"Sharing audio, video and news is now an integral part of BIV's #Hope #Inspire #Transform mission."
-Marcus Paul James
I was fortunate to work with the Broadway Inspirational Voices this fall and holiday season, supporting a series of concerts and events. Working alongside a team spearheaded by Marcus Paul James (Media Director) and Steve French (Social Media Manager), we raised $87, 179 for their second album—a follow up to their Grammy-Award winning debut.
I'll let these two talented gents and the choir's incredible content speak for itself...
What's the story of why Broadway Inspirational Voices was created?
Steve French: The choir that today is known as Broadway Inspirational Voices was created by Michael McElroy in the mid-90's in New York City in response to the AIDS crisis. (It was known early on as the Broadway Gospel Choir, and went through several iterations before becoming BIV.) Michael originally brought in twelve of his close friends and the group would perform at cabarets and concerts organized with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. (Early members, who remain a close part of the BIV family, include Billy Porter, Adriane Lenox, Alice Ripley, Ty Taylor and more.) The combination of soul-stirring gospel music and top-notch Broadway voices under Michael's exacting direction made these concerts a highlight of the theatre season. From those initial twelve members, the choir has grown to over 70 voices strong.
Marcus Paul James: Since that very scary time in our community, BIV has evolved in duties, but not in purpose. The choir now stands as a beacon of inspiration in New York City and has an acute focus on providing hope and opportunities to youth and youth in need.
What inspired you to join Broadway Inspirational Voices?
MPJ: The power of the music! We're all given gifts, and some gifts resonate loudly in different places. Gospel music is in my soul. To combine BIV (using music to truly inspire and uplift people, standing alongside people I call family) with my theatre and music career is a combination that is rare on this earth. I am truly lucky to be a part of Broadway Inspirational Voices.
SF: Most members I've spoken to were inspired to join the choir after experiencing a concert. But it sometimes takes a while for a spot to open up, so even if a future member reached out to Michael expressing their interest in joining, it might take years before they were singing at their first rehearsal. Michael also sees A LOT of shows around NYC, and will reach out to a performer he's seen who he thinks will be a good fit for the choir.
What's your advice to aspiring singers?
SF: My advice for aspiring singers is simple - keep singing. Practice all the time. The voice is a muscle that needs to be trained and exercised. If you want to be a top-caliber singer, save your money and find a good voice teacher who will help you reach your vocal goals. If you're a performer living on a budget, your voice is worth the investment. Also, listen to as many different singers and styles of music as possible. Listen to how great singers do what they do. You never know where you'll find inspiration!
MPJ: This is a tricky question as singing isn't a job necessarily. When it does become one, there are big mental and emotional adjustments that have to be made. I feel like my advice is too specific to what that singer wants to do. I will say this... loving music and singing is something that should ALWAYS bring you joy. Even if you have to remind yourself sometimes.
What's ahead for the choir?
SF: The choir is in a very exciting time of transition, as we begin to grow our Outreach Programs and extend our reach to a national and even international audience.
We hope to begin traveling more as a choir and finding performance opportunities outside of New York. We're also very excited to be finishing up our second holiday album, GREAT JOY II: AROUND THE WORLD which will be available this fall.
MPJ: This choir is capable of anything and everything, and we have been working extremely hard to prepare the organization to weather the terrains of those possibilities. We are preparing for a rebranding, as well as a CD project, and more people involved in the journey to ultimately give back to the community and youth that will always need encouragement.
What are some of the biggest things you learned from our work together?
MPJ: I’ve learned from Tony and Get Creative Social Media how to handle information efficiently. It’s like Tony upgraded our tool from mallets and stone to scalpels and lasers. Though it was a very hectic time in our season when we had him, we still were able to streamline many aspects of the organization’s media. We can now confidently focus on the avenues of communication with our audiences which were not as clear before. Simplifying what can seem chaotic to a system we can manage (that starts with where we actually are and then growing from there) was a gift.
SF: Working with Tony, we learned about the seemingly endless benefits of using social media to reach new audiences. Each platform offers unique ways to share content, and once you learn how to use each platform, you can pick and choose how you want to present your latest update.
During our recent Kickstarter campaign, Tony was instrumental in helping us reach the largest audience possible. He showed us how to craft shareable tweets that our members and fans could then post on their profiles. He introduced us to programs that let us create our social posts in advance so we could create an automated schedule. (As a volunteer organization, this was HUGE. We could work on BIV but still give our time and energy to our other projects throughout the day.) He helped us reformat our website to give our users the best experience possible, and helped us refine the way we present our information. Sometimes less is more, and Tony is a master at identifying the most vital aspects of your brand.
What’s the best result of our work together?
MPJ: The best results of our works has been the streamlining BIV website for mobile, unifying all of our social branding, and explaining how the social media platforms actually work.
SF: The best results of our work together were growing our audience on each platform. In two months, we doubled our followers on Facebook and Twitter, and more than TRIPLED our Instagram audience! We’re learning that there are SO MANY ways for us to give our audience a unique BIV experience on social media. Sharing audio, video and news is now an integral part of BIV's #Hope #Inspire #Transform mission. Thanks, Tony!
Thank you, Marcus, Steve, Michael and the entire choir. It was an honor to work with you!
Check out BIVoices.org and @BIVoices on all social media!
Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.