The Wake Forest University Chamber Choir will now be able to travel for performances with no barriers to cost after a generous donation from Wake Forest alumni Frank and Kathy Bragg.
The $1 million donation will fund the Thane McDonald Wake Forest Choir Tour Fund initiative aiming to accumulate about $3.5 million. This fund will allow students in the choir to go on tour at no personal cost.
The Braggs said that they are thrilled to have the opportunity to enrich young lives through their generosity. The Braggs met one another in the Wake Forest Chamber Choir, and Kathy Bragg still participates in the choir at her church.
“This inspirational gift is an example of the positive impact choral music can make on individuals,” Director of Choral Activities and Chamber Choir Conductor Dr. Christopher Gilliam said. “[The Braggs] know how important the choral experience was for them — and many others.”
He continued: “The Chamber Choir has the potential to impact the world with their gift of music, and the endowment begins our journey toward making that possible. As the endowment grows, I believe doors will open regionally, nationally and internationally for [students] to make a positive impact through their music.”
Students within the Chamber Choir also feel the importance of the choral experience. Following the announcement of the grant, some students shared with the Old Gold & Black how the program has helped them grow academically and personally.
“Chamber choir is where my day resets,” junior Nathaniel Avery said. “It’s great to be able to come in at the end of a hard day and sing with a group of like-minded people. [I have] made so many connections and am on a completely different path than what I would be doing had I decided not to sing.”
Sarah Ambrose, also a junior, agreed with Avery.
“It’s been really great to find a community of people who are equally as passionate about music,” Ambrose said. “The endowment is really exciting because it’ll give us the opportunity to take our performances to the next level and help reach a broader audience.”
The spirit and passion of the students are what initially inspired Gilliam to join the Wake Forest community in 2020.
“When I had the opportunity to [meet] the student singers, I was blown away by their talent and intellect,” he said. “So, when I was offered a position on the faculty, I was extremely honored and delighted to accept the invitation.”
Gilliam also points to the lessons students learn while pursuing a choral education — highlighting more ways that this endowment will benefit the lives of students.
“Choir participation teaches empathy, how to listen and blend and balance with others,” he said. “It requires participants to realize that their voice is not the only important voice in the room.”
Additionally, Gilliam believes that choir teaches students how to be disciplined and diligent in their efforts to improve.
“When the hard work is put in, only then can the students begin to hear — and know, deep from their gut, spiritually — that the time and investment they’ve put into the music has significant rewards.”
In leading the chamber choir program, Gilliam has learned many things himself — particularly the powerful way the arts can affect young adults and allow them to thrive.
“Wake Forest student potential knows no boundaries,” he said.
For more information regarding choir auditions and future performances, visit www.wakechoirs.com. Information about how to support the chamber choir endowment fund can be found at wakethearts.wfu.edu/2022-chamber-choir-tour/.