Deanna Caruso

Equinox Staff


Kelsey Gutzman / Equinox Staff The Keene State College Chamber Singers perform in the Alumni Recital Hall on Sunday, April 14. This year The Chamber Singers partnered with The Phoenix House.

Each semester The Chamber Singers of Keene State College partner with a non-profit organization with establishments that are located around the town of Keene. This spring semester, the musicians decided to partner with The Phoenix House. The Phoenix House is a rehab facility dedicated to those who are dealing with addiction such as alcohol and drug abuse. On Sunday, April 14, the partnership united in the Alumni Recital Hall of the Redfern Arts Center, and voiced the power of rising up through the art of music.

Music Assistant Professor Dr. Sandra Howard and her singers worked to raise awareness about this issue at KSC because it is an issue that affects everybody in one way or another.  Howard said, “Addiction is an issue on campus and in everyone’s community. It isn’t really uncommon but more so unspoken.”

The partnership with The Phoenix House was a perfect start to get this awareness out there. When Howard first contacted the Program Director of the Phoenix House of Keene Amelie Gooding, she was hesitant to pursue the partnership. “We have never paired up with an organization like this before but, it is good to get awareness out there. There are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions of the disease of addiction.” According to, in the United States alone, more than 100,000 deaths each year are attributed to alcohol and drug abuse. Howard said that her students are aware of these diseases. “It puts it on the radar more that one choice or one habit can lead you down a certain path,” she said. Gooding has been the director of the Phoenix House for 18 years.

Their website states that in 1972, The Phoenix House became an independent non-profit organization and has since grown to become the nation’s leading provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention services operating more than 123 programs in ten states. Currently a population of more than 6,000 men, women and adolescents are taken care of with the support of treatment and recovery.

The concert held in honor of The Phoenix House, entitled, “Arise! Songs of Triumphant Beauty,” captivated audience members with songs that featured Mozart’s “Regina Coeli” and Bernstein’s “The Lark,” with guest countertenor soloist, Aaron Russo. The singers prepared repertoire based on themes of perseverance, ascending birds and the Resurrection.

During the first half of the concert,  Howard conducted each song. Hannah Hall, a KSC student and assistant conductor, then took lead for the song “I Will be Earth” by Gwyneth Walker. Hall assisted her fellow colleagues in the song. A feature of guest performers made appearances for some songs. Russo, who is a well-known countertenor soloist, joined the singers on stage and powerfully sang sections of “The Lark” alongside Hall.  Incorporated into the pieces were a hand drum and bells played by Josh Brennan and a flute quartet performed by Sarah Wolff, Tim Goss, Lizzie Fecto and Lauren Casey.

The second half of the concert, there was no conductor leading the singers. This is because the songs that were sung were created during the Renaissance era and in that time, there were no conductors.  This meant, “The singers were paying attention and doing their job,” Howard said.  The singers practiced twice a week for three and a half hours, and also performed their music at local high schools.  Since each performance is musically formed to accommodate the organization that The Chamber Singers are partnered with, this partnership related the most to the singers. Howard said, “Everyone knows of someone who has struggled with addiction at some point in their life.”

Sophomore and Chamber Singer Lauren Weiner said she is glad that she has music in her life, “This partnership made me realize that path I want to take in life and the one I avoided. Music has kept me out of this and I see music as a form of therapy,” she said.

Gooding, who is proud of her patients every day, said, “We’re here to help, not judge. It is very rewarding to watch someone grow, it is very inspirational, invigorating, any word to describe it, it is amazing.”

The concert ended with a standing ovation and The Chamber Singers will donate 20 percent of their proceeds to the Phoenix House.


Deanna Caruso can be contacted at

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