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    VOICES of Kentuckiana Celebrates Us All
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    When Jeff Buhrman and his husband moved to Louisville from Washington, DC, last August, they were seeking a “kinder, gentler place.” So far, Buhrman says, they have been very impressed with the city, from its diverse neighborhoods to its architecture, to all the nonprofits working to make life better for the city’s residents. And as the new Artistic Director for VOICES of Kentuckiana, he’s joined that group of community groups looking to make a difference.

    VOICES is a unique group in Louisville – it’s an inclusive chorus that celebrates diversity and welcomes everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, age, religion, or even musical ability. The chorus describes itself as made up of gays, lesbians and supportive others, and if you enjoy expressing yourself through music, you are welcome (no audition required).

    Joe Nord, who has been a member of VOICES for two years, loves the inclusiveness. “For a few years, I had been wanting to join a choral group but I hadn’t sung in several years and was concerned that I wouldn’t be good enough. My friend, Paula Head, had been singing with VOICES of Kentuckiana for several years and suggested I come to their open enrollment in the Fall of 2013. I knew very quickly I had found the right group!”

    Started in 1994, VOICES is part of a much larger lesbian and gay chorus movement, Buhrman explains. “There are over 250 of these choral groups around the world, in small towns and large cities.” Buhrman himself brings more than two decades of experience in the lesbian and gay choral movement, having most recently served as the director of the Gay Men’s Chorus in Washington, DC for 14 years, where he led over 250 singers in high-profile performances including at the White House and at President Obama’s inauguration.

    “Gay and lesbian choral groups have been telling stories for over 35 years through music, and that’s what VOICES is doing: telling our stories,” he says. As Artistic Director, Buhrman’s focus is on growing the group, reaffirming the mission, and staying active in youth outreach – a particular passion. In his first months, he has formed partnerships with Home of the Innocents, Volunteers of America, and numerous youth groups and gay/straight alliances in area high schools.

    “The LGBT movement has come a long way, and some feel we’ve won the battle. I don’t share that philosophy,” he says bluntly. The facts are stark. “Fourteen states still say same-sex marriage is not legal, our youth continue to harm themselves and commit suicide, and the transgendered community is still struggling for affirmation, even within the gay community.”

    Spring Concert: Marry Us … Today!

    April 17 and 19, VOICES will present its spring program, “Marry Us … Today!” at the Clifton Center. With the concert, says Buhrman, the group wants to affirm that same-sex marriage is a civil right for all individuals – and underline the desire for same-sex marriage to become legal in Kentucky ASAP. “Things seem to be moving fast, but we still have 14 states without same-sex marriage, including Kentucky,” he points out. “Gay and lesbian people who have been in long-term relationships in Kentucky have to go out of state to get married.”

    It’s a serious topic, but for the audience and the singers, the concert will be an “adventurous and fun journey through the fact that relationships are universal, and a wonderful thing.”

    “We’re celebrating the universality of all relationships. Some may have a desire to be in a relationship, and some don’t. It’s about meeting someone and thinking they are the one, but it doesn’t turn out that way, bouncing back, looking again, falling in love, being in love. It’s about the experience of thinking, ‘I didn’t know that about him/her,’ and then loving them even more. It’s about making a commitment to being in a relationship. It takes two people to work really hard. The songs affirm marriage for everyone, and all the different stages, from looking, finding, losing, gaining.”

    The concert includes different genres and styles of music, with a number of songs from Broadway shows, touching on all these emotions. “We want to stress that relationships are universal, the emotions are all the same,” says Buhrman of the song selection.

    The chorus is having a great time with its new Artistic Director. Says Nord, “I was thrilled when the chorus hired Jeff Buhrman. He brings a level of professionalism that the group needs, but works with a sense of humor and understanding that fits right in with the close-knit atmosphere surrounding VOICES.”

    Youth Outreach

    Buhrman’s focus on community and youth outreach is a key part of helping each member of VOICES make a difference through music. The group has visited four area schools, and had 65 students at its December program, inviting them through the Tickets for Youth program. And two students are currently singing with the group, which means “the program is working.”

    At the schools, Buhrman and chorus members talk about the group, but they also ask students to talk about themselves and have a dialogue. “We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” he says of increasing understanding in the community around inclusiveness.

    Ultimately, VOICES wants to entertain, engage and enlighten audiences and remind them that “love is love,” says Buhrman.

    Rehearsals for the spring concert have begun, so those interested in joining the group should contact Buhrman ASAP. Volunteers are always welcome, too, for anyone who wants to get involved but is shy about performing.

    Photo One: Shutterstock Copyright: s_oleg Photo Two: VOICES of Kentuckiana

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    About Kachina Shaw

    A transplanted Hawkeye, I've now lived in Louisville longer than any other city. Can't live without: my husband and fur babies, coal-black coffee, peanut M&Ms, sunflowers, monthly vacations, books, walking paths, massage and a big purse.

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