The Difference We Make
REACHING UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS
On December 8, 2017, more than 300 guests from local nonprofit organizations attended our final dress rehearsal for free or at a greatly reduced cost. This special evening featured groups from the Poverello, SunServe, Primetimers, Broward House, SAGE, SunServe and others. The evening allowed the Chorus to expand access to our messages of love and inclusion for many who otherwise might not be able to attend.
In June of 2018, GMCSF will perform its annual Pride concert. This year, thanks to special funding from PNC Arts Alive, the concert will be attended by 200 clients from local nonprofits who otherwise would not have the financial resources to attend this remarkable evening celebrating the triumph of the human spirit.
HONORING AN HIV/AIDS HERO
During the December 2017 holiday concerts, GMCSF paid tribute to Ruth Coker Burks, an activist and AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, she gave up her career as a successful real estate agent to help AIDS patients that had no one to care for them.
Because of prejudices, fears and the stigma surrounding the disease at the time, she was often the only one who would look after them until they eventually died. She most notably is recognized for burying them in her own family cemetery. Ruth attended our Hard Rock concert, where actress Sharon Gless shared her story with the audience. Many did not know who Ruth was. At our concerts in the Sunshine Cathedral, we were honored to have the esteemed Stacy Hyde, Executive Director at Broward House, share Ruth’s story.
As a commitment to the next generation, GMCSF has launched two youth programs. The Young Conductor Program fosters music excellence in a young student from the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble by placing him/her in one-on-one sessions with Chorus conductors and featuring them on the podium in the June concert. This program also features a $1,000 scholarship for the student to continue his/her music studies. The Chorus’s in-school program, Carefully Taught, is a powerful look at discrimination and bias, using music and facilitated conversations to guide participants in discovering their own ingrained perceptions about those different from themselves.
SINGING TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY
GMCSF regularly sends vocalists to participate in community gatherings where song can make a strong contribution to social awareness and healing. Following the horrific shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Chorus declined no invitation to sing at vigils and memorials. Three times in five days, members of the Chorus brought song to audiences who were suffering. Often times, Chorus members took personal time from work to fulfill these engagements. At other times, the Chorus has performed in tribute to HIV/AIDS activist Larry Kramer at the World AIDS Museum’s event, “An Evening with Larry Kramer,” at South Florida’s first Unity Rally, at Temple Sinai’s Holocaust Remembrance event, at the World AIDS Day Vigil for the past two years, at Pride Night for the Florida Panthers, in South Florida’s Tribute to Judy Drucker, at the Florida Marlins game, alongside the Exceptional Theatre Company and at many other locations where our music made a difference.
SERVING WITH OUR HEARTS AND HANDS
In addition to Chorus members lending their voices to serve the community, many also participate in community service projects that do not involve singing. Each year, the Chorus partners with other local nonprofits to bring manpower and awareness to their causes. Each year, GMCSF joins forces with the Bears of South Florida to collect thousands of stuffed bears for children in the Broward Health System. The Chorus also regularly participates with teams in local fundraisers such as Bowling for Hunger to benefit Poverello, the Smart Ride and the AIDS Walk. GMCSF has held food drives, collected bottle caps, participated in walks and a variety of other community events where the hard work of the men in the Chorus were a much-needed resource for other local charities.
BUILDING THE ARTS IN SOUTH FLORIDA
While the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida has rapidly developed a reputation in the regional arts community, it also works with other arts organizations to bring their work to the attention of a broader community. Partners such as Dance Now! Miami, the Symphony of the Americas, the Muse Center for the Arts, Dance Attack and others have been featured as part of our mainstage concert series. In 2016, the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, in collaboration with Stonewall National Museum & Archives and Island City Stage, received a prestigious Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant funded a two-year collaboration focused on raising awareness and support for LGBT arts in South Florida.
RECOGNIZING OTHERS WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
GMCSF is acutely aware that it exists in a network of incredibly dedicated nonprofits and their supporters. So much quality work is executed and supported by those who surround us. The Chorus is committed to using its visibility to help raise awareness of nonprofits and individuals in our community who share our passion for making a difference. Each season, the Chorus membership vote on a local nonprofit they feel makes a significant impact on our community. The organization chosen is publicly recognized at one of our concerts; their story being told from the stage and an award presented to their CEO. To-date, the Chorus has celebrated the community service delivered by SunServe, Broward House, Our Fund and Kids in Distress.
CONCERTS: MUSIC WITH A MISSION
Concerts by GMCSF infuse quality arts experiences into the cultural fabric of South Florida and also serve as vital tools in our mission to open hearts and change minds. GMCSF performances feature popular and recognizable music, as well as new compositions. Overall, the purpose of concert programming is to raise awareness about the LGBT community. At times, such as in our holiday concerts, this message may be subtle. At other times (such as concerts like We Are Family, Generation OUT and Bold Voices) the struggles and triumphs of the LGBT community are front and center in our content. On the international level, GMCSF brought Cuba’s first and only gay men’s chorus, Mano a Mano, to Fort Lauderdale for a joint concert of brotherhood. In June of 2019, as part of a national effort, the Chorus will present Stonewall 50, a co-commission with other LGBT choruses, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Concerts like these, with meaningful content are our most powerful tool in fulfilling our mission to build understanding and acceptance of LGBT people everywhere. And with approximately 25% of audience members identifying as “straight,” GMCSF is building bridges for a better future.
In addition to the external good GMCSF is committed to achieving, the organization is very intentional about providing a unique and valuable outlet for the people who participate as members. Spanning a range of ages, ethnicities, beliefs and abilities the members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida are a true brotherhood; a community within our community. In 2017, GMCSF even welcomed its first singing heterosexual, an important step in our vision of a more inclusive and loving society. In the Chorus, participants support one another in their chorus work and in their personal lives. Members in need are recognized and supported by a volunteer We Care committee, which mobilizes volunteers and resources to assist those in crisis. Social groups and supportive friendships are strengthened through our shared mission of social change. Member events and social events build the bonds among those in the Chorus, often providing what many consider to be the most positive and constructive outlet in the LGBT community. Building bridges across differences and creating a better future together, is an internal value that is the foundation for our efforts externally.