About VocalEssence

Founded in 1969, Minneapolis-based VocalEssence has decades of history as one of the world’s premier choral music organizations. But despite its global influence, VocalEssence has kept its focus local—consistently pioneering ways to strengthen Minnesota’s community through thrilling musical experiences.

What We Do
At VocalEssence, we engage people of all ages and cultures in our community through innovative, enticing choral music programming, such as:

Concerts and Events

VocalEssence brings our community together through song. Our concerts and events inspire people of all ages to connect with each other, hear beautiful music, and create music of their own.

Concert Series: Each season, VocalEssence performs 5-7 concerts around the community for audiences ages 6 and up. Our music goes beyond the typical choir standards, and includes fresh music from current songwriters and composers as well as forgotten gems from the past.

Family Series: Free for ages 0-17, these events are designed specifically for children.

Events in the Community: Throughout the season, VocalEssence performs everywhere from local community centers to Greater Minnesota theaters to TCF Bank Stadium. Check out our website to see upcoming performances and tours.

Learning and Engagement Programs

VocalEssence Learning & Engagement programs are specifically designed for people ages 0-100+ to connect, create, and learn across cultures. In each of our programs, we:

  • Connect people with renowned choral experts —giving them the opportunity to learn directly from exceptional role models.
  • Blend music and the study of cultures present in Minnesota’s diverse population.
  • Provide opportunities to perform and attend performances in a major concert hall.
  • Help people achieve higher levels of self-esteem, self-expression, and engagement in the community.

Programs for Children and Youth

  • VocalEssence ¡Cantaré!—During ¡Cantaré!(Spanish for “I will sing”), Mexican composers lead elementary and high school students through an in-depth exploration of Mexico’s vibrant musical traditions.
  • VocalEssence Lullaby Project—The Lullaby Project creates musical experiences for women facing pregnancy while enduring other hardships, such as teenage pregnancy, homelessness, or incarceration.
  • VocalEssence Singers Of This Age—High school students from Minneapolis and Saint Paul who sing, dance, write their own music, rap, and—most importantly—reflect the diversity of our community in its membership.
  • VocalEssence WITNESS—Now in its 30th year, our WITNESS curriculum celebrates the artistic contributions of African Americans to the fine arts and to our common cultural heritage.

Programs for Older Adults

  • Osher Lifelong Learning—Since 2006, VocalEssence has partnered with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Minnesota, a membership-based community of older adults in the Twin Cities metropolitan area who love learning and enjoy spending time with like-minded individuals.
  • VocalEssence Vintage Voices—Designed for older adults, this program integrates the arts into the everyday lives of older adults by fostering the creation of choirs in assisted living communities and senior centers.

Contests and Awards

Whether you are an experienced composer, a singer-songwriter interested in writing choral music, or a high school choir director who embraces the importance of creativity in programming, VocalEssence wants to engage you further in the choral arts.  Check out these opportunities and join us in song.

  • The American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota Creative Programming Award, sponsored by VocalEssence, upholds high standards of excellence in repertoire selection, acknowledges and rewards creativity in choral performance, and affirms the importance of quality secondary and undergraduate choral training throughout the State of Minnesota.
  • Welcome Christmas Carol Contest: Each year, VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum celebrates the custom of singing Christmas carols with the Welcome Christmas Carol Contest, an opportunity for composers to write a modern-day carol, each year with a different instrument.
  • VocalEssence ReMix offers a one-on-one composer mentorship to emerging Minnesota composers as they each write choral works to be premiered by the VocalEssence.

Commissioning and Recording

Since 1969 VocalEssence has been championing new music and unearthed forgotten gems to continue to refresh the choral experience. Since our inception, we have commissioned more than 300 new songs and performed more than 500 premieres!

Check out our music through a variety of ways below.

  • Commissions: Browse our list of commissions over the past 50 years.
  • Recordings: Listen and purchase one of the many commercial recordings for sale that feature everything from holiday highlights to African American Spirituals.
  • Repertoire Database: Search our database of all of the music that we have performed over the past 50 years.
  • VocalEssence Music Press: a dynamic new music publishing company that offers a select group of emerging composers the opportunity to make their music available to choirs everywhere.

Learn more about our Mission, Vision, & ValuesHistory/Timeline, and Awards & Honors.

Our Results

The results of our work speak for themselves. Here are just a few of our accomplishments:

  • Our ensembles perform for and engage with more than 20,000 people each year
  • We’ve received the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for adventurous programming of contemporary music six times.
  • More than 120,000 students have participated in the VocalEssence WITNESS program since its inception.
  • We’ve been honored with more Chorus America awards than any other ensemble nationwide, including the once-in-an-organizational-lifetime Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence.
  • We’ve commissioned more than 300 new works and given more than 500 premieres.
  • Our award-winning concert series is in its 51st consecutive year.