Episode 130: The Value of an Outsider with Robyn Hilger

The American Choral Directors Association is the largest organization of choral musicians in the world. ACDA sets the tone and direction of choral music in the US and has a major impact on the global choral music community as well. The newly appointed Executive Director of the organization, Robyn Hilger seeks to usher in a new era for the organization, hopefully leading to a bright future for Choral Music. It is my belief that the needs of the community of choral musicians have changed since ACDA’s founding. I also believe that ACDA has a bully pulpit in communicating about and advocating for the direction of the profession. This makes their decisions intimately woven into the lives and livelihoods of their members. In this episode AND the next one, you will hear me discuss the past present and future of choral music in America and how ACDA will help to shape it. I drove all the way from KC to OKC to record in person, which I think was very helpful.

In the first part of this two part interview, we discuss the “purpose” or “reason for being of ACDA,” how changes are made, how conventions are planned, and the importance of member engagement and feedback and much more.


Robyn Hilger is beginning her second year as executive director of the American Choral Directors Association. A native Oklahoman, Hilger is a classically trained clarinetist. She graduated with high honors in 1999 from Oklahoma City University with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education. She earned her master’s degree in school administration from the University of Central Oklahoma and is currently pursuing her doctorate of education in administration and leadership at Southern Nazarene University. She is a National Board-Certified Teacher in early adolescence/young adult music with specialization in band.

The overarching theme of her work is meeting the identified needs of historically marginalized and under-resourced communities. Robyn began her career as the band and strings teacher at Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, in Oklahoma’s largest urban school district, where she created the fine arts department. In 2006, she was recognized as Oklahoma’s State Teacher of the Year and she served as Oklahoma’s Ambassador of Teaching, traveling more than 20,000 miles delivering some 200 workshops and speeches focused on teaching, advocacy, and education policy.

In 2007, she joined the staff of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools as the chief programs officer. In 2013, she supported the launch of El Sistema Oklahoma as a volunteer. In 2014, she was asked to join the organization as the executive director. El Sistema Oklahoma facilitates the development of empowered youth who use music to make strong positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. El Sistema Oklahoma operates every day after-school and is completely free for participating families.

In 2017, she was named New Fundraiser of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Oklahoma City Chapter. Robyn also serves on the advisory board for the Oklahoma Youth Orchestras and is a board member for Oklahoma Youth Sing! (formerly known as the Norman Children’s Chorus).

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Robyn is a connector of people, organizations, and opportunities. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Stephen and their three cats.

To get in touch with Robyn, you can add her on Facebook (@robynhilger or @robynhilgeracda) or email her at executivedirector@acda.org.

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