One Woman, Ruth Krehbiel Jacobs
Choristers Guild was founded in Los Angeles by the late Ruth Krehbiel Jacobs, based on an idea—the systematic development of Christian character in boys and girls through the medium of the church Children’s Choir.
Ruth’s desire to establish Choristers Guild grew out of her own personal experiences in choral music with children as well as her experiences in giving lectures and conducting festivals and seminars. As she began to achieve more national prominence, she received numerous “How do you do it?” requests from all over the country. The idea of sending out mimeographed letters on a regular basis evolved. The Choristers Guild organization and the regular distribution of Choristers Guild Letters came into existence in 1949 in Los Angeles.
Choristers Guild was initially a personal venture of Ruth and her husband, Leslie Jacobs, who supported it financially. As the Guild grew, it was decided that the Guild should be incorporated. In 1953, Choristers Guild as an official organization was incorporated in Memphis Tennessee where the Jacobs were then living. A board of Directors was selected, and Leslie assumed the full-time position of Executive Secretary, giving Ruth more time to devote herself to the objectives of Choristers Guild. In these early years, all activities were conducted from their home, by then in Santa Barbara, California. During the formative years, local city and regional chapters of the Choristers Guild were formed in a number of cities, usually as a result of a festival or workshop conducted by Ruth Jacobs.
Growth and Expansion
In 1960, Ruth passed away due to a heart attack, leaving all of the CG responsibilities to her husband. As Leslie’s health deteriorated, the CG office was moved from California to Dallas, TX, where Dr. Federal Lee Whittlesey left Highland Park Methodist Church to become Executive Director. The CG office has remained in the Dallas, TX area. After Whittlesey, a series of executive directors and notable contributors like John and Helen Kemp, John Burke, and Patty Evans, have all helped to transform CG into the incredible organization that it is today.
After moving to Dallas, Choristers Guild experienced expansion and growing pains: renting office space, purchasing equipment, increased personnel, receipts and expenses, membership and outreach. The Letters transformed into a printed publication, The Chorister. Additionally, there was a steady increase in the use of CG published materials which included anthems, workbook pages, hymn studies, bulletin covers, awards, and other choir aids. These materials were first distributed directly to members, but with the catalogue growth in the area of anthems, appealing posters, and recruitment aids, many music dealers began carrying CG music and materials.
The Future of CG
Today, Choristers Guild is known as a large choral and handbell music publisher, has a membership base of over 4,000 members worldwide, and provides numerous educational workshops and a certification program for choral directors.