Our Amazing Stories: KJ Archer

“Music has always played a large role in my life.


“As soon as I was in the 4th grade I joined the orchestra, the band in 5th grade, and the choir my freshman year of boarding school. Music was my escape from an ever changing and regularly neglectful home. We were always moving, but it was okay because as long as I could bring my viola, horn, and voice with me I belonged somewhere. I was able to take advantage of many opportunities for travel, growth, and community because not only was I a musician, but I played relatively rare instruments and voice parts. Playing the viola, horn, and singing tenor 1 made me a sort of commodity and suddenly I felt special in a whole new way. Family never came to the concerts, in fact I almost missed a few concerts for lack of a ride, but it didn’t matter because I was a part of something bigger.

“The arts played a strong part in my coming out story during boarding school. I had become close with the arts department chair and she was the one I broke the news to first. She was so supportive and helpful I don’t know what I would have done without her. When I came to Minnesota to go to Macalester one of the first things I did was sign up for band and orchestra auditions. I had decided not to go out for the choir because I wouldn’t be able to perform in the instrumental ensembles if I joined. I only lasted 4 months until the choir director put out an open-call for a Messiah Sing at his church. I went in to be voiced and felt all the happy feelings rush back.

“In 2009 an actor friend called me up the day of a TCGMC holiday concert and asked if I wanted the tickets because he couldn’t go. I agreed to take them and went to the concert. Everyone was just so happy. The singers on stage were all running around in pajamas with fake presents and no one ever stopped smiling. The slower pieces were full of emotion and thoughtful musicality, and the more upbeat pieces were an amazing mixture of energy, pride, and all the while something completely gay. I decided that I wanted to audition for the group while I was still in school, I even emailed Dr. Stan Hill and he sent me audition information, but like many other chorines I chickened out the day of auditions and stayed home.

“Then graduation came. I had not made the connection that my musical memories and the importance they held in my life were attached to my education. Through lonely Christmases, solo Thanksgivings, and rarely mentioned birthdays music had been there to get me through it all. For crying out loud I came out during our boarding school production of Jekyll and Hyde. I had been to Austria, Germany, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, and a long list of American cities because of a musical group that I would no longer have. Then I remembered the TCGMC; I remembered that there was a group in town I loved and wanted to be a part of. I knew a few people in the chorus and decided to audition for the Ole Ole Ole concert. When the day of the audition came I was panicking. I didn’t drink a single drop of water all day, I smoked a half pack of cigarettes, and got no rest. When I auditioned I forgot to bring piano music and had to wing it to Amazing Grace. I argued with Kelsey Bruso about what kind of falsetto a tenor should have, and walked out of the room thinking there was no way I would get in. Jason Rebeck told me I was in, and nothing has ever been the same.

“The outreach concerts the chorus puts on remind of me something I wish I had when I was younger. I wish I had had the opportunity to see my community united around a purpose and around each other. The men in this chorus are all the family anyone could ever ask for. We have our ups and downs, but then you go to retreat, or perform a concert, or send someone a ‘get well soon’ card and instantly we remember why we’re here. When I was sick last year I had to drop out just 2 weeks before the concert. I expected ire, anger, and rejection, but instead I got the most meaningful card of recent memory. People were always calling to check up on me and I felt nothing but love. If no other reason existed to be a part of this organization, that time in my life would be enough.

“We let people know that it’s okay to be exactly who you are. We remind ourselves that someone cares and you will never be alone. We reassure people that even if their family disagrees with their choices, they will always have 180 brothers to call. We do all of this and still manage to make beautiful music. This group of men is truly extraordinary. We are friends, we are musicians, we are regular people, we are believers, we are historians, we are story tellers, we are lovers, we are fighters, and most of all we are family. That’s why the chorus is important to me.”


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