UU Musicians Network Conference 2018

I am so grateful that OCUUC gives me enough Professional Development funds each year so that I can attend the annual UU Musicians Network Conference. This year it was held August 1-5 at the big UU church headed by Rev. Bill Sinkford (former President of the UUA) in Portland, Oregon. Here is a brief summary of what I took away from the conference, which I lovingly refer to as "Music Camp for Grown-Ups."

  • The members of UUMN voted to change our name and mission statement. We will now be AUUMM -- Association of Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries. The new name aligns more closely with the other professional associations such as UU Ministers Association (UUMA).
  • The Opening Celebration was produced entirely by people of color who are members of UUMN. There has been a push as of late to advocate for more diversity within our ranks, including scholarships specifically for POC so they can attend the conferences. The Gospel-style (with UU words) performances and songleading were amazing and energizing.
  •  Every morning of the conference, a different sub-group crafted worship services. This year I didn't participate in any of the worship services, so I was able to just...worship, which was a huge blessing for me! The theme for the worship services was Vessels, and we sang Holly Near's song "I Am Willing" every morning. One of the worship services was primarily Jewish and Muslim music. My Vessel got filled up!
  • Melanie DeMore was our plenary presenter, plus she did two breakout sessions. She is a singer-activist from Oakland who wrote "Lead With Love," a song we've sung at OCUUC as well as on the street for marches. Melanie's presentation was another huge highlight for me. She spoke very little but taught us lots of songs and new songleading techniques I'd never seen before. Most of the songs were African American Spirituals but some were her own original songs. I am working with other LA area music directors to bring her to SoCal for a choir retreat or workshop in Fall 2019. She was amazing!
  • The LA contingent is also collaborating on an MLK Choir Festival on 1/20/19. There are several new, talented music directors in the LA area, so we all had lunch together and brainstormed about ways we can work together.
  • I went to several other breakout sessions -- one on advanced rhythms, one on Worship Band repertoire, one on choir rehearsal techniques, and one on Good Offices.
  • Each day there is a 30-minute lunchtime recital. I sang "When" (the song about gun violence I sang at our Music Sunday) at one of the recitals with 12 backup singers. And I heard wonderful performances in almost every conceivable genre - from Cuban dances to American folk songs, Beethoven sonatas to original parodies.
  • Every afternoon the Conference Choir rehearsed in preparation for singing at the Sunday service. The director was Iris Levine, an LA conductor of a well-known women's choir, Vox Femina. She was great but I didn't like the music she chose very much.
  • And every day we had at least one choral reading session, where the conference musicians (about 200 of us) sing through new choir repertoire. One of the reading sessions was of the finalists of the Silliman hymn composition. I always get lots of ideas for new music at these sessions. Plus it's just fun to SING all day long. In my role as Music Database editor, I've entered all these new song ideas into the AUUMM Music Database.
  • Besides the above structured activities, I spent many hours socializing with my UUMN friends over meals, a Variety Show, and even attending Phantom of the Opera by the regional theater company. We caught up personally and professionally, offering support, encouragement, and advice to each other. I have become close friends with many of my colleagues and it's a joy to connect with them every year.
  • Eva Lu Goodwin Noriega attended this conference again, so it was great fun to have her as a roommate, a backup singer, and a colleague there. Next year's conference is in Denver, in case anyone else wants to attend Music Camp for Grown Ups!

Musically yours,

Beth Syverson
MusicDirector@ocuuc.org