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October, 2011

Connecting Choir and Community
by Kirk Aamot, R & S Chair for Student Activities

If you want your program to be successful over the long term, you must find a way to make what you do valuable within your community.

Iaamot remember this advice from my undergraduate choral music methods class and have witnessed the truth of it many times over, as I’m sure you have in your own work. 

We recognize the value of creating concerts that have a meaningful place in the communities where we teach.  We advertise performances hoping that residents will want to attend. 

In addition to building an audience for our performances, it is important that we look for opportunities to put the expressive power of music to work to improve and uplift our communities. By employing our choirs in the service of a civic project, we demonstrate to those whom we count on for support the capacity of music to influence and inspire people. 

The people of Appleton, Wisconsin recently sponsored a civic initiative that includaamot-quoteed several creative events exploring the topic of compassion.  One such event featured psychologist and author Dr. Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin.  The Appleton North High School Concert Choir was asked to provide music during Dr. Davidson's presentation.  My brother Craig was the director of that choir at the time and he told me that it was difficult to fit the Compassion Project into his already crowded spring calendar; however, he thought the choir could contribute in a meaningful way to what was an important community project. 

Planning sessions were held so that the various parts of the presentation developed the theme in an integrated fashion.  Craig was allowed to choose music according to different themes and while his choir sang there were video presentations and voice-over testimonies of acts of compassion that had taken place in the community.  The music provided by the choir truly enhanced the meaning of the presentation.  

The Appleton Compassion project is just one example of a community initiative in which a school choir might become involved.  

Other events where music could play an inspirational role include a food drive, a Veterans’ Day observance, promotion of a summer reading initiative, or the opening of an elder hostile.  

Music may be effectively used to embody the spirit of an initiative or convey the true essence of an idea and we can use this expressive power to shine a light on a need in our communities. 

Though sometimes difficult to schedule, performing at events such as these will demonstrate the power of music to people who don’t normally attend our concerts and show our students how music can be used to serve others.

Often funding for music programs is put in jeopardy because of the mistaken notion that the study of music is not for everyone.  

One way we can demonstrate the value of music in human life is to find opportunities for our choirs to play inspirational roles in community events.  Everyone enjoys seeing singers add beauty and meaning to a cause or project.   People who may never attend a concert will witness the expressive power of music and understand that the event would not have the same impact without it.

Employing music in the service of a community goal is a great way to build a deeper connection for our students between the music they perform and its value in the life of a community.

Kirk Aamot
Director of Choral Activities
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT

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