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

    Annual Report 2022-2023

“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


Carolina Maranon-Cobos

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

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

$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