WITNESS: Leading with Love Digital Concert Program

Melanie DeMore, holding a pounding stick, stands in front of VocalEssence singers also holding pounding sticks. Photo Credit: Kyndell Harkness
Melanie DeMore, guest artist
VocalEssence Chorus
VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
VocalEssence Singers Of This Age
VocalEssence Vintage Voices
Casey Rafn, piano
Philip Brunelle, conductor
G . Phillip Shoultz, III, conductor


WITNESS: Leading with Love is an invitation to join us in our quest to live, act, speak, and work for the revival of love, the rebirth of peace, and the emergence of a community where violence ceases. Today’s concert provides space for reflection, lament, truth-telling, and calls us to action around a message of hope, reconciliation, and love that is large enough for all to share. We believe that singing plays an important role in the fight for justice and is one of the ways we can lead with love. That’s why we are thrilled to welcome Oakland-based vocal activist Melanie DeMore back “home” to the Twin Cities. Melanie has been with us twice before as our guest collaborator for WITNESS and has a way of inspiring us to sing with our whole selves like no other. Her belief that songs can lift us up, nurture us, and provide a healing balm is just what we need in times like these.
With Melanie’s expertise in the traditions of the Gullah persons from the Georgia Sea Islands, we designed a series of Healing Beats Sessions that encouraged dialogue and the sharing of stories across generations and cultures. We partnered with the St. Paul Police Department and two Minneapolis Alternative High Schools (Longfellow and Minneapolis Academy and Career Center) to bring these sessions to life and are delighted to welcome many of the participants to today’s concert.
Identifying artists and entrepreneurs from the Black community who embody the principles of leading with love in their practice is a new way that our organization seeks to amplify and joyfully spread the word about the important work that’s being done by so many right here in our own communities. We are blessed to have twelve dynamic individuals and organizations represented in our Black-Owned Business and Artist Showcase. We hope that you, like us, take time to learn more about them, support, and partner with them—beginning today before the concert, at intermission, and after the program concludes.
Making room for dialogue is an important pedagogical component in the nurturing of our VocalEssence community. When you turn to the rosters, you will see the thoughtful responses each singer had to the prompt: What role does love play in how you show up and lead the way for a world where all can thrive? As you read these responses and participate in today’s performance, I hope you are inspired to sign the Lead with Love Pledge (see below) and commit to use your sphere of influence to change us for the better.
—G. Phillip Shoultz, III, Associate Artistic Director, VocalEssence


Traditional isiXhosa, arr. Michael Barrett and Ralf Schmitt (2014)
Melanie DeMore (2023)
Ysaÿe M. Barnwell (2002)
3. Love
8. Let Us Build a New World
Alysia Lee (2020)
B.E. Boykin (2021)
Ysaÿe M. Barnwell (1980)
Melanie DeMore (2019)
Marques L.A. Garrett (2022)
The following selections were composed by Melanie DeMore
from Sanctuary

Lead with Love Pledge

We were created for community and need one another to truly survive. To Lead with Love is to acknowledge that everyone deserves the right to live in a world that allows them to be fully alive and thrive. Leading with love is not just a choice that we make or a mindset that we adopt, it is cultivating the practice of belovedness and hospitality each and every day.
The Lead with Love pledge is comprised of twelve statements that invite us to nurture habits of caring and connection.
I will LISTEN.
I will ENCOURAGE others to be the best versions of themselves.
I will ASK questions so I can better understand the perspectives of those around me.
I will DEEPEN my awareness of the needs that exist in our communities.
I will WORK with others to strengthen our communities.
I will INVEST my time, talents, and resources to help improve the lives of those around me.
I will TAKE TIME for reflection and TAKE ACTION when the situation calls for it.
I will HOLD OTHERS UP when they experience difficulties and disappointments.
I will LET MY VOICE BE HEARD and speak up in the face of injustice.
I will OPEN DOORS through conversation and compromise.
I will VALIDATE the differences that make us unique.
I will EMBRACE changes that allow us to better live in community with one another.

Texts and Program Notes

INDODANA,Traditional isiXhosa, arr. Michael Barrett and Ralf Schmitt
Ralf Schmitt and Michael Barrett are respected specialists in African choral music who work to preserve South African songs through their arrangements. Indodana reflects on the ultimate example of sacrificial love as embodied in the crucifixion of the Christ figure in Christian tradition. The range of emotions— disbelief, grief, sadness, determination, resilience, joy and more all set the stage for this concert journey where we prepare to commit ourselves to the task of Leading with Love.
Sung in isiXhosa
The Lord has taken his son who lived among us
The son of the Lord God was crucified.
Father Jehovah
—Traditional isiXhosa


HOW TO HOLD ON, Melanie DeMore
Melanie DeMore challenges us to be honest about the state of the human condition, encouraging us to find our center, and ground ourselves as we begin our work towards justice and reconciliation.
How to hold on? How to hold on in the storm.
—Melanie DeMore


Known by many for her time as a member of Sweet Honey In The Rock®, Dr. Ysaÿe Marie Barnwell is equally beloved as a composer, singer, and leader of communal singing. Barnwell set the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a musical invitation to lead with our hearts as we seek to enter into beloved community with one another.
At the center of non-violence is the power of LOVE.
So, if we must choose a weapon let it only be LOVE.
Power at its best is LOVE,
Implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is LOVE,
correcting everything that stands against LOVE.
At the center of non-violence is the power of LOVE.
So, if we must choose a weapon
let it only be LOVE,
Redemptive LOVE.
—Adapted from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Ysaÿe M. Barnwell


If we are to be successful in our aspiration to lead with love, we must be willing to stand together—eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder, side by side and accept the role each of us are called to play in shaping a new world where all can thrive.
Oh, come let us build a new world together. It may not come today.
It may not come tomorrow.
But it is well within our hearts.
—Adapted from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Ysaÿe M. Barnwell


SAY HER NAME, Alysia Lee
Alysia Lee is an artist, educator, administrator, and advocate whose methods center on youth leadership, anti-racism, creativity, and justice. Say Her Name brings the powerful libation ceremony to the concert stage with a call to action. If you say the name, you’re prompted to learn the story, and if you know the story, then you have a broader sense of all the ways Black bodies are made vulnerable to police violence.
Say her name. She cannot be forgotten by us.
Say his name. He cannot be forgotten by us.
Say their names. They cannot be forgotten by us.
Put her name in the air. Say her name.
Put his name in the air. Say his name.
Put their names in the air. Say their names.
—Alysia Lee


Brittany (B. E.) Boykin is an accomplished pianist, composer, and choral director currently serving on the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology. With the poetry of Brittny Ray Crowell and the “magic words” from Virginia Hamilton’s “The People Could Fly” guiding the way, Stardust is a call for justice, and it invites us to reflect on the Black and Brown lives that have been taken away from us without regard for their humanity.
If we are only stardust
Let your names reach to the sky above us
Like petals wafting on a breeze
We lift you up beyond our reach
“Kum Buba Yali, Kum Buba Tambe”
Amen, Amen
“Kum Buba Yali, Kum Buba Tambe”
We say your names
If we are only stardust
May your blood never be in vain
Like petals wafting on a breeze
We lift you up beyond our reach
“Kum Buba Yali, Kum Buba Tambe”
Amen, Amen
“Kum Buba Yali, Kum Buba Tambe”
We say your names
Each day we grieve another face
Maybe all this stardust
Will carry us home one day
To a home where we can run
A home where we can pray
A home where we can breathe,
To sleep and dream without fear—
Is justice this far away?
We cry your names
For the strength to keep on fighting
With the hope that you are flying
“Kum Buba Yali, Kum Buba Tambe”
—Brittny Ray Crowell


Honoring the ways her grandmother nurtured and shaped her life, Dr. Ysäye M. Barnwell weaves together a soothing soundtrack that reminds us to pause, reflect on the wisdom our loved ones passed on to us, and express gratitude that while physically gone, our loved ones are always with us.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
You used to rock me in the cradle of your arms,
You said you’d hold me till the pains of life were gone.
You said you’d comfort me in times like these and now I need you,
Now I need you, and you are gone.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you’ve gone and left me, there’s been so little beauty,
But I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place,
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
Then I remember all the things that I was told.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh, made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
I think on these things, for they are true.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you’re with me,
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a please a thank you and a smile will take me far,
I know that I am you and you are me and we are one,
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand,
I know that I’ve been blessed again, and over again.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
—Ysaÿe M. Barnwell


BLESSED BE!, Melanie DeMore
Commissioned to honor the “woman who loves to paint trees,” Carolyn Brunelle, Blessed Be! celebrates the human spirit and the capacity that we all have—to be creators of original beauty and architects of joy in our interactions with one another and all of creation.
Blessed Be!
Best, Be, Blessed Be the Living Tree.
Blessed Be the Tree of Life
that grows within you and me.
Steady and true,
Rooted in love.
Shelter and peace
Below and above.
Sing to the sky.
Rise from the earth.
Seasons come round again,
Death to rebirth.
Blessed Be the Tree of Life
that grows within you and me.
—Melanie DeMore




MY HEART BE BRAVE, Marques L.A. Garrett
Marques L.A. Garrett is an accomplished vocalist, composer, and researcher who currently serves on the faculty of the University of North Texas. Garrett skillfully crafts his musical setting to mirror the journey into action for the protagonist of James Weldon Johnson’s poem Sonnet. The piece invites us to be courageous and embrace difficult circumstances and conversations as we seek to be conduits of positive change.
My heart be brave, and do not falter so,
Nor utter more that deep, despairing wail.
Thy way is very dark and drear I know,
But do not let thy strength and courage fail;
For certain as the raven-winged night
Is followed by the bright and blushing morn,
Thy coming morrow will be clear and bright;
’Tis darkest when the night is furthest worn.
Look up, and out, beyond, surrounding clouds,
And do not in thine own gross darkness grope,
Rise up, and casting off thy hind’ring shrouds,
Cling thou to this, and ever inspiring hope:
Tho’ thick the battle and tho’ fierce the fight,
There is [a] power [in] making for the right.
—James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)






The second half of our concert models the practice of Leading with Love through the music of our guest artist, Melanie DeMore. One of our most beloved collaborators, Melanie uses her voice as “a weapon of mass connection” in her work as a vocal activist.
We come together to celebrate you.
To be a witness to love so true.
We come together to lift you up.
We come together to celebrate this love.
We come in dancin’. We come in singin’.
We come rejoicin’ on this day.
Let there be singing.
Let there be joy!
Let there be celebration on this day.
—Melanie DeMore


SOMEBODY’S BABY—ROCK-A-BYE, from Sanctuary, Melanie DeMore
Somebody’s baby just killed, someone else’s baby.
Leaving somebody’s baby, cryin’, when will it all end.
Rock-a-bye baby child, close your sweet eyes.
Rock-a-bye baby child.
—Melanie DeMore


I am lifting them to the bright blue sky.
I am holding you as their soul flies by.
So much love I send to your heart to mend.
As they fly so high, so free.
I am lifting up to the bright blue sky.
I am loving you as my soul flies by.
In the stars I’ll be when you think of me.
As I fly so high, so free.
We are lifting you to the bright blue sky.
We are letting go as your soul flies by.
In our hearts you’ll stay throughout all our days.
May you fly so high, so free.
—Melanie DeMore


SAY, SAY, YES, Melanie DeMore
Say, say, yes—Say, say, alright.
Say, say, yes—alright, alright.
Say, say, yes—
Keep your mind straight and say, say, yes.
Don’t you hesitate, just say, say, yes.
Seek the light and let it shine—alright, alright.
Hold your head up and say, say yes.
Keep your heart wide open, just say, say, yes.
Hold the line, we’re right on time—
alright, alright.
—Melanie DeMore


We all live… we all live… we all live… in the same house
Make some good, good trouble. Keep on moving ahead.
Make some good, good trouble. Don’t let anything hold you back.
Good trouble, necessary trouble…hmm… keep goin’
Good trouble, necessary trouble…don’t let anything hold you back.
—Melanie DeMore




LEAD WITH LOVE, Melanie DeMore
You gotta put one foot in front of the other
and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other
and lead with love.
Don’t give up hope. You’re not alone.
Don’t you give up. Keep movin’ on.
Lift up your eyes. Don’t you despair.
Look up ahead. The path is there.
I know you’re scared and I’m scared too.
But here I am, right next to you.
—Melanie DeMore

About Melanie DeMore

Melanie DeMore is a 3-time Grammy-nominated singer/composer, choral conductor, music director, and vocal activist who believes in the power of voices raised together. In her presentations, DeMore beautifully brings her participants together through her music and commentary. DeMore facilitates vocal and stick-pounding workshops for professional choirs, and community groups as well as directing numerous choral organizations across the U.S., Canada, and beyond. She is a featured presenter of SpeakOut!–The Institute for Social and Cultural Change, the Master Teaching Artist for Music at UC Berkeley/CalPerformances, works with everyone from Baptists to Buddhists, and was a founding member of the Grammy-nominated ensemble Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir. She became Music Director for Obeah Opera by Nicole Brooks as part of the Luminato Festival in 2019. She is a charter member of Kate Munger’s Threshold Choirs and conducts song circles with an emphasis on the voice as a vessel for healing. In her own words: “A song can hold you up when there seems to be no ground beneath you.”

WITNESS Advisory Council

Torrie Allen
Marvin Anderson
Martha Arradondo
Stanley Brown
Tazha Buckner
James Burroughs
Eric Clark
Victoria Davis
Ashley Dubose
Jacob Gayle
Valton Henderson, Chair
Tricia Kaufman
Reatha King
Kevin Lindsey
Laverne McCartney Knighton
Rhoda Miriphiri-Reed
Maria Mitchell
Philomena Morrissey Satre
Amanda Norman
Jonathan Palmer
Chadwick Phillips
Joanne Reeck
Sharon Smith-Akinsanya
Lezlie Taylor
George Thompson

About VocalEssence WITNESS School Program

Now in its 34th year, our VocalEssence WITNESS School Program celebrates the artistic contributions of African Americans to the fine arts and to our common cultural heritage. The program is comprised of three components: workshops with experienced VocalEssence Teaching Artists for students grades 4-12, teacher resources including access to an online resource hub with curriculum and videos as well as professional development, and attendance at the VocalEssence WITNESS Young People’s Concerts, featuring VocalEssence singers and guest artists.
2023-2024 FAST FACTS
•  40 Partner Schools, including 14 from Minneapolis Public Schools
•  3,448 students will attend Young People’s Concerts
•  4,258 students will participate in workshops with VocalEssence Teaching Artists
• Teachers have access to 6 different lesson plans—created by Joanna Cortright that meet Minnesota Academic Standards—engaging students in this year’s theme of “Leading with Love.”

Reatha Clark King Award

The Reatha Clark King Award for Excellence and Youth Motivation through the Cultural Arts was established by VocalEssence in 2007 to celebrate and recognize leaders and organizations that provide the resources to empower youth through direct contact, making a way for them to be as successful as they can be. Since 2007, VocalEssence has given out an award named after pioneering African American scientist, educator, and philanthropist Reatha Clark King. We’re pleased to recognize the vital work of Dr. Padmini Udupa with VocalEssence and our partnership with Longfellow High School.
Dr. Udupa is the president of Close to Our Hearts and retired principal of Longfellow High School. She began her career as a science and special education teacher at Washburn High School and remained with Minneapolis Public Schools her whole career. Dr. Udupa received the 2019 AchieveMpls Excellence Award for her leadership in the development of a customized internship experience for parenting students in the Step Up Youth Employment Program. She is active in the community and is passionate about improving the lives of teen mothers. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota.
2023: Sondra Samuels, Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ)
2022: Traci V. Bransford
2020: VocalEssence Teaching Artists and Joanna Cortright
2019: Hallie Q. Brown Community Center
2018: Dr. Jacob A. Gayle, Jr. and the Medtronic Foundation
2017: T. Mychael Rambo
2016: Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson
2015: Sanford Moore
2014: General Mills
2013: Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
2012: Theresa Neal
2011: Sharon Sayles Belton
2010: Laysha Ward
2009: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page and Diane Sims
2008: Patricia A. Harvey
2007: Ms. Ossie Brooks James

About VocalEssence

For 55 years, 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.
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.
Artistic Director and Founder
Philip Brunelle, artistic director and founder of VocalEssence 55 years ago, is an internationally-renowned conductor, choral scholar, and visionary. Philip has conducted symphonies, choral festivals, and operas on six continents. He holds five honorary degrees, served 9 years as Vice President of IFCM (International Federation for Choral Music), and has been recognized for his commitment to choral music by the governments of Norway, Hungary, Sweden, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. In 2019, he was awarded the American Prize in Choral Conducting and, in 2020, was given the Honorary Member Award by the Society for American Music. Last fall Philip was appointed a National Arts Associate of the Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity. Philip is also Organist-Choirmaster at Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis. During the pandemic Philip recorded 300 “Musical Moments” which can be accessed at https:// www.vocalessence.org/what-we-do/virtual-projects/musical-moments-with-philip-brunelle/ and his thoughts on music are at RenaissanceManpodcast.com. Philip and his wife Carolyn, a studio artist, have 3 children (Tim, Christopher and Elise) and 7 grandchildren.
Associate Artistic Director
G. Phillip Shoultz, III, associate artistic director, uses the power of the spoken word and song to foster community and inspire action among people of all ages and abilities. Phillip conducts festival choirs and leads workshops across the United States and beyond. He serves on the faculty of the University of St. Thomas and guides the ministries of worship, music, and the arts at Westwood Lutheran Church. An accomplished curator of multi-disciplinary community collaborations, Phillip is the Artistic Director of the University of Minnesota Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert. The Minnesota Orchestra regularly engages Phillip to host their Young People’s Concerts and his online presence continues to grow as his pandemic livestream, Take 5 with GPS, recently reached the 500-episode milestone. The winner of numerous honors, including the ACDA Graduate Conducting Competition and multiple Teacher of the Year awards, Phillip founded “Table for More” in the summer of 2020 to help organizations address issues related to innovation, equity, racial justice, and belonging in the arts. Phillip lives in St. Louis Park with his wife, Michelle, and their two children (Malachi and Lydia Grace).
Learning and Engagement Manager
Conductor, Vintage Voices
Robert Graham is the Learning and Engagement Manager at VocalEssence where he serves as the conductor for the VocalEssence Vintage Voices choirs, and oversees the renowned VocalEssence WITNESS School Program. Robert has a Master of Music degree in both vocal performance and choral conducting from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and a B.A. in vocal performance from Xavier University of Louisiana. Robert currently serves as a section leader of the adult choir at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, sings second tenor in the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, and also performs around the Twin Cities as a solo and chamber musician.
Pianist Casey Rafn enjoys a varied career as a collaborative pianist both in the United States and abroad, in Europe and Latin America. He is a member of ‘Trés’, whose saxophone-piano trio was just nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album for their new album “Romance al Campesino Porteño.” Casey often collaborates in concert or recordings with members of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and University of Minnesota School of Music faculty. As a piano soloist he took top prizes at the International Liszt-Garrison Competition in Baltimore, has appeared with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, and has taught at both the University of Minnesota School of Music and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts.
Accompanist, VocalEssence Vintage Voices
John Jensen received his music degrees in Southern California, where he attended Occidental College and University of Southern California. While there he free-lanced as a studio musician, playing on the Andy Williams show and touring the country with prominent singers through Columbia Artists Management. He moved to Iowa and taught for 15 years at Grinnell College as an artist-in-residence. In 1990, John moved to St. Paul and has played with VocalEssence, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In November 2022, John appeared with the Yale Symphony Orchestra at Yale University to play and record a piano concerto by the late Paul Reale, for Naxos records (to be released in 2023).

VocalEssence Chorus 2023-24, photo credit-Bruce Silcox

The VocalEssence Chorus is a group of talented and enthusiastic singers from many different walks of life, united by their love of singing and community. Performing a wide variety of musical styles, premiering new works, and sharing the stage with a diverse array of guest artists, the Chorus is a welcome home for singers who wish to continue making music throughout their adult lives.
Ann Ambach (Fundraising for a nonprofit that supports victims of domestic violence) “Leading with love encourages those around me to be vulnerable, which opens up a space for learning and building connections. This is necessary to make change and create a world where all can thrive.”
AnnaLisa Anderson (Lead Admin, Customer Service) “Treating people with kindness, compassion and empathy can go a long way.”
Madison Asher (General Merchandise Expert at Target) “Love is the feeling that guides me on where to take my next step.”
Jessica Belt (Health Care Writer) “I feel love is key to real understanding and compassion. I try to extend love beyond my immediate friends and family to people I’ve never met, to see the world from their eyes and try to make decisions from that broader perspective.”
Christine Boone (Music Theory Professor) “My personal life and my career are tightly integrated by love—love for music, for colleagues and community, and for the beautiful and amazing things that happen when love informs both work and life.”
Corey Cellurale (Choir Teacher) “Love has the power to uplift others even if they aren’t ready to receive it. Lead with love daily.”
Lorinda Chagnon (Grants Manager) “At its core, I believe love is about recognizing worth. I believe in the worth of all living creatures, and that all are worthy of a safe and peaceful existence. It’s our job as humans to work towards that safety and peace for each other.”
Amanda Connolly (Teacher) “Love shows up especially when I am teaching. I love my job, I love learning and I share that with my students so that they can become happy and excited lifelong learners.”
McKenna Cromwell (Mental Health Practitioner) “I think love is essential for humans, like water or air. Leading with love is leading with compassion and care for all.”
Emily Dyrdahl (Tech Consultant) “In order for ALL people to thrive we need to love. Love inclusively, with no bounds, love that is to and for everyone.”
Eva Gibney-Jones (Veterinary Assistant) “Love is a universal language that I use to show kindness and compassion toward everyone I meet—humans, animals, and beyond.”
Lillian Gray (Software Engineer) “I believe change starts at the individual and cascades up to the world. By loving myself and the people around me, I believe that love can spread and be a force for positive change.”
Kristina M. Guiffre (Director of Fine Arts, Community of Saints School) “Love shows up in how we treat one another. Love shows up in the classroom, guiding the next generation a way forward with peace, kindness, and empathy through the arts.”
Becca Hovsepian (Project Manager) “Love plays a role in how I show up, by choosing to recognize the humanity in the people I interact with. We all have our battles so we might as well recognize that other people have them too.”
Claire Huber
Sally Jaffray (Clinic Coordinator) “Love is the most important part of leading the way for a world where all can thrive.”
Elinor Jones (Education Administrator at Stages Theatre Company) “I welcome families in to experience the joy of theater and music.”
Magdalena Koebele (Marketing Director) “Even in my professional life I like to approach every situation with ‘how can I lead with love and compassion?’ No matter the circumstance that question has never led me astray.”
Laura Langan (Healthcare Consultant) “Love appears in generosity and finding ways to lift each other up in times of strife. Love fosters community to show us that we are stronger together than we are alone.”
Clara Lind (Director of Coaching) “When I think about love, I think about community care—the ways that we all hold power to heal and restore communities who have experienced collective trauma. That can be healing through redistributing and moving our money, showing up in community together, or having authentic (and sometimes hard!) conversations with loved ones to reach a deeper level of humanity together—all of which are rooted in powerful and transformative love for community.”
Christina Pederson (Teacher) “Love comes from God, who creates all life with inherent dignity. It is God’s love that guides me to value life in all stages, of all abilities, and from all cultures.”
Emma Schlabach (Support Engineer) “While we all strive to lead with love, sometimes love isn’t convenient or free of conflict. But those are the times it is most crucial.”
Emily Seifers (Senior Manager, Community Relations, Ameriprise Financial) “Love is one of my top values, as everyone is need of and deserving of love. It influences the way I partner with my husband, parent my children, show up for my family and friends, and how I interact with the world around and me and the people I have yet to meet.”
Ashley Slattery (Teacher) “Love fosters empathy and compassion towards others. When individuals care about the well-being of those around them, it can lead to more understanding and support in times of need. Love promotes positive relationships and social harmony. When people approach each other with love and kindness, it creates a sense of community and cooperation. Love transcends boundaries and can contribute to a sense of global unity. Appreciating and respecting diversity fosters a world where different cultures and perspectives coexist harmoniously.”
Leah Sovick (Computer Programmer) “Matthew 22:36-40”
Abbie Sulik (Bakery Team Member) “It’s easier to see the love in the people around you, family and friends, and try and bring that with you.”
Dana Terres (Regulatory Compliance Specialist) “Without love, seeing the dignity and humanity of others who are different is impossible. Leading with love instead of fear makes space for a richer life for all.”
Katie Tonn Eisinger (Grants Consultant) “I believe love is the reason we are here, and I look for ways to embody that wherever possible.”
Amanda Troolin (Educator) “I think loving each other and creating community is the most important step in creating a world where all can thrive.”
Jennifer Vickerman (Gift Planner with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation) “Love is in the actions and words I choose. I strive to build relationships with all people in my life rooted in love, kindness, and a true desire to uniquely care for each person.”
Laura Walklet Jacobsen (4th Grade Teacher) “I try to be kind towards others.”
Dannika Wright (Elementary Montessori Teacher, ages 6-9) “As an educator, love shows up every day when I am working with children. Love supports them in their development, allowing them to fulfill their human potential to bring about peace in our world.”
Akosua Obuo Addo (Associate Professor, Music Education) “I listen—make space to listen!”
Nancy Jo Aldrich (7th-12th Grade Choir Director at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School) “Loving others for who they are and communicating my love for music are how I show up in an ever changing world to help and befriend those around me.”
Azure Anderson-Jayaraj (Executive Assistant/Musician) “Love is not telling people what they need, but listening, hearing, and being at the ready.”
Johanna Beaupre (Social Studies Teacher) “Love is what drives my desire to make change and fight for justice. Love for my family, my friends, my students, my neighbors I know and don’t know, and love for future generations.”
Jo Beld (Higher Education Administrator) “‘Leading with love’ means striving to choose love as your first response in everything you do—in your family, your workplace, your friendships, your creative spaces, your community. If you lead with love, you can help people feel seen.”
Katelyn Belden (Digital Advertising Specialist) “I seek to genuinely understand the perspectives of those around me and approach life with compassion for others.”
Mary Depew (Semi-retired non-profit administrative assistant and part-time booking agent for the Mark Kreitzer Band) “Love is listening, love is giving, love is caring—which is what I strive to do for all my communities. When we all feel loved—heard and cared for—we learn to pass it on and pay it forward and it goes on and on.”
Grace Dokken (Lawyer) “Love never fails. In my life, it seems that time and again showing up with love proves to be the only way to show up for change making in this world.”
Maggie Driemeyer (Administrative Intern) “There are many ways to show love and I think it’s important to learn how people around you best receive love and show them that you care.”
Bex Gaunt (Performer/Composer) “Love is the heartbeat, the motivation to keep moving forward with hope and possibility.”
Emma Goos (Marketing) “Love plays the role of accepting people for who they are and all the little quirks about each and every person. As for leading the way for a world where we can all thrive, I believe love plays a role in this in a sense where love is tied to happiness, and in order for us to all thrive and be happy, love needs to be present.”
Autumn Gurgel Valentini (Marketing Director) “Love is the catalyst, the lens, the measure, the grace when we fail, and the re-igniting fire to try again.”
Marjorie Hakala (Payroll Processor) “Loving community is the only way anything gets done.”
Meg Hanna (Nonprofit Fundraiser) “Every person has a say in what kind of world we create. Showing love and regard for our fellow humans empowers us to create a kinder, more equitable, more loving world.”
Dee Hein (Retired banker) “I believe that kindness is love in action, and try to express and spread kindness in mundane, everyday ways—it’s the little things that matter a lot!”
Grace Alice Herbertz (Student) “The ultimate thing in life is to show love to others. You love everybody even when you don’t know them or they annoy or they’re different from you. Love means even more when you choose to love everybody and not select people.”
Brianna Hill (Entrepreneur) “I believe in the phrase ‘You can only give what you have’, therefore the role that love plays first for me is in self-love, acceptance, and compassion. From there, I am able to express and show true and genuine love for others in the world, even when it is not reciprocated.”
Emma Jirele (Learning & Engagement Manager) “Love, a universal force, guides our collective journey towards a world where everyone can flourish, fostering unity and understanding.”
Jenny Kisner (Operations Director at the Minnesota Chorale) “Humans flourish when they have someone to love them. Humankind can’t flourish until everyone feels loved.”
Katie Kovacovich (High School College/Career Counselor) “Love reminds me that we are all interconnected—to one another and this earth. Love gives me the courage and support to show up when it’s hard, and I am grounded in love’s ever expanding space big enough to hold all of the people, experiences, and feelings our lives encounter.”
Wenie Lado (Associate Director, Enrollment Success, College Greenlight @ EAB) “Love is the foundation of my empathy, my compassion, and my inclination to nurture. Love is not linear, but it’s certainly inclusive.”
Jessica Laven Johnson (Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired) “I try to convey a sense of welcome to people personally and professionally. It is always my goal to share kindness and dignity with others, especially those who are sometimes overlooked.”
Jeenee Lee (Graphic Designer) “I share love with others when I am full and receive it when I am empty. Love multiplies with use and when I help one person feel better, everyone is better.”
Ana M. Leyva (Teacher | Interpreter) “Love is my drive! Everything good in me that I offer others stems from love.”
Carly Lunden (Communications Manager) “I love the Carl Sagan quote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’ For me, love is the guiding force that connects us to each other and provides meaning in chaos, that compels us to see the unleashed abundance in every person.”
Danica McDonald (Analyst) “When I’m focused on the love and light in my life, I show up in my career and personal life in a more empathetic and compassionate way.”
Rachel Moniz (Hematology/Oncology Pharmacist) “Love is what grants courage to do the uncomfortable and show up in the ways that are needed.”
Kristi Mueller (Retired Music Educator) “Love makes us better people, empathetic people, connected people. Music is the vehicle I chose a long time ago, to connect with others. Helping my students to become people who love and who care about others has always been my goal. I hope I was able to affect my students the way my music teachers affected me to become more loving and empathetic. To make our world better every day.”
Elizabeth Neuenfeldt (Editor) “In a world of hatred, indifference, and suffering, love and compassion for each other and ourselves are acts of protest. I hold fast to love and strive to put more love and compassion into the world no matter how bleak it gets.”
Elizabeth Raimann (Tax Accountant) “Finding ways to access and share love helps me come to interactions with compassion. Singing is an essential part of that process for me!”
Marty Raymond (Retired) “I love to sing with others and I love the music we share. I am not a leader, but ‘Together We Sing’!”
Miriam Sahouani (Tax Consultant) “Leading with love means *all* kinds of love: appreciative love, supportive love, hopeful love, and even tough love.”
Erin Sandsmark (Artist/Education Advocate) “I have deep and loving connections with family and friends, who help me improve as a person. I bring love, or empathy, for others with me in the work I do as an artist, and as an education advocate.”
Katie Sandsmark (Multilingual Learner Teacher) “Love is the core of showing up in solidarity with others. Loving people, regardless of beliefs or politics, is the foundation of moving the needle towards justice and peace.”
Lisa Kathleen Schalla (Foundation Network Leader) “I believe it is indispensable and means to show up ready to accept people where they are, and welcome them into our space. Co-create.”
Sydney Schoeberle (PR Senior Account Executive) “Leading with love to me means embracing our imperfections and learning and growing together through empathy and kindness. It can take a lot of courage to be vulnerable like that, but when it works, it eases my anxiety and gives me hope.”
Forrest Schrader (Plant Store Owner) “For me, love manifests in a variety of different forms like, compassion, respect, leadership, humor, or empathy. Leading with love allows having a deeper understanding of one’s self as well as others. This deeper understanding of one another rooted in love, allows for more vulnerability and growth.”
Laura Tanner (Nonprofit Fundraiser) “Leading with love is approaching others with empathy to build meaningful connections and creating an engaged community where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.”
Claire Walsh
Allie Wigley (Senior Financial Analyst) “Love is at the root of honesty and empathy. I find these qualities essential to bringing my best self to my relationships, my career, and my community.”
Steve Aggergaard (Workplace Investigator and Attorney) “With love comes unity. Singing is a unifying factor for those who do it, those who teach it, and those who listen to it.”
David Ampaabeng (Cashier) “Allowing people to be their true selves despite how it may make me feel, and doing my best to make everyone around me feel cared about and respected.”
Brett Bacon (Attorney) “My love and respect for those mistreated and left behind by society inspires me to do all that I can to try to make the world a more equitable and just place.”
Larry J Brandts (Retired IT and Finance Professional) “Love is a guiding principle, a core value that I seek to express in my interactions with others.”
Cheryl Calloway (Retired Attorney) “For me, in this context, LOVE = caring about a person or issue or a benevolent feeling towards another person or issue. The desire to be an instrument of change for the betterment of the institution or one or more persons or communities.”
Justin Clark (PhD Candidate–Biostatistics) “Love motivates both of those commitments!”
Ryan Coopergard (Data Scientist) “Love gives me the moral clarity and energy to treat others well and do the right thing.”
Ben Demaree (CTO) “I think love comes without judgements, and in the absence of judgment, there is usually psychological safety and curiosity, and I think both of those things are precursors to thriving.”
Grant Dunne (Direct Support Professional) “Leading with love gives confidence and freedom to those figuring out how to live in harmony with the world.”
Tim Emery (IT/Tech Recruiter) “To realize that every human deserves love and respect! Empathy is the most important thing I think a lot of people are missing.”
Mark Jesmer
Reagan Lee (Business Premier Service Consultant) “It doesn’t cost anything to pay it forward, nor does it cost to love your fellow human. Those are a few of the principles I live by.”
Owen Metzger (Chemist) “I show up in my life with the intention to build new connections and deepen existing relationships. Putting love first allows us to recognize each others’ humanity and needs.”
Kurtis Parlin (Government Attorney) “Love helps me strengthen authentic connections and treat other people as ends in and of themselves, rather than the means to an end.”
Thomas Sasdi (Teacher) “Showing care for students by meeting them where they are.”
Ona Sussman
Barry Tikalsky (Application Developer and Data Engineer) “Forming relationships to understand what the people around me need and giving what I can to help them.”
Ethan Williams (Music Educator) “Love plays a role in my teaching job, my home life, and everything I do. It helps me stay grounded.”
Robert Atendido (Management Analyst, State of Minnesota) “Love can be apparent in unexpected ways; always be open to the possibilities.”
David Castro (Professor) “Love is a powerful force that can inspire and motivate people to achieve great things. Leading with love involves respecting individuals’ differences and their processes for growth.”
Adam Hecker (Bartender/Server) “Love allows us to open our hearts to everyone and see the humanity in the world.”
Russ Kaplan (Composer, Music Teacher) “Love is the essential ingredient! Love for the self, love for the people in my immediate world, and a real desire for humanity to have the best and lift each other up. Leading with competition, spite or anger just won’t get us there… and in my own life leaves me feeling empty.”
Evan Clay Kelly (Product Support Lead) “I think discussions, decisions, and dialogue grounded in love for all leads us towards positive outcomes for the world.”
Jordan Kiffmeyer (Flight Attendant) “By trying to be an advocate within the community by lending my voice to help members of our community that experience oppression. To help share their experiences/stories within the broader community to help bring awareness and help increase empathy in our shared humanity as people.”
Jacob Koshiol (Psychiatric Associate at M Health Fairview Adolescent Residential Treatment Center) “Love is a feeling and expression beyond acceptance. That’s why we crave it.”
Philip Lowry (Physician—retired from practice but teaching at the med school) “Love is starting to drive almost everything for me. I don’t think this leads the way but hopefully makes a ripple. I am satisfied with this.”
Noah Lucas (Software Engineer) “When I lead with love, it’s about creating a connection and genuinely understanding the people I work with. This isn’t just about being nice, it’s about creating a space where everyone feels they belong and can do their best work. When people feel valued and understood, that’s when we can really come together and create something amazing for the world.”
Nicholas Marcouiller (Software Project Management) “It’s crucial to build genuine relationships with the humans you encounter daily. These relationships are our foundation for achieving common goals, including a more prosperous future for all.”
Thomas Mondry (Actuary) “To love is to find a way to make every connection meaningful and intentional.”
Nick Mroczek (Systems Administrator) “Love acts as a centralized beacon; its presence like a tether providing the needed supports to wade through uncertain waters. You can always rely on love.”
Declan O’Higgins (Accountant) “Love for the community and all the people that live and work around me keeps me from turning inward. Instead, I strive to act and vote with selflessness and care, because so many people didn’t get the advantages I did.”
Milo Oien-Rochat (Research Engineer) “I love to sing. I’m not choosy with my audience.”
David Olson (Quality Engineer with an Aerospace Company) “When you lead with love you are more motivated, more engaged, and more fulfilled.”
Brian D. Ruhl (Retired) “I believe love is intertwined with numerous elements of living creatures and love allows me to express my humanity in all areas of my life. It’s a gift to be used/applied as we walk through this world.”
Josh Snapp (Education Data Analyst) “I like Dr. Brené Brown’s definition of love: ‘A practice, a verb.’ I try to embody that practice in how I treat others, how I choose compassion instead of judgement, and how I hold people with patience, understanding and respect.”
Trent Stenoien (Software Engineer) “Lead with empathy and understanding, and remember the golden rule.”
Jacob Weindling

VocalEssence Ensemble Singers 2023-24, photo credit-Bruce Silcox

The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers have established an international reputation because of their extensive catalog of recordings and broad range of unique repertoire. This chamber choir, whose members hail from a wide variety of professions, is bound together by their skilled artistry to create what The Times of London has described as a “flawless” sound.
Jennifer Bevington (English Teacher) “I strive to help my students grow in understanding and compassion for others by sharing in stories and creating an environment where all feel safe and loved for who they are.”
Chloe Johnson (Church Musician and Teacher) “By openness to all through intentional dialogue, intentional moves to make positive change, and listening well.”
Natalia Romero Arbeláez (High School Choir Director) “There are so many kinds of love I experience every day: love for my job, love for my students, love for my family, love for my community. Love opens the door for curiosity and grace to enter the room, and allows for space for all to belong.”
Kathryn Rupp (Sales Development) “When I am around others, a loved one, friends or stranger, I actively try to create an environment where that person feels comfortable around me. This can look different depending on the needs of that person, but ultimately I want people to feel seen and loved when they are around me.”
Mari Scott (Music Teacher) “When my own children and students ask big life questions, I try to model love and compassion, nurture curiosity, and encourage generosity. Also, a smile and a kind word goes a long way.”
Carey Shunskis (ComMUSICation Music and Program Director) “Leading with love can help to heal our souls and hopefully inspire others to create a more compassionate world.”
Robin Joy Helgen (Classical Singer, Voice Teacher) “Love is the core, the center, the place we move into the world from. It carries others, encourages, supports, hears, and draws everyone in.”
Patty Kramer
Audrey Lane-Getaz (Teaching Assistant and Paraprofessional) “If you love something it means you have passion, and half of stepping up to the role of leading the way is having a driving passion to help you navigate.”
Judith McClain MelandeR (Singer/Music Director) “I choose the music I share with love. Just as I would prepare nourishing delicious food for my family, I share music that will nourish
the world.”
Anna G Meek (English Professor, Writer, Musician) “The fiercest kind of love leads me not to calm and untroubled waters but to bravery, generous-hearted conflict, discomfort, even
sorrow and rage. In my teaching and writing, I try to model how this opens our hearts wider, makes us powerful so can act on what we believe is just, and reminds us we are not alone.”
Carolyn Nuelle (High School ESL Teacher) “In my job working with students who are learning English, I find myself thinking often about how we can show love and care across language barriers and cultural divides. We aspire to give warm welcomes to new members of the classroom who have just arrived in the United States, and to interact with curiosity rather than judgment as we learn from each other.”
Kristina Rodel Sorum (Arts Fundraiser) “Leading with love is a humbling experience. Being loving always needs to matter more than being right, being the best, or being the most popular.”
Catherine Terres (Student) “Love is the default I want to give to every person I encounter. Meeting others as a loving version of myself links us by our humanities and grows more love to
be shared.”
Peter Aldrich
Eli Baumgartner
Will Berendsen (Audio Engineer) “I’m reminded of the phrase, ‘we all live in the same house’ meaning, no matter the issues or differences we have with one another, we live together here and have to make it work for everyone to be successful. And just like with family, you have to have love for those you love with to make that work.”
Ben Brunnette (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practitioner) “Love is everything. If we can’t have love for ourselves and everyone around us, none of us can thrive. Importantly, love can look like closeness AND accountability AND so many other things. Love is expansive, all encompassing, and inexhaustible.”
Jared Campbell (Student, Freelance Singer) “Love transcends all power, emotions, and hate. Bringing love into any situation will make the world a better place.”
Robert J. Graham (Learning & Engagement Manager | Conductor of Vintage Voices Choirs, VocalEssence) “Loving is one of the things I do best. It comes naturally to me, and it is so easy and feels so great to invest time, energy and focus into showing love, compassion, care, concern and understanding in all that I do. Being a choir teacher and someone who works with people on a daily basis, it helps me to thrive knowing that I am helping others to thrive and feel dignified about themselves. All things are possible through love, so let’s lead the way!”
Jonah Herzog (Nonprofit Artistic Manager) “Sometimes there is no choice but love, even—and especially—when justice, hope, and even faith are in question–there is simply nothing else to lead with, and thus love endures through and through.”
Phil Reilly (Retail Manager) “Love is given freely with no expectations. By choosing to love others freely, I can create a space for others to be authentically themselves and feel valued.”
Joseph Ellickson (Office Administrator) “Love is all about the connections you make with other people and bringing a positive light to those around you. When you bring light, it naturally
spreads to those nearby, and it keeps on giving!”
David Gindra (Software Engineer) “Love is the foundation upon which we can build the positive change we seek. Without love, we cannot make the connections necessary to inspire others to work and build with us.”
Joe Kastner (Cheesemonger) “I always think of the phrase ‘love the neighbor as thyself.’ I’m not a particularly religious person, but I think starting from that mindset helps spread positivity.”
Nathan Petersen-Kindem (Business Intelligence Developer) “In all my spheres of life, I try to be about celebrating and enabling the success of others, and being present when friends, family, or colleagues are struggling. It’s love that allows me to maintain generosity of spirit.”
Erik Krohg (Musician) “Treating others with love and respect is important in creating community and a world where people can succeed as themselves.”
Dr. Michael P. Schmidt (Senior Learning Designer) “Love means listening more than talking and HEARING what is being said and what isn’t.”
Benjamin Shermock (Musician) “Love is like a life force energy, in a way. It motivates so many things. A universal sense of empathy and compassion comes along with agape love, and
that ignites a fiery passion for justice.”

Members of VocalEssence Singers Of This Age on performing stage wearing multi colored shirts.
VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, photo credit-Anna Min

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.
Alice Weiland “Being there with an open mind and listening to the people around me.”
Alyssa Witty “Love is the reason I show up. I am here because I love being here, and because I want to inspire others to love being here, too.”
Anaje Colquitt “I show love by checking in with people once in a while.”
Ani Yorkhall “I think it’s really important to show people you love them—even if you’re not super close, doing little things to show people you care can make a really big difference.”
Anna Delaney “I make sure people around me feel heard and seen, by doing this I hope I help make them feel loved and cared for.”

Audrey Tuite “Making sure other people feel seen, valued, and loved by acknowledging them and asking how they are/making conversation.”

Aurora Silpala “Love can multiply the power of things by thousands if it’s strong enough. If you love something you’re trying to save, you may have better chances of saving it.”
Avery Somdahl “I was raised with the philosophy that you should always try to live
with love and show others love. I personally try to embody that in the way I interact with people, I’m not the most extroverted or outspoken but I try to show kindness and understanding, I listen when people have something to say and I offer my own words of love when I see they are needed.”
Benny DiGerlando “Love plays a role in what I do by showing others I care and making people laugh.”
Dede Jones “Love plays the role of taking action as in making a way of using my voice to change the world. I use songs and poems to express love to the world.”
Esme Wright “Love is really important because it’s something that so many people need more and I show love by listening and being there for people.”
Essie Botz “Making people feel beautiful.”
Jadesola “Ghost” Olatunde “It shows up in the little things like how I treat people.”
Harry Linter “Love is the one thing that I try to give to everyone and I hope people give back, without love the world wouldn’t be able to thrive.”
Henrik Mills “Giving people compliments, and engaging with strangers in a nice way.”
Ian Ronning “Love determines how I treat and care for those whom I hold dearly in my heart
when they need it.”
Jimmy Tucker
Jer Vang “I think that love should be shown in the little ways in life. Not matter how big or grand or little and minor love is love. Showing a bit of love with little kindnesses like helping your fellows and accepting people and giving what you can.”
Joshua Ramirez “I lovingly challenge myself and others to consider things from a more open-minded and curious perspective, and to consider if their assumptions are effective or ineffective.”
Kaija HalvorsonMy love shows up in random acts of kindness and smiles I share with others who may be nervous. My love leads the way by demonstrating how to be a helping hand.”
Kiara Steiner “Love plays the biggest role in how the world can thrive because love means effort, empathy, and acceptance. Without those things there is no balance and no one is able to thrive.”
Leah Odegaard-Dunning “One of the most important ways that I show love is by approaching the world with an open mind and a curious heart. People don’t fit in boxes, and it is crucial to actively resist that mindset.”
Lela Sabin “I recognize that I don’t know everyone’s situation, so I treat everyone with respect and understanding.”
Lily Hiebert “I try everyday to be the person I can be and to treat others with kindness because everyone deserves that. Love can truly bring out the best in people and the littlest of actions can have a huge impact on someone. I always strive to treat people with kindness, no matter how I feel at the moment. Additionally, I always try to listen people before letting stereotypes and rumors define people.”
Mahogony “Mo” Robinson “I love my friends and family.”
Elizabeth “Moxie” Tucker “Love is why I show up for everything I do. Without love, we would all simply exist, not thrive.”
Natalie Goodman “Love means being welcoming of everyone no matter where they are coming from.”
Jerusha “Ru” Burdette “When you lead with love you are in a mindset of helping and uplifting others which creates an inclusive environment that thrives on honesty and respect.”
Ruby Atkins “For me love means showing up with kindness and listening to people.”
Ursula Beitz “My entire worldview is driven by empathy—I firmly believe no person’s wellbeing must come at the cost of another’s, and this informs everything I do.”
Wendy Mulewa “Love brings unity.”
Yawn Ye Thao “I show love by opening up towards people I trust, or people who respect me, this way helps build a better relationship towards someone.”
Zola Ranum “I think that if you lead with compassion and understanding for everyone you encounter it will be demonstrated as a mutual love for life that we can all share. I think love is a beautiful thing and it is an incredible thing to feel about our world.”

Three adult Vintage Voices members holding black folders and singing. Photo Credit: Adja Gildersleve
Vintage Voices members, photo credit-Adja Gildersleve

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.
Becky Coleman (Retired) “Love reminds me that I am not the center of the universe. It teaches me to listen to, respect and care for others without judgment.”
Jan Cutler (Retired) “Love shows up every day with wonderful friends/support family at Trillium Woods Senior Living. As my friends and family keep in touch on a regular basis we share our love. Having the opportunity to sing with VocalEssence shares love with our new friends here. Love gives life purpose and enjoyment.”
Jim Ervin (Retired Lawyer) “At my age, it’s pretty obvious that all the other alternatives are unavailing—envy, prejudice, revenge, anger and the like just don’t work. Love, respect, compassion, joy, forgiveness do work when practiced one to one, so I strive to greet each day and each person with a smile.”
Valton Henderson (Human Resources) “I Corinthians 13:4–8a (ESV) Love is patient and kind….Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. If we all practiced these principles this world would be a much better place.”
Wilmetia Henderson (Retired) “I have love for the entire human race. I don’t have any disdain towards a person simply because they aren’t the same race as I am. Besides, how can you dislike a person you don’t know? My strong religious beliefs helps me hold on to the love needed to get through daily living.”
Jean Herron (Retired Preschool Teacher) “Love is showing up with respect for one another, listening to each other. Without listening, there is total chaos and misunderstanding.”
Joy Pierce (Strings and Orchestra Teacher, Parkway School District) “Love is sharing the best I’m able to offer to others; family, friends, students, colleagues, this world.”
Nancey Riley (Retired) “Love reminds and allows me to reach out and show compassion for others, even when I disagree with them or I don’t like specific behaviors.”
Jean Spong (Retired) “I believe Love, the most basic of gifts, needs to be shared. What better way than through music? Hans Christian Andersen’s words inspire me: ‘Where words fail, music speaks.’”
Chuck Swanson (Retired) “If we have God’s love in us, we will take responsibility to care about others in the world, particularly those in need. The love for others is the key.”

VocalEssence Board of Directors and Staff

Carolina Maranon-Cobos
Torrie Allen
Vice President
Daniel Fernelius
Kristen Hoeschler O’Brien
Mary Ann Aufderheide
Anna Boyle
Tanya M. Bransford
Philip Brunelle
Ben Brunnette
Amber Cales
Mirella Ceja-Orozco
Margaret Chutich
Dan Dressen
Martha Driessen
Cassandra Garnett
Autumn Gurgel
Valton Henderson
Daniel Kantor
Lisa Merklin Lewis
Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed
Richard Neuner
Kristine Oberg
Jim Odland
Doug Parish
Joanne Reeck
G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Jeff Smith
Amanda Storm Schuster
Timothy C. Takach
Bob Thacker
Elizabeth Truesdell Smith
Ann Barkelew
Ann Buran
Art Kaemmer*
Nikki Lewis
Mike McCarthy*
Dave Mona
Fred Moore
Don Shelby
Dorene Wernke
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
Philip Brunelle
Artistic Director and Founder
G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Associate Artistic Director
Robert Graham
Learning and Engagement Manager | Conductor, Vintage Voices
Casey Rafn
John Jensen
Accompanist, Vintage Voices
Azure Anderson
Executive Assistant
Mary Ann Aufderheide
Executive Director
Jeff Bina
Director of Finance and Operations
Rhiannon Fiskradatz
Learning and Engagement Manager
Laura Holst
Development and Marketing Associate
Emma Jirele Sandhurst
Learning and Engagement Manager
Ethan Johnson
Director of Artistic Operations
Amanda Timmer
Director of Marketing and Communications
Elissa Weller
Director of Development

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Thank you VocalEssence Supporters

VocalEssence has a large group of committed supporters and is honored by the many gifts received in memory, appreciation, and celebration of friends and family that are too many to list in this concert program. Please click the button below to see a full list of supporters and special tributes.

VocalEssence Supporters

Special Thanks

Our composer friends who each shared insights into their compositions: Alysia, Brittany, Marques, Melanie, and Ysaÿe
Sarah Flake
Longfellow High School: Geneva Dorsey, Christine Sanguinet, Staff and Students
Minneapolis Academy and Career Center (MACC): James Daggett, Opal Ehalt, Christopher Hubbar, Staff and Students
Nick Peter
St. Paul Police Department: Deputy Chief Pamela Barragan, Patty Lammers, Garaad Sahal, Jim Vang, Community Engagement Team

Special Thanks for the Support of this Concert