College issues: Non-students in college choirs
As requested, here is a compilation of replies to my query about using
non-students in university choruses. Thank you to all who shared
information and suggestions.
I know that the Collegium Musicum (the advanced chorus) at UC Berkeley was
using staff and a few community members when I was in it as a student
between 1978-1980. No problem at all.
The Carleton University Choir here in Ottawa has more community members
now than student members. A number are faculty or admin workers at the
university, but many have no connection. Music students are obliged to
sing in the choir for two years, I believe. The non-students pay a
membership fee. I've never heard any discussion of legality or whatever.
In the past three years, the choir has been performing major works with
professional orchestras - Bach St. Matthew Passion this year, B-minor last
year. We have received funding from the community as well as the
university, and this year have applied to the City of Ottawa for a grant,
but haven't heard yet whether we have been successful.
The University of Portland (a private, Master's granting, liberal arts
university) has included community members in three ensembles for many
years (band, orchestra, chorus). The community members provide mentoring
for students and musical stability for the ensembles. Since our music
program is relatively small, this has been very positive for the
performance level. The number of community musicians has varied depending
on the number of student participants. All rehearsals are in the evenings
(2 hours, weekly). One of the groups asks community participants to
contribute $15 per semester to cover expenses. All community musicians are
auditioned. In addition to these three ensembles, there are two other
student-only performing groups which rehearse during the day.
Michael Connolly, University of Portland, Portland, OR, connolly(a)up.edu
Congratulations on building a growing program!
The most usual model is a town-gown orchestra. In fact a small college
often must depend on non-students to fill the orchestra seats. This
generally results in 3 classes of players: students who take the ensemble
for credit (and may be required to take it), community members who
participate on a committed but voluntary basis, and occasionally a
professional player or players who are paid for the last rehearsals and
performance because their parts cannot be covered by volunteers. Except
at Indiana University (which had 7 complete orchestras when I first went
there!), every college I've been at had this kind of orchestra, as we do
At the present time our town has a Blacksburg Master Chorale which is for
non-students and is completely independent administratively from the
university. Students are, however, welcome to participate, and at the
discretion of the university choral director may be required to
participate if the activity is equally required of all members of a
student ensemble for a specific concert. (That's the case with the
Britten War Requiem, which we will present next week.) Thus the two
ensembles can rehearse and perform together while the administration does
In my own Early Music Ensemble I have always welcomed community members,
faculty, or college-age performers who are not presently enrolled in our
school. No one has ever questioned me about it, including specifically my
department head. Don't ask, don't tell, don't make waves! But I think it
could be justified if necessary as either "community outreach" or
"continuing education." I suspect that things may be different in Canada,
but perhaps not all that different.
Best of luck in working out your situation. Keep us informed.
John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
The combination of community members who pay dues or an audit fee with
those taking the ensemble for credit is a fairly standard model in US
colleges and universities. I have taught at 3 institutions and am moving
to a fourth; all four have had a group that functioned in this way.
David Schildkret, Dean
Salem College School of Music
PO Box 10548
Winston-Salem, NC 27108
PHONE: 336-721-2637 FAX: 336-721-2683 E-MAIL:
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