Toolkit: Start a Chorus


Volunteers are essential to chorus life and operation. We use volunteers as singers, advisors, ambassadors, and for day-to-day operations.

Volunteer Responsibilities

Volunteer singers are a familiar, welcoming face as singers arrive for rehearsal each week. Each sings alongside a person with dementia, helping him or her follow the music and lyrics, taking instructional notes and ensuring everyone has an enjoyable experience during rehearsals and performances. Volunteers commit to attending all weekly rehearsals and performances.

Volunteers receive training on Alzheimer’s and other dementias and dementia-friendly communication strategies.

Operations volunteers are the hosts and hostesses of the social time before and after rehearsals and concerts; they work as ticket takers, and ushers at concerts, and they assist with on-stage and backstage concert logistics of all kinds.

Volunteer ambassadors help spread the word about the chorus. They are well informed about the activities and plans of the chorus and make valuable connections in the community, generate enthusiasm, promote understanding of living well with Alzheimer’s, and assist with donor cultivation.

Recruiting and Preparing Volunteers

The host organization is responsible for attracting qualified volunteers and training them to be effective in supporting the chorus program. Some organizations will already have volunteer management systems in place, although they may need to be adapted or adjusted to meet the chorus’s needs. Others may be starting from scratch. Here are a few tips:

  • Potential volunteers include family and friends of singers, medical students, university and church choir members, and recent retirees.
  • GVI recommends that the host organization have a protocol for vetting new volunteers to ensure appropriate qualifications, specifically as they relate to interaction with chorus participants. Background checks and third-party references may be appropriate in certain situations.
  • Well-prepared volunteers will be more effective and content in their roles. The job responsibilities should be clearly spelled out for each volunteer.

Your local Alzheimer’s Association can be a good resource for training on effective interaction and communication with people with Alzheimer’s and associated dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association provides free web-based training on topics like Effective Communication Strategies and Understanding and Responding to Dementia Related Behaviors.

A wealth of additional information about managing volunteers is available online: