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
Thanks to Ruth and her husband, Leslie, Choristers Guild continued to grow as the only premier organization dedicated to enabling leaders to nurture the spiritual and musical growth of children and youth. Eventually, the Choristers Guild’s office was moved from California to Dallas, Texas, where Dr. Federal Lee Whittlesey left Highland Park Methodist Church to become the executive director. Over the years, a series of dedicated and strong executive directors and notable contributors like John and Helen Kemp, John Burke, Patty Evans, and Jim Rindelaub helped build Choristers Guild into the organization that it is today. The Choristers Guild Letters became a bimonthly magazine,The Chorister. Helen Kemp continued the tradition of festivals and seminars, and other leaders continued to expand the organization with workbooks, hymn studies, bulletin covers, awards and other choir aids. And in the last ten years, educational webinars and a weekly e-news bulletin added on- line education to the member benefits, and matching the mission, the Choristers Guild Institute was created. This three-year training program gives directors of children’s choirs the lessons and tools and ideas they need to take back to their choir and classes, and forms life-long friendships across the nation.
Choristers Guild also continued its tradition of creating moving music for children and youth for sacred and handbell choirs, as well as quality educational tools. And in the last ten years, it added beautiful adult pieces, and a line of secular music for schools. Most recently, it began expanding with a strong instrumental line.
With the Choristers Guild’s strong leadership and excellent volunteers, and an amazing faculty at its events, it has its eye on the future.
The Future of Choristers Guild
Today, Choristers Guild is known as a large choral, school, handbell, and instrumental music publisher, and a leader in educational material for choir leaders. Choristers Guild has more than 27,000 supporters worldwide, and provides educational workshops and a training program for choral directors. It is managed by executive director Dawn Jantsch and a team of nonprofit and music professionals. As stewards of this historic organization, the Choristers Guild team is committed to remaining relevant and mission-focused. It’s new mission: enabling leaders to nurture the musical and spiritual growth of children, youth, and adults.