Jennifer Meyers always loved to sing. After she retired as a senior regulatory specialist in the pharmaceutical industry, she was looking for ways to stay busy. She wanted to continue to challenge her brain while giving back to her community. Her vocal talent and volunteering spirit led her to start singing in the Maui Chamber Orchestra Chorus.
The Maui Chamber Orchestra was struggling at the time, but it was Jennifer’s ideas on how to promote the organization that landed her a seat at the board table. While attending board meetings, she learned that the musicians were sitting in old, hard and uncomfortable chairs. Together with another board member, Jennifer decided to file three grants requesting funds to buy new professional chairs.
Jennifer had attempted twice before to file operating cost grants and failed. From this experience, she knew she needed to learn everything she could to make a strong case for her cause. During her research, she found a white paper detailing how proper seating was as important to musicians as helmets were to football players. She applied to three Hawaii foundations and all three foundations provided funds for a total of $22,500.
The money enabled The Maui Chamber Orchestra to purchase top of the line professional chairs. Jennifer says the musicians are now able to focus on their music and not worry about being uncomfortable.
What inspired you to volunteer?
I knew when I retired, I wanted to keep busy. I thought volunteering would challenge my brain and it would turn into a learning experience. Helping others is in my nature. If there is something I can do to help, I am going to do it.
Describe your volunteer role with Maui Chamber Orchestra.
As a member of the Maui Chamber Orchestra board, my role is to promote the orchestra. I help stimulate attendance at our performances, educate people about the orchestra, write grants and help sustain our donors.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Giving back is so ingrained in me, I believe you have to pay it forward. There are so many different ways to be a volunteer, people can find their niche. There are many opportunities that can suit different personalities and interests, whether it is dropping off food or visiting with seniors. Giving back makes life so much better. In a small community like Maui, I have never talked to anyone that hasn’t wanted to give back. In Hawaii, there is a word “kuleana,” the broad meaning is “personal sense of responsibility.” It is our kuleana to give back.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my volunteer work was writing grants for new orchestra chairs and receiving funds for $22,500. To see all those new chairs on stage and knowing the musicians can perform comfortably is exciting. My past attempts at obtaining grants had failed. Being successful at getting these grants funded and being able to give the musicians proper seating was incredibly rewarding. Also, when I am up on stage singing with the orchestra and knowing the audience is enjoying our performance – that is greatly fulfilling.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned you can’t make everyone happy. There have been times patrons have been dissatisfied with the compositions we have chosen to perform. Even though we are doing the right thing for us, it may not always be viewed as doing the right thing for everybody. As a board member, I have to be tactful having tough conversations and addressing complaints. It has been a learning experience on how to placate the customer while representing the board.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Recently, the Maui Chamber Orchestra was nominated for and won a “100
Women Who Care” prize. This group of women each donate $100 and gather for an hour to learn about several charities. At the end of the meeting, the group votes on the charity that should take home the pool of donations. We were chosen and awarded $13,000. We are using this money to bring music back in the classrooms. Last fall, we introduced a body percussionist into two kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Now, we are going to move more programs into more schools with the goal of following these students through sixth grade and tracking their test scores.
What future goals do you have with Maui Chamber Orchestra?
I want the board to learn how to find sustainable money to be able to continue with our program. We will need to go out of our comfort zone and ask for donations from our friends and coworkers and look for corporate sponsorships. We want to keep our chamber orchestra performing, so we can continue bringing our music to Maui.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I would like people to learn volunteerism is a unique experience that creates learning opportunities. I am just elated when something special happens. When you give back, it makes you feel good.
This post was written by Karen Cohen.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Jennifer? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunities.