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Valerie Coimbra on Boston City Singers and the Power of Choir

Valerie Coimbra is an educator and the chair of Boston City Singers, an organization that provides underserved young people with opportunities through a strong foundation of choral singing. Valerie has been with Boston City Singers since 2004 when she joined the group as an 8th grader. “I sang with Boston City Singers from 2004 until 2009 when I graduated high school,” Valerie recalls. After high school, Valerie attended college in Nashville and began her career in education. When Valerie moved back to Boston, she discovered an opportunity to join the board of Boston City Singers. “When I heard about the chance to join the board, I thought that was a really unique and interesting opportunity to give back,” Valerie shares. She joined the board in January of last year and became the board chair this past July.

Valerie believes the work of Boston City Singers not only includes “provid[ing] musical training and performance opportunities to students,” but also “building community and bridging differences.” Valerie also notes the benefits of the choir itself, citing the stress reduction and skills gained from being part of a singing group: “you learn how to be a part of a group where you truly have to be part of this thing that’s so much larger than yourself.” Boston City Singers’ students come from “such different walks of life…and have so much to offer each other in terms of their own backgrounds. So as much as it is about singing it’s also about community and learning how to grow in your confidence.”

Valerie expresses her gratitude for the opportunities Boston City Singers gave her as a student, specifically touring Australia and New Zealand with the choir. Valerie says she “truly can’t imagine another time in [her] life where that would have been a possibility.” She is inspired by Boston City Singers and what they can provide “to students who might not always have those opportunities…for a lot of students it’s really life-changing.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston City Singers have continued to thrive under the new circumstances. The organization shifted to an entirely virtual format and added additional extracurriculars “that we might not have had the chance to run otherwise.” The program now educates students in a variety of topics including conducting, social justice, ukulele, and many others in addition to their weekly rehearsals. Through these efforts, Boston City Singers has retained almost all of its students over the course of the pandemic. Valerie has been meeting more frequently with the board to discuss the shift to virtual singing and learning; she feels that the organization has “actually done better than we could’ve expected with the pandemic…as much as it’s been difficult, I think that there are some really unique opportunities we’ve been able to have.”

The board of Boston City Singers recently completed the Arts & Business Council’s Business on Board training over the past calendar year. As board chair, Valerie hoped to learn about building stronger committees for her own board. Going into the training Valerie “was really excited to be able to connect with folks who would have a similar mindset and at least some kind of a similar interest and understanding of the arts.” Valerie found the program “super helpful…The way that [Jim Grace] described committees gave me a lot of inspiration for ways in which we could strengthen our own board committees and that kind of lead to the expansion of some of our existing committees.” She notes that other topics, such as recruitment and “finding the right kind of candidates and what different folks can offer to a board,” also proved helpful “to get to that next level in an understanding capacity” in terms of running a non-profit arts board.

Valerie is looking forward to Boston City Singers’ next virtual concert and “to see the products that come up over the next few months. I’m excited to see what these music directors are able to pull together, the compilations and final products.” Using video editing software, the directors are able to compile “individual student performances to create comprehensive pieces” that are then streamed to the public.

Boston City Singers is continuing to enroll young students throughout the year in their programs. If you are interested in this organization or want to find out more about serving on the board of Boston City Singers, please contact Valerie Coimbra at [email protected].

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