Northwest Associated Arts History

Northwest Associated Arts was founded in 1984 as Highline Civic Chorale in response to the need for a vibrant, diverse south-end (Seattle) chorus that would bring quality choral music into the community while challenging experienced singers. In 1986, the Chorale changed its name to ChoralSounds Northwest (CSN) and co-founder Mark A. Adrian was engaged to conduct the ensemble.

In 2000 Cantaré Vocal Ensemble was added to the organization in part to provide CSN singers with an opportunity to sing and perform classical choral repertoire in intimate settings.

In 2003 as school districts in our community continued to cut music programs, our leadership saw a tremendous need for a way to involve our youngest citizens in the choral arts, and founded the Youth Choral Education Program (YCEP) under the direction of Paula Hawkins.

The first ensemble in YCEP was the CSN Children’s Chorus for singers in grades 3-5. Within a year the tremendous success of the Children’s Chorus led to the formation of the CSN Youth Chorus, for singers in grades 6-8.

In 2005 CSN created Northwest Associated Arts as an umbrella organization to better encompass the range of performing groups now operating in our organization. As part of this reorganization, the Children’s Chorus became KidSounds Northwest and the Youth Chorus was re-named YouthSounds Northwest.

Mark A. Adrian resigned as conductor of ChoralSounds Northwest in 2006, leading to five years of change in the artistic leadership of CSN, culminating in the engagement of new Artistic Director Brian J. Winnie in 2011.

In 2007 the continued success of the YCEP led NWAA to form yet another chorus, TeenSounds Northwest. Inspired by the many young people and their parents who asked for singing opportunities for older singers, TeenSounds welcomes singers in grades 9-12.

In 2009 Cantaré Vocal Ensemble, under the baton of Mark Adrian, spun off from NWAA and is now an independent chorus based in North Seattle.

In 2011 NWAA formed a new chorus, SilverSounds Northwest, under the direction of Paula Hawkins, providing a musical home to the retired members of the South King County area. Their annual mainstage concerts prove that you really are, “Never too old to rock-and-roll!”

In 2013, Artistic Director Dr. Brian J. Winnie created VocalSounds Northwest, a 16-voice ensemble designed for those more experienced singers in CSN who were committed to singing more advanced repertoire associated with a chamber ensemble. Out of this group grew The Smamblettes, a small women’s group made up of singers that perform an array of beautiful and fun arrangements for the female voice.

In 2014, Dr. Winnie accepted a professorship in Kansas, and NWAA hired Dr. Ryan Ellis as CSN’s new Artistic Director, continuing the renewed focus on musical excellence and quality performances by ChoralSounds, VocalSounds, and the Smamblettes. In addition, Paula Hawkins stepped down as conductor of the Youth choruses, and NWAA engaged local music teachers – Colleen Thomas-Reitsma, Kerstin Shaffer, and Kassey Castro – to take the reins.

In 2016, CSN/VSN soprano Lisa Eastman was brought in to build a social media presence for Northwest Associated Arts. Under Lisa’s marketing and creative vision, NWAA’s digital presence grew to include followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, and YouTube. Her influence catapulted NWAA to a wider audience, reaching a younger, more digital-savvy demographic.

In 2018, Kerstin Shaffer, took over all the youth choirs, consolidating all the singers in a single group under the original name, YouthSounds Northwest. In fall of 2019, we welcomed Forrest Leder as the new Artistic Director of YouthSounds.

In March 2020, NWAA was one of many global arts groups forced to cancel over half their season events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over summer 2020, the NWAA Board voted to make the 2020-21 season entirely virtual, utilizing technology to engage singers and create music from their respective homes. In May 2021, NWAA hosted their first ever virtual Cabaret and Silent Auction to strong success and positive feedback.

Northwest Associated Arts, Inc. is an IRS-registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and is governed by an elected Board of Directors. Donations to NWAA are  tax-deductible as allowed by law.

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