• VocalEssence logo, Singing the World Awake, and 2022-2023 Season on an orange background

    Annual Report 2022-2023

In 2022-2023 VocalEssence completed an extended strategic planning process that included revised mission, vision, and values statements and new strategic imperatives to achieve the impact we wish to have in society.

VocalEssence celebrates singing as an essential human expression. Artistic quality, passion for singing together, and reputation for engaging people are hallmarks of our impact.

As our community changes, we have developed this strategic plan to address our future in three key areas, keeping singing together at the center of our work.

We are proud to share highlights from our 2022-23 season and look forward to inspiring you for years to come—Together We Sing!

Mary Ann Aufderheide

Executive Director


Carolina Maranon-Cobos

Board President

Updated Mission, Vision, and Values Statements

Expand the Influence of Choral Music

Singer rosters are at an all-time high with 35 new Chorus members and 9 new Ensemble Singers joining VocalEssence for the 2023-24 season. Members of the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers have had conversations about the purpose, mission, and identity of each individual singing group and how they can work towards the larger organizational mission, vision, and values.

•  Welcome Christmas 2022 and the January singer retreat were milestones as the first time all four VocalEssence ensembles, Chorus, Ensemble Singers, Singers Of This Age, and Vintage Voices, performed and gathered together.
Click the button below to watch this milestone performance.

• American Public Media and Classical Minnesota Public Radio presented a new VocalEssence radio special,  Song of Joy: The Mendelssohns, hosted by John Birge. The one-hour program aired on Easter Sunday, April 9, at noon on YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities, for stations nationwide via American Public Media, and online.
Click the button below to listen to Song of Joy: The Mendelssohns.

• The Sabathani Vintage Voices Spring 2023 concert, Journey On My Friends, featured renowned Praise Dancer, the Rev. June F. Pierce of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in North Minneapolis, whose beautiful and lyrical movement illuminated the text of Andy Beck’s choral anthem, “Carry the Light.”
Click the button below to watch Journey On My Friends

Bridge Societal Difference

• Songs from the Heart is a new VocalEssence program that engages young mothers and their babies in shared music creation and singing experiences at Longfellow High School in Minneapolis. Workshops with these twenty mothers are led by G. Phillip Shoultz III, VocalEssence Teaching Artist Ginger Commodore, 29:11 International Exchange, and Vox A Cappella Band. This program was recently featured on WCCO.
Click the button below to view the WCCO clip.

• VocalEssence Singers Of This Age engaged with artists and community groups including 29:11 International Exchange, ComMUSICation, Vox A Cappella Band, CNLE (Community Neighborhood LE), and caterer Preps By Marvelles for neighborhood block parties during the weekend of the Change Sings concerts.

People in concentric circles holding hands looking up.
29:11 International Exchange, ComMUSICation, Vox A Cappella Band, and VocalEssence Singers Of This Age at the Sing Your Change Block Party, photo credit Rhiannon Fiskradatz 

• VocalEssence is a sponsor of Chorus America’s Choral Executive Leadership Academy which will identify and support the next generation of administrative leaders who have been marginalized because of race or identity.
Click the button below to read more about this initiative.

Ensure Sustainability

• We met our Bridge to the Future Campaign goal of $4.5 million through the generosity of 101 individual and institutional donors.
Click the button below to learn more.

• Six young alumni are participating as mentors with VocalEssence Singers Of This Age members, encouraging lifelong participation in choral singing.


Members of 2022-2023 VocalEssence Singers Of This Age pose for a group photo
Members of 2022-2023 VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, photo credit: Rhiannon Fiskradatz

• Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies renewed their funding for the VocalEssence Singers Of This Age initiative and community work for an ongoing investment of $1 million.

Singers with their hands crossed over their hears performing.
Members of the VocalEssence Singers Of This Age performing at Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College. Photo credit: Rhiannon Fiskradatz

Financial Health


The 2022-2023 season was financially successful through a strong showing in contributed income while ticket sales remained below our budget goals due to persisting shifts in buyer behavior in the post-pandemic live entertainment marketplace. While audience size is slow to come back, VocalEssence was still able to make its total revenue goal through increased individual and government support, and a successfully managed fundraising gala. While certain expense lines such as travel, printing, and monthly contracts were affected by high inflation in this time period, the organization was able to manage accordingly and create savings in other cost areas. In service to our strategic direction, a new presenting partnership was forged with Northrop Auditorium, and a new Learning & Engagement program began at Longfellow Alternative High School. Existing Learning & Engagement programs also saw increased participation.

Our direct programmatic spending makes up 75% of our expenses while the supporting adminstration and fundraising account for the remainder. Continuing to match staff capacity to program needs, VocalEssence employed 11 full-time staff, 32 professional Ensemble Singers, 1 staff accompanist, 8 teaching artists, and about 10 regular independent contractors.

On the balance sheet, the investment value improved significantly over the prior year, and our cash balance remains sufficient for operating needs. Pledges receivable have decreased as payments come in on the Bridge to the Future endowment campaign. Current Liabilities consist of accrued staff vacation time and an accounts payable balance that is paid down weekly. There was no deferred revenue, and prepaid expenses came down to a more normal total at FY23 year-end. The total asset value increases to $8.2 million for 2023. 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

$151,721 $80,422
Accounts Receivable 4,658 3,245
Pledges Receivable 333,700 522,050
Prepaid Expenses 55,394  101,589
Total Current Assets 546,013  707,306

Long-Term Assets:

Pledges Receivable

667,183 943,717
Investments 6,997,965 5,767,790
Property and Equipment-Net 10,656 14,845
TOTAL ASSETS $ 8,221,817 $7,433,658


Current Liabilities:

Accounts Payable

$52,496 $23,975
Accrued Payroll Liabilities 60,182 58,641
Deferred Revenue 52,375
Capital Lease Payable 858
Total Current Liabilities 112,678 135,849
Net Assets:
Without Donor Restrictions:
Undesignated 1,844,744 1,995,949
Endowment 1,858,433 1,672,048
Total Without Donor Restrictions 3,703,177 3,667,997
With Donor Restrictions 4,405,962 3,629,812
Total Net Assets 8,109,139 7,297,809

Statement of Activities


Contributions $471,873 $1,114,726 $1,586,599
In-Kind Contributions 19,750  19,750
Fundraising Events Net 161,755  161,755
Government Grants 355,696  355,696
Performance Revenue 120,689 120,689
Investment Income 298,239 383,272 681,511
Assets Released from Restrictions 481,848 (481,848) _
TOTAL $1,909,850 $1,016,150 $2,926,000
Artistic Series $811,565  $811,565
Learning & Engagement 273,295 273,295
Youth Choir 496,298  496,298
Management & General 224,807 224,807
Fundraising 308,705 308,705
TOTAL $2,114,670 $2,114,670

Change in Net Assets from Operations (204,820) 1,016,150 811,330
Endowment Draw 240,000 (240,000) 0
Total Change in Net Assets $35,180 $776,150  $811,330


Operating Expenses

A Pie Chart of VocalEssence 2022-2023 Operating Expenses including the following areas: Artistic Series-38%; $811,565 Youth Choir-24%; $496,298 Fundraising-15%; $308,705 Learning and Engagement-13%; $273,295 Management & General-10%; $224,807

Operating Revenue

A Pie Chart depicting the 2022-2023 Operating Revenue: Contributions-54%, $471,873; Fundraising Gala (Net)-6%, $161,755; Government Grants-12%, $355,696 Performance Revenue-4%, $120,689; In-Kind Contributions-1%, $19,750; Investment Income-23%, $298,239

Costs by Major Program

A Bar Graph depicting the 2022-2023 Cost by Major Program: Performance Season-$651,188; Singers Of This Age-$459,056; WITNESS (Performance and School Program)-$276,624; Vintage Voices-$85,798; Other Emerging Programs-$60,781

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

Carolina Gustafson

David Myers

Torrie Allen
Vice President

Dan Fernelius

Kristen Hoeschler O’Brien

Mary Ann Aufderheide
Tanya M. Bransford
Philip Brunelle
Barbara Burwell
Mirella Ceja-Orozco
Margaret Chutich
Dan Dressen
Martha Driessen
Anna K. B. Finstrom
Cassandra Garnett
RJ Heckman
Valton Henderson
Daniel Kantor
Lisa Merklin Lewis
Paul H. McDonough

Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed
Fred Moore
Richard Neuner
Jim Odland
Joanne Reeck
Don Shelby
Amanda Storm Schuster
Elizabeth Truesdell Smith
Jeff Smith
Kristina Rodel Sorum
Timothy C. 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*
Stewart Copeland
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

Robert Graham
Learning and Engagement Manager | Conductor, Vintage Voices

Mary Jo Gothmann

John Jensen
Accompanist, Vintage Voices

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

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