Philip Brunelle 80th Birthday Campaign

As he approaches his 80th birthday, Philip Brunelle’s impact in the world of choral music is astonishing!

If you were to ask Philip Brunelle what his favorite things to do are, he would say “Celebrating rarely heard music and sharing it with the world, of course!” So, that’s what we plan to do!

In honor of Philip’s 80th birthday, we are launching a campaign to celebrate the artistry of the Ensemble Singers. The campaign will honor Philip’s commitment to expanding the choral art form by creating masterworks for future generations of singers and sharing these gifts with the world. 

For nearly 55 years, Philip Brunelle has led VocalEssence to new artistic heights. Now, we celebrate his legacy and honor the passion, discovery, and sense of adventure he has and continues to share. Please consider giving a gift (perhaps in a multiple of 80) honoring Philip and all he has done for our community and the world of choral music. 

To participate or learn more about this campaign, call Elissa Weller at 612-547-1452. 

Philip's Impact on the World of Singing

At the age of 23, Philip Brunelle founded VocalEssence, which has grown to become one of our country’s premier choral and music education institutions.

The list of Philip’s achievements is extensive:

  • Commissioning and premiering more than 500 new choral work
  • Creating WITNESS, celebrating African American culture for 33 years, engaging more than 150,000 students along the way
  • Hosting the first World Choral Symposium in the United States, which brought 39 choirs from around the world to Minnesota
  • Inspiring the creation of Vintage Voices, encouraging lifelong singing for older adults
  • Initiating the ¡Cantaré! program, celebrating Mexican composers and cross-cultural exchange and resulting in the creation and publication of scores of new Spanish-language songs for all ages
  • Engaging G. Phillip Shoultz, III to create VocalEssence Singers Of This Age (VESOTA), now recognized as a national model for life-changing arts education for young people
  • The achievement dearest to Philip was the establishment of the Ensemble Singers in 1991. Beginning as a professional ensemble of 18 singers, they have grown to 32 members representing the finest area vocal talent. They have premiered works written especially for them by composers as illustrious as Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Steven Paulus, Dominick Argento, Libby Larsen, John Rutter, and Alice Parker.

The Ensemble Singers have performed throughout Minnesota, the US, and the world, presenting music representing a broad range of styles and cultures. They play a unique role at VocalEssence as the artistic vehicle for repertoire that fits an ensemble smaller than the large chorus, with the professional expertise to undertake musically demanding and challenging material.

  • Recordings – $80,000

    Recording and distribution of choral works representing the depth and breadth of American music from various genres through emerging voices that celebrate a range of cultural experiences. This initiative will focus on historic VocalEssence commissions that have yet to be recorded or distributed.

    Our vision is to release 10-15 works via online platforms (YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music) expanding awareness and exposing more music aficionados to the artistry of the Ensemble Singers. An ancillary initiative will be the release of past VocalEssence recordings with an ear toward rare gems of the choral literature.

  • Commissions – $80,000

    Contributing to the future of the choral art form through the commissioning and performance of 5-6 new works over the course of the next few years. Composers will range from world-renowned artists to emerging talents with a focus on creating a new body of work available to choirs around the world.

    To ensure repeat performances of the premieres, VocalEssence will create commissioning partnerships with choirs throughout the country. Funds raised will support music creation as well as costs associated with the performances of these works.

  • Touring – $160,000

    Celebrating American music overseas with a focus on appearances at an international music festival. Philip’s vision includes an International Ensemble Singers tour with anchor performances at prestigious music festivals and community-based concerts. The artistic focus would celebrate what VocalEssence has done best for 54 years—championing outstanding music by American composers rarely performed outside of the United States.

  • Philip Brunelle conducting the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, Photo Credit: Bruce Silcox
  • Person in a tuxedo holding a baton and conducting. Photo Credit: Katie Jeanne Photography
  • G. Phillip Shoultz, III and Philip Brunelle
  • Philip Brunelle rings MN Liberty Bell