to a vocalist’s musical performance? Professional symphony chorales and other elite, competitive vocal ensembles do not have to be the only routes for continuing performance. The inspiration for Alabama Voices originated as a result of this desire to provide an outlet for trained choral musicians to continue their musical learning by performing advanced choral repertoire with other choral musicians across the state. Philosophical questions addressed during the development process of the ensemble included:

1. Why does the state of Alabama

need this ensemble? 2. What benefits will members

reap from participation in this ensemble? 3. What are the purpose and goals

of Alabama Voices that differentiates it from other existing community and professional choral ensembles in the state?

Based on my experiences living in higher poverty areas, sophisticated musical culture is often underdeveloped and practicing music educators may be unaware of opportunities for continued participation in a music ensemble. As an instrumentalist turned choral educator, I sought out ways of exposing myself to the choral world and furthering my knowledge of choral literature and resources. I yearned for performance opportunities to develop my own choral singing, to introduce myself to new literature, and to refresh my perspective on the standard pieces. Unfortunately for me, there was no choral ensemble nearby that fit my needs. The initial concept for Alabama Voices was born out of my desire to continue learning about choral music. I sought out a way of creating an experience for other musicians, like me, that would push them to be a better version of themselves. Through discussions with other choral music educators across the state, I discovered I was not the only one with this interest.

Although the long-term success of a non- profit organization takes time to come to full fruition, my purpose is to document the creation and emergence of Alabama Voices, the first non-profit statewide choral ensemble in Alabama. Topics include establishing our purpose, the logistics and financial necessities of beginning a non- profit organization, planning rehearsals, and developing community within the ensemble.

Where to Begin?

I introduced the idea for Alabama Voices to a group of colleagues during the 2018 Alabama Music Educators Association Conference in Birmingham, all of whom I had sung with while in the Auburn

ala breve

University Chamber Choir and are also now music teachers. Despite living in more metropolitan areas, all agreed there was not an outlet for them to challenge themselves as much as they wanted in their choral performance. Collectively we decided the group should be the choral counterpart to Alabama Winds and our name, Alabama Voices, would reflect that.

Find Your Purpose What is the point of doing something without purpose? Regardless of what your purpose may be for your organization, it needs to be well thought out and formulated so that it can guide all decisions made regarding your group. My colleagues and I had many ideas to harness the potential of Alabama Voices. By taking on the large responsibility of representing the entire state of Alabama through the performance of choral music, we wanted to make sure we represented the state and art form well. We chose to do so with an auditioned group of singers rooted in volunteerism. My colleagues and I decided in our first meeting that our multifaceted purpose for Alabama Voices would be as follows: 1. To provide an outlet for music educators and adults with extensive choral experience to continue their own musical learning and artistic expression. 2. To promote the appreciation of

choral music and connect with Alabama communities through the performance of relevant choral literature at the highest level of musical artistry. 3.To provide concerts that feature

a variety of repertoire that spans all time periods and styles. 4.To represent the state of

Alabama through performance on the state, regional, and national level. 5.To sponsor and/or promote

young Alabama choral musicians in their pursuit of choral education and participation at the secondary level.

We chose to continue pursuing Alabama Voices by first surveying general interest of other choral music educators in the state. I created a Google Form shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 AMEA In-Service Conference that presented all of the details we knew so far such as rehearsal locations and times, dues, and a general purpose for our ensemble. The form was circulated to our personal friends through social media. We decided we would begin rehearsals the following fall of 2018 and would continue working toward the process of chartering our organization in the meantime. After the Google Form circulated online for a couple of months, we had collected contact information of 57 interested participants.

Each was willing to drive to Birmingham to rehearse and pay a minimal $50 per semester in dues. This was the moment we knew we were doing something worthwhile and that our purpose was important to others.

Establish a Board of Directors As interest in the group blossomed, the unofficial board continued forward with establishing roles and delegating responsibilities for the continued development of Alabama Voices. We met informally over the summer where we could all discuss what we envisioned for the group. During this meeting, I was appointed as the President; Ryan Gonzales, Vice-President; Sarah Coleman-Gonzales, Secretary; Rebecca Rogers, Treasurer; and Tyler-Davis Pilz, Director of Public Relations. Harris Gessner was unanimously selected as our first artistic director and conductor. Harris is the Director of Choral Activities at James Madison High School, and we selected him for his fine professional reputation as a young, energetic, entertaining conductor and master rehearsal technician. Due to the growing need for a liaison between the members and the Board, Amanda Slay was added as Member At Large during the spring semester.

Financial Planning One of the most critical components of creating and sustaining a successful volunteer-based organization is ensuring efficiency with the finances of the organization (Brooks, 2006). Mismanaging money is a fast way to put your group in major financial and legal trouble. Creating a budget is an essential first step in the development process. The group likely cannot function without money. However, there are many legal rules by which non- profit organizations must abide. It is imperative that you become familiar with the


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