Our History and more about us…
In 2005 one of Diane Haslam’s adult voice students, Dee Irwin, made a request: “Would you be willing to create a group for adults who weren’t looking for church choir, but wanted some way to have fun and sing? For adults who might not have a lot of singing or musical experience, who didn’t relish the idea of having to audition…people who just love to sing.” The group began initially as Woodside Singers, with men and women from the Woodside neighborhood, who met at Diane’s house, with Mo Empie as accompanist. However it soon became clear that there was a lot of interest in the community at large outside of Woodside for a musical experience like this new choral group, so it was decided to expand the membership to the entire city of Aiken. So Aiken Singers was born.
As the years went by the group grew in numbers, increasing membership every year, to around 55 singers today. Members come from all walks of life and span a wide range of ages.
As well as singing for retirement communities and nursing homes, the group has also been featured in the Hopelands Summer Concert series and Hopelands Christmas performances, as well as entertaining for many local clubs and civic organizations. Through their twice yearly public concerts the group has raised thousands of dollars for local charities, including the Cumbee Center, Helping Hands, The Children’s Place, and The Warrior Project, among others.
In 2010 Aiken Singers created the Diane Haslam Vocal Performance Scholarship in honor of their respected founder and leader. This scholarship is awarded each year to benefit a high school senior who is committed to the study of vocal performance at the college level. The scholarship is offered based on academic excellence, community involvement, and a competitive audition. There are also funds available to high school students who want to explore singing through attendance at Summer Music Camps. (For more information see the Scholarship tab above)
Another important milestone for Aiken Singers was the creation in 2014 of a Christmas book about Aiken (brainchild of member Judy Justice) featuring an original song by Diane about the joys of Aiken at Christmas, with illustrations by artist and Aiken Singers member, Jane Popiel. With Jane’s beautiful watercolors, Diane’s song lyrics, and a CD recording featuring the song plus other Christmas favorites, the hardcover book was a big hit in the community and raised funds for the Aiken Singers scholarships and other projects.
More recently, Aiken Singers has begun a popular outreach project taking sing-along programs into nursing homes and memory facilities. Led by member Jack Simon and with the help of a speaker and binders of song lyrics for all the residents, several of our members join in singing familiar songs with recordings of the original artists and have residents sing along too.
In October, 2020, our founding director, Diane Haslam, decided to return to her homeland in England. We will truly miss her. Finding someone to pick up where she left off was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But conditions improved and, after a search of suitable candidates during the summer of 2021, we announced the selection of Josh Edwards to become our new Artistic Director.