Recently the Emerging Arts Leaders of Miami hosted Seraphic Fire’s leadership as the guest speakers at their monthly breakfast talks. The morning event was held at the Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood.
The Black Box space provided the perfect intimate setting for an in-depth conversation with Founder and Artistic Director Patrick Dupre Quigley, Executive Director Rhett Del Campo, and Board Treasurer Dr. Thomas C. Boyd.
It was an honest and insightful look at the 16-year history of Seraphic Fire, who when they formed in 2002 were the only professional choir South of Atlanta. Quigley recalled how he started off as musical director at the church where the group performed.
They started out as a volunteer work group and for the first few years they had a rubber board of directors. As they grew to a multi-county organization, they needed people that could be a connector of sorts. Then in 2006, the second round of board members “said they would start recruiting and really spread the word,” said Quigley.
Their budget began to grow going from $150,000 in season four to $1.2 million in season nine. When they hit the hit the $1 million mark they started to look closer at being an institution.
Seraphic Fire (Facebook)
“After 10 years, the founding board chair stepped down, then new people joined the board and had a new, fresh perspective,” said Quigley. “Our job then became getting all 30 entities behind what our mission means in terms of execution and becoming a mission-based organization.”
“My goal is getting the board to see Patrick’s vision and move it forward,” said Executive Director Del Campo.
Weaving that mission into their goals and weighing their finances with the mission and getting that to operate on all cylinders, at all times, became their primary goal. That mission, which still holds true today, is to perform music, provide artistic growth and education.
Throughout their existence, Seraphic Fire has fluctuated on those three goals but above all, they want to be a champion for the choral art form. Since the beginning, they were debuting/premiering works that were over 300 years old.
Board Treasurer Boyd, whose background is in high tech due to a long career with Motorola, said that coming from a strategic background “I recognized they were in the process of figuring out how to evolve.”
They were changing from a seed of the plants organization to one that had a larger vision and “Patrick’s ideas were great and had a vision that fit the mission and one that the board could get behind,” said Boyd.
It’s vital to have a board hat knows about the need for their support and help with both short and long-term planning and the role of bringing that long-term vision to fruition.
Also, the realization that they’re an organization with finite resources and learning what the real goals are in terms of time, finances and ultimate costs.
When asked about the board and their ultimate break-through when they understood the importance of their role, Quigley shared this story.
He said once the board saw the video of the group performing and getting a standing ovation, “that was the turning point and that caused them to immediately book their plans to attend our touring concerts.”
Tours are the way the group goes to where their audience is and allows them a year-round presence with their most involved audience. Their summer performances in Aspen are an example of that.
“Aspen is something we hope to do for a very long time. We want to make this something that’s business as usual,” said Boyd.
And when asked about the origin of the name and how they came up with it, Quigley said “the name Seraphic Fire is the name of the first piece we ever sang, an early American hymn written by William Billings.”
They chose it because they wanted a name that would cultivate an intellectually curious audience. “We sell a brand and an experience, not a repertoire,” he said.
Up next for Seraphic Fire, they’ll perform J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Coral Gables First United, 536 Coral Way; wwwseraphicfire.org.