Alumni Spotlight: Kimberly Theodore Sidey(ARAD ’11), Music Education Grants Program Officer at Chorus America

Kimberly Theodore Sidey (ARAD ’11) is currently the Music Education Grants Program Officer at Chorus America in Washington, DC. Program Associate, Nigel Finley, had the chance catch up with Kimberly via Zoom, where they spoke about the ARAD program and her life after Teachers College.

Tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What was your undergraduate degree?

I grew up in a small town outside of Minneapolis, St. Paul, which in itself has a robust arts community. It was there, I was able to really dive into my interest in music, theatre, and dance. Then in the late ’90s, my family moved to Austin, Texas, which also has a really rich art and cultural community. I then studied Choral Music Education at the University of Texas at Austin. After undergrad, I taught choir and voice lessons in Austin and Houston before moving to New York City, which is where I completed my master’s degree and graduated from TC in 2011. 

What attracted you to the program specifically at TC?

At the time, the majority of my professional experience had been in the classroom. But, in addition to being a certified music educator, I was also an assistant conductor for a small non-profit children’s choir – which is where I had the opportunity to learn about arts administration and the kind of skills needed for effective non-profit management. So, knowing that there was a real breadth and depth of programming is what attracted me to TC. I felt confident that this was the place where I could develop these necessary skills while also gaining a holistic understanding of the arts ecosystem.  

Where do you currently work and what is your role?

As of May 2021, I work for Chorus America, the professional development, research, and advocacy organizations for the choral field. My position as the Music Education Grants Program Officer is actually a newly created position. Earlier this year, Chorus America, was very fortunate to receive a substantial grant from a private funder to create a regranting program. In my role, I will be very focused on building this new grant program. It’s specifically the Music Education Partnerships Grants program which is designed to support collaborations between non-profit organizations and schools during the 2022-23 academic year. Our goal in our inaugural year will be focused on increasing access to singing for K- 9th graders and to promote learning through cross-cultural exchange, while upholding the principles of access, diversity, and inclusion. This program is going to be making grants in four different regions: British Columbia, the Northwest, Central Appalachian, Southwest, and also the Upper Midwest.

This being a newly created grant program, how does this differ or not from your other grant programs?

This program is actually very aligned and similar to the other programs here at Chorus America. Music education specifically is a big part of our strategic plan and our mission. We support over 6,000 conductors, educators, board members, and non-profit professionals in the field. We know that access to earlier learning experiences in music and singing is really important in building a lifelong love for singing. So, this is really aligned with what we’re doing and a wonderful opportunity for Chorus America to increase our impact within the field.

Where is your organization located?

Washington, DC however we support organizations across North America.

How would you say ARAD helped prepare you for this role or your career? Were there any courses, experiences, or skillsets that you feel were most valuable?

I think ARAD was so valuable in that it provided me this rich learning opportunity to develop the fundamentals but also the critical thinking skills required for this field. I left the program with an understanding of what makes a healthy, vibrant, arts organization. I think the other thing ARAD helped me understand was the funder and grantee relationship and how to effectively build those relationships and make a case for funding. That was particularly helpful in the beginning of my career when I focused on fundraising. I found that my experience as a fundraiser has really informed my work as a grant-maker.

How would you describe the difference between a grantmaker and a fundraiser?

A fundraiser is soliciting and building financial support for a nonprofit organization, whereas a grant-maker or funder is distributing grants to organizations to support their work.

How did the pandemic affect your work as a grantmaker?

Although I am still fairly new at Chorus America I understand we had a robust response to the pandemic. As you know, singing is one way that this virus can be transmitted. There was a lot of focus on aspiration and the droplets that are produced when you’re singing or speaking. Chorus America stepped up by providing a wealth of resources, articles, and guidelines on how to respond to the pandemic.

I think speaking broadly the pandemic had a major impact on the field of philanthropy. In 2021, we saw a lot of increased investment in terms of dollars. I think the pandemic also in tandem with the Black Lives Matter movement has had a profound impact on how grants are distributed. There’s been much more conversation in this field to ensure that equity is centered in the work. And at the foundation I worked at a few months ago, I was really fortunate to be part of the substantial process to center our woman’s issues grants in equity. I believe organizations are asking themselves – How can we widen the circle of influence in our grant-making? How do we streamline the application process and increase transparency? How do we incorporate a community voice in the process in a way that before the pandemic we had not done? We have also been addressing implicit bias and providing training for grant reviewers – changes like removing identifying information or other tactics to help curb implicit bias. I think another thing we saw philanthropy do in general was respond by offering more flexible multi-year funding.

Chorus America has an incredible opportunity because we are not revising, we are able to build our grant-making program from the ground up. We’ve been working with a fantastic group of community advisors from across North America who are helping us co-create our grant guidelines. It’s been a huge joy to work with them! They’re a very talented group of musicians, touring artists, grant-makers, educators, researchers, arts non-profit professionals, and many other relevant fields. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and diverse lived experience to help inform our review process, which will ultimately decide how we distribute funding. To be involved in this type of community building has very meaningful and rewarding.

What are you most excited about in the next year?

I think the thing I’m most excited about will be the launch of this program. The guidelines will be released in October. Applications will open in November and due next January 2022. We’re granting out just over $900,000 in this next grant cycle across four regions in the US and Canada.

What advice would you give other arts administrators interested in pursuing fundraising or development in the arts?

If you are interested in pursuing development within the arts I would advise you to pursue an internship where you will get some hands-on experience.  I think also listening is a very important skill. You have to understand your donor base and you won’t know what folks need unless you listen. Then, I would say you need the courage to not be afraid of making mistakes. Especially in philanthropy. We can spend a lot of time reviewing reports and planning and I think that just takes courage to just start doing the work.

Bio:

Kim is delighted to combine her experience in grant-making and choral music education as program officer for Chorus America’s inaugural Music Education Collaborative Grants. Most recently, she served as program manager at the Austin Community Foundation, where Kim oversaw the RFP process and distribution of grants for the Women’s Fund, a signature program of the Foundation.

Her earliest professional experiences were teaching middle school choirs in Austin and Houston, TX, and since then, Kim has held arts management positions for ZACH Theatre (Austin, TX), Roundabout Theatre Company (New York, NY), and Opera New Jersey (Princeton, NJ).

She holds a Masters Degree in Arts Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Choral Music Studies from The University of Texas at Austin.

(taken from Chorus America’s website)

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