Keene, NH

Contact Name
Sandra Howard
Project Dates
Fall 2011-present (ongoing)
This session will focus on creating partnerships between choral ensembles and local non-profit organizations to cultivate community and expand the advocacy network for music and the arts. In an effort to promote and sustain the music education profession and school music programs, it is essential to foster community partnerships through advocacy efforts. Discussion will address how thematic programming, commissioning new works, and outreach events can help promote music and align with the mission of the partner non-profit organization. Examples of successful semester-long partnerships, thematic choral repertoire, and volunteer work will also be addressed. For more information:
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
In our local communities, music educators need to create social and cultural collaborations between music programs and surrounding businesses, non-profit organizations, and community members to create experiences that help students connect to their communities on a personal level. Through nonprofit collaborations, we invite others in to our music making community while they introduce us to their organizations’ missions and contributing roles in society, while students recognize their individual impact within a community. It is through such partnerships that advocacy is developed for music and the arts. The relationships continue by using music to evoke awareness and support their missions while we help expand the advocacy network that celebrates music and the arts. Music making and sharing can emerge into a lifestyle of building community, and it is community that breeds advocacy.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The ensemble collaborates with a different nonprofit organization each semester. As the terms of these partnerships continue to evolve, we have tried to identify ways that our students can engage with volunteerism as a group, but also on an individual level. Efforts to sustain the relationships and partnerships beyond the official partner semester have also been a positive outcome that continues to evolve.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Hundred Nights Shelter
Stonewall Farm
Monadnock Conservancy
Phoenix House - Keene Center
Monadnock Family Services
Keene Community Kitchen
Monadnock Humane Society
RISE for Baby and Family
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This series of partnerships helps merge the KSC campus with the surrounding community. The goal is to instill in students that they have a role or function in the greater community. Many of the singers will be teaching children or conducting ensembles in the future, so perhaps this tradition of serving and volunteerism will transcend to their future work as teacher leaders.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
In my work as a doctoral student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music our concerts were always to benefit a local nonprofit organization. In a time when music programs struggle financially, it's interesting to think about the benefit of giving rather than taking with regard to concert proceeds.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
Undergraduate music student members of the KSC Chamber Singers began a series of semester-long partnerships with local non-profit organizations in the Monadnock Region. During the fall 2011 semester, students partnered with the Hundred Nights homeless shelter in Keene ( This included a tour of the shelter and introduction to the organization’s mission. Students studied and performed a wide variety of concert repertoire thematically based on the shelter’s mission. Students organized a food drive and holiday caroling outreach performance at the shelter, while the Department of Music donated a portion of ticket proceeds to shelter. Beyond the important musical growth students demonstrated throughout the semester, they evolved as contributing members of our society. Through thoughtful discussions during the rehearsal process, it quickly became apparent that our work transcends the music on the page to a sense that the purpose of music is to share, support, and experience something larger than oneself.

The partnership series with local non-profit organizations continued with Stonewall Farm, a nonprofit working and educational farm in Keene ( Students spent a weekend retreat at the farm learning about the farm’s mission and history, prepared a meal from the farm share, and performed at the annual Frozen Farm Festival. The theme of the semester’s repertoire focuses on agriculture, cultivation, and animals along with a student coordinated commissioning of a new choral work to commemorate this exciting collaboration.

Other semester partnerships involved trail building, volunteering at the local community kitchen and humane society, annual caroling, and donating 20% of the ticket proceeds to the selected nonprofit.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
More formalization of the introduction to the nonprofit mission has been scheduled as part of the ensemble rehearsal meetings. Scheduled volunteer times and projects have increased students' participation in the collaboration from a volunteer perspective beyond the musical work they do to prepare a concert of thematically connected repertoire for the benefit concert. In addition, prior to each performance, a pre-concert lecture panel has been established to share with the audience how the semester's work has progressed. They learn about the positive impact that these nonprofits contribute to the greater community.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Some of the partner nonprofits due to the nature of their work were harder for the students to volunteer at, thus students may have felt less connected to the organization (i.e. Phoenix House & Monadnock Family Services). The work these organizations due to enhance the lives of those in the community is so important, however it can be a very sensitive time for their clients so we were unsure how to engage beyond the music preparation and learning process.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
I have reflected on how to select an organization and frame the partnership that seems effective for students. The contact person at the selected nonprofit is pivotal in creating this connection.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Reach out, collaborate, pool your resources as the sum of the whole is always greater than the parts.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
We hope there is greater awareness on campus and in our department about the importance of our common need to participate in the community, learn about services provided in the region, and to find ways to engage with others.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Through student evaluations and conversations, these partnerships have helped them connect more to the repertoire and music performances. They feel proud of their engagement and look forward to the new partnership each semester. This, I consider to be a success! Also, we are building relationships with those who may have not been likely to attend our concerts or engage in consuming music at a live performance. We advocate for each other!
How did you measure this success or progress?
One could measure success by the concert proceed donation, or number of volunteer hours served. Perhaps the successes that are more impressive is the change of culture in our students and the personal accountability they have taken on through these partnerships.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
We learn more about each other, the ensemble connects to each nonprofit in a differing way. One small impact is from our recent work with the Monadnock Humane Society where some of the students adopted animals. This was not a requirement of the partnership, but will have a lasting impact on their and the animals' lives.