Whether a chorister’s tenure with the TMC has ended after a single year or has spanned decades, an invitation to join the TMC alumni lies at the end of their days as a full chorister. We value our alumni members, many of whom maintain active connections with the TMC family, singing at Singsations or as part of the Alumni Singers programme, attending concerts, and volunteering in the office. So it is important to the TMC that we find ways to stay engaged, connected, and associated with choristers who have transitioned to the alumni.
The Alumni programme was started in Fall of 2011 with the goal of allowing Alumni to stay engaged and connect with the TMC. The first Alumni dinner took place in a pub near Koerner Hall. Alumni pins were introduced later that year. Since then, the TMC has held five pre-concert dinners for Alumni and community members, five open-dress rehearsal events, and has distributed over 100 pins.
In the summer of 2011, the TMC surveyed former choristers about how an Alumni office could meet their needs. Participants were asked to rank the TMC’s Alumni services in order of importance to them. The number one desire was for an opportunity to sing. In response to this, the TMC made Singsation Saturdays free to Alumni. Since that time, Alumni attendance at Singsations has increased by over 100 percent.
Alumni re-connect with the TMC by a variety of paths. Erin Finlay left the TMC when she went to law school at Queen’s University in Kingston, in 1999. Ten years later, she came out to a Singsation, which brought her back to singing. She auditioned for the Alumni Singers program because it offered her the opportunity to sing with a great choir. Erin calls the involvement with the TMC “the perfect balance,” and adds that it’s great to maintain her connection with the Choir, to see longtime friends, and see how everything is changing.
Whether Alumni come back to sing, volunteer, attend special events, or support the choir financially, the TMC “reaps the benefit of this continued engagement,” says Laura Wood, Alumni Program manager. They bring a sense of history and a connection with the TMC’s heritage of excellence.
As increasing numbers of choristers transition to the Alumni, the TMC wants to make sure that the Alumni programmes we offer are meeting the needs of alumni and choristers. In order to ensure that the TMC continues to meet the needs of its Alumni as well as choristers who may be making the transition to Alumni status.
On March 23, Laura, TMC staff and a small but passionate panel of choristers and alumni met to brainstorm how the TMC can continue to meet the needs of its engaged Alumni. Laura asked participants in small breakout groups to consider three concerns: How the TMC can improve alumni events; How we can improve the year-end retiring choristers’ celebration; and any other ideas to improve the current Alumni programming. The discussion was free-ranging and spirited, and Laura gathered a lot of interesting ideas.
Asked about the future of the Alumni program, Laura is upbeat. “More of the same,” she says, “More people engaged, more alumni events, more volunteers. We’re even looking at other opportunities to do what they love best—sing.”
Laura is reviewing the comments arising from the panel, and constantly tweaking the Alumni programme to make it relevant to Alumni and the Choir. After all, she reminds me, there are new Alumni every year.