Starting A Youth Chorus
GALA youth choruses are quite diverse in their programming and structure. Some of them perform as traditional choirs and many integrate dance, theater and spoken word as well. When starting an LGBTQIA youth chorus keep in mind that you are working to develop the whole person, not just to entertain an audience. Youth choruses are about building strong healthy people. Always put the youth at the center of your decisions and you won't go wrong.
The tabs below will guide you through some of the issues to consider as you are planning your youth chorus.
Be sure to use the guidelines and documents provided for Protecting Youth and Chorus.
Also see How to Start a GALA Chorus.
Most GALA youth choruses are for LGBTQI identified youth and straight allies. As you create your chorus, take the time to plan who you are serving and how you will connect and support those youth. For example, school-based gay straight alliances (GSAs) reach youth who are in school, however 40% of the runaway/homeless population identifies as sexual and gender minorities. When starting an LGBTQIA youth chorus keep in mind that you are working to develop the whole person, not just to entertain an audience.
Your chorus "staff" (paid or volunteer) should include artists and youth organizers who are as diverse as the youth you are serving. Look for young, talented diverse people to work and volunteer in your organization. Create a chorus structure where youth can learn organizational skills, try out chorus staff positions and eventually become working members of your chorus staff.
Artistic and organizational vision and leadership are crucial. Make sure your chorus has a strong artistic vision and strategically identify where and how your chorus will fulfill that vision in terms of performance settings, programming and artistic content, and youth outreach.
Every adult working within a youth chorus must be completely comfortable with their own sexual and gender identity and be able to communicate openly, and appropriately, with the youth in your program. See Protecting Youth and Choruses for information on appropriate boundaries and legalities in working with youth.
It is crucial to include youth in the decision-making process in shaping your chorus and in on-going leadership and programming. Youth within your chorus might:
- create original pieces of music/poetry
- assist in selecting repertoire
- create new kinds of programming based on their unique talents: poetry, dance, instrumental music, costume design
- design the concert program or marketing materials
- seek out performance opportunities in schools, places of worship and spaces where they hang out
- create a peer mentoring structure
Get young people involved! Give them a voice! Help our youth become strong leaders. They are the future leaders of GALA Choruses and of our communities!
LGBTQI and allied youth tend to be progressive when it comes to gender expression. In creating your chorus insist that all youth and adults use language that is gender neutral and inclusive. Become familiar with gender language that is common for youth in your community. For example, the reclaimed use of the word "queer" may be very common for youth but less so for adults especially outside of larger cities.
In working in the community, part of your role is to educate teachers, funders, donors, audiences, and people that support your work regarding gender language.
Connection to the community is one of the most important elements in developing a thriving youth chorus. You need support!
- Collaborate with LGBTQI-friendly counseling and social service agencies to support the youth in your chorus. This structure is crucial to help your chorus support the myriad of issues that queer and allied teens face.
- Collaborate with diverse communities: immigrant communities, homeless youth, existing youth programs, after school programs, Gay Straight Alliances, elderly populations, etc.
- Collaborate with adult groups - PFLAG, GLSEN, parents, places of worship.
There are people in every community who want to support LGBTQIA youth and can provide rehearsal space, grant writing, sponsor a performance, or spread the word about your chorus. Be creative!
You have many choices in organizing the structure of your chorus. Here are some examples:
- Design your chorus as a subset of an existing adult LGBT chorus. Search for a GALA chorus in your area.
Begin youth chorus with a Fiscal Sponsor in order to receive money from funders and donors while you work on the legal aspects to become an independent organization. Always have a written contract with any organization that provides fiscal sponsorship.
- Create an independent youth chorus with your own board and legal structure. These pages will help you navigate structural issues for a new chorus.
- Form a chorus within another non-profit organization so that their resources assist with fiscal sponsorship, legal issues and general support.
The GALA Resource Center has a page of tools for recruiting singers and planning auditions. Review these resources as you are forming your youth chorus.
However, there are some unique elements in recruiting young people for a GALA youth chorus. LGBT youth congregate in many places and your organizing team needs to identify these common gathering spaces in your community. Youth may gather at an LGBTQI community center, another non-profit organization or social gathering place.
Also look for other contacts to help with recruitment and advertising your chorus.