Chorus America 2017 Staff Reflections
“THESE ARE DUMPSTER FLIES. KEEP WINDOW CLOSED. DO NOT LET THEM IN.” read a sign in the hallway of our Airbnb above the quaint St. Vincent Court marketplace in Downtown Los Angeles. While dumpster flies, in passing, seem to be a great punchline for a joke or subject for a meme, the more I saw that sign coming to and from the Chorus America Conference, the more of an internal dilemma I felt. Is the work I do good enough? Am I proud of the life I lead? Are there any dumpster flies in MY house? This may sound crazy, but I’m actually very thankful for experiencing this feeling towards the beginning of Chorus America. It provided me with a humbling mindset that prepared me to learn as much as I could while I was in LA. That was, after all, that reason why I was there, right?
Amanda, Kaitlin, and I often call ourselves the “OCC Dream Team”. We figured Chorus America 2017 was the perfect place to prove our self-proclaimed trifecta. So, we divided and conquered the Chorus America plenary and breakout sessions to learn as much and meet as many people as we possibly could. At the end of the conference, we discussed our favorite sessions and what we learned from them.
Amanda decided that the opening plenary session was her favorite. This session, titled “The Rewards of Creative Risk Taking”, was presented by some of the greats in our field: Grant Gershon, James W. Newton, Jr., and Francisco J. Núñez. What Amanda admired so much about this session was hearing from these very successful innovators and leaders what has worked for them during their growth. The speakers also discussed many pieces of their career that did not go quite as planned, to which Amanda said “being the founder of a nonprofit that is still in the very earlier stages of its development, it’s reassuring to make the connections of what they have done in their past and what I’m doing now with OCC". In conclusion, the panelists reminded us to always think about our intentions in all things, whether musical, academic, or personal; it is equally important to remain humble, respectful, and continue to learn through the process.
Kaitlin attended a Friday afternoon session called “Making the Ask”. Being the Director of Marketing and Development, Kaitlin found it extremely educational with information that was introduced in an approachable way. This session was lead by Kelly Lucera, Executive Director of Long Beach Symphony, and her success with fundraising speaks for itself--$80 million in donations. Citing her experience at the beginning of her fundraising career, Kelly recounted doing substantial research about donor development, data related to donors, and strategies to inspiring donors to give--all without ever making an ask. Empowering the audience, she suggested we think of our development roles as being a matchmaker, someone who seeks to match people who support the arts with an organization working to do so. Personally, taking on this mindset helped me recontextualize my development role and has given me ideas to inspire donors to support the Omaha Children’s Choir.
I went to a panel discussion on Friday afternoon called “Creating a Welcoming Space for Transgender and Non-Binary Singers”. This panel consisted of four experts in inclusion in the choral arts: Lindsey Deaton, Joshua Palkki, William Sauerland, and Danielle Steele. While there has not been close to enough research on inclusion of transgender and non-binary singers in choirs, we talked in great length of what these singers need from us as musicians, directors, administrators, and just good people to make them feel welcome. Working for OCC, where our main goal is to be accessible and inclusive, it is so imperative that we are welcoming all singers to our choirs and making the arts a space for all to participate.
The final day of the Chorus America Conference ended with the Big Sing Los Angeles in Grand Park. While I stood with the OCC staff, surrounded by hundreds of people all making music together, I realized the magnitude of everything I had learned that week. I am more confident in my work. I know more about inclusion and diversity. I made some excellent connections and incredible friends. Chorus America provided me with such a fantastic experience for personal growth, and I cannot wait for the conference in Chicago next year! Thank you, Chorus America and Los Angeles for assuring to me that my figurative “window” is closed. There’s no way any dumpster flies are getting in my life.
We wanted to say an extra appreciative thank you again to Chorus America; without generous scholarships, our staff would not have been able to attend this year's conference!