he holds an MM from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA from Hampton University.

An active conductor, Dr. Garrett is the artistic director of the Omaha Symphonic Chorus and founding conductor of the Nebraska Festival Singers. He serves as a guest conductor or clinician with school, church, and community choirs throughout the country in addition to festival and honor choirs with students in Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. His most recent engagements were with the NAfME All-Northwest and Connecticut All-State Mixed Choirs. Aside from his conducting classes at UNL, he leads conducting workshops at other universities and conferences. His formal conducting studies were with Dr. André J. Thomas, Dr. Carole J. Ott, Dr. Carl G. Harris, Jr., and Mr. Royzell Dillard.

A versatile voice that performs both as a baritone and countertenor, Dr. Garrett has sung with several community, church, and university groups as both a chorister and soloist. He was the baritone soloist for the Germantown Concert Chorus’s performance of Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis. His premiere as a countertenor in Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo served as the work’s European premiere in Limerick, Ireland. Additionally, he performed the role of Lil Lud in Bernstein’s White House Cantata with the Tallahassee Community Chorus. Currently, he sings with First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Festival Singers of Florida, and the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers.

Dr. Garrett is an avid composer of choral and solo-vocal music whose compositions have been performed to acclaim by high school all-state, collegiate, and professional choirs including Seraphic Fire, the Oakwood University Aeolians, and the National Lutheran Choir. His music is available through more than ten publishers. He has been commissioned by the Cincinnati Youth Choir, Concordia Choir, Harvard University, Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia, and Westminster Choir College. Among his latest commissions is his largest work to date, Dreamland: Tulsa 1921. This collaborative work with librettist Sandra Seaton for tenor-bass chorus, soloists, and chamber orchestra was commissioned by the Turtle Creek Chorale to tell the story of the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

As a researcher, his most advantageous topic is the non-idiomatic choral music of Black composers. His lectures at state and regional conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and at other local and national venues afford him the opportunity to showcase this underrepresented area of music resulting in the anthology The Oxford Book of Choral Music by Black Composers released in February 2023. He serves as co-editor of the “Out from the Shadows” Series with Gentry Publications.

Dr. Garrett holds membership in the American Choral Directors Association; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; National Association of Negro Musicians; National Collegiate Choral Organization; and Pi Kappa Lambda. For more information, visit

Gretchen Harrison, National Chairperson for Repertoire and Resources, is a Missouri-born, Kansas-educated, veteran choral educator, conductor and clinician. Proud to come from a strong choral music heritage, Harrison is the middle generation of a 3-generation ACDA family. She follows in her dad’s footsteps as “teacher-mentor” with joy! She loves a rehearsal based on love, excellence, urgency, laughter, respect, high expectations, silliness and, hopefully, dark chocolate!

Harrison has served ACDA as State Chair for JHMS Repertoire and Standards (KS), as the National Chair for JHMS Repertoire and Standards, then Resources, as the first Youth Choirs Coordinator and, now, as the National Chair. Harrison earned degrees from Wichita State University (BME) and the University of Missouri–Kansas City (MME) and has 60+ additional hours of study. Professionally, Harrison retired after teaching public school middle school choir for 34 years. She is an assistant director/administrator in the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City community choir program and is the assistant Kids’ Choir director at Resurrection Leawood, A United Methodist Church. Harrison is married to a retired band director and is mom to two choral music educators. She loves cooking, baking, her dog and reading.

Ben Cook is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught general music and choir in Alabama since 2007. He has taught in Shelby County, Jefferson County, Vestavia Hills, and Trussville, where he recently completed his fifth year as the choir teacher at Hewitt-Trussville Middle School. In addition to his work as a teacher, he is the founder and director of the Trussville Community Chorus and the music minister at Trussville First Methodist Church. Prior to this, he was the music minister at Cahaba Heights United Methodist Church for nine years.

A native of Trussville, Alabama, he earned his Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Montevallo and his Master of Music Education from Samford University, where he also received his level I & II Orff-Schulwerk certifications. He earned a Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of Alabama. Cook lives in Trussville, with his wife, Molly, and his children, Emma Kate, Hannah, and Sam.

Allen Gillespie is in his forty-ninth year of high school choral music completing his fourteenth year as Choral Director at Hewitt-Trussville High School. He received a Bachelor and Masters of Music Education as well as an Education Specialist degree from the University of Montevallo. Allen is a past president of the Alabama Choral Directors Association and the Alabama Vocal Association. His choirs have always received Superior ratings in performance and sight reading at AVA events. He has been music director at Huffman United Methodist Church for twenty years. Allen and his wife of 40 years, Sula have a married son, Desi. Sula is a Nurse Practitioner in Neurology at Children's of Alabama.

Quint Harris, DMA is the Director of Music & Arts Ministries at Vestavia Hills Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL where he directs the Chancel Choir, Bell Choir, Youth Choir, and Children’s Choir as well as supervises the music staff. In addition to his position at VHMC, Quint is an adjunct professor at Birmingham Southern College where he conducts the Southern Chorale and teaches theory/ear training. Prior to Vestavia Hills MC he was the Director of Music Ministries at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Phoenix, AZ. He holds a Bachelor’s in Music Education from the University of Mississippi, a Master’s in Music Education from the University of Alabama, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Alabama. Throughout his career Quint has enjoyed teaching and directing on the Middle School and High School levels as well as part-time and full-time church music ministry. In March 2022 Quint became the founder and Artistic Director of the Cahaba Chamber Chorale: a professional vocal ensemble in Birmingham. Quint is a member of ACDA (American Choral Directors Association). He serves as Life-Long Committee Chair for the Alabama ACDA Board. Quint is also a member of FUMMWA (The Fellowship of the United Methodist Church in Music and Worship Arts) where he has served as the Handbell Committee Chair and the Membership Committee Chair. Quint is married to Paige Pittman Harris, CPA, and they have three active children, Colin (24), Sarah Beth (21), and Nate (18).