A year ago I attended an invigorating Chorus America conference here in Seattle. For those who don’t know about Chorus America, it is a non-profit that provides services to choral groups of all kinds—professional, volunteer, children’s, you name it—on how to stay viable and healthy. This can include advice from experts on board development, marketing, recruiting singers, and more.
At one conference session I learned that for arts organizations, self-protection or fear of competition from like arts groups, such as other choruses in our case, is deadly. It kills growth. Surprisingly, when similar arts groups collaborate in all kinds of ways, not just in performances, growth can happen for all. And there is research to back that up.
For example, people who attend multiple arts events tend to come back time after time to performances. One study of seven opera companies in Philadelphia showed that although only a small percentage of their audiences attended performances by more than one opera company, 85% of those were repeat attenders; in other words, they came back again and again. The patrons who only attended a performance by one opera company were much less likely to return.
So these Philadelphia opera companies decided to try something daring. They advertised each other’s seasons on their web sites, complete with a map pointing the way all the opera companies. They looked competition in the eye! And a funny thing happened. Competition blinked! Audiences for all the companies went up! It was a rising tide that floated all boats.
With this in mind, three of my fellow choral conducting colleagues and I who operate in the suburbs east of Seattle: Bellevue Chamber Chorus, Cascadian Chorale, Kirkland Choral Society, and my own Master Chorus Eastside, have begun working together in a more dedicated way. For the first time we have listed one another’s seasons on our web sites. We are exploring commissioning a new composition to be premiered in a collaborative performance by our four choirs. And we have ramped up just a bit a shared experience that we’ve carried on for years called Eastside Sings, which is a sing along of a major work on four Tuesday evenings in July, each Sing led by one of the four conductors. We all also belong to the Greater Seattle Choral Consortium, which works to promote the choral art in the larger Puget Sound metropolitan area. We held an amazingly successful choral festival last fall. And we also advertise all member performances in member’s programs. We end up blanketing the area! It’s a wonderful way to build relationships, help one another and boost the choral arts at the same time.
So be a choral arts supporter! Here are web site addresses for all four of us:
Bellevue Chamber Chorus
Kirkland Choral Society
Master Chorus Eastside
Attend performances by these fine choirs, or by choirs in your own neighborhood if you live somewhere else.
It’s a small beginning. But we hope the impact will be big!
Dr. Linda Gingrich
Artistic director and conductor
Master Chorus Eastside