Rock around the clock… Ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog… Lollipop, lollipop… Crawfish pie, filé gumbo—just a few of the iconic lyrics of the 1940s and 50s, a Golden Age of music! While we all weren’t coming of age during that time period, we all have experienced our own “Golden Decade” or two in our musical formation. So, why talk about popular music in this month’s Advocacy and Collaboration blog?
As choir people, we have witnessed, felt, and intrinsically understand the power of singing. While this experience is unique, perhaps it’s not too far of a stretch to say that non-choral folks also have the ability to connect to music they enjoy in a meaningful way. This value of connection that music creates is a power in and of itself—one that as choral leaders we can harness! So for this month’s A&C blog, we’re going to put that value into action.
One of the great ways to deepen our community’s ties to music is through collaboration and service. Perhaps you’ve heard the term service learning—a concept that emerged in the education world in the 1980s as a way to bridge the gap between academia and using that knowledge to volunteer and serve. It is also a fantastic tool to create meaningful connections between your choir and your community. In this post, we highlight an example of service learning through the RISE Chorales of Savannah, Georgia. Through this profile, perhaps you might be inspired to strike up a conversation with an organization in your community!
Step 1. It has to come from the heart.
A panelist at a national ACDA conference once said “collaboration doesn’t just happen… it has to be in your organization’s D.N.A.” This sentiment is at the heart of RISE Chorales and its partner 501(c)3 organization, RISE Outreach. Combined, these entities seek to “Revolutionize and Inspire Singing Excellence” and highlight the power of music by providing musical opportunities to all ages throughout the city of Savannah. RISE Outreach accomplishes this through scholarships, sponsoring singers with greater financial need, and implementing musical programs and workshops at a variety of locations.
Step 2. You have to explore and examine the possibilities.
Collaborations start with conversations, ones where mutual investment and interest must be palpable. These can begin over email, phone, or (best) face-to-face.
For RISE Outreach, it began with an email from Hope Arbor—a respite care program housed in a local church in Savannah. Their activity director asked if RISE had anything they could do to support their participants through music. It continued with a face-to-face meeting where the complexities of caring for individuals with memory loss were on the forefront. Then, RISE representatives conducted observations of Hope Arbor’s activities which made it clear that a music therapy approach would be best.
Step 3. Make and execute an action plan.
RISE and Hope Arbor got to work crafting meaningful musical activities for the participants. These included singing popular tunes from the 40s and 50s and doing basic movement games to encourage engagement. Good news—it worked! And after the first session, the participants were singing, dancing, and sharing stories.
Step 4. Reflect and revise.
Once your partnership has gotten off the ground, it’s important to establish a logical timeframe in which you will reflect on your activities and determine the appropriate course for the future. After each session at Hope Arbor, the parties document their favorite moments, collaborate on ideas for the following week, and share successes. At the conclusion of the first semester of classes, RISE and Hope Arbor representatives met to discuss what was working, how the goals of each party were being mutually fulfilled, and what needs to happen moving forward.
The partnership of possibility exists all around us. Yours may look a bit like RISE’s or it may take on a new identity that is wholly your own. If you’re interested in seeking musical partnerships that go beyond the stage, consider these tips:
- Check your community of current singers to see where their passions lie
- Canvas your personal/organizational community connections to identify where potential partnerships might blossom
- Conduct some research of other musical groups in your area and groups similar to your own that exist in other communities for inspiration
Remember the first step to building meaningful partnerships: it must come from the heart. With your heart open to the endless possibilities, there is nothing music cannot do! Happy collaborating!
Want to hear more about service and collaboration? Check out Episode 140 of the “Music (ed) Matters” Podcast to hear more about a new resource available the choral field: The Business of Choir: A Choral Leader’s Guide for Organizational Growth (more details at BusinessofChoir.com).
Watch This Music (ed) Matters podcast episode #140 on Youtube: https://youtu.be/mG9nAIyioug.
This month’s “Advocacy and Collaboration Committee” Blog was written by committee members, Emily Williams Burch & Alex Gartner.
Dr. Emily Williams Burch chairs ACDA’s Advocacy & Collaboration Committee. Dr. Burch has served in various positions for ACDA at the state, regional, and national level in a variety of roles, including co-programming chair and honor choir coordinator for the Southern Region ACDA conferences since 2014. Find out more about Dr. Burch at EmilyBurch.org and make sure you subscribe to her podcast for music educators wherever you get your podcasts, or at EmilyBurch.org/podcast.
Alex Gartner serves as the Artistic & Executive Director of the Pensacola Children’s Chorus in Pensacola, FL. Under his leadership, the organization has grown to impact nearly 25,000 individuals throughout Northwest Florida, including over 5,000 youth, through innovative programs, performances, and organizational practices. He also serves the American Choral Directors Association as the Children’s and Youth R&R Coordinator for the Southern Region, is an all-state coordinator for the Florida Music Education Association, and previously served on the national arts education council with Americans for the Arts. Also, a published author, check out the book, “The Business of Choir” at BusinessofChoir.com.
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