In the fall of 2017, the Board of Directors voted to diversify the audience, singers, board, staff and vendors by age and by race. Prior to determining what exactly would change and how we would accomplish this, we sought to listen to members of our community specifically around the following: (1) what barriers may exist preventing access for diverse communities, (2) in what areas could a change make a difference in accessibility and (3) in a changing world community, what may ensure that we remain relevant in the future.
We contracted with Strong & Starlike Consulting, Inc. to help us steward this effort. Below are the six findings from this 8-month Listening Zone Initiative:
FINDING 1: Connections Within and Across Program Areas is Desired
FINDING 2: A Change in Marketing Can Make a Difference
FINDING 3: Create More Opportunities for Youth to be Engaged
FINDING 4: Different Venues Can Attract Different Audiences
FINDING 5: Changing Musical Selections May Invite New Singers and Audience Members
FINDING 6: Do More Than Engage Diverse Singers—Retain Them
Listening Zone Initiative Resources
Listening Zone Initiative Findings Overview
Listening Zone Initiative Comprehensive Report
The comprehensive report was reviewed at our September 2018 Board and Staff retreat. Three strategic areas of immediate action were identified. The VocalEssence staff, led by Executive Director Mary Ann Aufderheide and the VocalEssence Board, are currently working on the actions below.
- Build internal capacity to implement Inclusion, Access, and Equity (IAE) priorities through staff, board, and singer training, and identification and hiring of a high-level staff member to champion this work. The work should include leading, supporting, and monitoring staff and organization expectations and accountability.
- Develop and implement clear brand messaging that addresses the intent and desired impact of our IAE work as well as other new strategic directions.
- Strategically identify organizations and relationships with whom VocalEssence might authentically partner to advance this work.