In a move to broaden the musical horizons of his staffers, General Services Administration chief Jay Solomon is inviting workers to join a new GSA choir.
Solomon hopes formation of the singing group will boost morale at the GSA in the face of recent allegations of corruption in the agency.
Since he put out the call for a choir, 178 GSA workers have signed up. More auditions are scheduled.
"I thought it was a gag when I saw the choir memo," an official said. "But maybe it is a good thing. People here have been dragging around like they have the blahs. This corruption stuff has hurt everybody."
Solomon, a wealthy Tennessee businessman, was brought in by President Carter to6clean up GSA which is, ironically, the government's housekeeping agency.
GSA spends millions of dollars monthly buying goods and services everything from limousines to paper towels for other federal agencies. Many contractors tried to bribe (or were muscled by some GSA officials) their way into business with payoffs.
In the process of turning over agency rocks looking for corruption, and searching into agency closets for political and criminal skeletons, Solomon has had to kick some people around, and out. He's also stepped on some very powerful Capitol Hill toes, and had to go on national television to say some unkind things about the past workings of his agency.
Although the bulk of GSA's staff is clean, morale in the agency has suffered. That is why some people were jolted when Solomon recently issued Administrator's Memo Number 527, SUBJECT, GSA Choir.
"We've become so hard-bitten, tough and shell-shocked here I couldn't believe it," one long-time GSA aide said. But it is for real.
In the memo, Solomon said he has supported programs for expanding the arts in federal buildings, and wanted to give music equal time with paintings and statues. To that end, he wrote he wanted to establish "the GSA choir which is to be composed of interested GSA employes."
GSA plans to give a spring concert, have the choir available for Christmas time programs and for other occasions when songs are appropriate.
The guiding light behind the choir is Alene Vaughn, a long-time confidential assistant to Solomon from Tennessee. She sang her first solo (in a church choir) at age 3, cut a gospel record ("He Touched Me") about 8 years ago and plans to direct the choir.
So many GSA people have responded to the call for the choir (first estimates for the turnout were a maximum of 25 to 50) that practice dates will be split. Central office employes will meet one day during lunch. GSA folks in outlying buildings from Southwest to Arlington will meet at other times.
The choir is still taking applications for singers, and is especially interested in altos who are in short supply. Anybody who can play the piano reportedly will be able to write his, or her, own ticket with the group.