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Community Outreach to Build a Church Choir

We currently have approximately 20 volunteer choir members participating on a regular basis.  I would like to use some type of community outreach to generate more participation.  I would like to get everyone’s thoughts on this idea; and if you or someone you know have tried it, I’d like to know your experiences with it.
on April 26, 2014 12:34pm
You might try asking your local school district to look through back issues of the school yearbook and identify young men and women who attended district/regional/state chorus.  You can then try approaching those who still live in the community.  Disclaimer: I have not tried this approach.
on April 27, 2014 11:11am
Since what you are asking about is essentially evangelism, I would suggest starting with your current members. Ask them to invite people they know who like to sing but are not currently attending a church. That way the member may gain a sense of pride in having taken part in building the choir and the new member will have a built in comfort level in already knowing someone in the group.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on April 28, 2014 5:36am
Hi Antonio,
I think that you are on the right track. Community Outreach is one of the "pillars" that I use to measure the health and effectiveness of any church choir. While outreach isn’t a silver bullet, it can be a powerful step in the way your choir lives out its faith.
Like Ray above, I would suggest starting with your existing members and existing church partnerships. Our church serves a shelter meal once a month. I make sure that our adult choir and bell choirs take a rotation. The act of preparing a meal, serving it, and caring for others helps strengthen the bonds of the music community and reinforce the mission of the choir in the larger context of the church.
You can also do music based outreach such as visiting a nursing home; particularly one with members of the congregation. I like to do “non-Christmas” caroling. In the Fall or Spring, take about a ½ hour to 45 minutes of your favorite anthems on a Sunday afternoon and put on a concert in a local care facility then spend some time visiting with the residents.
Many times we (choral directors) think of outreach projects solely as recruiting tools.  I would posit that our goal should be to encourage our singers and ringers to fully participate in the life and mission of the church. By doing so, I have witnessed groups become more loving (easier for new members to join), more soulful (this plays out in the music), and yes I have seen numerical growth because people wish to join a group with passion and mission.
Blessings and peace to you and yours,
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 29, 2014 12:51am
Hello Antonio,
Here's a trick that worked for me.    I invited all the "too busy to sing in choir" people to a one time event where they came in early to sing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" and one other piece.   I made sure it was great fun and the opposite of "work."   Most of the "new" singers got hooked and joined (or re-joined) the choir (and became hard workers).
Nick Page
on April 30, 2014 6:26am
I recently wrote a book about singing and I put together a bullet style list of the benefits of singing. You might change the wording to make it friendlier, and delete any points that aren't useful to you, and then perhaps hand out a version of this at one of the services and other places.  Maybe give it a headline like: Here's What You Will Get out of Joining a Choir in Addition to a Good Time.

Benefits of Singing

- Singing reduces stress, which can aid in healing and can improve the immune response. 

- Singing relieves stress in a number of ways—it releases the hormone oxytocin.  Oxytocin manages anxiety and stress and enhances feelings of trust and bonding. 

- Singers were also found to have lower levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress. 

- Singing releases endorphins, which give that rush, or singer’s high, and are associated with pleasure, and are also known to alleviate pain.

- One study looked at pain threshold and singing and singing triggered endorphin release, “in contexts where merely listening to music and low energy musical activities do not ... We conclude that it is the active performance of music that generates the endorphin high, not the music itself ... ”

- People who listen to music before surgery are more relaxed and need less anesthesia, and afterward they get by with smaller amounts of pain medication.  

- Listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure, and perhaps prolactin, a hormone which has a tranquilizing and consoling effect.

- One study found that making music together actually reduced stress more than sitting back with a magazine or newspaper.  

- Singing stimulates the sacculus, an organ deep in the inner ear which is connected to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that, among other things, regulates pleasure. 

- Music lowers heart rates and blood pressure.  

- Singing lullabies have been found to not only calm both parent and infant alike, it increased oxygen levels in the infant and appeared to improve their appetite.   

- 20 cancer survivors sang choral music for three months and  reported improved “vitality, social functioning, mental health, and bodily pain. There was also a trend of reduced anxiety and depression ... participants felt uplifted and had greater confidence and self-esteem.”

- Even singing about death is good for you.  Researchers discovered that a choir singing Mozart’s Requiem showed an increase in S-IgA, an immunoglobulin that enhances our immune defense. 

- Singing relieves tension headaches and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.  

- Singing helps people with asthma and bronchitis to breathe.  

- Singing ameliorates the effects of a variety of neurological disorders, including stuttering, Broca’s aphasia, Parkinson’s disease, and autism.  

- Studies have found that music helps children learn to socialize, it helps with behavior issues and self-esteem.

- According to a Chorus America 2009 Impact Study singing in a choir helped children get better grades. 

- Another study found middle schoolers who sang did better in math.

- In one study a group pre-school children were divided into two groups.  One received visual art training and the other music.  “After only 20 days of training, only children in the music group exhibited enhanced performance on a measure of verbal intelligence, with 90% of the sample showing this improvement.”  The music training skills they learned translated to increased verbal ability.  In 20 days.

- Studies show that brain activity involved with learning music helps counteract the effects of aging and cognitive decline.  

- Music increases gray matter and the number and strength of neural connections in the brain.  

- When archeology professor Steven Mithen, a non-singer, took singing lessons, it changed his brain after only one year.  

- Our immune systems weaken as we age and anything we do to strengthen the immune response is extremely useful.   Stress, for instance, impairs our immune system.  Chronic stress leads to a lot of bad things including Alzheimers, dementia, anxiety and depression

- Singing relieves stress in a number of ways already listed, by releasing oxytocin and endorphins and lowering levels of cortisol. 

- Stroke victims who can barely speak can sing.

- A recent study found that “participation in an active singing program for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia.”  Linda Maguire (one of the researchers) writes: “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.”  


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