written by Tori Casebeer, Vice President, Central Washington University ACDA Chapter
For many of us in Central Washington University’s ACDA Student Chapter, social justice is a very important topic of discussion. We know that the choral world is diverse and broad in its membership, and that people of different ethnicities, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender expressions make up a large portion of our community. Especially in times like this, our chapter wanted more than anything to let our marginalized members know how important they are and that they belong here in the choral world, and in ACDA.
With that in mind, imagine our excitement at the National Conference in Minneapolis this March when topics of social justice were being discussed almost everywhere! It was a very inspiring few days, and we wanted to do everything we could to bring these topics home with us to Ellensburg. So we set out on a journey, and eventually came to a topic we all felt strongly about: LGBTQIA+ issues. Many of our ACDA officers and members identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and many of us have felt the struggles that LGBTQIA+ individuals face both in life and the choral world. Thus “The Big Queer Concert” was born, presented by our ACDA Student Chapter in conjunction with CWU EQuAl, or Equality through Queers and Allies.
Every year during the first week of June, CWU celebrates Pride Week, as organized by EQuAl. This week consists of all sorts of events from poetry slams to guest speakers to marches to drag shows – and while CWU Pride usually has a pop concert each year (this year we had the honor of hosting Mary Lambert), we wanted to contribute something as classical musicians, and show that yes, the music majors are allowed to leave the music building… sometimes.
While our officers began planning, our ACDA members began rehearsing the music – four different pieces that illustrated different facets of the LGBTQIA+ person’s triumphs and struggles – two weeks prior to the event. We used our normal meeting time to rehearse, and the entire event was organized and run by students. From picking repertoire to finding a space for the event to setup and teardown, everything was organized by our incredible ACDA members, most of which are undergraduate students hoping to pursue a career in choral conducting.
The concert consisted not only of ACDA members performing choral pieces, but of our friends and peers from the CWU Music Department. There were classical clarinet pieces, jazz tunes, and even pop and musical theatre songs tossed in for good measure. We even had the chance to feature an original work by a CWU composition student! We wanted to explore a broad range of topics and emotions, from heartbreak to self-discovery and from despair to celebration, and in the choral world it can be hard to find these as they pertain to LGBTQIA+ struggles. In the end, it was an extremely diverse and interesting program, with a broad area of representation in composers, poets, and performers, and our student chapter couldn’t have been prouder to be a part of it. We ended the night with a student arrangement and audience sing-a-long of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, and it was a perfect way to drive home our message of love and acceptance. Choir should be a safe place where people can truly BELONG, and the CWU ACDA Student Chapter is committed to fostering that important ideal in all of our members.