Intergenerational Dynamics

By  GALA Expert 

 November 11, 2023 


Our choruses span generations, and sometimes our different generational experiences can cause division and misunderstanding. Read on to find exercises designed to help foster community across age and experience.


Read & Watch In Advance
Read: “Learning to Ask
Watch: “Bridging the LGBTQ Generation Gap

Estimated Time
2-3 hours with several breaks

Facilitator Preparation

  • Ask each participant to read “Learning to Ask” (p. 9) before attending the session.
  • Prepare the Intergenerational Dynamics Handout for each person, either printed or
  • digital. Handouts are available as single PDFs from the New Harmony Toolkit.
  • Set up the room with chairs on the exterior so that singers can move around for the opening Spectrum exercise.
  • Either together, or in advance, have participants watch “Bridging the LGBTQ Generation Gap.”

Facilitation Session 1

  • Welcome participants by discussing the “Learning to Ask” introduction. What thoughts did participants have about the topic? What did they know already, and what did they find challenging?
  • Engage participants by doing the “Intergenerational Spectrum Activity” (p.11). During the exercise, ask participants to reflect on what they observe.
  • After the activity, if participants did not watch the video in advance, watch “Bridging the LGBTQ Generation Gap.” Then, form multigenerational discussion groups. One way to do this is to ask participants to stand with other people who are from a similar generation. Create discussion groups that include a person from each generational group.
  • In these small groups, share names, pronouns, and the piece of technology that you love the most. Then, invite singers to share reflections about the video “Bridging the LGBTQ Generation Gap.” What did they learn from these conversations? Was there anything they didn’t expect?
  • Return to the full group and invite groups to share back general themes of their conversations.

Facilitation Session 2

  • Share the Intergenerational Dynamics Handout and assign a scenario to each group. Allow time for discussion in small groups.
  • As a full group, read each scenario aloud and invite singers who discussed that issue to share insights and responses.
  • If a group gets stuck, check out the “What’s the Problem?” section on the next page.
  • Brainstorm manageable steps that your chorus can take to ensure that it is an inclusive space for people of all ages. Then review the action steps for additional ideas.

Scenarios for Discussion
These scenarios are based on real situations in GALA choruses, and provide a starting point for exploring intergenerational dynamics within your chorus.

What’s the Problem?
If you are unclear about why a Chorus Scenario might create division rather than belonging, here are a few tips for small group facilitators.

  1. There are many people who don’t interact on social media. It is important to communicate to all members in ways that are accessible (see p. 29). Although many choruses rehearsed via Zoom during the pandemic, choruses still need to offer assistance for those who may have a hard time using online tools.
  2. How does your chorus make decisions about which attendance exceptions are acceptable: work conflicts, health issues, a
    death in the family? Does your chorus have value judgements about certain absences being more ‘valid’ than others? How can policies around attendance be created equally for all individuals? Or is ‘equal’ important in this case?
  3. For some elders, their queer chorus has historically been one of the few places where they can feel completely comfortable expressing themselves through physical touch. The chorus has been a space where hugs, backrubs, and flirting can happen
    comfortably in a safe space. Older LGBTQIA+ people may rely on physical touch as a tool for supporting their mental health, or for overcoming the rejection they may have experienced in the past from family or friends. The need for physical touch may not be as present for younger singers who grew up with more freedom to be out. Organized conversations between younger and older members can help to bridge understanding in this area.
  4. Sometimes exclusion is purposeful, and sometimes it’s merely an accident. Upon being made aware of Caitlin’s living situation, the membership chair should apologize for making an assumption. She can then tell Caitlin that she will investigate the possibilities, perhaps inviting Caitlin to join her in looking at available options. Caitlin and her partners will have encountered similar situations many times in the past, and will appreciate a straightforward apology and offer to include them in figuring out a solution.
  5. Since this is a non-auditioned chorus the issue of asking a member not to sing is especially complicated. Does the chorus have a clear mission statement that addresses the importance of choral excellence vs community? How are these decisions made and who is responsible to make the call about voice quality? Perhaps the most egregious insult to Mary is that the issue was addressed by email, rather than a personal conversation.

Possible Action Steps

  1. Create guidelines or standards for how chorus information is made accessible to all members. See the New Harmony chapter on Digital Accessibility and the Accessibility Checklists (p. 29).
  2. Create Conversation Agreements and Chorus Agreements that encourage deep listening, conversation, and actions that are grounded in respect. Refer to the Sample Agreements for suggestions (p. 37).
  3. Create clear guidelines regarding attendance, and other chorus issues, that are applied consistently and as equitably as possible to all chorus members.
  4. Physical touch may help to overcome social isolation which often occurs as a result of minority marginalization particularly for LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive individuals. Invite older singers, or others, to talk about the reasons why physical touch is important to them.
  5. Engage in full-chorus forums to discuss what affection and consent mean to individuals within your chorus community. Teach your chorus community how to ask for consent using simple questions like:
    • Hey, is it okay if I give you a hug?
    • I’d like to hold your hand, do you mind?
    • May I put my arm around you?
  6. Develop explicit anti-harassment policies and work with your chorus membership to identify acceptable and unacceptable ways to address each other. Include a timeline and steps that will be taken in situations where harassment is identified.
  7. Implement explicit policies and procedures to support gender-diverse individuals, along with written non- discrimination policies which explicitly state support for diverse gender identity and gender expression.

At the end of the conversation:

  1. Identify 1-2 specific next steps that are a) relevant for your chorus community, and b) something your chorus can address in the next 2 months.
  2. Assign other relevant issues to a committee or board for further exploration and longer-term planning.
  3. Acknowledge that conversations surrounding intergenerational dynamics are complex and need to be ongoing within the chorus leadership, singers, and mission.