I recently lit the 25th Anniversary of the South Cost Chorale at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. SCC is a chorus based in Long Beach, CA. One of the unique qualities that sets them apart is that they aren’t a gay chorus, or a straight chorus for that matter. They are open to anyone and everyone who enjoys (and wants to sing) choral music. I realize that, in this day and age, choral music is a somewhat tough sell; and it’s to their credit that they (and other choruses similar to them) are celebrating milestones of longevity.
I was asked by the producer to light the anniversary concert. Knowing that the chorus is all volunteer, I understood I was to be donating my time as well. These gigs are always easier/more fun if you’re surrounded by people you know so I asked two friends of mine to join me as programmer and assistant designer. They, too, donated their time, as did the stage managers and other production personnel.
I do a few events like this every year; and I’ve been asked why I volunteer to do something I would normally get paid to do. The answer is: I respond to passion – to people who do something for the sheer joy of doing it. The other reason is, quite frankly, I’m not good with the conventional methods of volunteering; so this is a small way that I can actually offer something of value.
The volunteer environment is fueled by everyone’s genuine desire to be there; and that the purpose for being there is contribute something. In this case, it was their voices. Their voices, raised in song, to celebrate each other and their community. Their producer and their artistic director are both passionate about the group and what they can do; and the outlet it offers both the singers and their audience. How can you NOT respond to the powerful pull of passion?
Volunteering has also been proven to carry a number of benefits. Obviously, you can make new friends and contacts, allowing you to connect with people whom you might not normally meet. It can help increase your self-confidence and can combat depression as well as lower symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease. It can provide career experience to someone young, who is building their resume; teaching you valuable job skills. Perhaps most importantly, in many volunteer situations, you are helping others or contributing to something larger than yourself – both of which result in increasing happiness in your own life.
Of course, everyone is busy, and finding a way to incorporate volunteer opportunities into a busy schedule is not without its challenges. But I believe the benefits are entirely worth the sacrifice.
If you’re interested in volunteering, there are a lot of organizations out there who utilize volunteers. Animal shelters, rescue organizations, youth groups and sports teams, libraries, senior centers, museums, and community theaters are all great places to start looking.