Charlie SmokeI moved to Pensacola from Mobile in mid-August and, on October 1, stepped into the role of Executive Director of the Choral Society of Pensacola, delighted (and a little daunted) to become part of an organization that has played such an important role in the Gulf Coast arts scene, just as it begins its 80th anniversary celebration.

In my interviews, I was impressed by the energy and commitment of the board members, who give freely of their time and expertise to shape policy and procedure, raise funds, host events, share their knowledge and skills in finance, graphic design, public relations, and party planning, to ensure the organization’s success.

And in rehearsals, I have witnessed the unbounded enthusiasm and the demanding standards of artistic director and conductor Xiaolun Chen, as he instructs and inspires a group of enthusiastic singers with all levels of experience, from many walks of life, united by their passion for singing.

Singing is one of our most fundamental activities as human beings. It’s part of every aspect of life that’s important to us. Imagine a birthday party without singing “Happy Birthday.” Or a church service without hymns. Or a sporting event without the national anthem uniting us before we divide into “us” vs. “them.” Or any holiday, whether New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, without song. And not just song, but a group of people singing together. A chorus.

Choral music matters. And in its 80th season, the Choral Society offered you the opportunity to join us as listener (when we presented some of the most glorious choral music ever written) or as a participant (when we offered you a chance to sing holiday favorites with us or to volunteer in a variety of capacities).

Although I still have much to learn about the Society, I salute my predecessor, Andrew Metzger, and those who preceded him, as well as all the conductors, singers, instrumentalists, contributors, volunteers and audience members whose energy, commitment and generosity created this organization and established a solid foundation on which to build. We look forward to exploring new ways to serve Northwest Florida and South Alabama through music.

Please contact me if you’d like to discuss ways you can be involved or with your thoughts and suggestions: 850-484-1806 or

Charlie Smoke – Executive Director