The Providence Singers was officially established in 1971-72 by Robert Molison, then director of the Brown University Chorus, and Glenn Giuttari and John Duffy, graduate students at Brown. Molison served as artistic director the first two seasons.
In the beginning, the Providence Singers was a group of approximately 60 auditioned voices advertising its programs as “little-known works by well-known composers and well-known works by little-known composers.” The group provided satisfaction and enjoyment for singers and audience in small spaces throughout the East Side of Providence with occasional forays into small spaces outside the city.
In the fall of 1973, Charles Fassett, a Wheaton College professor and chorus director, became artistic director and, with accompanist William MacPherson, led the Singers for 22 seasons, establishing it as a permanent part of the Providence musical community.
Our emerging organization
Fassett retired in 1995 and Julian Wachner was appointed artistic director for the 1996-97 season. In the late 1990s, the Singers entered a period of explosive growth. Already there had been successful collaborations in Boston and enthusiastic critical notice. Talented choral singers were seeking auditions in greater numbers, and the group had begun to expand from 75 voices to a membership of over 100. Audiences doubled; the budget doubled, then doubled again.
In January 2000, as part of its investment in Rhode Island’s non-profit leadership, the Rhode Island Foundation awarded Providence Singers President Allison McMillan a 12-month fellowship to study choral groups that had made the transition from small amateur associations to performing arts organizations of regional or national significance. The Singers also became a member of Chorus America, the national association for choruses and choral leadership, and sought additional information from national associations designed to support non-profit organizations.
A year later, in January 2001, the Providence Singers Board began its first strategic planning process that culminated in the completion and approval of the organization’s first strategic plan in May 2001. This plan laid out a vision of the Singers as a choral organization dedicated to performance excellence. In August 2001, the Singers hired McMillan as its first executive director. At its annual meeting in June 2002, the membership of the Providence Singers adopted new bylaws effective July 1, 2002.
A second strategic plan adopted in 2005 sought to consolidate artistic gains by giving the organization a more effective administrative structure to support the artistic vision. In 2005 the Board authorized rental of an administrative office and additional administrative staff.
After Wachner’s ten-year association with the Singers, years marked by increasing artistic excellence and critical and popular acclaim for the group, Andrew Clark became artistic director for 2006-07 season. The office and rehearsals moved to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Carter Center for Music Education in East Providence in 2008. The third strategic plan, approved in November 2008, enhanced choral excellence and leadership provided the Board governance, fundraising, and administrative capacity to sustain the artistic vision and programs.
After five years with the Singers, Clark was appointed director of choral activities at Harvard University.
In the summer of 2011, the Providence Singers appointed Betsy Burleigh as its fifth artistic director. A graduate of Indiana University (Bachelor of Music Education with distinction, vocal concentration), Burleigh earned graduate degrees in choral conducting at the New England Conservatory of Music (Master of Music with distinction) and Indiana University (Doctor of Music). In 2012, Burleigh accepted a tenured appointment to the music faculty at Indiana University, with leave to complete the concert seasons of the Providence Singers and Chorus Pro Music in Boston.
Christine Noel was appointed the Singers' sixth artistic director, beginning with the 2013-24 season.
Links for more information
The Providence Singers has a rich, 50-year history with archival information going back to our founding in 1971.
Historical Notes about The Providence Singers - Milestones, memories, and anecdotes
Season Archives - Concert information, program notes.
Singers Roster Archives
You can also explore Providence Singers history with these searchable data bases:
Image archives (coming in 2022)