We are thrilled to announce that the long time Artistic Director from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC has taken the position of VOICES Artistic Director. Jeff says, “I’m honored and excited to join VOICES of Kentuckiana as their new Artistic Director and I look forward to being part of the vibrant Arts community of Louisville. It is important to me to carry on VOICES’ mission of celebrating diversity and fostering positive social change through music. VOICES has a rich 20 year history and I am delighted that we can celebrate their history while being part of the Chorus’ evolution as we move together into the future.”
Under his leadership, GMCW became recognized as one of the finest and most prominent men’s choruses in the country, with more than 275 singing members and a reputation for musical diversity and innovation. From classical music to newly commissioned works to fully staged productions of Broadway musicals, GMCW was a musical leader in the LGBT choral movement under Jeff’s direction. Jeff is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA).
During Jeff’s tenure GMCW received many honors. In January, 2009, the chorus was selected to sing My Country ‘Tis of Thee at “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial which was broadcast live on HBO and with an audience of more than 10,000. In December, 2010 the chorus performed with Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing and Chita Rivera at the nationally televised Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Broadway composer Jerry Herman . In December, 2002 the chorus was featured at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. Under Jeff’s direction the chorus’ small outreach ensemble, Potomac Fever, performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama on three occasions and has entertained at the home of Vice-President and Dr. Biden for the past five holiday seasons.
Jeff led the chorus in recording 11 CD’s, including three original commissions: Alexander’s House, Songs of My Family and Changing Hearts. Under Jeff’s leadership the chorus has won six WAMMIE awards from the Washington Area Music Association including the 2103 Outstanding Choral Recording for Alexander’s House. Other WAMMIES include awards for Best Choral Group in 2012, 2010, 2005 and 2003. GMCW’s 20th anniversary CD, “I Dream of a Time” won the 2002 WAMMIE award for outstanding choral recording.
Jeff joined the chorus as a singing member in 1986. In 1997 he began directing the small a cappella ensemble Potomac Fever, a job he held for the next 10 seasons, culminating in a European tour, at which Potomac Fever sang at the opening ceremonies of Various Voices, the European LGBT choral festival in Munich. He resumed directing Potomac Fever in 2003. Under Jeff’s direction, Potomac Fever attained a wide following with its distinctive style, characterized by fluid phrasing and warmth of tone. In July, 2014 Potomac Fever performed at the 2014 Various Voices choral festival in Dublin.
In 1989 Jeff began an eight-year run as Assistant Director of the chorus, working with Music Director Jim Holloway. Jeff had the honor of directing GMCW at an inauguration concert for President Clinton in 1996. Jeff also directed the festival chorus at the first World Outgames in 2006 in Montreal.
Having worked with high school students as a choral director and school counselor before directing the chorus, Jeff is most proud of founding GMCW’s youth outreach program in 2002 offering free tickets to high school students and their teachers. The program grew significantly as the chorus began visiting schools. GMCW also hosted two workshops on LGBT issues for teachers and school counselors. During Jeff’s last season with GMCW members of the chorus visited 10 high schools in the Washington, DC area.
Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education and voice from Montclair State University and Master of Arts in counseling from George Washington University. As a singer he has been a soloist in many professional and church choruses and has performed with such preeminent choral conductors as Robert Shaw, Roger Wagner, and Dennis Keene.
Jeff’s greatest pleasure is sharing his life with his wonderful husband, Roger, and their mini-dachshund, Mocha.
Back by popular demand is our member showcase, VOICE of the Week! We hope this feature makes you feel closer to your fellow singers and brings you together in new ways! This week we’ll get to know a little more about Kelly Scott Goforth, a long-time VOICES of Kentuckiana member and community advocate!
What is your occupation?
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist who provides mental health services to elementary school-aged children in the school environment. I also provide supervision at my agency.
Any hobbies or interests outside of singing?
I love to garden and read, and I spend a lot of time with my boxer, Nattie Belle, and my two tabby cats, Salem and Tabitha!
How long have you been singing with VOICES?
I’m proud to say that I’ve been singing with VOICES since 1998, and have never missed a regular concert.
In one sentence, let us know what VOICES means to you.
Through VOICES, I am able to sing music that brings hope, health, and healing with loving, caring, and tolerant people who are family.
We hope you’ll join Kelly and all of our VOICES members at Open Enrollment on August 24 or September 7, 3PM at Central Presbyterian Church! More information available here!
We think you’re going to just love our VOICE of the week this week. Her name is Heather Thiessan and here’s what she had to say about herself. “I occasionally teach religious studies classes at Spalding University. The rest of the time, I seem to run errands for my 15 year old daughter. In my spare time, I pretend to be working on a book.”
Adorable, right? Heather is brand new to our group having just finished her first concert with us this past Spring. So how does she describe VOICES? “VOICES feels to me like a way to make my conviction that a better world is possibly tangible – or anyway, audible. My Old Kentucky Home was the most personally meaningful song I learned last semester. My late mother, Jo Thiessen, was a native Kentuckian, loved it, and taught her children to revere it. I have to believe that her spirit was in the audience when I had the chance to be part of singing it out loud in public.”
We asked a few other questions of Heather.
What prompted you to become a member of VOICES?
My partner, who was checking e-mail, saw the announcement about open enrollment. I suspect we ended up on the email list after we purchased tickets for the Winter concert online last December, even though we ended up missing the concert! She insisted that I needed to follow up on it … fortunately for me.
What is your hidden talent?
I have remarkable handwriting. My handwriting has been mistaken for typewriting. (One of my former colleagues used to say “Heather has fonts.”)
Tell us something nice about another member of VOICES you admire.
I really wanted to answer this one, but I found that it was impossible to narrow my admiration down to just one person. The “great candidates” kept changing as I thought of all the people I’d sat next to in rehearsals, listened to as they tried out for a solo, noticed as they pitched in and got things done with good cheer and dispatch. And whose act of mercy to a total newbie (“here, borrow my [copy of For Good; 1" black non-glossy binder; actual sense of pitch; confidence] …”) I remembered last.
Michael Clark is our outgoing (and out-going) Board Chairman so it’s only fitting that he is featured this week. Michael works in accounting and has been singing with VOICES since 1997. “To me, VOICES means a group of great friend who like to sing and share our talents to lift up those in our audience.” Here’s what he had to say to some of our questions.
Tell us about a favorite moment from a VOICES concert or event?
One of my favorite moments was the end of Celluloid Broadway concert after dancing to “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from Hairspray – the front line dancers just collapsed without telling the chorus or David Stone (Our AD) we were going to do that. It capped off the long rehearsal process for that concert perfectly.
What’s the best song you’ve performed with VOICES and why?
My favorite song was during GALA 2000 in San Jose. As the last chorus to sing, and with no other chorus singing opposite of us, we ended the week long event with “My Old Kentucky Home.” I still get cold chills thinking about that audience and atmosphere and the applause.
What prompted you to become a member of VOICES?
One of my good friends Eva Bush was singing and she kept prompting me to join and I went to a concert and was hooked.
What do you hope to see for VOICES in the future?
I think the future of VOICES and its relevance no longer lies solely as a safe place for the LGBT community. As acceptance grows daily across the country, VOICES has become a place for all people to come and be accepted. Much like the current discussion at Atherton, we too need to look beyond the gay and lesbian labels and be that safe community for anyone who needs it. As we were once where they are now, we understand what it means to have a safe place to go to once a week.