Matthew Williamson ’21

Blue Heron Renaissance Choir, Inc., West Newton, MA

My work with the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir this summer was a very interesting experience. I was a part of the administrative team as the organization went through its regular programming process for the 2020-21 season, 
as well as their scheduled strategic planning sessions, which occur once every three summers. Blue Heron was also faced with challenges stemming from the pandemic and recent world events, namely the inability to hold live performances—a hardship for a performing organization—and their work towards anti-racism as systems of oppression become more exposed in modern society.

During strategic planning sessions, the choir made the decision to focus on education and outreach over the next three years, as a means of training more singers of polyphony and broadening the demographics of who has access to early music. I assisted by providing ideas and guidance for how a program such as this could be most beneficial to young singers—their target demographic. I also shared ideas for anti-racism that I have learned in various workshops at Williams.Matthew Williamson '21 sorting books

The largest project I worked on this summer was to help organize the group’s archives. Blue Heron had not developed a system to archive programs, promotional materials, and media materials dating back to the group’s founding twenty years ago. My task was to separate the media materials from the promotional and programmatic materials and then organize both sets in chronological order. I then entered all of the information into a Google Sheet, before placing them in binders, labeling each clearly, and storing them for future retrieval. This project took me most of the summer to complete.

This experience gave me an understanding into what it means to work at a small arts organization, either in its administration or as a performer, and I think I would be interested in forming my own performing group or becoming a part of a non-profit performance-based professional group later in my career. It also provided insight into various additional ways in which performers support themselves—the founder of the group is also a part-time faculty member at the New England Conservatory and the Operations Manager is an administrator with Blue Heron and a freelance singer. This made me consider more strongly the possibility of studying at a conservatory or musicology graduate school. It also affirmed that I could be an administrator, as well as a performer.

I would like to thank the friends and family of Louise Ober. This was an invaluable experience and would not have been possible without their generosity and support. As this summer draws to a close, I reflect on my time at Blue Heron as one that I am grateful to have had.