STRATEGIC IMPERATIVE 1: EXPAND THE INFLUENCE OF CHORAL MUSIC
Purpose: Emergence of mission-driven singing ensembles and new performance models introduces competition for singer recruitment/retention and audience growth.
September 2023 Update
• Members of the VocalEssence Singers Of This Age took two tours over the summer. The first was to Southwestern Minnesota where a highlight was performing at the Children’s Museum in Mankato. The second was to Chicago where singers performed, saw the sights of the city, and participated in workshops including a session on vocal jazz with members of Chicago a cappella and an aural tradition workshop highlighting the Gosa, Georgian, and Catalonian cultures with Mollie Stone.
• Moira Smiley inspired a new level of engagement at our Singing the World Awake concert by including quotes submitted by audience members during the performance into a live premiere, breaking down the barrier between artist and audience. Click the button below to watch to Seven Generations from Singing the World Awake
• 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.
• VocalEssence WITNESS continued our celebration of artists of the Global majority featuring Joe Davis who incorporated spoken world with traditional choral music.
Click the button below to watch to This Joy from WITNESS: Reawakening Love
• 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
JOURNEY ON MY FRIENDS
May 2023 Update
• 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.
SONG OF JOY: THE MENDELSSOHNS
• 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.
• Since Musical Moments with Philip Brunelle was completed, 350 composers have been profiled and access has been available the VocalEssence website and featured in an article in the ACDA Choral Journal. This pandemic created resource has been accessed across the world, most recently used by a graduate student in Taiwan.
Click the button below to access Musical Moments.
February 2023 Update
• Students from Albert Lea, Robbinsdale-Armstrong, and St. Michael Albertville high schools joined the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, Chorus, Singers Of This Age, and orchestra for a celebration of music of the Mendelssohns at the opening concert of the 2022-2023 season.
Click the button below to watch Richte mich, Gott (Judge Me, O God), Op. 78, No. 2, by Felix Mendelssohn (1843).
RICHTE MICH, GOTT
• 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.
WELCOME CHRISTMAS 2022
• Reconcile: Singing Hope Into the World brought VocalEssence Singers Of This Age together with singers of all ages to build bridges between communities and celebrate their humanity with love.
Click the button below to read more about this event.
RECONCILE: SINGING HOPE INTO THE WORLD
• The Urban Choir Festival celebrated its third year and engaged 46 high school students from 6 urban metro area high schools.
STRATEGIC IMPERATIVE 2: BRIDGE SOCIETAL DIFFERENCE
Purpose: Conscious development of equitable opportunities in our society serves as a catalyst for new conversations about how to address disparities.
September 2023 Update• Board and Staff have continued their commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity work by taking the Intercultural Development Inventory and working with a consultant to process their results. They will work together to continue their intercultural capacity work and lead organization-wide impact.
• Singers from all four VocalEssence ensembles participated in Let Freedom Ring, a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the march on Washington with community members from choirs around the Twin Cities. 1,000 people attended the celebration featuring remarks by dignitaries from Minnesota and beyond. The concert highlighted the work of numerous local multi-disciplinary black artists.
• Members of VocalEssence Singers Of This Age joined Joe Davis and The New Renaissance to perform in Ancestors Rising, an immersive multi-sensory Afrofuturist theater production featuring over 20 local interdisciplinary artists weaving together choreography, live band music, singing, and poetic storytelling. The event also featured the launch of Mapping Black Joy in the Twin Cities.
May 2023 Update
• 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.
SONGS FROM THE HEART
• 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.
• Three WITNESS partner schools are having the opportunity to host a Teaching Artist for an extended residency to test a new more in-depth model for the WITNESS school program beyond our standard two session visit. Irondale High School, Osseo High School, and Las Estrellas Dual Language Immersion School in Minneapolis have all hosted Teaching Artists for a total of eight workshop days, spread out over multiple weeks. The experiences have been inspirational and positively impactful for both the students and teaching artists based on teacher and direct student feedback and will be important information to plan future classroom programming.
“I learned that no matter who you are, or what your beliefs are; We are all equal. We all deserve a chance. We all deserve to be ourselves. We all are deserving of love.”
—Osseo High School Student
February 2023 Update
• VocalEssence is partnering with catering and merchandise companies led by primarily Black owners.
• 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.
Choral Executive Leadership Academy
• On the Rise: Joe Davis Birthday Concert is an example of a partnership between VocalEssence and artists from cultures and musical styles representing and celebrating the global majority.
STRATEGIC IMPERATIVE 3: ENSURE SUSTAINABILITY
Purpose: Respond to generational shifts in donor priorities in the areas of social justice, inclusion, access, and equity.
September 2023 Update
• In celebration of Philip Brunelle’s 80th birthday a special campaign was launched, raising (to date) nearly $300,000 to fund special artistic initiatives including recording projects, new music commissions and international touring.
Click the button below to learn more about Philip Brunelle’s 80th Birthday Campaign
Philip Brunelle 80th Birthday Campaign
• 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.
• We welcomed Emma Jirele to the VocalEssence staff to support the expansion of our Learning & Engagement work and other initiatives.
• We ended the 2023 fiscal year with a healthy surplus that will be reinvested into future program initiatives.
May 2023 Update
• VocalEssence is no longer asking singers to pay a fee to audition for the Ensemble Singers and Chorus. In addition, we are subsidizing payment to the pianist, so all candidates have access to a free accompanist.
• Participation in our flagship Sabathani Vintage Voices program increased by four singers and celebrates nine years of engaging older adults in the power of singing together.
Click the link below to view their latest digital concert.
SABATHANI VINTAGE VOICES FALL CONCERT
February 2023 Update
• 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.
Bridge to the Future Campaign
• Six young alumni are participating as mentors with VocalEssence Singers Of This Age members, encouraging lifelong participation in choral singing.