Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Olympia Chorus


Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Margaret Eby, Jan Smallwood and Sally Ryerson of Olympia Chorus.

The Olympia Chorus is part of Sweet Adelines International, a nonprofit organization for women singers founded in 1945 to preserve the art of barbershop singing through education, performance and competition. The Olympia group is part of the North by Northwest Region 13, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska and about 850 women. Women members range in ages, but all share a love of a capella music.

The Olympia Chorus has been around for over 50 years and has a rich history performing in Thurston County. They sing everything from oldies and jazz to ‘80s pop and Broadway hits for private organizations, senior centers and other events.

Olympia Chorus also raises money through putting on their own shows and selling tickets. “We are known for our scripted shows, which not every chorus has done, where we will have somebody come in and write us a little script that loosely ties together the music we are singing and members of the chorus are the actors,” shares Jan Smallwood. “And we also often have high school theater students that are part of our acting troupe.”

Monies raised helps support the group, including purchasing the copyrights to all music they perform.

Each year, the 30 regions of Sweet Adelines International hold an annual competition, the winners of which head to the international competition. “This year the competition will be in Phoenix, in September,” shares Sally Ryerson. “So previous winners will be there to compete and it draws about 8,000 women from all over the world to see this contest.”

If you watched “Pitch Perfect” and have since dreamed of singing a capella but feel unprepared, Olympia Chorus wants you to come to their Tuesday night practices. “The wonderful thing about Sweet Adeline’s is that we are all about educating people who want to sing and helping you learn how to sing better,” shares Margaret Eby. “So, yes you do have to audition but we’re going to help you get there as best as we can. And we really love to have people on the risers that have potential and may not have achieved that potential yet.”

The group is known for being inclusive and friendly. “You come for the music but you stay for the friendship and the love,” shares Jan.

For more information, including hearing the Olympia Chorus belt out a tune, watch the full video above and visit the Olympia Chorus website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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