Get to Know Chorus America’s New President & CEO
This March, Chorus America welcomes Catherine Dehoney as the organization’s new President and CEO. Catherine brings a wealth of arts management and fundraising experience to the position—and after years of leading our development efforts, she's no stranger to the Chorus America family! Here she shares some thoughts about choruses today, her first priorities on the job, and why singing is her favorite team sport.
How have you seen the choral field grow and change since you first became involved with Chorus America?
When I started working with Chorus America in 2000, choruses played a more “behind the scenes” role in their communities than they do today. I believe they are more in the forefront now, and more mindful of the important contributions they make to the artistic, civic, and social lives of their singers, audiences, and fellow citizens. It has been very exciting to see new choruses created with the mission of using their music and organizational strengths to help tackle social issues.
What are some of the challenges currently facing arts organizations? What resources do you think choruses need to be successful today?
I doubt I’m telling choral leaders anything they don’t already know: Performing arts organizations face the constant challenge of increasing their relevance in order to broaden their audience and base of support. It’s important to emphasize creativity and to balance artistic vision with the need to reach people in new ways. It also helps to be able to respond to the economic climate relatively quickly—choruses have the benefit of being flexible since their organizations typically have low overhead burdens.
How do you plan to spend your time during your first few months as President and CEO? What will be your most immediate priority, and what is one “big picture” priority that you plan to tackle down the road?
I am looking forward to digging in and helping put the finishing touches on our 2015 Conference in Boston—it looks like one of our best ever. I will be looking for the resources to implement the third Chorus Impact Study—research that has been enormously important for the field and for Chorus America itself. I’m also eager to take up the torch in looking at how Chorus America serves its members and how we communicate the power of being part of this organization so that more choruses join the family!
A longer term priority is in the area of serving diverse communities. Many choral groups out there primarily serve specific ethnic, racial, or socio-economic communities. Chorus America has a strategic priority to continue developing ways to involve and serve those groups as they most need.
Tell us a little bit about your personal experiences with music and singing.
Singing is in my DNA. There is embarrassing family lore about how, as a very young child, I would regularly wake up hours before the rest of the family and amuse myself by singing at the top of my lungs, no matter how much my parents scolded. Like the vast majority of choral singers, I sang in church and school choirs continuously. I majored in vocal performance in college before realizing that arts administration was the better fit for my future. I love jazz and the American Songbook and have sung with some jazz groups in my day. Singing is a deep part of who I am as an individual and also my favorite team sport!
What most excites you about taking on this new role at Chorus America?
I’m mindful of the ancient adage, “Study the past if you would define the future.” I feel incredibly blessed to be returning to an organization I know and love so well. Not many new CEOs can say that they are coming into an organization with one of the best board of directors in the business, a creative and dedicated staff, and a clear mission and organizational strategy. It’s really thrilling to be able to build on such a foundation!
Catherine Dehoney most recently served as the executive director for development at the Castleton Festival. Before her work at the Castleton Festival, Dehoney served as the chief development officer at Chorus America for over ten years. Prior to that, she was senior director of development at Gallaudet University. During her nine-year tenure there, she served as a member of the president's management team and the institutional advancement team.
Her other experience includes capital campaign management, development consulting for a variety of arts nonprofits, and fundraising positions at the League of American Orchestras, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Friends of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dehoney received her BA in music from the College of William and Mary.