Join us for our annual Silent Auction on Friday, June 2 in Brooklyn Heights!
We have lots of fun auction items along with some delicious wine and light bites, so mark your calendars and plan on a nice evening in Brooklyn Heights - all while supporting our choir!
Click the link below to purchase your tickets in advance - please note that there will be a $1 service charge added for online ticket purchases.
Thank you for your continued support!!
The Story of Bella Voce Singers.
As told by Founder and Director Jessica Corbin
Back in 2000, I was teaching at F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. Yes, the “Fame” school. At that time, I was directing Girls Chorus, which was a large ‘starter chorus’ comprised of 100 tenth and eleventh graders. While I was enjoying the repertoire and working with the students, I found myself wanting to give the more skilled readers in the group more challenging repertoire, and the opportunity to work in a smaller group. After assuring the assistant principal that we would operate as an after school club (i.e. they wouldn’t have to pay any money), I held auditions for a small girls chorus. I had over 40 people audition, and I chose 24 of the best readers and singers for the after-school group. We met twice a week for 90 minutes, and soon after we started rehearsing the girls came up with the name Bella Voce Singers.
We had nowhere to perform – the school wouldn’t let us perform there because we weren’t an official ensemble – yet we practiced each week, learning challenging repertoire and building sight-reading and singing skills. One day, an English teacher, Mr. Levitsky, walked past our rehearsal room, stopped and asked what we were doing – he thought it sounded fantastic! When I explained what we had going on, but that we had nowhere to perform, he said he’d be in touch. A week or so later we were booked at a Women’s Forum in City Hall, and then at an International Women’s event at the India Mission of the United Nations.
Soon after, I decided to leave my job at LaGuardia, and began to teach at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. Much to my surprise (and delight!) the singers of Bella Voce asked if we could still rehearse. They all traveled to Park Slope every Monday after school to practice for two hours before they then traveled home to all five boroughs. Somehow we made it through with little funding, managed to have a few performances at the Conservatory, and made a demo CD to send to a competition at Carnegie Hall for High School Choirs. Although we weren’t affiliated with any particular high school, we were one of the four choirs invited to participate in the inaugural festival of High School choirs at Carnegie Hall in the spring of 2002.
In June of 2002, many of Bella Voce’s members graduated high school and went to college. I lost most of the singers, and had no pool of teenagers left to keep the chorus going. I was having coffee with Jennifer Newell, then the Executive Director of the Brooklyn Conservatory, and she said, “Well why not make it a women’s chorus?” And I thought, why not?
And so, in the fall of 2002, Bella Voce became a women’s chorus. We started out that semester with six singers and no accompanist. I played for all of the rehearsals, and sang too. I did manage to hire an accompanist for concerts, but it wasn’t until Keiko Asakawa-Golden joined us in the fall of 2004 that we had a regular accompanist week to week. (In fact, she had to sing too, sometimes!) We began to grow, however, and we soon outgrew the Brooklyn Conservatory.
In the fall of 2006, we decided to break out on our own, and set up our own 501(c)3 organization. This was a big step—and little scary; we were now fiscally responsible for everything—and there was a LOT more work. But the singers and our audiences made the transition possible.
As an ensemble, we have rehearsed in church basements and sanctuaries, synagogue chapels, elementary school music rooms (with little chairs!), from PS 261 to Congregation Beth Elohim, from the Gowanus Arts Space to Greenwood Baptist Church, and now at Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope. We’ve performed at St. Saviour’s, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, and St. Charles Borromeo Church, just to name a few.
The past 15 years has been a journey I never thought I would take, when I graduated with a Masters Degree in Music Theory (and a minor in choral conducting) back in 1996. I thought for sure I was headed for a university job; I never realized that there was much of a choice for choral directors outside of a school or church setting. No one talked much about community choirs, let alone women’s community choirs. Consequently no one taught us, as choral directors, how to establish a non-profit with a board of directors, how to run a business, or even how to handle a budget. But we figured it out and Bella Voce has grown into a 45-member strong chorus, while I have grown as a conductor, a leader, and an artist.
It’s notable that the community choir was considered—and still is, to some of the choral elite—to be a lower rung on the choral ladder. But why? Most of us are adults for a lot longer than we are children or college students, and the joy and benefits of singing and making music last far beyond school years. The community choir should be at the top of the ladder – it should be what every responsible choral director prepares her or his choristers to be in, as that’s most likely where they will sing in the future. By definition, the community choir is made up by members of the community around them, but the choir members also become their own community. In the case of Bella Voce Singers, we have become a community of women who support each other, make each other laugh, allow each other to cry, and everything in between. We are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, spouses, and sisters.
And we are a group of strong, enthusiastic and dedicated singers who put on a helluva spectacular concert every winter and spring.
Read more about some of our members' memories and reasons for joining and singing with BVS on our Facebook page.