How Can We Get More Attendance at Arts Events?


The Winter Warmer has come and gone, and a spring full of choral music is on its way.

The Winter Warmer is a yearly collaborative concert put on by the Choral Executive Board and the Community Service Club at Williston. The event is the top opportunity for talented solo musicians to showcase their abilities. Honors Chamber Singers, the most advanced singing group at Williston, and Williston Fusion, the student-led a cappella group, each prepares a song to perform as well. Members of the Community Service Club collect donations and warm winter items (hats, clothes, blankets) as guests enter the event.

It’s held in the Grubbs Gallery, a smaller space with resounding acoustics. In addition to seats covering the floor, audience members watched from the small hallway leading into the gallery and from the balcony looking down from above.

This year, every seat was filled for the Jan. 27 event, and the compact nature of the space made for an interactive and homey concert.

The same cannot be said about the official choral concerts held in the Phillips Stevens chapel, which have experienced an alarming decline in attendance since before the pandemic. Back in 2018, the chapel would be bustling with concertgoers from within and outside Williston. Now, it’s rare for more than 30 people to show up. It’s difficult, as a singer, to look out and see so many empty seats staring back.

Sophomore Choral Executive Board member Isabel Baxter-Paris is not pleased with concert attendance.

“It’s abysmal,” she said, “I’m not sure whether no one knows about it, or nobody really knows what goes on at the choral concerts.”

Post Graduate Jenna Guglielmi, from Branford, Conn., was one of the few to attend both the Winter Choral concert and the Winter Warmer. She enjoyed her time at each event.

“I loved my experiences at both the choir concerts and honestly was quite upset when they ended,” she said, “The energy they brought into the Chapel and into Reed was very effective.”

Jenna’s enjoyment could be shared by all if they simply gave it a chance, but that is a difficult undertaking for Williston students whose free time is already swallowed up by work and other commitments. English teacher Sarah Sawyer feels a grade-based incentive would open the door to more potential guests.

“For Williston Scholars, part of the assignment is that they have to invite five people and make them show up. That should be part of (choir students’) job,” Sawyer suggested. She also suggested the idea of art classes offering extra credit for attending any after-school art event, similar to how English teachers offer extra credit to students that attend Writers’ Workshop events.

Writers’ Workshop is where an author or poet comes to campus to read, speak, or engage with students on a weeknight. They are often very well attended and as a result, more enjoyable. They fuel connection, discussion, and give students a chance to hear from some truly amazing authors.

Who’s to say choral concerts can’t foster the same sense of community? The Winter Warmer was such a hit because of the amount of support performers gave and received. It’s something to consider as we enter the third trimester and the spring choral concert nears.

[Editors Note: The Arts Walk has been rescheduled to March 21, 2023]