St. Louis Park Woman Earns Twin Cities Women's Choir Top Honor

As 150 female voices of the Twin Cities Women's Choir join together once a week to blend into a four-part harmony, one voice stands out. Carol Rue, a St. Louis Park resident, was recently recognized with the Jean Loh Award, an annual honor that spotlights one choir member who continuously exceeds the requirements.

The award was presented to Rue on May 18 at the group's annual Divas and Desserts concert. Each year, an individual is honored with this award for their unconditional gifts of time, talent and money to the choir.

According to choir director Mary Bussman, Rue was the perfect candidate.

"Carol is an integral part of the choir," Bussman said. The Jean Loh Award recognizes people who regularly go above and beyond. She really infuses her heart and soul into the choir."

Whether it's sending weekly humor cards, visiting members who are sick with soup and a smile, working hours on the side with Bussman to select music or giving financially to provide a number of commissioned pieces, Rue is dedicated to her work.

"There's a really beautiful essence of spirit that Carol walks with every day, Bussman said. Everybody knows how generous and fun she is, but not everybody knows how deep her goodness runs."

Other choir members are immediately turned on by her warmness and generosity.

"She is a thoughtful hostess, a devoted choir supporter and a fantastic friend," choir board member and fellow choir member Alanna Walen said. "My first night at a choir rehearsal, we were waiting outside the door of the church and she started talking to me, and I knew we would be friends before we even got inside."

In addition to her years of serving as section leader, helping Bussman prepare music for concerts and sending warm cards, Rue began a food drive tradition through Calvary Lutheran Church where the choir rehearses.

"That's just an example of seeing a need in the community as saying 'hey, let's do it.' It turned out to be really cool," Rue said.

Rue said she doesn't feel like she's doing anything worthy of being singled out.

"I feel like I'm not doing anything special, I'm just doing what I do," Rue said. "It's really an honor to be recognized for just doing your thing. If I see a need, I just do it. Doesn't everybody do that?"

Rue grew up singing in church choir, playing the piano and clarinet, and received her Bachelor's and Master's degree in music and choral education. She later taught as a choir director and now works as a voice therapist. Music has always been a large part of Rue's life, and when she moved to St. Louis Park, she was eager to find where music would take her next.

Rue was initially attracted to the Twin Cities Women's Choir by Bussman's choral techniques. She arrived early to a choir concert in their first season and was able to observe Bussman working with the choir members during warm-ups.

"I'm a voice therapist by profession and was really impressed with the warm-ups that Mary had the choir do," Rue said. "After I heard the concert, I decided to join."

She has been an active member of the choir for the past 11 seasons.

Over the past decade, the choir has offered Rue a community central to her social life.

"The majority of my friends are from the choir, these women and their families; it's a wonderful community," she said.

The sense of community Rue speaks of is nurtured every Wednesday night.

"That's what is really exciting, we're all just average people who come together, but magic happens on Wednesday nights," Rue said.

Because the choir doesn't require auditions, it has become a very diverse group ranging in age, ethnicity, religion and musical background.

Weekly rehearsals offer an outlet for members to sing, perform and affirm women's voices, which is the mission statement of the choir. On Wednesday nights, "they're not moms, they're not partners, they're not running a school or dealing with a court case; this is their night to be creative and nurtured. There's this cycle of giving; they come to the choir to be nourished but then they in turn nourish others," Bussman said.

Last year, this unique choral environment sparked the first annual Jean Loh Award. Loh is a mom, wife and member of the choir.

"Jean Loh is a volunteer extraordinaire ... she's very caring, very humble. It's very appropriate it's called the Jean Loh Award," Rue said.

This year's recipient carries Loh's tradition of volunteering and giving unconditionally to a choir that in turn nurtures her.

"Our pieces have this sense of reflection and peace, a sense of where we are in the world, a response to where we are in the world right now," Bussman said. "Carol has that kind of vision, I really enjoying working with her because of that."

Since 1997 Bussman has directed the choir, a nonprofit organization with an active board and a group of nearly 150 dedicated singers ranging from ages 18 to 67.

"I believe we do make a difference in the world through literally the energy we have when we sing, because singing is energy," Rue said.