Is our heart not like an instrument, that when it quivers, it sets another to compassionate response? From the moment I first stepped into the rehearsal space of my local Threshold Choir, I have seen what Love can do.
The work of this choir offers repeated opportunities to see the best in ourselves and others. It shows how we are all connected by our birthright to sing, to offer our song voices as a salve or joy. It breaks down the walls between us and the suffering patients and families in their rooms. Our offering is simply a conduit for love to flow through us in that singing moment.
I believe this work stems from Heart's wisdom. Heart's genius, quite frankly! Singing to our loved ones, to our community, creates a ripple effect — the Threshold Choir is an important vehicle for something much greater than the sum of its members. Many of us are observing the growing number of people responding to what we do and want to be a part of it. Our chapters are growing more quickly and are already serving a wide variety of groups in need of comforting music. We focus on creating sacred spaces of loving care for our singers; then we're taking that out to our towns and cities. Heart at work again.
As a co-director of the Philadelphia Threshold Singers, I have been fortunate to learn from and work alongside Threshold Choir veteran Doris Mogen. I am also grateful and honored to serve on the Board. My educational background is primarily in psychology and mindfulness training, with a bit of art and a lot of music thrown in. I have always loved making music with others! My work experience is in communications and human resources, and if I reflect, my work has long had a theme of connecting people to one another. I bring to my service a collaborative style and the intention to create a safe space within which we set a mindful attention to each other and our work. As the choir grows, we need to build a strong support structure that is rooted in our essential values and mission — one that will sustain the many changes that are inevitable in a volunteer organization with heart at its core.
It is my distinct honor and delight to be able to introduce myself as a member of the Threshold Choir Board of Directors. Although I am quite new to the Threshold Choir, I am well acquainted with the joy of singing, the challenge and reward of non-profit leadership, and the wonder of accompanying people in the last stage of their life's journey. I have a passion for all that the Threshold Choir is and is yet to be, and I am excited to bring my energies and skills into the next stage of the Threshold Choir adventure.
I recently retired from a career in non-profit management and public service, advocating for children and families, strengthening the consumer voice in public policy and system change, and promoting justice for children and families of color and other marginalized populations. During the past ten years, it was my privilege to work with an inspiring group of parents to successfully navigate the child welfare system. Together we created a program of peer mentoring for parents entering that system, providing them with information, support, and hope. Our efforts were rewarded when the Washington State Legislature enacted this program into law and provided the funding to sustain it. Securing this funding and passing the torch of leadership to one of the program's remarkable parents was a thrilling way to begin my retirement.
Singing has been a lifelong interest, and I currently sing in our church choir and in a community choir. While contemplating my retirement last fall, I was looking for an opportunity to bring together my interest in hospice and my love of singing. While I was out running one Sunday morning, I heard an NPR interview with Kate Munger. As soon as I got back to the house I looked online, discovered the Seattle Threshold Singers, and immediately contacted them. Now I am not only an active bedside singer with the Seattle Threshold Singers, but I also have the amazing privilege of working on this Board. I am blessed by these opportunities and will bring all that I can into shaping with you the future of this exceptional organization.
My experience with singing at the end of life began in 2006 when my husband was in hospice care at a local facility. On day two, a woman with a guitar asked if she could sing for us. While she was not affiliated with the Threshold Choir movement, she created a welcome time of serenity, reflection, and relaxation for the entire family. We were grateful for her commitment to bringing music to the bedside of hospice patients and for reminding us of the important role music had in our lives.
Years later, I was working at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, Washington, when a notice to employees sought new voices for the Threshold Choir singers. During the first rehearsal I understood that singing for people at the end of their lives was exactly what I was meant to pursue. The group became a key component to keeping my life meaningful as I neared retirement. When our founder/director had to retire, three of us agreed to a shared leadership model. We commit to seeking feedback from our members, improving the way our group functions, and treasuring the ways our lives are buoyed by this work.
Soon after my first All-Choir Gathering in April, 2015, I agreed to serve on the Threshold Choir's Development Committee. This has been an incredible opportunity to blend my professional experience as a non-profit manager and fundraiser with my passion for the Threshold Choir's mission and future growth. And now I have the privilege of joining the board.
There are certainly challenges ahead for our fast-growing choir network. The transition perils from a founder-led organization to a volunteer board-led organization are often compared to the teenage years in life. I am eager to help the Threshold Choir continue its maturation process.
San Francisco, California
I found my way to the San Francisco Threshold Choir in December 2011. As many members report, I, too, felt that shiver and was drawn toward this idea with a deep curiosity. I have been a healthcare administrator for most of my career but have never felt the rich and loving experience of patient contact that I do as a Threshold Choir singer. I knew from my first rehearsal that I belonged.
For most of my life I have found my way to music — church choirs, school plays, guitar mass groups, community choruses, and now the Threshold Choir. My love for music and my love for singing at the bedside have also prompted a career shift and opened new roles for me in my community. As a direct result of the experience of singing at the bedside, I have chosen to deepen my experience with those in the dying process. Through extensive training and service as a caregiver at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, I explore both my fears and intimacy with death through conversation and meditation practice. I have even established a small, ongoing Death Café with my close friends.
All of these experiences have informed my career choice, which is now focused on providing support, information, and advocacy for the terminally ill in California. I am an active participant in the San Francisco End of Life Consortium and continue to sing at the bedside weekly. In addition, I serve as an active member of the San Francisco Threshold Choir Leadership Circle, which helps to form best practices for our choir and its members. It was a natural transition and an honor for me to bring my human resource and fundraising experience to the international Threshold Choir organization.
The Threshold Choir is a beautiful and sacred container in which our full and open hearts can dwell.