Members of the Berkshire Children's Chorus in a 2019 performance.

Berkshire Children’s Chorus adapting to the challenges of the pandemic

In a letter to the editor, Alice Maggio writes, "What is most devastating is that, because singing has been shown to allow high rates of transmission of coronavirus, choral singing will likely not be allowed for at least another six months. Sadly, the Berkshire Children’s Chorus has had to suspend its entire 2020-21 season, and we do not anticipate being able to reconvene until September 2021."

To the editor:

The Berkshire Children’s Chorus fills an important niche in our community, offering high quality choral education and experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the area while also fostering friendships, leadership and cooperation skills, and mentoring relationships.

As a small arts nonprofit entering its 30th year, the chorus has faced difficult times, of course. But nothing has ever compared to the challenges brought on by this pandemic. Starting in March, the chorus was forced to meet online, and the normal fundraising and performing calendar, which has always had a rhythm to it that allows the chorus to cover costs as they arise, was wiped out.

Former Berkshire Children’s Chorus member Dani Dillon.

What is most devastating is that, because singing has been shown to allow high rates of transmission of coronavirus, choral singing will likely not be allowed for at least another six months. Sadly, the Berkshire Children’s Chorus has had to suspend its entire 2020-21 season, and we do not anticipate being able to reconvene until September 2021.

In order to stay afloat until that time, the board of trustees has decided to use this time to build our organizational capacity, to learn and reflect, and to strategize for the future while also implementing some outside-the-box ideas that allow choristers to stay connected to each other and to the chorus.

To that end, we are continuing the Take the Lead! program that we began in spring of 2020, with a intensified focus on how it aligns with the Berkshire Children’s Chorus’ mission to “support the growth of positive values and enrich the community.”

Take the Lead! is a series of online events for choristers and their families. The three invited guests this spring were women entrepreneurs and leaders who shared their career wisdom with the members of our high school women’s ensemble, Coda, inspiring them to become confident, inquisitive persons pursuing their passions.

Now, the chorus aspires to achieve a closer synergy between their usual choral music curriculum and the Take the Lead! program. The goal for the program going forward is to invite alumni of the chorus who are able to share how their choral experiences helped them achieve professional and personal goals in life, offering perspectives that might surprise or inspire the members of the chorus.

The first guest will be Dani Dillon, who sang with Berkshire Children’s Chorus between 2001 and 2008. She has built an impressive career in the New York City food world, leading the development of food and beverage programs for Irving Farm, the international women’s club the Wing and others. She will be sharing what she has learned about leadership, and how her experience in the chorus serves as a reference point for how a healthy and strong team functions. Her virtual presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. Choristers and their families are encouraged to attend, as well as any alumni of the chorus!

As we and many other artistic organizations are adapting to the trying times of the pandemic, the board of trustees of the Berkshire Children’s Chorus is looking ahead with optimism. We are welcoming the opportunity to explore new ways to fulfill our mission, while at the same time looking forward with much anticipation to the time when singing together will again be possible.

To help us get there, please consider donating to the organization at berkshirechildrenschorus.org.

Alice Maggio
South Egremont

The writer is the vice president of the Berkshire Children’s Chorus board of trustees.