Many agencies continue to make the case that choral music contributes to the cultural and wellness life of nearly every community in the country. Choirs are frequently cited as helping to foster social connectedness in a nation that is experiencing a decline in community engagement and a growing divide in socio-economic levels. The American Choral Directors Association along with the Barbershop Harmony Society, Chorus America, Americans for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other organizations continue to document the large number of choirs in the United States, ranging from choirs established to bring awareness to social justice issues, college and university choirs, professional choruses, church and community choirs, children’s and youth choirs, military choirs, and the list goes on and on. However, little is known about common opportunities and challenges these groups are facing and how they can be used to sustain and grow our clearly established and beneficial art form.
On April 8-9 of this year, the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, and the Barbershop Harmony Society convened a summit forum of leaders from primary sectors of choral music activity in the USA at Yale University. We convened this group of choral leaders with the assumption that, if understood and leveraged, connections between and among choruses and their leaders could strengthen the whole field of choral music. We envision this as a chorus ecosystem.
In order to better understand the chorus ecosystem, and to potentially influence the way choruses can adapt to changing conditions by developing traits that facilitate survival, the goals of our Forum were to
• identify common opportunities and challenges facing choral music sectors;
• develop recommendations for future actions, collaborations, and projects that will help sustain and promote the benefits of choral singing in communities;
• provide each represented chorus sector with information and recommendations that could be tailored for that sector’s use;
• develop collateral activities to enhance the forum’s findings, such as relevant conference sessions to gather more input/feedback and future Choral Journal article(s).
Examples of questions explored during the two day Forum included
• What comprises the chorus ecosystem and where are its weaknesses and potential threats?
• What is happening in the environment today that we can learn from and experiment with in order to help choruses and their leaders adapt to potential changes in their environment?
• What is the role of new media/technology?
• What are some of the pressing issues and opportunities for choruses related to inclusion/diversity/socioeconomic divisions and race?
• How could a member of the chorus ecosystem align its performers, performances, leadership, governance, and constituents to better maximize its public value?
• What is the public value that the choral field as a whole creates?
• How do we educate the next generation of singers?
In the months to come, it is our desire to continue the work of the Yale Chorus Ecosystem Forum by developing sessions for additional discussion, develop articles for our respective publications, offer our findings to our advocacy committees, and distribute our findings and recommendations for future work.
As the American Choral Directors Association convenes our own National Leadership Conference in June, I look forward to advancing the findings of the Yale Forum into our newly adopted structure, with the expectation that we will continue to collaborate with other leaders and organizations in the advancement and enhancement of the choral art.