Joshua Palkki's informative and thought-provoking session entitled "Creating Safe People: Honoring LGBTQ Singers in the Choral Classroom" was attended by hundreds of people. Mr. Palkki began by explaining currently accepted terminology in the LGBTQ+ community. We then talked with the people around us about various issues we had encountered in our own experiences in the choral classroom. When the full group reconvened and shared thoughts, common issues that arose included vocal health and pedagogy, inclusive vocabulary, concert attire, and literature selection, among other considerations.
The focus then shifted to transgender vocal health issues. Mr. Palkki cited the research of William Sauerland, Danielle Steele, and Lindsey Deaton as valuable resources on the subject, after which he provided a brief overview of their findings. He discussed the strengthening of the head voice that occurs with trans women, as well as the thickening of the vocal folds that occurs with trans men, and we discussed ways to help singers through these vocal transitions. Mr. Palkki stressed that a transgender individual's identity may or may not be closely linked with the voice part they are singing; there needs to be a conversation about this matter between the conductor and the specific student who is transitioning. The ultimate challenge of helping transgender students through vocal transitions is that the internal struggles and emotional transitions occurring simultaneously must also be taken into account. Conductors have the tremendous responsibility of finding creative ways to allow transgender singers to perform the voice part that will make them the most comfortable while still protecting their vocal health.
Mr. Palkki also emphasized the importance of programming repertoire by LGBTQ composers and/or literature that features LGBTQ-related subject matter. He concluded the session with a reminder that LGBTQ identities have always been present in society, even before they were talked about; with a little research, a conductor might discover something worth mentioning about a composer's sexuality/gender identity. LGBTQ musicians must be made more visible in the choral world in order for LGBTQ students to truly feel welcomed as a part of a choral community.
-Juliana Joy Child, IC ACDA President-Elect
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