Our Amazing Stories: Jon Tufte


“About 11 years ago I ended up in the hospital with what appeared to be heart related issues.


“Through numerous tests it was determined that I did no have anything wrong with my heart. I then realized it was “of my heart” issues that I was having. It was now that I would have to tell my family (parents, then wife, and my two children) that I was gay and needed to make that change in my/our lives. This had never crossed my mind in the 27 years of marriage that this would be the way our marriage would end.

“As I came out to my family and friends, I found mostly loving and support (my parents and kids were awesome). I used to sing with the Minnesota Center Chorale (a mixed voice chorale in central Minnesota). One of my close college friends from graduate school knew how much I liked music and said she knew of a fantastic group I should join – The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. So, I took the plunge and went down to meet this group of gay men! What to expect – after all, I had been a “straight” man all of my life.

“I met a fabulous, caring group of men who welcomed me to my audition (the largest class of “newbies” the chorus has had). I sang in front of the gazillion (or what seemed to be) men for my audition. Nothing but nurturing and encouragement was felt that night (ok, it was about 8 or so guys auditioning us). I got the message the next day that I has made it into the chorus. How very exciting!!! I got my chorus buddy who helped me with the transition into this wonderful group of men.

“That began my journey with this band of gay men! And, what a fantastic journey it has been. I was overwhelmed when we went out onto stage for my first holiday concert. I was used to have 250+ people in the audience – not 900!! And they yelled and cheered for us as we came onto stage!!! Emotions ran high for me – not only was I singing with a fantastic group of men – I was “home” with who I am and my music.

“So many “mountain top” experiences have happened with me as being a part of this chorus. I would like to tell you about three of them.

“First, our outreach to “the South” was life changing. As we were going through the “Bible Belt” singing to our audiences changes began to happen with me. We sang from the “Grand Old Opry” to a small church in New Orleans. We sang “Walk Hand in Hand” as a black brother was able to finally enter the water at the Gulf of Mexico (he wasn’t able to during the Viet Nam War – he was black – only the white men could go). So very emotional. As we sang “We Shall Overcome” and “Walk Hand in Hand with Me” did I realize this trip was for me, too. It was in New Orleans, looking up at a Jesus’ outstretched hands above the chorus, that I realized how my faith was needing to change and that I would have to leave the church I was in, because I was gay – even though I was an ordained Elder.

“Second, my first Gala in Miami, singing “Through a Glass Darkly.” The lives we changed singing that commission will never be known to us fully. I know it greatly changed mine. We sang to about 1,300 people in two special performances in the hotel ballroom. We did this so we could sing the entire commission. The audience was within touch. As we sang the pieces we could see and hear the profound effect it was having on the audience (and us). After the second concert we went into a smaller room to “debrief” what we had just down, cry, laugh, and to just “calm down.” Upon leaving that room, about 20-30 minutes later, opening the door to the lobby area, we were met by about 200 audience members – waiting for us, saying “there they are!” as we came out. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I would feel then.

“Third. Three years ago my dad passed away from cancer. A very rough time for me and my family as we said good bye to him. My family had been with dad when he passed away, at home, including Jack, my life partner. It was a very hard but also awe filled time in my life. What really “blew me away” was at dad’s reviewal my “other family” came to me. Several of my “brothers” from this wonderful chorus came up from the cities to support me (and my family). Words cannot explain the love that I felt from them that night!!!

“So why sing in The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus? Because it is a group of men, who I have grown to respect and love, who pour their hearts out singing, to make a change in this world, through music. I am accepted for who I am. I have witnessed the changes we have made in other people’s lives, been the recipient of the changes, and know that I am “home” with this band of gay men. The choice I made 11 years ago was the right one to “come out” so to speak. The other right decision was made to audition for this great chorus 10 years ago!!”


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