Executive Director of VocalEssence Announces Retirement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF VOCALESSENCE ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
Mary Ann Aufderheide to step down after two decades of growth and success for internationally celebrated choral organization
MINNEAPOLIS—September 15, 2023—After two decades as executive director of internationally renowned choral organization VocalEssence, Mary Ann Aufderheide is retiring, marking the end of an era at VocalEssence defined by growth, innovation, and enduring contributions to the world of choral music and the arts.
A link to Mary Ann Aufderheide’s headshot is here.
“I can’t think of a better colleague than Mary Ann—she is a fine musician and that talent made her invaluable in understanding the psyche of singers, instrumentalists—and conductors! Being able to discuss repertoire with her and receiving her salient thoughts was wonderful in season planning,” says Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence artistic director and founder. “She is a listener, always has time for staff members, offering wise counsel and encouragement. She provides valuable insights to our Board, effectively guiding strategic conversations, and is always considerate of each person’s time and perspective. And, her wonderful sense of humor is very important when dealing with artistic egos! She has been compassionate, understanding, wise, and supportive in advancing the work of VocalEssence within the community—nationally and internationally.”
VocalEssence has flourished under Aufderheide—its fiscal stability and commitment to its mission have never been stronger. VocalEssence has secured millions in national funding for community programs, building a solid endowment, and reserve funds to ensure resources for future program development and organizational sustainability.
Notable initiatives established during Mary Ann’s tenure include ¡Cantaré!, an ongoing collaboration with Mexican choral composers to celebrate Mexican culture, developing a library of Spanish-language musical resources; VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, a choir for urban teenagers focusing on artistic development and building lifelong skills; the Lullaby Project, which engages young mothers and their babies through song; and Vintage Voices, choirs for older adults. Touring for the organization expanded under her direction which included four international and six national tours, as well as regional performances in 35 Minnesota communities. The VocalEssence Music Press was initiated, enriching the world’s choral repertoire by making available selections from the hundreds of VocalEssence commissioned pieces.
Aufderheide has played a pivotal role in fostering inclusion, access, and equity (IAE), championing conversations, commitments, and policy overhauls, making IAE a central tenet of the organization’s mission. She oversaw the growth of the board to 30 members—bringing more cultural diversity and a wider range of skills, connections, and community leaders to the table to help guide VocalEssence.
“Mary Ann has been the driving force behind so many VocalEssence achievements—her vision, dedication, and tireless efforts have helped transform this organization, helping us reach new heights in our mission, and making a positive impact on our community,” says Carolina Gustafson, VocalEssence board president. “She has created a warm and inclusive atmosphere, as a mentor, confidant, and friend. Her ability to foster collaboration, encourage creativity, and champion the talents of our staff and board has made VocalEssence a special place to work and volunteer. We have so much gratitude for her years of dedicated service.”
Aufderheide is also an influential leader in the Minnesota community, serving as past chair of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA) and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable (MWER). She also chaired the Chorus America Leadership Development Forum (LDF) and currently serves on the board of the Minnesota Presenter’s Network. She continues on the MCA board and as a member of MWER and of Chorus America LDF. She has played oboe and English horn for more than 17 years with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
Aufderheide previously led the Phoenix Boys Choir and worked in orchestral management for the Mesa Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Phoenix Symphony.
VocalEssence is in the process of selecting a firm to handle the national search. Mary Ann Aufderheide’s retirement date will be contingent upon the arrival of her successor, and she will assist with the transition for the incoming executive director. For information about the search, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
VocalEssence, the choral organization Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones says “sings magnificently,” provides opportunities that draw upon the power of singing together to nurture community, inspire creativity, affirm the value of all persons, and expand the impact of choral music. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and through its performance series has debuted more than 300 commissions and world premieres. VocalEssence Learning & Engagement programs help people of all ages bridge, create, and learn across cultures by connecting them with renowned choral experts to provide exceptional role models, grow community self-esteem, self-expression, and engagement. For more information, visit www.vocalessence.org.