Recruiting in a cultural vacuum (rural chorus)
Date: May 21, 2014
I am hoping some of you can give me some advice on how to successfully do outreach and recruitment for a non-audition (mainly adult) chorus that is struggling with rural-small-town-itis: our communities have high unemployment, limited transportation options and struggle with the perennial problem of a small group of people doing the lion's share of the volunteer work. Our schools lack a music program; the instrumental music program was cut nearly 20 years ago and what limited instrumental and vocal music instruction that is presently available to students is in the form of a "Pop Culture" class in the high school's History department. The teacher uses grant funds to hire a guitar instructor (who does not read music) and volunteers have been recruited to teach the students how to sing (everything from rudimentary pitch matching to music theory to performance skills). Our chorus has done a few performances with the Pop Culture class--which have been good for all involved--but singing in concert together isn't the same as really getting to know one another as fellow musicians. The closest community colleges and universities are 30 miles away. The Arts-focused non-profit that supports our chorus also provides funds for a few weeks of music instruction (through the use of Americorps volunteers) for the elementary and middle school students. Other than that, there are a few churches that rely on "Praise Teams" that lead hymns by Powerpoint and one benevolent association (Eagles) that has a regular karaoke night....and that's it.
While this may seem a nearly insurmountable situation, we HAVE been able to keep about 20-25 members on a consistent basis over the past decade. Many live in the same town the chorus rehearses in, but several drive 10-15 miles each way to participate. I am curious whether anyone has ideas for outreach--and for how to engage our local schools' students as they transition from high school to adult life.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions!