Thursday, February 16, 2012

Singing in GMCW's "The Kids Are All Right"

Hey there,

First, just wanted to start with my own personal background on singing. I actually started singing when I was a soprano, in the Men & Boys choir at the Washington National Cathedral.  I went on to do high school musicals, before High School Musical was one, and eventually pursued a professional career in the arts, which I continue to do today.

Which leads me to singing with the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, one of the most professional ensembles I've had the pleasure and privilege of being a part of, in skill, in artistry, and with the bonus of family. And at this point, I just have to share the latest iteration of a meme that's been floating around on Facebook, which if you're on, you can find it here.

This Saturday, GMCW will be presenting "The Kids Are All Right". In this concert, we'll be presenting a musical adaptation of Oliver Button is a Sissy, with guest narrator Candace Gingrich-Jones. We'll also be joined on stage by Dreams of Hope, "Pittsburgh's only arts-focused, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied (LGBTA) youth (13-21) organization".

At this point, I can't really provide any information that isn't already up elsewhere. In fact, there's a great piece in today's Washington Blade, Message in the Music. And, again, if you're on Facebook, you can RSVP at the event page, as well as follow GMCW on twitter.

I will say that even rehearsing for this concert has brought me close to tears. While I was fortunate to have had a supportive environment in high school at St. Albans, so much so that I felt comfortable enough to bring my boyfriend at the time to my senior prom, my bf did not. Almost daily, I would hear about incidents at school where other students would use slurs, and he would get in trouble with the teachers for speaking back. He would be physically harmed with his own backpack in the restroom, and hit so hard that sometimes he would actually get knocked out and come around because of the sound of the bell ringing.

Unfortunately, I know that was just the tip of the iceberg, not just back then (I was the class of '99), but especially now.  Rolling Stone recently had a thoughtful and heart-wrenching article, One Town's War on Gay Teens. Lately it doesn't even seem like a week goes by without hearing about another youth lost because of ignorance and intolerance. And we have prepared for and will perform this concert acknowledging, remembering and honoring those who are gone too soon.

Yet, more and more, communities seem to be coming together to raise awareness and address these issues, to foster safe spaces and attitudes. Not even two weeks ago, Montgomery County held a symposium on bullying, and the panel include representatives of the Gay-Straight Alliance of Walt Whitman High School (the link is a .docx file of their mission statement). GMCW even has an outreach program dedicated to youth outreach, GenOUT, which was mentioned in the Washington Blade article, in a quote from Jeff Buhrman, our Artistic Director:

"“(Saturday’s concert) is designed especially to serve the mission of our GenOUT program,” Buhrman says. “We are specifically reaching out to youth for ‘The Kids Are All Right."

I'm actually hoping to volunteer with the program, and am stoked to have the opportunity to further give back to an organization that gives more and more, to me and the rest of the community. So, if you know of any youth, families, and allies who would like to join us, I (and I'm sure the rest of my fellow chorines) would love to see you all there. Because everyone in the chorus, a long time ago and far, far away, used to be kids, too.

- JR

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