After 16 seasons of administrative leadership for the Providence Singers, Executive Director Allison McMillan will conclude her service at the end of the current concert season, June 30, 2014. McMillan announced her decision to the Providence Singers Board of Trustees at its meeting Thursday, March 13. Later in its meeting, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to elect McMillan to serve a three-year term as a trustee, beginning July 1, 2014.
“The transformation of the Providence Singers in the last 16 years required strong vision and attentive administrative leadership,” said Joshua Krugman, the Singers’ Board chair. “Alli has delivered all that at a consistently high level, enabling the work of artistic directors, the Board of Trustees, and the chorus members.”
Elected president of the Singers’ board for the 1998-99 concert season, McMillan led the group through a period of transformation and rapid artistic and organizational development. In January 2001, the Singers redesigned its administrative structure, added community members to its new Board of Trustees, adopted new bylaws, and broadened its musical program and community outreach. The Singers initiated new programs of musical education for young singers, expanded its musical activities to include recordings and performances beyond Providence, and began a variety of performing collaborations with local and regional arts groups, including annual guest appearances with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, beginning in 2003.
“The Providence Singers of 2014 is a significant cultural asset for Providence and southeast New England,” said Christine Noel, who became the Singers’ sixth artistic director July 1, 2013, at the start of the current season. “The development of the organization, led by Alli and accomplished by so many dedicated members, has been remarkable and continues strong.”
Growth of a choral organization
McMillan joined the Singers as a chorus member for 1991-92 season. She was elected to the Singers’ Board the following year, serving first as vice president for fundraising and later as vice president for music. She became president in July 1998, when the Singers was entering its third season of musical growth under Artistic Director Julian Wachner.
In 2000, the Rhode Island Foundation piloted a fellowship program for leadership development in nonprofit community organizations. McMillan was among the inaugural class of nonprofit leaders. The fellowship allowed her to visit and interview choruses in the United States and Europe that had successfully grown into larger organizations performing at a significantly higher artistic level.
Together with the Board and volunteer leaders, McMillan developed a plan that provided the Singers with a new structure to support its growing artistic achievement. Under that plan, a new Board of Trustees was given responsibility for governance and strategic planning, while management and operational issues were given to a professional staff with volunteer support. The Singers membership approved the plan and the new bylaws in June 2001. McMillan, an experienced fundraiser with a music degree from Brown University, was hired as the Singers’ first executive director.
- Created successful programs of choral education for young Singers (the Junior Providence Singers and the Young Men’s Choral Festival);
- Opened its first non-residential office, moving to its current quarters in the Philharmonic’s new Carter Center in 2008;
- Recorded two professionally produced commercial CDs (Lukas Foss’s The Prairie and Dominick Argento’s Jonah and the Whale). A third, Lou Harrison’s La Koro Sutro, will be released later this spring, all three with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project on its BMOP/Sound label;
- Commissioned and premiered nearly a dozen new compositions for chorus a cappella or accompanied;
- Developed a full-time professional staff, expanded its artistic staff, and increased its budget nearly ten-fold at its peak;
- Attracted National Endowment for the Arts funding for a regional “American Masterpieces” choral festival in Providence, one of only seven such grants nationally;
- Raised the Wachner Fund for New Music, an endowment managed for the Singers by the Rhode Island Foundation, to support commissions and performances of new works for chorus;
- Performed Dave Brubeck’s Gates of Justice at the 50th anniversary Newport Jazz Festival, with the Dave Brubeck Quartet;
- Was invited to sing the world premiere of Dave Brubeck’s The Commandments in New York at Lincoln Center (Rose Theater) with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
The Singers also began to attract regional and national notice. In 2007, McMillan was invited to join the Board of Directors of Chorus America, the national choral support organization. She continues as a board member and currently serves on the Chorus America executive committee.
“Working for and with a chorus that is devoted to artistic excellence and musical growth has been a profoundly rewarding experience,” McMillan said. “I am grateful to so many people — artistic directors, trustees, Board officers, volunteers, chorus members, and staff — and I intend to continue working for the growth and success of what has become a truly remarkable arts organization.”
Krugman and the Board will organize a selection committee for McMillan’s successor. McMillan has agreed to remain available until a successor has been hired.