The state of Vermont is the second least populous state (approx. 625,000-2010 Census) in the country, and as of 2015, it was the leading producer of maple syrup. In 1800, Congregationalists founded Middlebury College, the first operating college in Vermont in the town of Middlebury (Pop. 8,500). Town and gown relations are strained in many small towns across the country that are home to colleges or universities, but the Middlebury College Department of Music’s College Community Chorus is using choral music to strengthen the relationships between townspeople and students.
The choir, conducted by Jeff Rehbach, is open to high school students, college students, alumni, staff, faculty and any other community members who love to sing. The group performs concerts the weekend before Thanksgiving each year and in May, and they host the annual Messiah Sing that is open to the community. Students, who can register and receive credit for the course, often note that the 90-voice chorus provides a place to sing, to explore music together, and to make life-long friends with others from on- and off-campus. "I am so happy I decided to take choir. It was a very positive experience and I would definitely recommend it to future students. Singing allows students to decompress and re-contextualize their collegiate lives... I learned about the collaboration, patience, and self-awareness that is required to make collective art... I've learned how to read music, to work as part of a team, to train my own voice to fit a part, to take care of myself so that I can sing, and to value having friends in the community."