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Forty-four years ago
Linda Tedford, a young graduate of Temple University’s Master’s degree program in choral conducting, decided to establish a new choral organization, one that

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she could direct and mold to her vision of the choral art. In short order, the Susquehanna Chorale became the national award-winning chamber choir that the late, legendary conductor Robert Page called “a treasure in Central Pennsylvania.”

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The first award came in 1994 when the chorale received Chorus America’s highest national honor, The Margaret Hillis Award, competing against choirs throughout the United States, including such famous ensembles as The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. More recently, The American Prize in Choral Performance awarded second place to the Susquehanna Chorale in 2020, based on selections from its recordings Sing Me to Heaven (2016) and Roots & Wings (2018).  The Chorale also placed as a finalist in the 2015 competition, and four of its professional recordings have received formal consideration for Grammy nomination.

 

Over time, four educational choirs for children and youth were added, providing the students with the skills, discipline, and joy in creative teamwork that will hold them in good stead throughout their lives.

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At a crossroads

But time moves on, and after nearly half a century the Susquehanna Chorale is at a crossroads. Linda has announced that she would like to retire in the foreseeable future, presenting the question of whether to find a successor conductor or simply “retire” the Chorale at the same time.

 

We are happy to announce that the Chorale’s Board, with Linda’s blessing, has decided to mount a national search for a successor conductor. When we considered the loss to the cultural landscape should the Chorale simply cease to exist, it was an easy choice.

 

But making it happen won’t be easy, and your support is a critical element in our plan to continue presenting the kind of world-class choral experience — right here in Central Pennsylvania — that you

are used to enjoying.

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The challenge

Transitioning from a founder/conductor to a successor conductor is difficult for any musical group for one essential reason: founders create a musical ensemble armed with little but musical skill, an artistic vision — and hard work. There is no pre-existing structure, no one else to take care of the many administrative chores that are essential to presenting an event and attracting an audience, and no money to pay anyone else to do it.

 

Throughout its 40+ years, Linda has been the chief volunteer in a choir long administered solely by volunteers, and now through volunteers and part-time administrators. Although she is paid for her conducting and artistic direction, she receives no compensation for the role she plays, along with the volunteer board president, as the chief operating executive. She and a succession of unpaid presidents of the board — almost exclusively SC singers, who don’t necessarily come with

administrative experience — have built the successful organization you know today to bring you the incomparable experience of the Susquehanna Chorale in concert.

 

This is a precarious way to run a mature organization. It will be impossible to attract a qualified and worthy successor to Linda if the successor is expected to take on the immense administrative burden that Linda has shouldered for 44 years in addition to serving as the paid artistic director. We simply don’t have the money — and even if we did, we are unlikely to find someone with the interest and requisite artistic and administrative skills at the level we — and you — are used to.

 

In other words, we simply will not be able to hire a successor conductor, at any price, if we don’t first raise enough money to overhaul our administrative structure and operations.

The solution

The solution is to raise the financial resources necessary for shifting our administrative operations to a model consistent with best practices for mature organizations. We are convinced that we must take this step in order to hire a new artistic director and conductor capable of continuing our long tradition of artistic excellence.

 

Such restructuring will require, among other steps, consolidating some part-time positions and creating others, both full and part-time, including personnel with education and experience in arts organization management. We will vest authority and daily responsibility for all non-artistic operations in paid staff (under the ultimate authority of the board of directors). This includes development, marketing, finances, and day-to-day administration of both the Chorale and its educational programs.

 

This kind of professional operation requires an ongoing financial commitment. Our research indicates that the kind of staff leadership  we envision, with a focus on development and marketing, will increase our annual income sufficiently to support the position — and more — after an initial period.

Your role

This is where you come in. In order to keep the Chorale going, we are initiating the first major fund-raising campaign in our history, with a goal of $500,000. Under the plan that we have developed, this will fund the extra costs associated with administrative restructuring and the employment of a full-time Executive Director for five transitional years, at which time the changes pay for themselves. The goal of $500,000 should be sufficient and then some for achieving our vision, and we are are well on our way to reaching our goal, thanks to a group of early and generous supporters.

 

Now, we invite you to join these initial major donors so that we can achieve the goal of ensuring the Chorale’s future in the strongest possible way.  We are counting on the generosity and help of all our supporters, whatever their means.

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Why our future matters

“Enriching lives through song” is more than our motto — it is our goal, and it represents our firm belief that the art of choral singing involves the audience — YOU — in an activity that provides both personal enrichment and a sense of community.  The actual performance of a piece may be fleeting and evanescent, but the experience endures.

 

Data on the importance of the arts to a vibrant community culture are clear, as shown in studies by the National Endowment for the Arts and many other organizations: the  arts contribute to the economic and social success of communities. Linda has trained the Chorale’s singers foremost in communication, to express the depth and breadth of emotions that blur the boundaries between us, engendering the same experience of expression in the heart of the listener. The result of her leadership is a true ensemble sound and the joy of the ensemble culture so evident in a Chorale performance. This is community.

 

We need not lose this gift when Linda retires! These goals are essential to the culture of the Susquehanna Chorale, and we are confident that we can find and attract a successor conductor if we take the steps necessary to transition from founder-led operations to the kind of professional leadership model necessary for long-term sustainability.

 

All of us who love the Chorale, those who want to experience the love of life at the heart of its song, have a chance to do something good by contributing to our “Sing on” campaign to build and sustain the Chorale through this period of transition. Linda Tedford’s unique mix of gifts — superb artistry, attention to detail, hard work — created the “jewel in Central Pennsylvania” that is the Susquehanna Chorale. It is a classic success story — and if we all step up to the challenge before us, the Chorale’s future looks as bright and shining as its past.

 

“There ain’t no love at all, without a song.”

Help us keep the love — and the song — alive.

Still have questions? We would love to talk with you more about our plans for the future! If you would like to discuss the campaign or have a hard copy of our brochure please contact Karen Lynch at dev@susquehannachorale.org.

Contributions can be mailed offline to PO Box 397, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055. Please print and include our pledge form which can be found HERE.  

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