The dream began to take shape in September 2001, when the late internationally renowned gerontologist Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University, asked Jeanne Kelly to be part of a study on The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning of Older Adults. The study would necessitate forming two chorales for older adults over 65 years of age to join forces with the Senior Singers' Chorale Jeanne already had up and running at Goodwin House, Alexandria under her older adult program at Levine School of Music Arlington Campus where she was the director. She quickly added Goodwin House Bailey's Crossroads in Falls Church, VA.
Arlington County Lee Center became the third component of the chorale program and the first rehearsal was scheduled to take place on Sept. 11, 2001. It was canceled because of the horrible terrorist attacks that day. The next week brought in over 60 older adult singers! The rehearsals at all three locations were full of energy, excitement and a great choral sound. Combined, over 120 older adults actively participated in a choral program directed by a professional conductor.
In 2007, Jeanne Kelly left Levine and formed a nonprofit organization, Encore Creativity for Older Adults. She knew this was the age group that excited her most and where she could do her most meaningful work. Encore is dedicated to providing an excellent and accessible artistic environment for older adults, 55 and over, regardless of experience or ability, who seek arts education and performance opportunities under a professional artist.
September 2007 began a very busy season for Encore, as five Encore Chorales were rehearsing weekly, preparing for holiday concerts. The Smithsonian Institution was the newest Encore site. The Encore Chorale at the Myerberg Senior Center in Baltimore, MD was beginning its second season with over 40 energetic and enthusiastic singers.
In the winter of 2008, an Encore Chorale helped launch the new Workhouse Arts Center at Lorton, Virginia. In the fall came an Encore Chorale at the Potomac Academy of George Mason University, in residence at the Woodlands Retirement Community in Fairfax, Virginia. Encore also introduced a new program: Dance and Movement, under the direction of Ms. Tiffany Haughn at the Workhouse Arts Center and at the Arlington Center for Dance.
In December of 2008, all seven Encore Chorales combined to put on a spectacular performance on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center. It was a most memorable evening! The Millennium Stage became an annual holiday tradition.
Also in 2008, Encore conducted two Choral Camps (now called Institutes) at St. Mary's College of Maryland and the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. The programs have continued on an annual basis. In 2014, the Maryland program moved to Washington College in historic Chestertown. 2018 will see the addition of a Rock & Roll Institute in Annapolis, MD.
In 2009, Encore sponsored its first "Singing at Sea" cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2. This program has continued, with four more ocean cruises, including three to the Caribbean and a second cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2. In 2013, Encore teamed with Grand Circle Cruise Line to begin a series of European River Cruises. Over ninety singers cruised on the Seine River in France, highlighted by a concert performance in the Rouen Cathedral. Subsequent trips included a Danube River Cruise with concerts in Vienna, the Melk Abbey, and Prague. 2015's cruise was highlighted by a concert at the Bitburger Brewery in Germany. Also in 2015, twenty singers had the rare opportunity to tour and perform in Cuba under the auspices of the Grand Circle Foundation. Encore singers have also traveled to the French and Italian Rivieras, Spain, Portugal, Canada, and England. 2019's concert tour saw Encore singers return to sing on board the Queen Mary 2, as well as perform in Bath and London, England.
The fall semester of 2015 marked the launch of an entirely new program, Encore ROCKS, a rock & roll chorus that has grown to over 300 singers.
2017 marked Encore's Ten Anniversary, celebrated with a grand concert at Washington's DAR Constitution Hall. Over 750 singers packed the DAR stage to produce a glorious sound.
In 2018, Encore cemented its long-standing partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, moving its annual Millennium Stage concert into the Concert Hall, with over 500 singers participating in a glorious performance. This most successful concert, with an audience of over 2,000, moved the Kennedy Center to establish it as an annual event.
Encore has continued to grow and now, in 2020, Encore has 21 Chorale and ROCKS programs in the MD/VA/DC area, as well as a Chorale in New York City, and affiliate chorales in Hudson, OH; Reading, PA; Denver, CO (two Chorales); and Santa Clarita. The combined membership of these chorales is now approximately 1,600 singers, and the pace of growth continues as Encore focuses on national expansion.
In September 2019, Encore launched the Sentimental Journey Singers, for individuals with Early-stage to moderate Alzheimer's or other memory impairment. The program is in partnership with the Insight Memory Care Center in Fairfax, VA. The second program in Rockville, MD was scheduled to open in early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put that plan on hold.
March of 2020 brought the COVID-19 pandemic and an immdediate halt to all Encore live programs and, ultimately the cancellation of 2020 summer camps and a planned concert tour of Ireland. Encore's leadership, including most of the conductors, sprang into action and produced a series of "sing-along" and instructional videos, 38 in all, distributed to Encore singers via YouTube, to carry Encore singers through the end of the spring semester.
With the cancellation of summer programs, Encore singers, many now confined to their homes, asked Encore for more online programs. Thus, the concept of "Encore University" was born. Beginning in July, Encore developed a six-week semester of classes, thirteen per week, on a variety of singing-related subjects, including rehearsals, vocal technique, music history, and much more, presented live on Zoom and recorded for viewing on YouTube. Encore University was a huge success and attracted participants from across the country. As the pandemic persisted, expanded fifteen-week semesters of Encore University were offered in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021, as well as another short semester in the summer. The fall and spring semesters concluded with the presentation of virtual concerts, viewed by tens of thousands. Spring 2021 also brought the addition of the innovative JackTrip Virtual Studio, a hardware/software system that enabled participants to hear each other sing without the typical internet latency that prevented such singing on Zoom.
Fall of 2021 has seen a return to live rehearsing and planned concerts in December. COVID precautions have been implemented, including social distancing, masks, and a vaccination requirement. Encore University also continues on a more limited basis.
This year also marks Encore's Fifteenth Anniversary, with a planned celebratory concert at the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, MD in May 2022.
This year also marks the end of an era, as Encore’s Founder, Jeanne Kelly, has stepped down from her position as Artistic Director. Encore’s new leadership includes Joshua Vickery, Chief Executive Officer; Brian Isaac, Artistic Director; and Mickey Love, Director of Business Operations and Development.Encore continues to thrive! If you're over the age of 55 and want a truly great experience, join us!