Social Capital and Your Choral Program: Creating a Culture of Success and Sustainability

by Wendy Moy

Wendy will present her paper, "Social Capital and Your Choral Program: Creating a Culture of Success and Sustainability," at the Northeast College Music Society Regional Conference on March 20 at Boston University. See below for the abstract.

This session will examine the role of culture and social capital in the development of a highly successful community chorus. The presenter will share her current ethnographic research on the shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices of the Seattle Men’s Chorus, the largest community chorus in North America and largest gay men’s chorus in the world.  This chorus has created a culture of high quality performances spanning diverse musical genres from Brahms to the Beatles.  They have graced concert halls around the world sharing their message of music and social justice.  Most recently they toured in Germany with the commissioned work, For a Look or a Touch by Jake Heggie on the subject of homosexual persecution during the Holocaust. Every holiday, they perform over nine sold out shows for the community at Benaroya Hall, the home of the Seattle Symphony.

This research revealed that the Seattle Men’s Chorus possess all three types of social capital (bonding, linking, and bridging), which have been leveraged to build a chorus of 300+ members, create an expanding audience demographic, and establish an institution that is a core component of the musical community. Particular attention will be given to the mission/vision of the chorus as well as the partnerships between the chorus, community, and educational institutions such as the vocal coaching program with the University of Washington.  Applications to other choral organizations and academic contexts will be addressed as well as directions for further research.