Connecting the Choral Ecosystem

Chorus America partnered with the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), and Yale University School of Music to begin a unique project that, for the first time, examines the connections between the different types of choral communities in the U.S.

From April 8-9, a group representing various sectors of the choral field gathered at Yale University to consider the relationship between choral participants of all kinds, our organizations, our work, and our supporters.The Choral Ecosystem Forum was supported by lead sponsor the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation (NAMM).

The 30 Forum participants included leaders from singing communities like professional choruses and barbershop, gospel, and a cappella traditions. They represented a wide variety of roles, from music educators and composers to singers and administrators.

The Forum was co-facilitated by Alan Brown of WolfBrown and John Shibley. Each participant interviewed three people who are involved with the choral field in different ways about their contributions to the choral field and the benefits they receive from their involvement. These interviews informed the Forum's discussions about how different types of choral music artists, audiences, and patrons connect with each other—and the potential weaknesses and underutilized strengths in this system.

Here are some key findings:

  • The most abundant resources in the choral ecosystem are artistry, recognition and fulfillment. While money is important, it is not the driving force in our ecosystem.
  • The choral field’s diversity is a source of its strength and a challenge. Many people who work in the choral field wear multiple hats, and there are wide variety of singing communities and organizations that support these communities. This makes the field very resilient, but also difficult to bring together.
  • Certain aspects of our choral ecosystem are pivotal to the health of the field. Forum conversations made it clear that certain types of participants in the choral field touch almost every aspect of the field and therefore greatly affect the health of the entire ecosystem. Two important examples are K-12 music educators and composers.

Here are some key questions to explore next:

  • How can choruses build on the fact that their singers thrive on artistry, recognition, and fulfillment?
  • How can choruses support K-12 choral music educators to help reduce some of the issues they face, such as isolation, low pay, huge workloads, and little time for professional development?
  • Can composers be encouraged to bridge musical styles and themes in order to increase choral music’s relevance to future generations? How could composers become more closely involved with school music programs?
  • What are some ways that the organizations who support the different types of singing communities and stakeholders can share resources to promote the benefits of singing together in all its forms?

"We are excited to gain a deeper understanding of how the field works as a system, the links between our different spheres of activity, and the benefits those in the field contribute and receive from their participation," said Chorus America president and CEO Catherine Dehoney. "We look forward to sharing more with our members and the field at large." Chorus America will work with our partners to publish a whitepaper and articles covering the Choral Ecosystem Forum in the coming months.

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