Allison Baker

Equinox Staff


When asked if they knew anyone with an alcohol or other drug addiction problem, nearly every member of the Chamber Singers raised their hands. Amelie Gooding, a representative for The Phoenix House, didn’t appear surprised. Each year, the Keene State College Chamber Singers select an organization to work with throughout the semester and produce a concert that will benefit that organization. This semester, they have decided to reach out to The Phoenix House Keene Center. “We’re this national, non-profit prevention and treatment for drugs and alcohol,” Gooding, a member of The Phoenix House for 17 and a half years, said.

Since 1977, their Victorian house on Roxbury Street has offered treatment programs. An alcohol and drug rehabilitation center didn’t seem a reasonable match for this collaboration. “At first I got the email and I put it aside,” Gooding admitted. “I didn’t know how the singing was particularly relevant.” However, after a meeting with Dr. Sandra Howard, assistant professor of music, Gooding agreed. “She just really impressed me with why she wanted to do it,” Gooding said, “Anything that educates and gets the word out, to me, is great.”

Lauren Weiner, a sophomore member of the Chamber Singers, had similar thoughts on the partnership. “It’ll be interesting. It’ll definitely make people uncomfortable, but I think we’ll be able to take away a lot from it.” The alliance with The Phoenix House has highlighted alcohol and drug awareness for Chamber Singers members.

“As college kids, we’re under a lot of peer pressure. It’ll be interesting to be able to see those problems first hand and what could happen if we let it go out of hand, and how that would affect our future,” Weiner said. “I think it will be really interesting for our students to know how people struggle and emerge from that,” Howard said, “It will put people’s problems into context.”

However, this partnership will not only put people’s addictions into context, it will also allow the student Chamber Singer members to understand those affected by drug and alcohol abuse. The college student age group has proved to be popular with admittance to The Phoenix House. “We have a lot of [clients] between the ages of 20 and 26,” Gooding said. “This is going to be good in terms of it is going to break down stereotypes and they will probably meet people their own age, who are struggling with some really serious addiction problems,” Howard said.

But for Weiner, singing was a way to counter alcohol and other drug abuse. “I consider myself lucky to be able to realize pretty early in my college career that music is my vocation. We need to find other outlets other than abusing substances, and I’ve found that.”

Although it wasn’t initially obvious, the Chamber Singers and The Phoenix House had more in common than assumed. “We used to have a music group,” Gooding said, “We had all different instruments. It wasn’t about creating beautiful sound, but about expressing themselves in that way. You know, I’m amazed at how many of our clients are incredible artists. It’s part of what we want to celebrate and develop in them.”

Howard said in order to ensure that the concert the Chamber Singers will have later in the semester coincided with The Phoenix House’s mission statement, she selected repertoire from the Renaissance time period. The Chamber Singers will be visiting The Phoenix House to talk with clients in hopes to connect through that musical expression. “I might ask The Chamber Singers to talk about what singing does for them and why they do it,” Gooding said, “because that would be inspirational.”

“If there’s one person we can steer away from that then it’s worth it,” Howard said. The concert will be held on April 14, and the Chamber Singers will donate 20 percent of the proceeds to The Phoenix House.


Allison Baker can be contacted at


Sam Norton also contributed to this story.

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