by Kat Boogaard
I vividly remember my very first day with newVoices. I arrived at our annual retreat, which is when the choir reunites after the summer break, receives their sheet music for the fall concert, and jumps right in with the hard work of getting prepared for the season.
I was brand new, having just auditioned a week or two before, and was wandering aimlessly with nerves swirling in my stomach and a large platter of cheese and crackers teetering in my arms. I was informed that the retreat always concludes with a potluck dinner, and I definitely didn’t want to be the newbie who showed up empty-handed.
After I dropped off my potluck contribution and found my way to the choir room, I claimed a spot and got started with vocal warm-ups with this large group of strangers—strangers who were obviously overflowing with talent—and wondered what exactly I had just gotten myself into.
As it turns out, there’s no way I could’ve adequately prepared for what my first year in newVoices had in store—because it delivered far more than I could’ve ever anticipated. Below are just a few of the (many, many) things I took away from my rookie season.
A Creative Challenge
newVoices is a community choir, which gave me the somewhat misguided assumption that the music wouldn’t be too advanced.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. If I had to describe the repertoire selected by our artistic director, Phillip Swan, in one word, it’d be this: challenging.
The pieces that he chooses not only demand skilled technique and a hefty amount of independent practice time, but they also require a high degree of musicality that pushes us all to be better, more mindful musicians.
A Sense of Purpose
There’s a lot to be said for delivering music to the masses. In and of itself, it offers a significant sense of fulfillment. But, involvement in newVoices goes several steps further than simply sharing the arts.
From developing issue-based programming to volunteering for various community events to supporting young vocalists through the High School Master Singers program, it became immediately obvious to me that newVoices feels a real sense of responsibility to make the community it’s a part of a better place.
That commitment to the greater good has made being a part of this choir an undeniably rewarding experience.
A Passionate Community
Anybody who joins a choir will share with you the joy involved with being part of something that’s bigger than you. There’s a real thrill in sounding better together than you ever could alone.
One of the things that excited me most about joining newVoices was the opportunity to meet other passionate musicians from around the area. I knew we’d see each other for a few hours each week at our Sunday rehearsals, and I figured I’d briefly interact with a handful of people who had shared interests.
But, newVoices’ passion for community isn’t just an external value. It’s embodied within the choir as well. With frequent social gatherings, holiday celebrations, and after-concert get-togethers, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on togetherness and friendship. As a result, I’ve done way more than meet a few casual acquaintances—I’ve made dozens of new friends.
Our next retreat is quickly approaching, and I’m enthusiastically gearing up to start my second season (with hopefully less nerves than I had the first time around).
As I reflect and get prepared, I’m reminded of the fact that there are probably way too many people out there who, much like I was just one year ago, are wrestling over the decision of whether or not to join an arts organization in their own area.
I hope my own experience can encourage you to finally take the leap. I think you’ll walk away with way more than you bargained for, including a creative outlet, a sense of community, and—of course—the occasional potluck.