Curious About Becoming an ACC Cantor?

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Curious About Becoming an ACC Cantor?

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The ACC has always had a special relationship with the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Movement’s home address for cantorial education and Jewish musical innovation. The community of HUC-JIR is uniquely well-suited for the development of collaborative relationships between cantors, rabbis, educators and other Jewish leaders, and its campus in New York welcomes the influence of every strand of Jewish music, prayer and learning. Upon ordination, DFSSM students automatically become full-fledged members of the ACC.
 
For interested parties who are not ordained cantors from HUC-JIR, DFSSM, the policy below contains the information you will need to apply to test into membership with the ACC as an ordained cantor and graduate of one of our recognized seminaries. The exam is offered at least once a year, usually in January or February, in both New York and Los Angeles. Additional dates and locations may be added if there are more applicants than can be accomodated during our winter exams. Each location can only accomodate five or six testing candidates. Seats for the exam are on a first come, first served basis. You are not considered registered until all of your documentation is received by the office. 
 

American Conference of Cantors Admissions Guidelines

Background Information
Policy Updated as of December 2017.

The ACC maintains rigorous standards for ordination/certification, offers deep support for the professional needs of cantors, advocates with passion for the evolving role of the cantorial vocation, and cultivates ever-increasing professional excellence among its members.

Thank you for your interest in membership in the American Conference of Cantors, the premier cantorial association in the world. When you join the ACC, you are doing more than affiliating with a professional organization; you are joining a community comprised of the highest quality cantors in North America and around the world. You are embracing the Reform cantorate’s commitment to leadership in the Reform Jewish world through prayer, music, leadership, and integrity, and by cultivating and deepening our people’s relationship with God. ACC cantors are equipped to be attentive to the joys and challenges that members within a congregation face over the course of their lives, using both their unique calling to music and prayer and their shared responsibilities for offering spiritual leadership to congregations. ACC members help lead their congregations and by extension, the Reform Jewish movement in North America, towards a bright future.

To its members, the ACC pledges passionate advocacy for the evolving role of the cantorial vocation, professional support, camaraderie and ongoing learning opportunities, cultivating an ever-increasing professional excellence among its members. To the Reform Jewish movement's efforts to repair the world, the ACC pledges support and participation. To the movement’s affiliated organizations, the ACC pledges cooperation and partnership.

THE MISSION OF THE ACC: The American Conference of Cantors supports its members in their sacred calling as emissaries for Judaism and for Jewish music. ACC leadership draws upon the energies and aspirations of its individual members, while responding to the expressed needs of the larger membership and the Reform Movement. The Conference inspires its members to embrace a shared dynamic vision of the cantorate. This vision is realized through programs and initiatives that will ensure a strong and successful organization. Each such effort is conceived according to carefully determined goals and criteria. Through our members, we provide our communities with a compelling experience of text, music, learning, relationship to one another and connectedness to God. We establish our organization as a self-assured and securely funded entity, acting in full partnership with other representational bodies of the Reform Movement and worldwide Jewry.

ACC MEMBERSHIP IS DEFINED ACCORDING TO OUR CONSTITUTION:
ARTICLE V. MEMBERSHIP -
All applications for membership shall be submitted to the Membership Committee for recommendation, and to the Executive Board for final disposition. There shall be the following categories of membership: Regular Membership, Associate Membership, Student Membership, and
 

Honorary Membership.
All members of the ACC are bound by the governing documents of the Conference.
Section 1. Regular Membership. Regular Membership may be secured by the following candidates: (a) Any ordained or certified Cantor, or a graduate of any cantorial college, seminary or school recognized by the Executive Board of the ACC; (b) A Cantor who is a regular and full-time professor at the HUC/JIR/DFSSM. When such a member severs connection with the HUC/JIR/DFSSM, membership in the ACC shall be terminated. A Regular Member in good standing of the American Conference of Cantors shall be entitled to voting privileges, placement privileges, and participation in the ACC Retirement Plan and ACC Insurance Plans and in all the organizational activities of the ACC. A member of the ACC in good standing for fifty years shall be designated as a Lifetime member of the ACC.

Section 2. Associate Membership. Associate Membership in the ACC shall be conferred upon candidates meeting the qualifications and criteria set forth by the Executive Board. Associate Members shall have no vote. Associate Members shall be entitled to participate in all activities of the ACC, including the ACC Retirement Plan and ACC Insurance Plans. Rules for participation in the placement process by Associate Members are contained in the placement guidelines of the Joint Cantorial Placement Commission.

OUR MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS:

For HUC-JIR-DFSSM ordainees/certified cantors:
The ACC has always had a special relationship with the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Movement’s home address for cantorial education and Jewish musical innovation. The ACC extends Regular membership to ordainees and certified cantors from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music by vote of the ACC Executive Board as found in Article V, Section 1 of the ACC Constitution and By-Laws.

We require that these ordainees and certified cantors complete our two-year hadracha (mentoring process) with a mentor appointed by the ACC hadracha committee. This program could begin during the final year of school. If an individual is unable to complete the ACC hadracha process, the matter shall be referred to the chair of the ACC ethics committee for further attention.

For matriculated students of the HUC-JIR/DFSSM:

Upon completion of a Student Membership Application, these individuals are granted admission to the ACC as Student members, as described in Article V, Section 3 of the ACC Constitution and By-Laws. This status remains in effect for the duration of their matriculation.

For all other candidates:

Any person who is a graduate of a recognized institution of higher learning and has been awarded a Master's Degree (Jewish Music/Jewish Education or related) in or after the year 2013 or a Bachelor's degree if graduation was prior to 2013 from that institution as well as conferred the title "Cantor" or an equivalent (Cantor/Educator, etc.) from one of the following institutions is eligible for testing to become an Associate Member of the American Conference of Cantors.

Graduates of the following institutions will be permitted to apply for ACC membership:

  • Abraham Geiger College
  • Academy for Jewish Religion, California
  • Academy for Jewish Religion, New York
  • Hebrew College, Boston
  • Jewish Theological Seminary, Miller School
  • RRC & Gratz College - Masters in Jewish Music*
  • The Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano**

To further our covenantal responsibilities as cantors and as part of our admission process, we will consider the candidate’s cantorial qualities and qualifications, his/her commitment to the values and convictions of Reform Judaism, and capacity to fulfill clergy related responsibilities. Toward that end, to consider your application, our Membership Committee and our Executive Board will need several things from each applicant:

  • The attached membership application
  • Proof of the candidate’s Baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) and Master’s degree.
    • Either a photo or copy of the diploma or transcripts from the institution will suffice.
    • A copy or photo of the ordination certificate from a school of higher Jewish learning that is on the list of ACC-recognized seminaries. We do not accept private ordination.
  • Letters of recommendation:
    • Two letters of recommendation from current members in good standing of the ACC who are familiar with the candidate’s personal qualities and professional work.
    • Two letters of recommendation from individuals with whom the candidate has worked in a professional capacity.
    • Two letters of recommendation from individuals with whom the candidate has a personal relationship.
  • A personal essay, no longer than eight double-spaced pages in length, describing your vision of the Reform cantorate and how you view your personal cantorate in the context of Reform Jewish life. This essay should include your perception of and commitment to the Reform Movement, including various experiences and an articulated understanding of the tenets and practices of Reform Judaism. In addition, the essay should explore your full understanding of Reform Judaism and Jewish music through your personal relationship to Reform Judaism as manifest through spiritual, intellectual, and ritual expressions.
  • A non-refundable $500 application fee to cover our administrative expenses for processing your application.
  • $150 testing fee for each time (up to three times) the candidate sits for an exam.

Psychological Testing Report

All applicants for membership in the American Conference of Cantors are required to provide evidence of emotional and psychological soundness from a board-certified psychologist, stating that the applicant is fit for duty as a clergy-person. This requirement can be fulfilled by (1) a report by a board-certified psychologist of the psychological examination taken upon application to a cantorial school, or (2) a report written by a board-certified psychologist based on the results of the MMPI or MMPI-2, taken at the candidate’s expense. The report should include the interpretation of the raw test results and must be submitted directly to the ACC Membership Committee from the institution or professional; it may not be come directly from the applicant.

Note: The actual results from any psychological testing should not be sent to the ACC.

An application is considered complete once all required paperwork and documents are submitted and received.

Once all required documents have been received, a representative of the ACC Membership Committee will schedule an initial conversation with the candidate. Study guides and testing materials will be sent after that conversation.

  • The exam for Associate Membership into the ACC is generally offered at least once a year, usually in January or February, on the East and West Coasts.
    • Additional dates and locations may be added if there are more applicants than can be accommodated during our winter exams.
    • Each location can only accommodate five or six testing candidates. Seats for the exam are on a first come, first served basis. An applicant will only be considered for this exam once all the documentation is received by the ACC office and a member of the Membership Committee has been in touch with you.
    • Applicants may sit for the exam up to three times, no more than once per year. After a third failure of the exam, the applicant can no longer apply for ACC membership.
  • The Associate Membership exam consists of:
    • An oral presentation of five pieces of suggested varied repertoire
    • A written exam:
      • Programming examples of seven different standard types of services
      • Short response definitions of Reform terms/names/sources
      • Three essay questions about the Reform Movement, its history, ideology, and current state of affairs.
      • Additional questions may be required based on your school curriculum.
    • An evaluation of other skills which will include:
      • Interpersonal skills
      • Ability to work with others
      • Professionalism
      • Capacity to meet the intellectual, ethical, and emotional demands of the field
      • Demonstration of musicianship, including:
        • Pleasant vocal quality
        • Ability to hold pitch
        • Ability to project one’s voice properly
        • Interpretive nuance
        • Clarity of phrasing and line
        • Inspirational quality of expression

OUR PROCESS:

From the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music:

As stated above, the ACC automatically extends Regular membership to ordainees from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music.
It is important for the DFSSM ordainees to integrate fully into the ACC and to develop and enhance their long-term covenantal relationship with the ACC. In partnership with the DFSSM, these ordainees will complete a 2-year Hadracha program (the start time for this program is yet to be determined).

From ACC-Recognized Seminaries/Institutions:

Upon a candidate's passing all our membership requirements, a recommendation may be made by the ACC Membership Committee to the Executive Board that the candidate be accepted as an Associate Member of the ACC, as described in Article V, Section 2 of the ACC Constitution and By-Laws.

Upon acceptance as an Associate Member, the new Associate Member will complete a two-year probationary period, during which time that individual will participate in our Hadracha mentoring program, with a mentor provided by the ACC.

After successful completion of this two-year probationary period in our Hadracha program, an Associate Member may be elected to Regular ACC Membership, as described in Article V, Section 1 of the ACC Constitution and By-Laws.

CONCLUSION

In seeking an affiliation with the ACC, you are joining a prestigious and well respected cantorial organization. The ACC offers its members collegiality, professional development, learning opportunities, and personal and spiritual growth. For over 60 years, we have served our members, enhancing their service to Jewish congregations and communities around the world. While the cantorate is far more complex today than at any other point in our people’s history, we are committed to supporting our membership as leaders who advocate, design, facilitate, and host sacred time and space within Jewish life.

Notes:

*As there is no longer a cantorial program being offered, candidates must submit a copy of the curriculum under which they studied for determination to be made that all required areas of study have been fulfilled. Time must be allocated for the ACC Membership Committee to prepare a supplemental test if deemed necessary.
** The curriculum was not able to be obtained and reviewed. If a graduate of the program wishes to sit for the test, we will need the candidate to provide a copy of the curriculum so that determination may be made that all areas of study have been fulfilled. Time must be allocated for the ACC Membership Committee to prepare a supplemental test if deemed necessary.

Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the American Conference of Cantors. Please be in contact with our office if you have additional questions regarding the process.