Yes, your concerts should meet educational standards. Yes, they should also meet your own goals for helping your singers become better musicians. But how about planning concerts so powerful that they change people’s’ lives? What if your concerts actually strengthened bonds in your community? Dr. Abby Musgrove from Illinois College talks with Ryan about ways to create concerts that are meaningful to your audience, and how to make sure that audience is comprised of more than just the parents of your singers. Music should be a gift, not an obligation. Here’s how you make that happen.


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Highlight to Tweet: “It’s important that whatever you are doing, you are doing at a quality level.” Abby Musgrove

“People came trusting me that I was going to create something that would change their life.”

Show Notes:

  • Choir directors are entrepreneurs, and that isn’t a dirty word.
  • People should come to choir concerts because it’s a great product that adds value to their lives, not because they are obligated to just because their child is singing.
  • Building Audiences
  • Keep the main thing the main thing – Quality Matters
    • Use quality literature. Don’t dumb things down for your audience.
    • Are you creating an objectively beautiful product?
    • Quality music does not mean difficult music.
  • Why should they even come?
    • It’s a lot to ask someone to come to a choral concert.
    • They could always just watch a choir on youtube instead.
    • Consider the experience you are giving your audience: the venue, the atmosphere
  • Themes, Collaborations, and Partnerships
    • Pick a generic enough theme that everyone can understand and grasp.
    • Connect your theme with a collaboration.
    • Build a relationship with people and groups in your community, where they see value in what you produce.
    • When you take your group out to sing in the community, ask yourself whether it is a place that could be a potential audience builder. So go sing at the nursing home (service), but ALSO the Chamber of Commerce (potential partners).
  • Loss leader – Getting them hooked
    • A “loss leader” is something that a company gives away…probably at a loss…in order to get people in the door.
    • Your loss leader could be your theme, your concert title, a group that you are partnering with.
  • Educating your audience gradually
  • Being “entertaining” doesn’t mean you’ve sold out!


Dr. Abby Musgrove is the Director of Choral Activities at Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where she conducts choirs and ensembles, teaches conducting and other various music classes, and oversees the Music Education Program. Prior to her appointment at Illinois College, Dr. Musgrove was on the faculty of Aurora University and received degrees from the University of Kansas, University of North Texas, and Millikin University. A native of central Illinois, Dr. Musgrove has taught all ages and levels of music, including choirs and bands, and is an avid church musician. She is also the director of the Jacksonville Symphony Chorale, and the founder and director of the newly-formed Spero Chamber Chorale. Her musical interests are eclectic, from Renaissance polyphony and Baroque chamber to experimental and avant-garde, with plenty of classic rock thrown in. Dr. Musgrove’s research often focuses on connections between the arts, and the science behind aesthetics. She is a fan of science fiction, Shakespeare, steampunk, archeology, and tea. Abby lives in Jacksonville with her husband, Will, and their one-year old daughter, Quincy.

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