Humans of TCGMC
In the tradition of the popular Humans of New York and Humans of Minneapolis series, we are pleased to present Humans of TCGMC
Humans of TCGMC is a project managed by the Chorus’ Marketing Committee of the Board of Directors, a group of board members and volunteer singers who have embraced this project as a way to share the stories of our singers, leadership, and outside supporters.
The purpose of Humans of TCGMC is to highlight the talents, strengths and experiences of our community. In sharing stories from individuals, we inspire empathy and compassion towards our peers. Above all, we believe that every Human has something to offer, that every Human has value, and, above all, that every Human is deserving of recognition.
Humans of TCGMC is moderated by our singer, Josh Elmore (he/him).
Timothy De Prey: After 50 posts over the span of 5 years, Humans of TCGMC is coming to a close. In our final post, we honor our long-standing principal accompanist, teacher, and friend, the incomparable Timothy De Prey.
Alvin Prince Akibar: Dr. Alvin Prince Akibar, a New Yorker-turned-Texas native and former psychology professor at St. Catherine University, has recently made a rare transition from academia to the Urban League, where he is a powerful advocate for racial justice and equity.
Geoff Cope: Geoff Cope is a true humanitarian and unsung hero. Whether in the treatment facility where he works as a resource navigator or in the classroom as a Zumba instructor, he endlessly gives himself in service of others, and the world is a better place because of him.
Steve Munnelly: Steve Munnelly is a healthcare expert who worked on federal regulations for the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP). Though he currently finds himself at a crossroads, he realizes that, sometimes, the love in our lives is what keeps us the healthiest.
Buck Hakes: After years of being a caretaker for his parents, who are now deceased, Buck followed his dreams around the world in this month’s inspirational tale of self-discovery.
Zach Rider: Each week, Zach Rider shows up with his goofy, sarcastic personality as the loving educator that every LGBTQ child deserves.
Matt Butts: Matt Butts is a fighter, and a survivor who moved out of New Orleans, away from his unaccepting family, into Minnesota and the welcoming arms of TCGMC. Matt is also an author whose writing was first brought into the public eye by a Rolling Stone exposé on “bug chasing” (IYKYK), and has spent the last several years crafting a series of thriller novels in a one-man operation.
Erick Crail: A survivor of homophobia and sexual assault who used his trauma to advocate for others, reminds us that it’s never too late to progress.
Larry Goodermont: Larry Goodermont, an unstoppable mailman, political activist, and choreographer for TCGMC, carries a message of love to all he encounters. His reflections, given only days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, reminds us never to be complacent. VOTE.
Richard Long & John Larson: For our Pride edition of Humans of TCGMC, we connected with alumnus Richard Long. Richard, who grew up facing racial discrimination in the 1960s south, returned home when he joined the chorus on its famous 2006 Southern Tour. There, he received an act of love so profound that it remains a key moment in TCGMC history. John Larsen, the Chair of the Board of Directors at the time the chorus planned the tour, also joins us in this interview.
Cody Libra (he/him): Cody Libra, who has worked in funeral services and is now studying to become a paramedic, reminds us that life is precious – especially at its end.
Carlos Saldaña (he/him): Carlos Saldaña, our current membership president, recently bought his first house. In one of the most inspirational stories Humans has ever done, he reminds us that love, not bricks and mortar, is the true foundation for a home.
Glenn Bates (they/them): After a 2-year hiatus, Humans of TCGMC returns with Glenn Bates (they/them), our membership Vice President. Black, non-binary, and a soon-to-be stepparent of two LGBTQ children, Glenn reminds us that not all heroes wear capes.
HIV Dialogue – Origins: Humans of TCGMC is honored to present the first of a three-part dialogue with four HIV+ chorus members. In this installment, they discuss their diagnoses, their reactions to their diagnoses, and the external and internal stigma they began to face.
HIV Dialogue – Experience: In the second installment of Humans of TCGMC group conversation on HIV, our members discuss their experience living with the disease as it pertains to sexual ethics and medical treatment in the modern day.
HIV Dialogue – Response: As we all seek to protect ourselves from the pandemic, it is important to remember the most vulnerable amongst us – children, senior citizens, and the immunocompromised. Now more than ever, we must recognize the importance of educating ourselves about those with HIV/AIDS. In this final installment of our dialogue with four HIV-positive members of TCGMC, our friends describe the nuanced role they play in the fight against HIV stigma.
Jeff Sibert: An endurance cyclist, radio station owner, and electrical engineer, Jeff Sibert is an independent man who lives life on his own frequency.
Tyler Stanchfield: Just as fabulous and extravagant as his annual Oscars party, Tyler Stanchfield shows that overcoming a disability is only one source of his star power.
Bret Bannon: Accompanied by the smell of fresh quiche and spilled coffee, Bret Bannon recounts a culinary career that satisfies both our gustatory and inquisitive appetites.
Brent Morris: Brent Morris is a kindhearted, paternal man who just happens to be in a daily battle against drug addiction and HIV stigma.
Xim Pelletier: Xim Pelletier, who is discovering their gender identity on a daily basis, reminds us that it’s okay not to have all the answers.
Justin Rudnick: Today’s guest lecture, titled “Performance and Identity,” is presented by Professor Justin Rudnick, AKA “Dr. J” from Minnesota State University Mankato.
Alex Asp: To many in this community, Alex Asp may be known as the Commissioner of the Stonewall Sports – Minneapolis Dodgeball league, but to those in the emergency room, he is simply known as “Doctor.”
Rob DeBois: A high school English teacher and MFA candidate, Rob DuBois provides his valuable insight on teaching the next generation in the face of shifting cultural and technological norms.
Chris Unger: The perfect representation of the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover,” Chris Unger reveals a passion unbeknownst to the crowds who cheer for his solo performances at TCGMC concerts
Bret Pearson: This week, Josh had an encounter with a fellow story-seeker. For a decade, Bret Pearson and his partner have worked with local historical societies to create fact-based museum exhibits.
Nathan Porras: In one of the most vulnerable interviews ever conducted for Humans of TCGMC, Nathan Porras shares how his personal journey with depression has shaped his work as an educator and psychiatric nurse at a drug rehabilitation center.
Daniel Hodges: This week, Josh interviewed Daniel Hodges, who has over 12 years’ experience as a high school speech and debate coach.
Mark Carlson: I constantly have to ask myself, “How do I work with others, and with organizations, and still take care of myself?” That’s the point of all of this: to be my best self, and to bring my best self to my friends and family, the chorus, and to my community.
Shawn Hjelmeland: After a decade on the hockey rink, a near-decade at Disney, and less than two years living as his authentic self, Shawn Hjelmeland reminds us that while life may not be a fairytale, we can always find the magic if we look hard enough.
David Fey: As an architect, community organizer, nonprofit leader, and former Deputy Mayor of Minneapolis, he has brought his passion for social justice to a wide variety of settings and roles. Please welcome this week’s Humans of TCGMC guest, David Fey!
Glen Arvin: This member needs no introduction – he’ll announce himself! Please welcome this week’s Human, professional voice actor Glen Arvin.
Peder Hagen: After a summer hiatus, Humans of TCGMC returns! For the premier post of the 2019-2020 concert season, Josh spoke with Peder Hagen, a longtime chorus member with insights on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Jeff Heine: “It’s hard to separate the passion from the practicality of the job. I’ve found that decisions based on passion tend to be wrong, but decisions based solely on practicality can be very painful, even if they’re right.” For our final edition of Humans of TCGMC this season, Josh Elmore talks to our Executive Director, Jeff Heine, who will be leaving us this summer after 10 years to work with the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.
Adam Moore: “I am a stylist, caregiver, therapist, and “good feeler.” Josh talks with Adam Moore, one of our singers, about being a stylist. “Whether positive – the celebrations – or the hardships and the struggles, people let you in like you’re part of their family.”
Matt Hudson: This week, Josh talks with Matt Hudson, one of our singers who plays an active role in our local drag community. “One of my philosophies is that I have to give back to the (LGBTQ) community. When there are charity shows, I try to always participate.”
Kent Pitman: Let’s meet Kent and his story of inspiration! “It’s worth it. Do I still struggle with the fact that I feel like a fat guy? YES! But I have no regrets about doing what I did. I changed my body and I changed my life. At 45, I am healthier I than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
Gino Fraboni: Let’s meet Gino, one of our singers who joined us this season! “I just think of how fortunate I am to have a mom and three dads… My family life shifted a lot when I was in 9th grade and my father came out to the family, and that he and my mom were getting divorced. The most significant part about the situation is that my parents’ primary goal was to keep the family together. They told me that “This doesn’t change who we are – just how we look.” Love was always at the center.”
Tyler Stahl: “Sometimes people are forced to do [volunteer work] because of work, but for me it’s very different. I feel like it’s my job and duty in life to give back – because I have privilege.” This week we meet Tyler Stahl, who talks about how volunteer work has given him a new perspective.
Heinrich Remmel: Josh spoke with Heinrich, who reminded Josh that everything someone shares with an open heart represents their authentic self, long or short. Therefore, this week’s post will take a different format, which best reflects Heinrich’s personality – a minimalist who believes in expressing himself with simplicity.
Brandon Sieck: Josh talks with Brandon Sieck, who works with the Minnesota Opera. “Anyone who works backstage in the theater –stage ops, LX and sound, prop artisans –everyone who works in production is an unsung hero; the most important aspect of our job is that the audience never knows we are there.”
Mark Storck: “These are all kids…” In this week’s installment, Josh spoke with Mark Storck, who has over 25 years of experience, and currently teaches highly- and exceptionally-gifted elementary school students.
Hugh Smeltekop: This week, Josh spoke with Hugh Smeltekop, who has spent the majority of his life working with a small college in Bolivia, which empowers its students to pursue careers in public health, agricultural development, education and ecotourism. He was Director of that college, and now serves as the Executive Director of a nonprofit that supports the same work. He also spent two years in Benin, West Africa as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.
Brian O’Dowd: For our next installment, Josh interviewed Brian O’Dowd, a fellow southerner from Mississippi. “I remember my first feelings of being attracted to a guy was when I was six. CMT [Country Music Television] was on, and my mom had gone to work. I was in the living room watching it and there was a Clint Black video on. I said to my sister, “He’s cute,” and my sister said, ‘We don’t say that about other boys.'”
Nathan Bambenek: For our next installment, Josh interviewed Nathan Bambanek, who talks about his work in higher education. “I found that I liked advising – which falls under student affairs – because it’s a mix of teaching, mental counseling, and leadership development. It’s how I got to my master’s program. Leadership to me is not “I’m going to follow someone; I’m going to obey them.” Leadership, historically, has had dominant, masculine qualities –a dominant/submissive relationship where one person is above the other. My view, in the more up-to-date model, is mentoring.”
Levi Seefeldt: For our next installment, Josh interviewed Levi Seefeldt. “I think bisexuality is tough because people from both communities see the negative. Straight people see me – as a cisgender male – see that I like men, and so I’m not straight enough for them. Gay men see that you also like women, so you’re not gay enough. It becomes this game of proving your sexuality to everyone.”
David Coleman: For our next installment, Josh interviewed our singer David Coleman. David has been on the front lines for change. After being expelled from college in 2005, he began a thrilling career of activism that’s taken him across the country. If you want to know more about the man who was ordered to be arrested by both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, please proceed!
David Anderson: For our next installment, Josh had the pleasure of interviewing David Anderson, a former Christian pastor who was pressured out of the church and abandoned by his congregation when he came out to them in the 70’s. His story is one of forgiveness and acceptance, as he struggles to find himself in the Christian community. He’s learned many lessons; above all, “[Don’t] let anybody take your faith from you. That’s yours. It’s not given to you from the outside.”
Ben Pollack: For our second post, Josh spoke with Ben Pollack, whose spiritual life has been influenced by both Judaism and Hinduism. As our concert weekend for “A Million Reasons to Believe” commences, we encourage you to read Ben’s wise words. As he says, there is something for everyone in this season’s holiday concert, and we encourage you to seek meaning for yourselves through our mixture of musical stories.
Glenn Olson: For our premier post, Josh Elmore spoke with Glenn Olson, who has sung with the Chorus since its second year. Glenn’s reflections on the history of the Chorus, along with the personal meeting he found through our Chorus family, is moving.