Irvin Cooper, Professor of Music Education at Florida State University (1950-1971), is the originator of the Cambiata Concept. In the spring of 1979, eight years after Cooper's death, the Cambiata Vocal Institute of America was founded and incorporated as a nonprofit, state-chartered educational institution. Don L. Collins serves as founder/director of the institute. He was a student of Cooper's at Florida State University from 1967 to 1970 while working on his doctorate. Near the end of Cooper's tenure (he retired in 1971), he was chatting informally with Collins and another graduate student and the subject of the future of the concept surfaced. Almost as if he were moved by divine guidance, Cooper somberly stated, "If the concept is to remain alive over the next several decades, it may well be left up to one of you." Mysteriously, door after door has opened over the last thirty years that not only has kept the concept alive but also has allowed it to be proliferated to thousands of music educators and church musicians throughout the world. The primary purpose of the institute is to train those who offer any type of vocal music instruction to adolescents in the comprehensive philosophy and methodology of the cambiata concept by providing a sound basis for teaching vocal and choral music. Following are the basic tenets of the concept promoted by the institute:
- Music is a discipline and should be taught as such. Through structured curriculum individuals are taught (1) to understand and respond to the written language of music, (2) to sing with ease and beauty through proper vocal-choral technique, and (3) to communicate the message of the text and aural musical sound in an artistic and stylistic fashion.
Vocal music is a gift or an innate ability of all humans and through discipline it can be developed into a meaningful art form that heightens one's ability to judge the aesthetic value of certain life experiences.
- The four ingredients in music -- melody, rhythm, harmony, and form (particularly harmony) -- should be experienced as an aural art before one learns to deal with them in written form.
- The study of music not only prepares one for professional service but also, more important, develops sensitive, artistic individuals with a greater ability to deal with life situations successfully.
- Americans have an extensive music heritage that is disclosed in many facets. Vocalists should be able to experience and express themselves in as many of these as possible.
The term "music educator" immediately brings to mind training of teachers for service in the public schools. The scope of Cambiata Vocal Music Institute of America encompasses more than public schools. It administers in five major areas:
- PUBLIC/PRIVATE-SCHOOL and HOME MUSIC EDUCATION: This is the traditional teacher-training area.
- CHURCH MUSIC EDUCATION: The safeguard of the country's church music heritage lies in teaching adolescents to express their faith in song. Ministers of music, church choir directors, organists, and so forth hold the key to that security, and they should be trained to cherish that responsibility and carry the torch high.
- PRIVATE VOCAL STUDIOS: Because of the increase of privately funded elementary and secondary schools each year, the trend of the twenty-first century will be toward each family's funding their child's education. One will see more and more private music studios being founded.
- THE BOY CHOIR TRADITION: There are very few institutions of higher education in the United States that specifically train directors of boy choirs. It is part of the American choral tradition that is becoming less and less active and it should be preserved.
- PROFESSIONAL EARLY-ADOLESCENT CHORAL SINGING: This area includes the training of choral directors so that they may develop their adolescent choirs to such a high level of performance that they may serve the needs of private business and entertainment on a professional basis.
Specific activities of the institute since its founding include sponsoring several hundred vocal-choral music workshops in almost every state in the United States and overseas.