A Herstory of SSN
Echo (Linda Ray) of the Kansas City Women's Chorus and Linda Small of the St. Louis Women's Choir started the Sister Singers Network with a logo, letterhead, and a list of choruses.
It was their vision to create a feminist network of women’s choruses that could learn from each other and come together to share music. The early SSN choral festivals were part of the Ozark Women's Festivals, until the SSN outgrew them.
The first separate choral festival that was hosted by the SSN was in Kansas City.
Setting the Foundation
At this time, a planning meeting was held to organize SSN beyond the mailing-list stage. The Operations Matrix system was developed. This organizational structure continued to evolve over the years, with the structure being modified last at a planning meeting in 1996.
The operations matrix included the following spokes: regional coordinators (contact persons for choruses in each region), a treasurer, an archivist, publications contact person, various ad hoc taskforces and consultants for specific projects (e.g. festival planning, 501c3, diversity caucuses, new chorus support, vital signs, e-mail, etc...) and then in the center of all of these spokes is the Hub (communication central).
At National Women’s Music Festival, a group of chorus women met to begin discussing SSN and how much it means to have a feminist organization like this for women’s choruses.
Later that summer at the GALA conference in DC, still more chorus women met to find out a little about the history of SSN and what might need to happen to get the organization up and running again. Finally, a mailing went out to all the former SSN choruses, plus any new women’s choruses that were known, to invite everyone to a SSN planning meeting in Chicago.
Reboot and Forward
SSN planning meeting in Chicago, a very exciting thing happened. The Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus with the help of Sistrum from Lansing, MI, offered to host the next Sister Singers Network Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2001!!! A work group sprang out of that meeting to assist planning . . .
. . . the Under Northern Lights festival in May 2001, which was attended by 26 choruses.
The San Diego Women's Chorus hosted our 25th anniversary SSN festival, Western Sol, in 2006 – our first West Coast festival. We also commissioned our first choral composition for the 2006 festival: Ode to Women by Josefina Benedetti.
Artemis Singers, Chicago's Lesbian Feminist Chorus, held the next Sister Singers Network National Women's Choral Festival, Our Kind of Sound, and we performed our second commission: A Universal Dream, text by Jenni Brandon and Meta Hellman and music by Jenni Brandon.
Returning to Our Roots, the 2014 festival, was hosted by Amasong, Champaign-Urbana's Premier Lesbian/Feminist Chorus, and featured our third commission: Lineage by Andrea Ramsey.
More Than Music Here, the 2018 festival, was hosted by Grand Rapids Women's Chorus, and featured our fourth commission: Flores y Semillas, lyrics by Aleida Rodríguez and music by Ivette Herryman Rodríguez.
After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Windsong, Cleveland's Feminist Chorus will host the first post-pandemic SSN Festival!