Let’s Hear it for the Boys

F or the past 16 years, the Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus (DGMC) has been continually trying to bring joy to the Dayton community through song. Founded in 2003 by current treasurer Fred Poland, the chorus has been on a mission to increase awareness and community support for the LGBTQ community in the area—but especially, area […]

School Daze with the Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus at Victoria


The Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus under the direction of Artistic Director Kathy Clark.

By Dana Walczak 

For the past 16 years, the Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus (DGMC) has been continually trying to bring joy to the Dayton community through song. Founded in 2003 by current treasurer Fred Poland, the chorus has been on a mission to increase awareness and community support for the LGBTQ community in the area—but especially, area youth who may not have the support systems that they need.

“Our mission,” says Drew Huggins, President of the Board of Directors, “is to inspire, encourage, and sustain excellence in the Choral Arts and to achieve a gay affirming presence in the Greater Miami Valley.”

Starting as an off-shoot of the Cincinnati Gay Men’s Chorus, the DGMC began with just 15 members and has grown to close to 40 members, a number which they hope to increase. The 501(c)(3) non-profit (which, just so you know, means all donations are tax-deductible), has helped to raise funds and awareness for a variety of Daytonians. They do that, in part, by having two concerts per season—they are working on expanding to a third concert, as well as a fundraiser.

This year’s theme is School Daze, and has included their Annual Christmas Concert dubbed the Holiday Cotillion, their fundraiser gala was a prom event and next up, “Graduation, Becoming Oneself.” A time of transition that almost everyone can relate to.

“Our ticket sales for events at the Victoria Theater are usually around 600, but we have gone to 900-950 tickets sold for events,” Huggins says. “We have a good following and a great audience.”

And perfectly timed, as graduation will take place during Dayton’s Pride Week. Performing at the Victoria Theatre on June 2nd, the concert will feature arrangements that include top 40 hits like Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” to classics like
“It’s Raining Men.”

But this year, Graduation will showcase something truly special—original works by
local residents.

DGMC held a competition for Dayton area youth between the ages of 14 and 24 to submit poems and essays on what it means to them to grow up as an LGBTQ youth in 2018. Three finalists have been selected by a panel, and Artistic Director Kathy Clark took their lyrics and made them into songs to be performed by the choir.

“With the support of the Ohio Arts Council,” Huggins says, “I was able to write a grant to mirror our School Daze [theme], because we really wanted to reach out to
LQBTQ youth.”

“So, since the average age of a gay chorus skews a little older, we are lucky that we have a handful of millennials and even zennials in our chorus now. So I started thinking, with this theme, I’d love to figure out a way to reach out to the youth.”

Of these three finalists, each will win a commission. The first place finalist will receive $1,000, 2nd place will be awarded $750, and third will receive $500.

The concept for the grant, he said, was under the idea of the event theme,
“Becoming Oneself.”

“The theme we encouraged them to write about is what it is like to be LGBTQ in America today,” Huggins says.

What they got back, he says, was very interesting, partially because he simply grew up in a different generation. He was expecting angsty submissions, submissions expressing despair and hardships, but while there were hardships, the majority of submissions were those of hope and understanding.

“And that was very inspiring, we got mostly positive soul-searching results,” he says.

According to Ms. Clark, the lyrics that she was presented with spoke to her in such a way that it was easy to transcribe them to music.

One of the final songs selected for the competition is entitled “New Day” and has been transcribed into a gospel song, where “Little One” is more of a lullaby, and the final contestant’s song has been turned into a ballad entitled “Closeted Love.” Each of these, according to Huggins and Clark, has a different and distinct message which they believe come together nicely to express the breadth of emotions that one might encounter at different points during their journeys to find themselves.

“The songs are beautiful, and the words are amazing, so we are really excited to share these with the community at large,” he says. “These young people who have this talent—this talent for poetry and this positivity, mean a lot. And to be able to give them this commission so that they can carry on and continue doing things that feed their souls
is exciting.”

“Graduation, Becoming Oneself” happens June 2 at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Visit ticketcenterstage.com or phone 937-228-3630 for tickets.

For information on other performances, supporting or joining the chorus, visit www.daytongaymenschorus.org

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Reach DCP freelance writer Dana Walczak at DanaWalczak@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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