Karen Mihalyi, Syracuse Community Choir director singing. Photographed by Michael Greenlar | Central Current. Photo courtesy Karen Mihalyi.

The sound of voices harmonizing will again fill the air at Grace Church as the Syracuse Community Choir resumes rehearsals for its Spring 2023 season – and choir leaders are hoping to add your voice to the mix. 

The choir is looking for new community members to join the group as it prepares for its annual summer solstice concert, “Seeds of Transformation,” on June 28. Anyone over 18 can join in general adult rehearsals, and the group also offers rehearsals and programs for children as young as 5. 

Although adult members started gathering last week, additional rehearsals are scheduled on April 19 and 26 beginning at 7 p.m., including for those joining virtually, an option SCC started offering during the pandemic. The “hybrid” option – with some group members rehearsing in person and others participating virtually – will continue this season, even as most organizations return to fully in-person events. 

COVID brought with it a transformation for the group, which saw a 60% decrease in membership during the pandemic, said choir founder and director Karen Mihalyi. Now just two years shy of celebrating its 40th anniversary, SCC hopes to recruit more than six dozen new members, with a particular focus on younger adults. 

“We’re finding all these potential solutions,” including offering the hybrid rehearsal option, said Alison Mullan-Stout, assistant choir director. 

Before the nationwide lockdown, SCC hosted two large annual concert events, timed to coordinate with the winter and summer solstice, Mihalyi said. The group also performed in smaller collaborative showcases with local groups and organizations, including the Onondaga Nation and Syracuse-based Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company.

During the beginning phases of the pandemic, the group held virtual rehearsals and engaged in carol-style singing for people who did not have access to the internet, were isolated or were restricted from going outdoors.

This past July and December, the choir re-emerged with in-person showcases. But that hasn’t yet fixed the downturn in membership. 

As an organization, SCC is” really committed to having a diverse and inclusive group,” Mihalyi said. She said she understands each member has varying needs, and the group is trying different programmatic measures to support more diversity.

SCC also plans to revamp its leadership roles and hire for new staff positions focused on community engagement. The organization is trying to transition to a democratic system – instead of the typical hierarchical structure – to encourage participation among members, Mihalyi said.

The group’s inclusive mission is obvious in other ways: The group doesn’t hold auditions for new members; it provides support for people with disabilities; and it offers childcare and transportation services. The group also organizes book clubs, workshops on reading music and info sessions educating the public on trans issues.  And although the choir rehearses in a church, it is not affiliated with any religion and welcomes people with all (or no) religious beliefs. 

As an organization, SCC has learned that creating an equitable world means being thoughtful and placing energy into how things are organized, so people feel a sense of belonging, Mihalyi said.

“Realistically, if we want an equitable world, we need to be willing to work hard for it,” she said.

Upcoming events

The choir will hold several events in the coming months:

  • The choir is scheduled to hold rehearsals on April 19 and 26 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Prior singing experience is not required.
    • For those joining in person: Rehearsals will be held in Grace Church at 819 Madison Street. Masks are required.
    • For those joining virtually: A Zoom link is available on the Syracuse Community Choir website.
  • The group will host an open mic on May 11 at 7 p.m. that focuses on messages of peace and justice. The event is open to the public and calls on young performing artists of all talents up to the age of 35. The event location is to be announced; visit the group’s website to stay updated.
  • This year’s summer solstice concert, “Seeds of Transformation,” will be held on June 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at University United Methodist Church at 1085 E Genesee St. It will focus on exploring ways to create positive change, Stout said. 

For more information, visit the Syracuse Community Choir website.

Read more arts & Culture Coverage

Suggested Reading