The Tremble Clefs grew from a Parkinson’s support group meeting in Scottsdale AZ in 1994. I was asked to present a session on the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT). As a speech therapist, I had just completed specialized training in the technique. A small group stayed after the meeting to explore the idea of singing, and these people would become the first Tremble Clefs. A few weeks later we held our first rehearsal and we realized that performing was a natural connection to the greater community and gave us a chance to raise public awareness of Parkinson’s. Slowly we made our presence known all over the county and, eventually, the country. The original chorus consisted of five people and has grown to an organization of over 500 singers in at least ten different cities in the U.S.
Each group has its own history of development, design, music direction, funding and other resources. There has been remarkable, organic growth and change. Each person participating in Tremble Clefs has an impact. Each director brings a unique perspective to the task. While the dynamics of each group differ, all are guided by similar goals and benefits: (a) maintain and enhance vocal skills, directly tied to improving posture and breathing, (b) move to music, which coordinates well with singing, (c) meet new friends – many people join for the voice therapy and stay for the friendship, (d) sing and perform – there is power in public performance, and (e) have fun. I think we would all agree that if it weren’t fun, nobody would come.
In 2001, when I moved to Southern California, the program was established in San Diego, with a second rehearsal group added in 2008 (North Coastal in Encinitas) and a third group in 2019 (North Inland in Rancho Bernardo). Meanwhile, the Arizona Tremble Clefs continued to thrive. Now under the musical direction of Sun Joo Lee, they have established independence as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization supporting two successful choruses. In 2002, Bonnie Teder started Tremble Clefs in Orange County. This program gradually grew to three rehearsal groups with over 100 singers, under the dynamic leadership of Karen Skipper, who took over in 2010.
The collaboration of all of the leaders and chapters in the Southwest has produced three retreats between 2011 - 2014. These consisted of participants from San Diego, Orange County and Arizona coming together to sing, learn vocal strategies, harmonize, move to music, perform for each other, produce talent shows, exchange ideas and feel the power of making music together. Each time, 75 – 100 Tremble Clefs joined forces and resources to produce a memorable musical experience. At the last retreat, we were joined by several members of the Walnut Creek Tremble Clefs, and the Spokane, Washington Tremble Clefs.
In 2016, Tremble Clefs San Diego became a non-profit corporation. For us, independence was a resolution to maintain our integrity and continue growing. We have thrived due to the efforts and energy of some very loyal and capable volunteers, through fund raising activities and generous donations. We have received grants from the Parkinson’s Foundation and from our local Parkinson’s Association of San Diego.
Our story is a work in progress. Our own music director, Matt Ignacio, never loses sight of the goal of strengthening voices and the power of communal effort and making music together. This hasn’t changed over our 25 year history.