March 2014 Newsletter

The March Newsletter describes important challenges and inspiring opportunities for Columbia Alumni Singers. Please read it carefully. We welcome your reactions, comments, and suggestions, which should be directed to michaelgarrett@earthlink.net. Thank you.

Topics: 

Who we Are: Sing Lions Sing!
CHANGING Our Schedule of Reunion Concerts (and Why)
FALL 2014 Homecoming College Songs Event
AT LAST CDs of our 2013 Concert & the Glee Club's '50s to '80s Concerts

 

Who we Are: Sing Lions Sing!


Columbia Alumni Singers is the choral home for all Columbia University alumni, faculty and administrators who have sung in any group while at Columbia. Our signature event is our Reunion Concert during Alumni Reunion Weekend. We distribute music over the web and rehearse, socialize and perform under the direction of distinguished conductors. We serve and support Columbia and today's choral singing on Columbia's campuses. There are 2,000 of us on our mailing list, and as many as 100 have made "joyful noise" together at our Reunion Concerts. We have been, and you will be, touched, moved, and inspired by the experience. Please join with us in making Columbia Alumni Singers a thoroughly enjoyable, harmonious, valued and valuable component of Columbia tradition.


 

Changing our Reunion Concert Schedule (and Why)

In our November Newsletter, we announced the May 31, 2014 Alumni Reunion Weekend Concert. Since November, we have determined - after much analysis and discussion within Singers and with Columbia Alumni Association (of which Singers is an affiliated Shared Interest Group) - we will move from an annual Reunion Concert to a bi-annual Reunion Concert. Therefore our next Reunion Concert will occur on May 30th of 2015. 

As to the "Why:" to become (and remain) "a valued and valuable component of Columbia tradition," Singers faces four readily manageable challenges, the first two of which have been with us from our inception:

  • The Columbia University Glee Club: has fewer than thirty members and a new and untested director, has virtually no contact with its alumni, can at best be viewed as starting a long-term rebuilding process, and cannot be relied upon as a significant feeder group forSingers (as is the case for alumni singing groups at other universities that have large and robust male, female and/or mixed glee clubs).
  • There are currently on campus many a cappella groups and a few choruses and choirs, and we would be delighted to have many more of their alumni joining Singers. The challenge is that each of these groups has its own style, repertoire, management, musical direction, and relationship with alumni, and each of these components varies significantly over time in each group. Consequently, it is a substantial task to keep all of these groups (and their alumni, if we know who they are) aware of Singers on a continuing basis. It is also a challenge to design repertoire for Singers that will both retain the interest of the Glee Club alumni and entice the alumni of all of these other groups.
  • The cost of the Reunion Concert - with its Friday rehearsal, Friday evening reception, Saturday rehearsal, and Saturday concert and reception - has escalated because the University has this year substantially raised the venue and catering charges that it charges to the schools, divisions, and other organization, such as Singers. While the Columbia Alumni Association graciously absorbs a great deal of these costs, they and we are concerned that the numbers ofSingers be such as to justify the significant outlay.
  • The number of Singers actually performing at the Reunion Concertshas declined from one hundred to eighty to sixty and the percentage of no-shows (those who signed up but did not show up to sing) has increased from ten to fifteen to twenty-five percent. There are numerous possible explanations for these trends including the novelty wearing off, the repertoire remaining static, the problems encountered with downloading music, the small number of womenSingers, and of course the ever-increasing competition for the personal, professional, musical and recreational time and attention of all of us.

Now let's consider the readily available solutions and what it's going to take to achieve them:

  • Having to reach out to all of Columbia's singing organizations affords us the unique opportunity to assemble an exciting and musically diverse Alumni Singers. Working on this outreach is a great way to stay in touch with singing on the current campus. This effort will require a continuing committee whose members will have individual responsibility for particular singing groups.
  • Choosing the repertoire for Singers will require careful collaboration of our current maestros (Jerry Weale and Bruce Trinkley) with invited conductors of current singing organizations and members of Singerswho are current or past conductors. The result will be a program taken from the entire range of fine choral music that will engage both our older and younger Singers and our audience. This effort will require a committee of knowledgeable members who will work to keep our repertoire evolving with each version being fresh, familiar, challenging, and satisfying.
  • To its great credit, Columbia Alumni Association has licensed, for the benefit of itself, the alumni organizations of Columbia's schools and divisions, and all of the Shared Interest Groups such asSingers, the state of the art, user-friendly, organizational software system, NationBuilder that includes websites, member management, communications of every kind, event management, registrations, payments, music distribution, and anything else we could want. This system will inform and enhance all of our activities and the tasks that make them happen. The effort required for implementation of NationBuilder (and migrating the content from our two legacy websites) is not as daunting as it sounds because of support from CAA and NationBuilder and the fact that NationBuilderwas designed to ease this kind of build-out. Nevertheless, it will require a committee of Singers to oversee the build-out in the near term and keeping the content current in the long term.
  • The number of Singers actually performing at the Reunion Concertshas declined from one hundred to eighty to sixty and the percentage of no-shows (those who signed up but did not show up to sing) has increased from ten to fifteen to twenty-five percent. There are numerous possible explanations for these trends including the novelty wearing off, the repertoire remaining static, the problems encountered with downloading music, the small number of womenSingers, and of course the ever-increasing competition for the personal, professional, musical and recreational time and attention of all of us.

When we accomplish these tasks, we will have a strong, self-sustaining organization that turns out a large and diverse group of Singers for each of our events, most especially the Reunion Weekend Concert. The combined effort to accomplish these ends, and to put on a complex event such as the Reunion Concert, requires a great deal more continuing peoplepower than we have had available to date. Our continued viability is therefore entirely dependent on participation of more of us in managing Singers and more of us showing up to sing. In our next Newsletter we will circulate both a survey about the activities and attributes of Singers and a detailed list of volunteer opportunities.

So the "Why?" we are taking a year off is now obvious: to broaden the management of Singers, to build out our communications and event and membership management system, to establish continuing connections to all of the singing organizations and their alumni, and to recruit moreSingers, we need to devote the next year to making it happen. We can then come back in 2015 stronger, better and larger than ever.


 

Fall 2014 Homecoming College Songs Event

While we are taking off a year from holding a Reunion Concert, it would be great to get together to make music and socialize in the interim. Let's start on Saturday, October 18th, 2014, at the Homecoming Alumni Picnicevent under the tent at Baker Field. If you haven't been toHomecoming lately, you will find it to be a fine and well-attended (about 1,000 alumni) event, with a world-class tent and fine catering. We will sing pretty much the same twenty-minute set of College Songs that we sang at theReunion Concerts, so most of us have the music (and we will provide copies at the event as well). It will be a pleasure to sing to this large assemblage of alumni and we will raise awareness of who we are and what we do. Please reserve October 18th on your calendar (or digital equivalent) for this gathering of the voices.


 

CDs of our 2013 Concert & the Glee Club's '50s to '80s Concerts

As you know, we have recorded all three of our Singers' concerts and collected reel-to-reel tapes, and 45 rpm, 78 rpm and 33 rpm records of Glee Club performances from the '50s through the '80s. After more perils than Pauline could ever have imagined, all of this fine singing has been digitized and pressed onto CDs with appropriate covers and inserts. This month, the Singers 2013 Reunion Concert CD, and the Glee Club CDs sets from the 50s-60s and 70s-80s will finally be distributed to all who ordered them. Additional copies may be ordered from michaelgarrett@earthlink.netfor $20 for either the 2010, 2011, or 2013 Reunion Concerts, and $40 for either the Glee Club 50s-60s set or the 70s-80s set, and $70 for both sets. Thank you all for your patience.

Sing Lions Sing! 


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