You know someone is truly passionate about the cause with which they are involved when they are willing to interrupt their Italian vacation to be pulled back into the whirlwind of reality, all to talk shop about the organization for which they are on the board.
Such is the case with Jurene Phaneuf, a board member for the Crescendo Community Chorus. When a message was left for her, asking to interview her for a piece on the Chorus, and her role in it, rather than leaving it untouched until she was returned, rested and ready to jump back into the game, Jurene interrupted her Italian vacation to reach out. She even offered to give up time that could be spent sightseeing, soaking up the sights and feasting on Italian food (one of her favorites) all in order to promote the Chorus.
It makes you think that the Crescendo Community Chorus must be a pretty impressive organization. You’d be correct. It is an organization that was developed with a passion, cultivated with precision and has been sustained with vision and commitment.
When retired college administrator Bernie Loposer dreamed of making his church, St. Stephen’s, a hub of activity for children and youth in the community, one of the ways in which he envisioned that happening was through a children’s choir program. His goal was for a choir that allowed singers to have a quality artistic experience, but one where the tuition should be within reach for most families. Thus began The South Hill Children’s Chorus (SHCC) in 2002.
Fifteen years later, the name has changed, but the mission and the artistic contributions to the community have not. Now named Crescendo Community Chorus, in recent years, Crescendo has sung with the Spokane Youth Symphony (Mass of the Children by John Rutter), the Spokane Symphony (opening gala for the Trophée Mondial, the international accordion organization), the Moscow Ballet (performing for the snow scene in The Nutcracker), in a fundraiser for the Spokane AIDS Network as sponsored by the touring cast of Wicked, a well as for the programs of many organizations in Spokane. They have performed the Star Spangled Banner for the Spokane Chiefs and the Spokane Indians, and offered a pre-concert performance at the Spokane Public Schools All-City Instrumental Music Concert at the Arena.
The organization is made up of two individual choirs: The Prepatory Choir, which is for boys and girls, ages 7 to 11, and the Concert Choir is for boys and girls, with unchanged voices, ages 11-18. Together, both choirs practice, perform, and in the process, persuade youngsters to the power of the arts.
Membership has always been fairly small. The total number of singers has never been more than 50. The singers are always accepted without hesitation when they come to audition, and there are participants with a variety of abilities as well as disabilities. The Chorus has had students who were in special education classes, as well as student in gifted programs, and winners at Musicfest Northwest and elite performing groups in their respective high schools. Crescendo Community Chorus lives out the beauty of the arts, and makes Spokane better, one note at a time.
So what drives someone like Jurene to be so passionate and connected to their cause that she is willing to interrupt her vacation to talk from halfway around the word about it? It could be her love of music. It could be her commitment to our community, and the passion for connecting children with the opportunity to experience a bit of the arts at an early age—and hopefully developing a lifelong passion. Or it could be a deep sense of gratitude for those who came before her, like Bernie Loposer (who has since passed) and had the vision and passion for bringing this Chorus to be. For Jurene though, we’re guessing it is all three. Her passion and commitment as a board member for Crescendo Community Chorus runs deep. It is music to our ears, and is just what our community needs!
Let’s get to know Jurene!
There are so many great non profits, and so many great causes, so how do you decide which charity events you will attend or which causes you will support?
It’s always a challenge to know where the money one contributes actually goes. My heart leads on the cause, but my mind governs the pocketbook based on knowledge of how funds are allocated.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment other than your family?
Honestly it would be my work of seeing real estate clients realize their plans for home ownership or in selling a property to move forward in life. It’s challenging, but ultimately deeply gratifying.
What is the most important contribution you’ve made to Spokane over the last 10 years?
I care very much for the future of Spokane. Since my background and upbringing were rich musically, I have endeavored to provide that experience to any child in Spokane who has a desire to sing. Through my work on the board of Crescendo Community Chorus, children in the Spokane area have opportunity to participate in a phenomenal collaborative musical experience. Music has the power to transcend cultural and socioeconomic barriers, and this particular organization is uniquely adept at bringing kids together and producing amazing music. I can’t think of a more valuable and transformative experience for kids. Our culture needs to value and recover the benefits of singing together
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
Friends have a way of finding me.
Aside from your family, what is your most treasured possession?
The pastoral view from our home . . . the sky, the fields, the peace and quiet. It’s a never-failing balm to the weary soul.
With all the activities you juggle, how do you handle the stress that might come with it? What keeps you grounded and focused?
Daily devotions with my husband of 30-plus years.
Do you have a cherished family tradition?
Thanksgiving has always been my family’s biggest event. Without family in Washington, and the passing of my parents, we are forging ahead with the annual tradition with our daughters and our son in-law’;s family, who are entertaining and delightful people. Food. Family. Fun.
What are your favorite places to travel, and leisure activities in which to participate?
My husband loves far-flung adventures and I try to be an affable companion, but I truly love being near or in water and my first choice is one of the gorgeous lakes near Spokane.
What is your favorite for each of the following?
Book: Books that make me literally laugh out loud. Where’d You Go Bernadette was a recent fun one.
Movie: Last Holiday with Queen Latifah
TV Show: Not interested in TV, but sometimes watch football.
Who do you really admire?
I admire people who “have it together” which is an elusive goal for me.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Future goals?
Looking toward retirement (I anticipate working as long as it’s still gratifying), slowing down and tagging along with my husband on occasional adventures.
What is one thing you have to do every day?
What is, hands down, your favorite food or meal?
Good Italian, in the company of family and/or friends.
Any hidden talents, or fun trivia facts about you?
In a previous life I homeschooled my kids and represented an awesome writing program, giving workshops, counseling and teaching. Also, my dad's uncles were the "Norwegian Bachelor Farmers of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion.” His family emigrated from Denmark and Norway and he had several uncle farmers who never married.
Describe your perfect day.
Watching the sunrise with a good cup of coffee. Spend a pleasantly warm day at the lake and kayak, jet ski or boat, before having dinner with friends and family. Then watch a spectacular sunset and sleep under the stars.
What are some local organizations whose causes you support, either by attending an event for them, or you are just a fan of their cause?
We enjoy the Spokane Symphony, Crescendo Community Chorus and Christians on Campus at EWU.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Change is good. Transition is difficult.
For what are you most grateful?
My husband and kids.
What is your favorite place you have travelled to?
Hawaii (specifically Kauai) is paradise, but my Nordic genes really love Iceland.
What is your dream vacation?
I’ve been spoiled with some pretty amazing ones, but my absolute dream R&R would be at one of the fabulous mountain lakes with a good book, some swimming time, and the company of friends. I’ve dreamed of a houseboat adventure, but haven’t talked my husband into that!