Community Choirs

Community Choirs Chair

Chairperson: Jeanne Kelly

As Founder of Encore Creativity for Older Adults, the nation’s largest choral program for older adults,  I am excited and honored to be the Coordinator/Chair of the ACDA Eastern Division Choral R&R Committee for Life-Long – Community Choirs.  I have worked for the last 14 years with singers ages 55+ to 103 years old.  It has been exhilarating!
The main thing I have learned is that conductors are afraid of singers 55+.  They don’t want to hurt their feelings so they end up not challenging them and pushing them to the max.
Older adult singers love when they are challenged.  They feel respected.  They feel important.  I will ask the singers if they are giving me their best and most of the time their answer will be no.
We discuss what would be needed to improve and then we try again.  It is always better.  Never underestimate these older singers.

A very important discussion in choral singing would be if your singers are over-singing or under-singing.  Most do not know.  Most do not understand. I have found that most under-sing and that sensation is what they go with. That is what they have been doing and feeling their entire life but there is still time to change!   So please talk about that.  It is so very important.  My approach is we work on a passage and I will have them sing it again but louder.  Improved sound already!  We do it again, asking them to sing louder.  Big improvement!   We do it again, but louder. I ask them if it hurts!   Their answer is no and they are entranced with their new sound which they had never felt or heard before.  So talk about over and under-singing.  It will make a huge difference mentally and vocally.  If people like what they sound like, they are happy, courageous, and more confident.

If you have not already suggested to your singers the book “Imperfect Harmony – Finding Happiness Singing with Others” by Stacy Horn.   It is a wonderful read.

Some suggestions for holiday repertoire:

Variations on Jingle Bells arr by Mark Hayes.  Shawnee Press A2155
This selection is fun, challenging and makes the chorus sound so accomplished.  Very accessible!

This Little Light of Mine arr by Mark Hayes    Heritage Music Press  15/2087H        Very energetic and very secular

Ding Dong Merrily On High    arr by Howard Helvey     Beckenhorst Press  BP1653    Exceptional four hand piano accompaniment

Thirty Second Fa La La    by Donald Moore   Lorenz         Great encore piece!

Festival Gloria      by Craig Courtney     Beckenhorst Press   CU1026

Email me anytime with questions.  I would love to hear from you.



Jeanne Kelly is the Founder and Artistic Director of the nonprofit organization, Encore Creativity for Older Adults, dedicated to providing an excellent, accessible, and sustainable artistic environment for older adults over 55 years of age, either beginning, intermediate or advanced levels, who seek arts education and performance opportunities under a professional artist. 

After a successful career as an opera and oratorio singer, Ms. Kelly began to apply her expertise in vocal technique to benefit students ranging from those preparing for professional vocal careers to those who simply enjoy music as a hobby. Ms. Kelly has served on the faculties of the Baltimore School for the Arts; Hood College in Frederick, MD; the United States Naval Academy and the Levine School of Music in Washington, DC. Ms. Kelly has also conducted workshops for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. 

Jeanne Kelly was the first director of Levine School of Music, Arlington Campus, where she had more than 700 students from eighteen months to 97 years of age.

While at Levine, Ms. Kelly was asked by Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the George Washington University Center of Aging, Health and Humanities, to create three Senior Singers’ Chorales to be involved in a three- year study “Creativity and Aging: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults.” The National Endowment for the Arts was the lead sponsor of this study, which showed a positive impact of participatory art programs for older adults. The singers showed overall improved health, fewer doctor visits, less medications, fewer falls, less loneliness and higher morale. They also showed a reduction of risk factors driving the need for long-term care.  With an average age of 80 years old, these 120 singers were featured in over four hundred newspapers nationally and internationally, and were featured on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

Prompted by the success of the Creativity and Aging study, Ms. Kelly founded the non-profit organization, Encore Creativity for Older Adults, in 2007. Starting with 3 chorales and 120 singers in 2007, the program has grown to become the nation’s largest choral program for older adults, with 16 Encore Chorales and 6 Encore ROCKS rock n roll choruses in the Baltimore/Washington DC area, as well as New York City, serving more than 1,200 singers, plus an affiliate network of Encore chorales around the country. Singers participate in Fall and Spring sessions of 15 weekly rehearsals followed by free public concerts in high profile concert halls, including the Kennedy Center.  Encore also sponsors three 5-day choral institutes each summer – one at Washington College in Chestertown MD and one at the famed Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua NY – to offer singers an intensive choral learning experience. New this year is a Rock & Roll Camp in Annapolis, MD in August.

Encore also performs internationally, with annual concert tours to Europe and, most recently, Canada.