Arts Consulting Group (ACG) congratulates the Los Angeles Master Chorale (the Master Chorale) on its many successes in 2017. ACG previously conducted a national executive search process for the Master Chorale, placing Jean Davidson as President & CEO in 2015. ACG also guided the CFO search, placing Steve Neiffer that same year.
Since joining the Master Chorale, Ms. Davidson has been responsible for dynamic change within the organization. Working in partnership with Artistic Director Grant Gershon, she has successfully rebranded and repositioned the organization while upholding its core values – supporting artistic risks and encouraging audience engagement. One of the Master Chorale’s biggest challenges was public awareness of its artistically exceptional and dynamic programming that stretches beyond the traditional to encompass a vibrant support of contemporary music and Los Angeles composers. To address this issue, Ms. Davidson enlisted the services of an international branding firm.
“We wanted to reprogram the visual cues associated with the Master Chorale. There is a balance to be found when rebranding a classical music organization between refreshing and revitalizing without alienating your core audience or misrepresenting what you do and who you are,” said Ms. Davidson. “Rebranding a 53-year-old organization can be a daunting prospect. For it to be successful, we needed to wholly commit to it and maintain a consistency in everything that we do. The results are evident at every level of the organization, from our board, our staff, and also our singers, who have been so willing to be a part of the process and, in several cases, the face of campaigns.”
In conjunction with the institutional rebranding, the Master Chorale also hired its first full-time, in-house Public Relations Director to increase community visibility and awareness. The Master Chorale’s award-winning education program, Voices Within, subsequently received national attention when PBS NewsHour, which has an audience of 1.1 million viewers per episode, aired an expansive feature on the program’s high school Oratorio Project in March 2017.
Ms. Davidson has also made a commitment to artistic excellence and the expansion of the Master Chorale’s global presence. The 2016/17 season included two performances of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro, directed by the world-renowned Peter Sellars. The show received rave reviews from both Opera News and the LA Times and has attracted interest from festivals and presenting venues around the world. The production will tour nationally and internationally in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.
“Touring this very special production of Lagrime di San Pietro domestically and internationally will expose audiences around the world to the artistry of the Los Angeles Master Chorale,” said Ms. Davidson. ” believe as more people experience Lagrime, the more the choral field will start to be redefined. It is an unusual undertaking for a choral organization.”
In March 2016, Eric Whitacre was appointed as the Master Chorale’s first-ever Artist-in-Residence. The international choral superstar, composer, and conductor is working with the Master Chorale on the Big Sing California, which will take place in July 2018. This event will enable the Master Chorale to engage with a broad cross-section of people throughout the state, leading up to a concert led by Mr. Whitacre in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Including and expanding beyond existing choirs and singing groups, the Big Sing California will encourage people of all ages and abilities to find their voice by learning new techniques and songs together. The James Irvine Foundation awarded the Master Chorale an Exploring Engagement Grant for $450,000 to support the Big Sing California project.
To coincide with hosting the 2017 Chorus America Conference, the Master Chorale held a Big Sing L.A. event in June 2017. Five choral conductors led participants through a program of well-known songs alongside short easy-to-learn choral pieces in Los Angeles’ Grand Park. The event attracted approximately 1,200 participants and included conductors such as Grant Gershon, Eric Whitacre, Francisco Nunez, Moira Smiley, and Rollo Dilworth.
“The Big Sing engages people of all ages and singing abilities in a communal music-making experience,” said Ms. Davidson. “Anyone who has ever sung in a church or school choir, chanted in a yoga class, or sung camp songs around a fire at night knows how powerful singing within a group experience is. This is another way the Los Angeles Master Chorale is reimagining the role of a choral organization in the 21st century.”
“ACG congratulates the Los Angeles Master Chorale on its incredible progress this year,” said Dr. Bruce D. Thibodeau, ACG President. “Through Jean Davidson’s exemplary leadership, a dedicated board and staff, and a visionary collaborator in Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale has strategically advanced its commitment to artistic excellence with positive impacts on Los Angeles and surrounding communities. ACG is excited to see the Master Chorale continue its momentous progress, and we wish Jean, Grant, the board, musicians, and staff all the best in the coming year.”