As a core part of our organization assessment and strategic planning, the leadership has centered work to ensure that our choral programs and performances are a place for all to thrive and feel welcomed. The foundation for this work is the following understanding:
Increasing Access & Creating a Sense of Belonging
Choral singing is strengthened by a rich and diverse collective of individual voices.
Columbia Choirs celebrates the diversity of its singers and families and is committed to creating an environment that is inclusive of all singers no matter where they come from, what they believe, or how they identify.
Columbia Choirs acknowledges that extracurricular choral programs can be inaccessible to some singers, due to inadequate resources or feeling unwelcome because of their background or identity. We will continue to examine our programs and organization to reduce existing barriers that prevent those community members from participating. Through financial aid and new outreach programs, we aim to reach more singers of all ages and lower the barriers to access.
By respecting each singer’s individuality and celebrating our collective richness as humans who love to sing, we will create a stronger community for all.
This work does not happen within the bounds of one season or one set of changes. We will accomplish effective change towards these goals over the next several seasons as we continue to examine our existing programs and evaluate new programs in partnership with local schools, governments, and other nonprofits.
One outcome of this work that we are pleased to share is a number of improvements to our needs-based Financial Aid program. Each choir season, Columbia Choirs awards financial aid to over a dozen singers to lessen the financial investment required to participate in choir. This season, we aim to provide aid to more singers and to simplify the process to apply for aid by making the following adjustments.
First, we have created a Financial Aid Eligibility Calculator. This tool, hosted on the Columbia Choirs website, will provide a statement of aid eligibility based on two anonymous pieces of family financial information. Any current or prospective member who is curious if they qualify for aid can use this tool to determine whether they are eligible and can request a direct link to the Financial Aid Application.
The second change we have made this season is to simplify the financial aid application process. Whereas we previously required an applicant’s latest tax return, the application form now allows for a broader range of proof of income. This application can be completed in under 10 minutes if all proof of income is collected beforehand.
Finally, we have adjusted our approval process so that Financial Aid applications can be reviewed on a rolling basis. Members must apply each year as they enroll for the season, and are encouraged to submit as soon as possible after completing the Enrollment Agreement to ensure a smooth and quick process. A final determination of aid will be communicated to each applicant within 7-10 business days.
For any questions about the Financial Aid process, please contact Choir Administrator, Kathryn Daines, at [email protected]. If you would like to discuss other ways in which we can increase access to choral singing in our community and promote belonging within our programs, please contact Executive Director, Lars Myren, at [email protected].
To read further about our philosophy and new organizational identity statements, read “Together We Sing” – Sharing Our Choral Philosophy.