Socialization is also vital for members in a music ensemble (Langston & Barrett, 2008). We all work toward a common goal, and it is so much easier to move toward this shared goal when we know who we are sharing it with. We allow our members to arrive early and stay after rehearsal to have time to fellowship with one another. We have also start every rehearsal by having each person tell the group one great thing that happened to them since the last time we met. This is a unique way to get to know each other, cultivate support for each other, and to align members emotionally and mentally for rehearsal. Building up our members shows them how much we value their time and membership. We can do this socially, but also by being prepared for rehearsal, maintaining transparency with business and finances, and giving them opportunities to express their opinions and help make decisions.
Be Transparent One of the biggest initial reservations the Board held in developing the concept of Alabama Voices was how a group of twenty- somethings tackling such a massive project would be perceived. We worried that Alabama choral music educators would not entertain the idea of joining an ensemble led by young adults that proclaims to be professional. However, we knew that no aspect of creating this ensemble was about our own pedigree. The point of this ensemble was to create an outlet for practicing choral musicians to perform so we focused on the grunt work to make that happen and hoped everything else would fall into place. We were transparent about our plans for this ensemble with all interested participants and asked for their trust along the way. We are fortunate that so many agreed to put their trust in us and have become the best members we could possibly ask for. We maintain further transparency with our members by showing them exactly where their fees go, and asking their opinion on any large decisions that come along.
Give Ownership We are constantly informing the members of Alabama Voices about the different ways they can get involved with the developmental aspect of the group. For example, we have created a committee just for this purpose. Our Development Committee gives members the opportunity to use their talents to serve the group in finding funding and any other aspects regarding the overall financial, musical, and social sustainability of the group. Fengler (2017) suggests, “The viability of every nonprofit chorus depends on the success of its development committee and the effectiveness of the committee chair” (p. 1). We have also delegated our website and graphic design to members of our group who
volunteered their efforts. You are sitting on a goldmine with your members—they have a variety of backgrounds and experiences that you can utilize to the group’s advantage. If you create an atmosphere of preparedness, inclusivity, and transparency within the group, members will want to help in bigger ways. Giving them an important role, such as serving on a committee, designing graphics or digital media, or even planning social events offers them a stronger feeling of validation and inclusion in the ensemble.
Sustaining Your Program You can take every step, think through every decision, and complete all of the legal minutiae to get an organization off the ground and running—but how do you keep the forward momentum? That is something we are in the process of figuring out as we are just now entering that stage of development. Sustaining the organization, pushing the potential, harnessing enthusiasm, and seeing that your musical and community goals are achieved are all equally important as the business side.
Make Goals...and Keep Them Our Board established goals for Alabama Voices during our first official Board meeting. Some were simple and easy to meet; others were not. Our short-term goals were to get the group off the ground and running smoothly; establish a consistent rehearsal and performance schedule; and complete the paperwork necessary to become a non-profit, federally tax-exempt organization. Within eight months, we completed all of these goals. Our ongoing short-term goals include educational outreach through collegiate and high school performance tours; continued recruitment to seek out any other musicians who have not yet found that performance outlet they need; and to start building a financial cushion by seeking out grant opportunities. Our long-term goals include: larger scale performances at state, regional, national, and even international platforms, and to be able to offer scholarships to high school students in financial need in order to participate in choir past high school.
Relax Remember why you chose to do what you do when all of the minutia and chaos running an organization starts to wear you down. Remember your love for music, remember your love for teaching, and remember your love for performing. Two things are shared universally: laughter and music. If you have both, also remember to consider yourself blessed. Alabama Voices meets every third Sunday of the month from 2-5 PM at Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama. Video auditions will open soon for those interested
in joining for the fall 2019 semester. For more information on audition requirements, contact the Board of Directors at board@ alabamavoices.org
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Brady McNeil is currently entering his second year of PhD studies in music education at Auburn University where he serves as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the AU Music Department. He earned his Bachelor of Instrumental and Choral Music Education at Auburn and his Master of Music in Music Theory from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Prior to his appointment as a GTA at Auburn, Brady taught band and musical theatre, and was responsible for starting the choral program at Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama.
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