Posts Tagged 'choir program ideas'

How To Make Your Choir Inclusive for Trans, GNC and Queer Singers

by Caite Debevec

I failed my first transgender student.

I was in grad school and had never had a trans singer in my choir before. I was rooted in what I knew regarding voice types. I was sure that my priority would be vocal health above all else and I was determined to give the singer the best choral experience I could.

Did you catch my mistake?

Rather than centering my student in their experience, it was all about me. What could I give them? How could I improve their voice? Did I know warmups and exercises to address all their vocal struggles?

In the years since, I have curated a list of reminders for myself and other choral directors who strive to create safe spaces for transgender (trans), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer singers.

First and foremost: It’s not about you.

This is something I tell myself before every rehearsal. While I may have the degrees and the knowledge, the tricks and tips, my primary responsibility is to serve my singers in the way they need me. This doesn’t mean I bend over backward to acquiesce their every request, but my goals for singers are secondary to the goals and aspirations they have for themselves. Allow your singer to be the captain of their choral experience.

Our students don’t owe us their story.

Your trans, GNC, and queer singers have no obligation to tell you anything about themselves. Accept the information that they provide willingly, and only ask questions if they create the space for you to do so. If they don’t share, you don’t need to know.

Trans and GNC singers reserve the right to enter a choral classroom without divulging their complete medical history.

Singers determine the quality of their own musical experiences.

Choral directors often focus on vocal health, but our concept of health should encompass a singer’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

You may have a transmasculine person who wants to sing in the tenor section, and they can only hit half the notes. Is there a chance they could hurt their vocal mechanism? Yes. Is forcing them to sit in the alto section – which is often predominantly singers who identify as female – the solution? No.

A singer’s mental and social well-being are just as important. While that trans singer may only be able to sing half of the notes, to them it may be the quality musical experience that they are looking for.

And always remember: Every singer’s quality experience will look different. One transfeminine person may want to sing alto, while another wants to sing bass. I find the best way of handling this is to say, “Feel free to join whichever section you feel most comfortable in, switch sections at any time, and let me know if you’d like some support!” This gives singers the opportunity to ask for guidance, but the freedom to explore their voices by themselves.

Accommodations for one singer often benefit the entire ensemble.

A few accommodations that have secret benefits:

  1. A good portion of my alto section is trans women who are singing the alto part an octave lower than written. Not only does that expand the repertoire I can program, but our intonation is greatly influenced by the bolstered low notes.
  2. Exercises that are specifically designed for trans and GNC voices are great warmups for the entire ensemble.
  3. When one section is learning their notes, have the entire ensemble sing along in octaves. Members who are singing an octave higher or lower than written can learn their notes without feeling like they are exposed. This also builds musicianship skills for the ensemble.

Most importantly: Trans and GNC singers are singers.

For many of my singers, their transness is a major part of their identity, but it isn’t the reason they joined my ensemble. While we make accommodations for our trans, GNC, and queer singers, be aware of “othering” them, or unconsciously setting them apart from your cis/het singers. Remember: We are all singers who want a community that makes music together.

For continued reading regarding transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer choral experiences, I recommend The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices by Liz Jackson Hearns and Brian Kremer, and A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice by Jules Balèn.

If you would like further reading on vocal health, HRT, and the trans/GNC singing experience, I recommend One Weird Trick: A Users Guide to Transgender Voice by Liz Jackson Hearns, and Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Gender Diverse Client by Richard K. Adler, Sandy Hirsch, and Jack Pickering.

Caite Debevec is a conductor, composer and educator living and working in Baltimore City. She is currently the music director for the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, the founding music director of the Baltimore Women’s Chorale, Manager of Early Childhood Education at the Maryland Science Center, and an independent voice instructor working with trans, non-binary, and GNC singers. www.caitedebevec.com IG: @baltimoremenschorus@bmorewomen

Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!

This spring, Sheet Music Plus held a school choral program contest, in which choir directors at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels were encouraged to submit the repertoire list for their schools’ spring choral concerts. The choral programs were judged based on originality, thematic content and age appropriateness. The winners received a $200 gift certificate to Sheet Music Plus. They shared the inspiration behind their creative programming with us. Congratulations, winners!

Elementary Winner
DeLeigh
Iron Forge Elementary School
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Theme: “The Iron Forge Construction . . . Through Music of Course!”

“I was working down the hall one day last spring when I heard a very loud “bang, bang” Continue reading ‘Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!’


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