• Many singers on stage

    Annual Report 2021-2022

“INSPIRED”—was the word used most frequently by patrons to describe their engagement with VocalEssence during the 2021-2022 season.

Inspiration was at the center of everything we did this year:

  • Our Chorus and Ensemble Singers were inspired to return to singing in person at venues ranging from Orchestra Hall to the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, MN and share their artistry virtually with patrons around the country.

  • New community partnerships inspired us on the concert stage and in the classroom and brought new voices into the VocalEssence family.

  • Our commitment to furthering our work in equity, access, and inclusion inspired us to restate our mission, vision, and values to inform a new strategic plan for our future.

  • Our music and mission engaged singers from age 9 to 90, proving that singing can inspire us at any age.

We are proud to share highlights from our 2021-22 season and look forward to inspiring you for years to come—Together We Sing!

Mary Ann Aufderheide

Executive Director


David Myers

Board President

Concert Series

For more than five decades, VocalEssence has provided opportunities for singers from the Twin Cities area to create incredible music together and build connections as part of the vibrant arts community in Minnesota.

VocalEssence is known for introducing audiences to music and artists who are not yet known, often welcoming guest artists, composers, and conductors who are emerging, have unknown works, or represent a variety of cultures. Welcoming all members of the greater community, VocalEssence embodies the motto: Together We Sing.

• The 2021-2022 Season, Music Moves Us, returned to the concert hall and featured six in-person concerts and a VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers tour to greater Minnesota presenting The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan. 6,652 people attended a VocalEssence concert in 2021-2022.

• VocalEssence partnered with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Bach Society of Minnesota, and the Aeolians of Oakwood University.

• Continuing a commitment to performing new works, the season boasted premieres by composers Stewart Copeland of The Police, rising star Gabriel Kahane, ¡Cantaré! composer Julio Morales, and Genesis Prize winner Kyle Pederson.

• All season concerts were recorded and digital highlight videos were made available for free on the VocalEssence website following each concert where they were viewed by 8,296 people.

• According to survey results, audiences left VocalEssence performances feeling “inspired,” “joyful,” and “hopeful.”

IAE Efforts

VocalEssence continues to center programming and organizational strategy around equity, using what it learned through its inclusion, access, and equity (IAE) work to make strides. The staff’s used the lens of equity to draft new performing ensemble biographies and rewrite and revise the organizational policies and procedures. In addition, staff recently rewrote its mission, vision, and values through an IAE lens and is using this work to delve into writing a new strategic plan. Read on to see our new our new mission, vision, and values statements.

VocalEssence Mission

VocalEssence draws upon the power of singing together to nurture community, inspire creativity, affirm the value of all persons, and expand the influence of choral music.

VocalEssence Vision

VocalEssence seeks to be forward-thinking—a singing community where all find belonging. Aspiring to inspire, we discover, celebrate, and build lasting experiences that transform hearts and minds. We strive to create connections that honor dimensions of difference and to serve as a catalyst for change among singers, audiences, choral organizations, and communities.

VocalEssence Core Values

  • Curiosity & Discovery
  • Artistry & Creativity
  • Innovation & Inspiration
  • Collaboration

As a professional choral organization, we live our values in order to:

  • Bridge societal difference,
  • Remain open to continuous learning,
  • Celebrate singing as an essential human expression

VocalEssence Singers Of This Age

The VocalEssence Singers Of This Age (VESOTA) is a community of Twin Cities teenagers engaged in expanding what it means to be a choir and, encouraging a wider circle of participation in the artform. Presenting music ranging from classical to hip-hop, they use creativity and collaboration to build an accepting community, equipped with the skills to lead social change in our society.

• VESOTA engaged 36 Twin Cities teenagers, including 3 alumni who were staying in the area to continue in the choir as mentors, encouraging a wider circle of participation in the artform.

• VESOTA performed at 4 concerts in the VocalEssence 2021-2022 Concert Series. They were also invited to sing the National Anthem at Target Field for the NHL Winter Classic where they performed for more than 38,000 people and a broadcast audience of more than 1.3 Million, a highlight for some of the students this year.

• VESOTA collaborated with local composer Kyle Pederson to create The Other Side. The world premiere of the piece was performed by VESOTA at Hope Lives Here in October 2021. Click the button below to see video of the performance.

The Other Side

“I loved being a part of VESOTA and will always be so grateful for the experience given to me.”
—VESOTA Singer

VocalEssence Vintage Voices

VocalEssence Vintage Voices is an exciting choral program that integrates the arts into the everyday lives of older adults. Guided by a desire to create a welcoming atmosphere and remove barriers for participation, these choirs sing to build community, combat loneliness and isolation, and improve physical and emotional wellbeing.

• VocalEssence Vintage Voices resumed in-person programming for 52 singers in two choirs from Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis and Trillium Woods in Plymouth, integrating the arts into the everyday lives of older adults.

• During the 2021-2022 season Vintage Voices members shared four concerts with 514 audience members.

• Vintage Voices singers overwhelmingly reported that participating in Vintage Voices had a positive impact on their mental and emotional health and offered them an opportunity to be part of a community of others who share their same interests.

“One thing I appreciate about this choir is that Rob incorporates so much music education into our weekly rehearsals. I have learned so much more about music through Vintage Voices than I ever did in school.”
—Vintage Voices choir member

VocalEssence WITNESS

VocalEssence WITNESS celebrates the contributions of African Americans to our shared American heritage through in school workshops with VocalEssence Teaching Artists for students grades 4-12, professional development and classroom resources for teachers, and VocalEssence WITNESS Young People’s Concerts featuring VocalEssence singers.

• The VocalEssence WITNESS Season Concert and Young People Concerts featured The Aeolians from Oakwood University, a historically Black college in Alabama.

• 3,435 students from 27 schools from the Twin Cities metro area participated in the VocalEssence WITNESS School Program where they worked with the talented VocalEssence Teaching Artists.

• VocalEssence awarded the Reatha Clark King Award for Excellence and Youth Motivation through the Cultural Arts to Traci V. Bransford, former VocalEssence Board Member and Co-Chair of the VocalEssence WITNESS Advisory Council.

• 100% of teachers shared that their students demonstrated awareness of African American contributions to the arts and 100% of Teaching Artists reported that based on their perceptions during the workshop experience, students demonstrated an increased sense of self-esteem through interaction with a positive role model.

“We have been partners with the VocalEssence WITNESS for over a decade, and each year, the experience is outstanding. This program invites children to open up their minds and hearts to celebrate the arts.”

—VocalEssence WITNESS School Program Partner Teacher


An image that shares VocalEssence 2021-2022 Impact 
-VocalEssence reached an audience of more than 2.6 million viewers through the NHL Winter Classic and American Public Media.
-More than 55,100 people attended a VocalEssence in-person performance or learning & engagement activity.
-$17,000 in stipends toward future education was awarded to 10 
graduating seniors from VocalEssence Singers Of This Age.
-1,652 people in Greater Minnesota heard the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers share the music of Bob Dylan on tour.
-346 people indicated they felt motivated by a VocalEssence 
performance to take action or make a change in the community.
-There were 262 total VocalEssence singers ranging in ages from 13 to 90 years old.
-VocalEssence featured the works of 51 composers, guest artists, or creators representing the Global Majority (BIPOC) in 2021-2022.
-The number ONE most used word to describe VocalEssence concert experiences was “INSPIRED!”
-In 2021-2022, VocalEssence partnered with 70 different organizations, including:
American Choral Directors Association
Anoka Middle School for the Arts
Arcadia Charter School
Ascension Catholic School
Bach Roots Festival
Bach Society of Minnesota
Battle Creek Middle School
Best Prep
Brooklyn Middle STEAM School
Cedar Park Elementary STEM School
City of Lakes Waldorf School
Chicago a cappella
Comparative International Education Society
Consulate of Mexico, Saint Paul
Detroit Lakes High School
Detroit Lakes Middle School
Dowling Community School
Electric Fetus
Elk River High School
Fair Pilgrim Lane Elementary School
Global Minnesota
Grand Rapids High School
Harambee Community School
Highland Catholic School
Iowa Choral Directors Association
Lakeville North High School
Little Canada Elementary
Longfellow High School
Mall of America
Maple Grove Senior High
Minneapolis Public Schools
Minneapolis South High School 
Minnehaha Academy
Minnesota Dance Theater
Minnesota Waldorf School
Mound Westonka High School
Nativity of Our Lord School
Northside Achievement Zone
Oak Ridge Elementary
Oak-Land Middle School
Open World Learning School
Osseo Senior High
Parkview Elementary
Pierz High School
Plymouth Congregational Church
Red Wing High School
Robbinsdale Area Public Schools
Rosemount High School
Sabathani Community Center
Sheridan Spanish Dual Language 
St. Louis Park Public Schools
St. Michael Albertville High School
St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts
St. Paul Public Schools
St. Peter Claver Catholic School
Stillwater Middle School
Trillium Woods
University of Minnesota
University of St. Thomas
Walker West Academy
Way to Grow
Westminster Town Hall Forum
Westview Elementary
Westwood Lutheran Church
Westwood Intermediate/Middle School
Woodbury High School
Worthington High School
Zimmerman High School

Financial Health


The 2021-2022 season marked a return to in-person programming for VocalEssence with traditional concert production expenses returning and Covid-related recording costs becoming less substantial. While ticket revenue has not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, VocalEssence was able to maintain and increase both individual and institutional support, and is adjusting future assumptions for ticket sales potential. Learning and Engagement programs also returned to in-person and used the Covid interruption to streamline the management and delivery of these programs. This statement of activities shows a net loss due to unrealized investment losses that appear here from our endowment investing activity. When factoring that out, the organization maintained a break-even for the year.

Our programmatic spending makes up 74% of our expenses with administration and fundraising accounting for the remainder. VocalEssence underwent strategic staff reorganization during the year and currently employs 11 full-time staff, 32 professional Ensemble Singers, 1 staff accompanist, 8 teaching artists, and about 10 steady independent contractors.

On the balance sheet, the sum of short and long-term pledges receivable increased significantly over last year as commitments came in for the the Bridge to the Future endowment campaign. This shows an increase of $440K year-over-year. Investment totals were diminished in the 2022 down market and the organization carries unrealized losses for the time being. The second PPP loan is removed from liabilities with forgiveness allowing for income realization. Also, the technology capital lease payable was paid in full. Prepaid expenses and deferred revenue were high at fiscal year-end since a fundraising gala was delayed into the subsequent fiscal year. VocalEssence continues to maintain a healthy financial position, overall, with modest liabilities and a fund reserve that enables us to both sustain and grow the organization.

Balance Sheet





Current Assets:

Cash and Cash Equivalents

$80,422 $123,390
Accounts Receivable 3,245 12,926
Pledges Receivable 522,050 390,620
Prepaid Expenses 101,589 70,416
Total Current Assets 707,306 597,352

Long-Term Assets:

Pledges Receivable

943,717 634,862
Investments 5,767,790 6,966,445
Property and Equipment-Net 14,845 28,340
TOTAL ASSETS $ 7,433,658 $8,266,999


Current Liabilities:

Accounts Payable

$23,975 $51,831
Accrued Payroll Liabilities 58,641 52,237
Deferred Revenue 52,375
Capital Lease Payable 858 10,077
Total Current Liabilities 135,849 113,695

Long-Term Liabilities:

Note Payable—PPP Loan

Capital Lease Payable 858
TOTAL LIABILITIES 135,849 296,553
Net Assets:
Without Donor Restrictions:
Undesignated 1,995,949 2,262,852
Endowment 1,672,048 2,023,163
Total Without Donor Restrictions 3,667,997 4,286,015
With Donor Restrictions 3,629,812 3,644,431
Total Net Assets 7,297,809 7,930,446

Statement of Activities


Contributions $635,242 $1,270,016 $1,905,258
In-Kind Contributions 24,830 24,830
Fundraising Events Net (3,002) (3,002)
Government Grants 502,359  502,359
Performance Revenue 175,243  175,243
Investment Income (607,539) (593,205) (1,200,744)
Miscellaneous 780 780
Assets Released from Restrictions 491,430 (491,430) _
TOTAL $1,219,343 $185,381 $1,404,724
Artistic Series $902,986  $902,986
Learning & Engagement 263,192 263,192
Youth Choir 333,761 333,761
Management & General 204,717 204,717
Fundraising 332,705 332,705
TOTAL $2,037,361 $2,037,361

Change in Net Assets from Operations (818,018) 185,381 (632,637)
Endowment Draw 200,000 (200,000) 0
Total Change in Net Assets ($618,018) $14,619  ($632,637)

Operating Expenses

A Pie Chart of VocalEssence 2021-2022 Operating Expenses including the following areas:
Artistic Series-44%; $902, 986
Youth Choir-17%; $333,761
Fundraising-16%; $332,705
Learning and Engagement-13%; $263,192
Management & General-10%; $204,717

Operating Revenue

A Pie Chart depicting the 2021-2022 Operating Revenue:
Contributions-136%; $1,905,258
Government Grants-36%; $502,359
Performance Revenue-12%; $175,243
In-Kind Contributions-2%; $24,830
Investment Income-Negative 86%; Negative $1,200,744

Costs by Major Program

VocalEssence Supporters

VocalEssence has a large group of committed supporters and is honored by the many gifts received. Please click the button below to see a full list of supporters.

VocalEssence Supporters

David Myers

Torrie Allen
Vice President

Nancy F. Nelson

Daniel Fernelius

Mary Ann Aufderheide
Philip Brunelle
Cassidy McCrea Burns
Barbara Burwell
Margaret Chutich
Martha Driessen
Cassie Garnett
Carolina Gustafson
R.J. Heckman
Valton Henderson
Daniel Kantor
Lisa Lewis

Paul McDonough
Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed
Fred Moore
Richard Neuner
Kristen Hoeschler O’Brien
Jim Odland
Joanne Reeck
Don Shelby
Jeff Smith
Kristina Rodel Sorum
Tim Takach
Rabindra Tambyraja

Lifetime Directors

Ann Barkelew
Ann Buran
Art Kaemmer
Nikki Lewis
Mike McCarthy*
Dave Mona
Dorene Wernke

Honorary Directors

Dominick Argento*
William Bolcom
Dave Brubeck*
Aaron Copland*
Håkan Hagegård
Louise Heffelfinger*
Eskil Hemberg*
Betty Hulings*
Sigrid Johnson*

James Earl Jones
Garrison Keillor
Donald Mitchell*
Helmuth Rilling
John Rutter
Peter Schickele
Dr. André J. Thomas
Eric Whitacre

*In remembrance

Artistic Staff

Philip Brunelle
Artistic Director and Founder

G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Associate Artistic Director

Mary Jo Gothmann

Administrative Staff

Mary Ann Aufderheide
Executive Director

Azure Anderson
Executive Assistant

Jeff Bina
Director of Finance and Operations

Rhiannon Fiskradatz
Learning and Engagement Manager | Social Media Storyteller

Robert Graham
Learning and Engagement Manager | Conductor, Vintage Voices

Laura Holst
Development and Marketing Associate

Ethan Johnson
Director of Artistic Operations

Amanda Timmer
Director of Marketing and Communications

Elissa Weller
Director of Development

2021-2022 Season Sponsors