In addition to singing beautiful music, members of The Cecilia Chorus of New York volunteer their time, talents, and expertise to making sure the chorus functions perfectly and its concerts go off without a hitch. In this newsletter, long-time members Sherry Chapin and Katie Davis lift the curtain just a little to reveal some of the many ways in which they make things happen behind the scenes.
Sherry Chapin - Auditions
Nearly 40 years ago, working at the time as the director of training and development for Chase Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), Sherry joined The Cecilia Chorus of New York, and our December 9th performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio will mark her 137th concert sung in Carnegie Hall. At various times, her two sons were also members of the Chorus: “It was such a thrill to stand on that stage and sing with my boys!” she recalls.
For nearly 35 of those years, Sherry served on the chorus’s board in one capacity or another. Although she has now left the board, she is no less involved in the day-to-day workings of the chorus. Her most visible role is that of handling auditions.
“Everyone who wants to audition first fills out an audition form on our website and those go straight into my inbox. I then have a conversation with the applicants, asking them strings of questions, and I schedule an audition for them with Mark Shapiro, our music director. If their audition is successful, then I get to work: I generate a welcome letter and I send out notices to those responsible for membership, our mailing lists, our attendance sheets, our database, all the ways in which new singers are incorporated into our organization.” Sherry especially likes meeting the new members, sharing with them her enthusiasm for the chorus and making them feel welcomed and comfortable. “While Mark is auditioning the singers, I sit at a table outside the studio and make name tags for them. I make them for all of the applicants, ‘on spec’ as it were. If they emerge with thumbs down, I say something comforting to them and quietly dispose of the name tags. But if they come out with a big smile and thumbs up, I give them their tag right away. That way, they can wear them to their very first rehearsal with us, be instantly recognizable as a new member, and already feel part of the community.”
Katie Davis - Logistics
Katie Davis is a vice president at Nomura Americas, a global financial services firm where she works on the operations business management team. A member of The Cecilia Chorus of New York since 2005, she has held various board positions, and currently chairs the logistics committee, among several other volunteer duties. “Logistics fits my personality,” says Katie. “I’m a problem solver. That’s what I do at work on a larger scale, and that’s what logistics is all about!”
She pulls up an eye-popping spreadsheet with a detailed checklist. Just overseeing the workings of one of our concerts in Carnegie Hall starts many months before the event. “I make sure the date is secured and the contracts are out to the soloists, the orchestra, the composer if it’s a commissioned work, and the Hall. Those include countless details, down to how many music stands are required. Then an orchestra rehearsal has to be organized, which includes securing a venue, having the various scores prepared, and being the point person for the union and notifying the chorus and soloists of the time and place.”
“Meanwhile, we start preparation for the dress rehearsal and the performance at Carnegie Hall: reminding chorus members of our dress code, their call times, their placement onstage, and when they sit and stand during the concert. We have a point person for the soloists and someone in charge of the entrance-and-exit lineup. There is backstage security protocol that has to be followed and a thousand other things to remember! Thank heaven for checklists!”
Logistics are involved in similar ways at all of our concerts as well as our weekly rehearsals. Many other chorus volunteers are involved in carrying out Katie’s dizzying to-do list, as are staff members at the venues, and Katie’s experience as a business manager helps her keep everything and everyone on track. “The fun for me is being on-the-spot, running around, encountering a concrete problem and finding a solution fast. To do that, I need to plan everything. I like to be ready!”