2017 Conference: Engaging the Choral Community
Chorus America’s 40th anniversary Conference, held in Los Angeles on June 21-24, was not just a chance to celebrate the past – it was also a chance to look ahead to the choral field’s bright future. As President and CEO Catherine Dehoney noted at the annual meeting, the entrepreneurial spirit that has defined Chorus America from the beginning is all about “actively seeking out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change.”
Conference programming focused on new ways for choral leaders to engage with their art and their communities. The opening plenary explored the rewards of creative risk-taking as a panel made up of arts journalist Gail Eichenthal, conductors Grant Gershon and Francisco Núñez, and jazz flutist James Newton discussed their own experiences with pushing the envelope. LA Phil violinist and TED speaker Vijay Gupta’s Friday presentation was a powerful testament to the transformative power of music. Gupta spoke about his work with Street Symphony, an initiative that uses music to engage with people experiencing homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County. Singers from the Urban Voices Project, a Skid-Row based community choir, joined Gupta and the Street Symphony Chamber Singers to perform a new piece that choruses can use in their own engagement work.
On Saturday, speaker Terrence McNally challenged attendees to harness the power of storytelling to build credibility, deepen relationships, and help people feel a connection to the work choruses do. And throughout the Conference, breakout sessions featured new ideas for programming, audience and board development, navigating transitions, and much more. Meeting and learning from colleagues is always a highlight for attendees. The year’s Conference featured facilitated Peer Forums for various types of choruses, Roundtables for small group discussions, Buttonholes for making one-on-one connections, and more Dine-Around opportunities. Conference performances highlighted the vibrant, diverse Los Angeles choral community, including performances by VOX Femina Los Angeles, Angel City Chorale, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles, and the Los Robles Master Chorale.
The concert by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, host of the Conference, culminated in a stunning 20th anniversary performance of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, performed for the first time with full orchestra. LAMC also closed out the Conference with the Saturday afternoon Big Sing L.A., a community sing in downtown Grand Park. This year’s Conference would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors—especially lead Conference sponsor Distinguished Concerts International, New York (DCINY)—which underwrote many of the sessions and events. We are so grateful to all the speakers, performers, donors, exhibitors, and volunteers, and to our host and partner organizations for making the 2017 Conference a success.