Washington ACDA News

Joyce Eilers-Bacak, perhaps Washington's most prolific composer/arranger of choral music, dies June 2

Joyce Eilers, a name especially well-known among school choral directors, died yesterday afternoon, June 2, according to Peggy Burroughs, a friend of Joyce's who was there when she passed away. Joyce was 68.

Her compositions and arrangements were a god-send to many school directors, for Joyce had a unique skill in providing pieces that "worked" for middle-school and young high school singers. This was the niche she found and filled well. Her own background in teaching at this level helped her understand the needs of young singers. She had a huge number of pieces in the Hal Leonard and Jensen catalogs.

WA-ACDA's web/newsletter hopes to provide a tribute and more detail on Joyce's contribution to choral music at a later time. See obituary immediately below this article (received June 9, 2009)

Here is what Eugene Butler, a composer friend of Joyce's, had to say:

"I still remember the young junior high teacher who came up and introduced herself after a Portland reading session with a couple of manuscripts to show me. She was convinced that three-part mixed music was the answer to a plethora of middle school repertoire problems and she was right! The rest is history. She will be sorely missed by many music educators." (Eugene Butler)

July 28, 1941 – June 2, 2009

Joyce Elaine Eilers Bacak, noted choral composer, passed away June 2, 2009, in Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.  She had been in ill health the last few years but became more critically ill the last two weeks. 

At her request, there will be no services.  At the family’s request, any memorial donations in Joyce’s honor should go to the donator’s choral program of choice – church choirs, university choirs, grade school, middle school or high school choirs, and community choirs – whatever they choose, as a way to celebrate Joyce’s love of music and her life of accomplishment. 

Joyce’s body will be cremated and her ashes will rest with her parents’ graves in Mooreland, Oklahoma. 

Joyce Eilers Bacak is recognized as one of the top choral composers in the country, with hundreds of compositions and arrangements in her catalog, best-selling methods for teaching sight-singing, and for her mentoring of young composers.

She received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1963 from Oklahoma City University and a Master of Music degree from the University of Oregon in 1967, where she specialized in Music Education.

She taught in the Oklahoma public schools and in Oregon and Washington for ten years at both elementary and secondary levels and was an instructor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

She was a popular visiting lecturer and clinician, appearing before many state music education conventions and universities including University of Oregon, Oregon State University, University of Idaho, Boise State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of Kansas City-Missouri, University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, and Arizona State University.

Her music is published by Schmitt Music, Studio PR, Heritage Press, Shawnee Press, Gentry Publications, Carl Fischer, Jenson Publications and Hal Leonard Corporation. Some of her most popular works include “My Lord,” “Brighten My Soul with Sunshine,” “Go Ye Now in Peace,” and “The Irish Blessing.”

Emily Crocker, Vice President of Choral Publications at Hal Leonard Corporation, said, “Joyce was my teacher, my editor and my friend. She was incredibly generous with her time and encouragement of young composers. Her music had a wonderful way of touching the heart. Thousands, maybe millions of singers have been enriched by her contribution to the choral art and she leaves a lasting legacy of beauty.”

Joyce Elaine Eilers was born July 28, 1941, to Fredrich Gerhard Eilers and Pearl Eva Valentine (Dail) in their rural home southwest of Mooreland, Oklahoma.  She was the fifth of seven children (three girls and four boys). 

Joyce attended the Mooreland schools for 12 years, excelling in music and scholastics.  She received many, many honors in music contests, vocal and instrumental.  All of the Eilers family members were very active in the Methodist Church and in the community. 

Joyce received a Banning Scholarship and attended OCU in Oklahoma City.  She graduated with a Degree in Music in 1963.  She was a member of the OCU Choir and played the bass clarinet in the Symphonic Band.  She was a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, a national honorary music organization.  She was a member of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. 

After graduation, Joyce taught music education and choir at public schools in Seminole and Weatherford, Oklahoma, before moving to the Northwest where she taught music in Corvallis, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington.  She often stated that she began writing music out of necessity when she needed songs to match the vocal ranges of her young choir singers.  She wrote songs for all occasions – patriotic, religious, romance, ballads, Christmas, Hanukah and other holidays, historical, and for simply silly and fun times.  She instinctively knew what children liked to sing, and she was famous for her humorous and historical story-telling teaching style. She expanded her composing for adult choirs as well, and she became well-known internationally. 

One of the highlights for the Eilers family was a special concert in honor of Joyce’s parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary on June 2, 1979.  The four surviving children (June, Jean, Joyce and Lowell) serenaded their parents, singing Joyce’s music to a packed church. And now, thirty years later, Joyce joins them in heaven on their anniversary. 

Joyce married Walter Bacak December 5, 1981, in Corvallis, Oregon.  They lived in Tacoma, Washington.  Early in their marriage they bought a plane and Walt flew them all over the country for Joyce’s gigs. 

Joyce is predeceased by her parents, her sister June Braly, and three brothers – Dennis Dail Eilers, Floyd Evart Eilers, and Raymond Lee Eilers.

She is survived by her beloved 18-year-old cat, Bandit, and husband, Walt Bacak.  Also survived by sister Jean Burns and her husband, Charlie, of Stillwater, Oklahoma; and their children – Douglas and wife Nickie Burns and their children Eric and Whitney Burns all of Norman Oklahoma; Deborah Cochran, husband Larry and son Drew Cochran of Tulsa; Taylor Burns and wife LouAnn of Tulsa; Joyce’s brother Lowell Eilers and his wife Betty Sue of Mooreland, Oklahoma. Their children Christy and husband Brian Poston, their children Hunter, Fischer, and Trapper; Jeremy Eilers and wife Sarah, their children Madelene, Raymond Lee, Hannah, and Elizabeth; Justin Eilers and wife Julie, their daughter Emily. Her deceased sister June Braly’s husband, Dr. Berton Braly of Philomath, Oregon, their children and their families –Susan Loebner and husband Neil and son Ben of West Linn, Oregon, Paul Braly and wife Jacquie of Gold Beach, Oregon, Jennifer Johannsen, their children Brook, Courtney, and Adam; Margaret Kerrigan and husband Kevin of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, their children Patrick and Brandon; David Braly and wife Heidi, their children Ian and Max of Philomath, Oregon. Also surviving is Joyce’s Aunt Floy Bula of Spokane, Washington; and cousin, Sister Patrice Eilers of Seattle, Washington who provided much strength and comfort. Joyce is also survived by other great- nieces and nephews, aunts, and cousins.  Also her many long-time friends, including childhood friends Terry Baransy of San Francisco and John Baransy of Woodward; Karen and Deuane Kuenzi, Carol Bucholz who spent many hours sharing meals and playing cards, her good friend and neighbor Elaine Crouse, who shared her wonderful flower garden and great love of animals, and her caregivers Heidi Fabre and Terri Connor, who showed great compassion and friendship to Joyce in her final months. 


WA-ACDA board spring meeting held in Renton, April 4, 2009

Washington's ACDA board met Saturday, April 4, 2009 at Hazen High School in Renton. President Leora Schwitters called the meeting to order at 9:30.

In addition to the usual agenda items including R&S reports, much of the morning portion of the meeting dealt with finalizing planning for the Summer Institute for 2009. Program Chair and President-Elect, Marc Hafso chaired this portion of the meeting.

Linda Hamilton was recognized for her considerable contribution to WA ACDA over the past sixteen years as she steps down from board membership after serving as R&S Chair for Middle School/Junior High Choirs, President-Elect, President, and Vice-President.

Board members finishing second terms are Ron Mallory, Music in Worship R&S, Joel Ulrich, High School R&S, and Dawn McCormick, Middle School R&S. Incoming president, Marc Hafso will be contacting potential new board members over the next few weeks as he looks to fill open positions.

While the membership level for the association is holding very well at 364 total as of April 1, 2009, the goal of adding 57 active members by June 1 is still elusive. After considerable discussion, the board appointed Joel Ulrich to serve in the multiple role of mentor, "good will ambassador" for ACDA and general resource person for choral directors. His first travels will take him to central and eastern Washington...especially the Spokane area. With the help of Russell Seaton, Marc Hafso, Kristina Ploeger, and the next President-Elect, Lori Wiest (all from the eastern part of the state) Joel expects to visit with directors in that area during the next few weeks, getting a feel for what they might expect of ACDA and telling the ACDA story. The board voted to fund Joel's expenses as an experiment in determining how such a personal contact might work, hoping that either new members might be found and/or getting a report on why people choose not to join the association.

The names of several superbly qualified people were considered for the Leadership and Service Award to be given at the Summer Institute. A selection was made but the name remains a secret until the presentation on July 22.

President Leora was also authorized to determine a selection provess and solicit nominations for consideration by the board for possibly three other awards. These could include most outstanding young director, outstanding choral work at the community level, and outstanding work in church choral music.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.. A summary of minutes of the meeting will be available on this site.



Posted March 30, 2009
Lori Wiest to become president-elect, WA-ACDA

Iwiest am indeed honored to have been selected to serve as your president-elect for Washington ACDA.  There is a history of great leadership and excitement of the members within WaACDA and I plan to continue this movement. 

Being involved in ACDA at the state, division, and national levels, it is while I was the national R&S Chair for Youth and Student Activities that I became even more aware of the importance of meeting the needs of our state members by providing exciting educational and musical opportunities locally.  I also continue to take an advocacy role for mentoring our young future choral conductors who are in college and those beginning their careers.  It is important to the future of choral music and to teaching that we embrace these new colleagues by encouraging them to become members in our organization which promotes our art and aids in our continuing education. 

In addition to the outstanding Summer Institute we hold every July and other events involving ACDA input, many members within our state also are involved in events/concerts that are of interest to our general membership.  Some of these events bring in national and international leaders in the choral world who are conductors, performers, and composers.  Please be sure to add these events to the WaACDA calendar, available on the Website, to open these opportunities to our members in search of these more local offerings and to facilitate spreading the news! 

As I begin my term as president elect this summer, I look forward to the opportunity of working with the many strong choral leaders in our state and I invite you to contact me with ideas that you would like to share.

Thank you for your dedication to choral music and for inspiring your singers of all ages!  Best wishes as you conclude your academic year and performing season.

Lori Wiest

Portland Symphonic invites singers to audition for 2009-2010 season

Portland Symphonic Choir, conducted by Steven Zopfi, invites singers of all voice parts to audition for the 2009-2010 concert season. 

The season features works of Brahms, Britten, Rossini, and Gershwin.  Volunteer and paid positions are open. 

The choir, founded in 1945, performs with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and produces its own concerts of major symphonic choral works.  Candidate qualifications and audition procedure are described at .  Apply by email to .

Posted January - 2007
Marc A. Hafso elected president-elect for WA-ACDA

hafsoMarc A. Hafso will assume duties as president-elect of the WA-ACDA effective June 30, 2007. Marc will become president of the association with a term running July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011.

Marc is Professor and Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington.  He attended Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Arizona and Michigan State University, where he earned B.A., M.M., and D.M.A. degrees in music education and choral conducting. 

Hafso has gained experience at all levels of choral music education through elementary, secondary and university teaching positions in the United States and Canada.  He came to Whitworth from Augustana University in Alberta where he taught for sixteen years and directed a nationally recognized choral program. 

Hafso is the recipient of numerous honors and awards recognizing his teaching, creative work, service and conducting including Augustana’s Betty Ostenrud Award, a Pacific Lutheran Centennial Alumni Recognition Award, a Government of Alberta Achievement Award, an Alberta Choral Federation Con Spirito Award, the 1994 Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Prize in Conducting from the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Foundation and major grants from The Canada Council and the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund. 

Active as a guest conductor, guest soloist, clinician, and adjudicator, Hafso is also a composer with compositions published by Colla Voce

In Canada, he served as chairperson of Podium 2000, the national conference of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, and as an active member of the boards of the Alberta Choral Federation and ACCC.  He also served as music director and resource person for national worship events of the Lutheran Church (ELCIC). 

Currently, he serves as a regional representative for the Washington State Chapter of ACDA.

Along with his partner, Judy Pearson Hafso, he writes and performs HafsOratorios (festive, mock oratorios) for arts, business, and church organizations.  He is always a proud parent to three daughters and a son.


Posted January, 2007
Georgina Philippson to serve as secretary-treasurer for WA-ACDA; begins role in May, 2007

A dearphilippsonfriend once said that holding an office in ACDA is a way of giving back to the organization for all it has done for us.  When I first started teaching I belonged to several music education organizations. 

ACDA is a membership that I have kept since my first year of teaching.  WA ACDA has provided the most comprehensive supportthroughout my work whether teaching in a secondary classroom, community children’s choir, or currently with an adult professional choir (Consonare and private voice studio! 

It is an honor to serve on Washington’s ACDA board as treasurer and secretary for the upcoming term.  It’s also nice to integrate faces and representation from northern Washington to my neck of the woods in Vancouver, Washington. 

A great deal of work and preparation goes into planning Summer Institute and Regional Conventions and after many years of enjoying headliners, varied and accessible reading sessions, and the camaraderie experienced at these events, it is time for me to “pay it forward.”  Well, possibly in a figurative as well as literal way as treasurer. 

As a thankful music community member, my goal is to provide access to funds from WA ACDA in the form of grants, special projects, & aiding speedy reimbursement of district funding!  Having been a vocal jazz performance major (Western Michigan University) and choral arts lover it is important for me to bring the two worlds a little closer together under shared values of vocal technique, excellent literature, & education. 

I will be learning the ropes as of May, but I look forward to attending Summer Institute 2007 with Z. Randall Stroope (I’ll get to the bottom of what the Z. really stands for) and giving back, as ACDA has enabled, inspired, and aided in my professional growth.  


Posted August, 2007
Judy Filibeck presents Leadership and Service Award to Neil Lieurance, July 25, 2007

Note: The following is the text from Judy's presentation speech for this year's award during Wednesday afternoon's Summer Institute event, July 25, 2007.

It is my honor to present the 2007 Leadership awneilard.  This year’s award goes to an extraordinary member of the Washington State choral community.   An amazing musician whose choirs have consistently exemplified what is possible.   The Cal Ripkin of the choral world, he taught his entire career at the same high school.  During his tenure they sang at numerous regional and national MENC and ACDA conventions.

His students had the opportunity to experience all that music has to offer; the challenge and reward of rehearsing and performing excellent choral literature, all the lessons learned as a member of an ensemble and pride of developing their own skill as a musician.  His students use their high school choral experience as the ‘gold standard’—I know, I work with a number of them. 

After retiring a number of years ago, he went on to work with students who will become the next generation of music educators at Seattle Pacific University.  In his spare time—between adjudicating and mentoring —he has taken up gourmet cooking and big game hunting. 

filibeckA trip to Alaska last year to ‘shoot’ grizzlies was the prelude to the ‘big’ adventure coming   up in January ‘08—a safari in Kenya, Africa.  As in Alaska, the ‘shooting’ will consist of taking pictures of big game.  Traveling with an internationally acclaimed photographer from National Geographic, it will be the trip of a lifetime.

You may best know this year’s recipient as that adjudicator who is always positive with your students (and you) but who always gives you something to work on--always kind, always on point and always eager to assist in the musical journey. 

You may remember hearing his choirs from Shorecrest, wonderful no matter which group you heard.   Over the years, I’ve heard many of his concerts, because I bought my home so that my children would have the opportunity to sing with him.   I was always amazed at what he accomplished.  

This conductor/educator   has contributed in countless ways to our choral community for 40+ years and he is truly unique, one-of-a kind. It is a tremendous honor for me to present the 2007 ACDA Leadership award to Neil Lieurance.

(Editor's note: Neil Lieurance missed this year's Summer of the rare times he's not been able to attend. Neil underwent quadruple bypass surgery on July 13th. He's recovering beautifully and fully expects to return to work at Seattle Pacific as well as take the African Photography safari next year. The presentation was taped and Judy Filibeck was able to visit with Neil and to let him know of the award.)

Neil Lieurance bio...

Neil Lieurance retired in 1993, from teaching choral music at Shorecrest High School, whose choirs, under Neil’s direction, performed at national conventions of both ACDA and MENC and received many awards, including First Place in the Best in the Northwest Festival. Selected as the 1991 “Teacher of the year” in the Shoreline School District and the 1988 Washington Music Educators Association “Outstanding Music Educator,” Neil was also inducted to the WMEA “Hall fo Fame” in 1998. In 1991, he received the Generations United “Hand in Hand” award for outstanding efforts to promote intergenerational relationships. He is an active adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor in the Northwest.

Neil has led student and church groups on European concert tours, including that of the 1988 Montana State Youth Choir. He has served as interim conductor of the Seattle Symphony Chorale and was Associate Conductor of the Choir of the Sound, a 110-voice adult choir associated with Shoreline Community College.

Neil has filled sabbatical teaching positions  in choral music and conducting at the University of Puget Sound and Edmonds Community College. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University, where he directs the Women’s Choir, teaches sight-singing and ear-training, and supervises student teachers.

Also a church musician for over 25 years, Neil served as co-director of the Worship Choir for the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Vancouver, B.C. in 1993 and presented subsequent workshops in Toronto, Canada, and Manila, Philippines. His church positions included Director of Music at Seattle First Baptist Church and Seattle First United Methodist Church in downtown Seattle.

Neil attended Lower Columbia College and hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Washington University. He is a member of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and the International Federation of Choral Music (AFCM), and has served on the state boards of both MENC and ACDA.

Neil  lives in Shoreline, north of Seattle, and enjoys hiking, gardening and nature photography.