The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC is thrilled to welcome two special guests for our TransAmerica concert on June 2 and 3, 2018 at Lincoln Theatre. Joining GMCW will be soprano Breanna Sinclaire and advocate Vanessa Ford.
A native of Baltimore, MD, Breanna Sinclairé is a graduate of the esteemed Baltimore School for the Arts and Tanglewood Institute. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in vocal performance from the Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts, under the tutelage of Maria Fortuna Dean and Kate Conklin. She earned her Master of Music in opera from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as the first transwoman of the opera program, under the pedagogy of Ms. Ruby Pleasure.
Operatic performances include Carmen (as Carmen), Cavalli’s La Calisto (Furie), Menotti’s The Old Maid and The Thief (Miss Todd), Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, Rameau’s Platée, and Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, as well as contemporary performances in Meredith Monk’s Songs of Ascension at the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre (REDCAT) and Zachary Sharrin’s Time Bodies at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles.
Most recently, Ms. Sinclairé performed for the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Annual Convention alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington DC. She also performed at the Toronto Pride Festival, the San Francisco Trans March, the Fresh Meat Transgender and Queer Arts Festivals, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club’s 40th Anniversary Dinner, the California Academy of Sciences annual Pride Night Life event, LinkedIn’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group speaker series panel discussion (alongside civil rights leader Cecilia Chung), Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness book tour at the San Francisco LGBT Center, the Transgender Law Center’s SPARK! anniversary celebration, and the 2016 GALA Choruses Festival, alongside the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Colorado Symphony.
Ms. Sinclairé holds the distinction of being the first transwoman to sing at a national sporting event – first with the Oakland A’s, and more recently for the San Francisco Deltas. She was among Out Magazine’s 2015 “OUT100” list of LGBT heroes.
Click HERE to read Ms. Sinclairé’s interview with Baltimore OUT Loud.
Vanessa Ford taught for 15 years in DC and is currently the Director of Education for a learning non-profit. She is married to JR Ford, and they have two energetic children: Ronnie , a cis-gender 8 year old son, and Ellie, a transgender 7 year-old daughter. In 2015, when Ellie transitioned, Ms. Ford and her husband became vocal advocates for trans youth. She is on the Board of the National Center for Transgender Equality and her advocacy work can be seen in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, and on National Geographic’s Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric. She now resides in the Boston area.
How did you get involved with the National Center for Transgender Equality?
When Ellie transitioned, and we decided that we wanted to share our story as a form of advocacy, we were welcomed by NCTE to visit the office and talk about their work, and the ways they support storytelling as advocacy. We fell in love with the NCTE team when we arrived and over the next year collaborate with them, specifically Rebecca Kling, Community Storytelling Advocate, to ensure each of our pieces were written or filmed in a way that was most impactful, and respectful to our family and the trans community. Mara Keisling and the Board decided to invite me to join in May of 2017. It’s been an honor to join the organization in its work to ensure transgender people from around the country not only survive, but thrive. It’s what I want for my daughter and all others like her.
What is your background/how did you get involved with “At The Heart”?
When Ellie first told us she was a girl, we immediately reached out to see if there were any other families who were experiencing this. We needed support, and we needed guidance. The name that came up first was Debi Jackson, an amazing advocate and mom to a transgender daughter in Missouri. Debi was the first parent of a transgender child I ever talked to, and over the years has become a dear friend. “At The Heart” was written based on a beautiful piece Debi wrote and performed for a Listen to Your Mother show. That piece changed the world for families like ours, and inspired me to do my own two years later. When we heard that this piece was being performed and Debi was unable to travel to read it, I asked her permission to narrate the song on her behalf. I am honored to read her powerful words and hope to do it, her and her family justice.
Can you tell us a little more about your work as a trans ally/activist?
As a career educator, I worked tirelessly to ensure all students had access to a safe, meaningful and rich classroom environment. For much of my career, my focus was on education equity as it relates to the STEM field. However, when Ellie transitioned, I began to see the critical need for LGBTQ inclusive schools- and the intersections of education equity with trans advocacy. Because of this, I’ve approached advocacy through the lens of education — asking questions, listening, building relationships and providing the audience, whoever it may be, with knowledge that will allow them to be better allies. I firmly believe that the vast majority of people are good, that they want to do what’s best — but that they don’t have the knowledge about trans students and people that will allow them to do that. Moreover, that lack of knowledge often shows up in transphobic or homophobic ways. Education is a powerful tool, so when combined with storytelling, and connecting to another person, I believe that we can start to shift those beliefs to ones that make a safer environment for all people.
What are you most looking forward to about the concert?
Last year, my family met (GMCW member) JJ Vera and they immediately were family. They styled my son’s hair into a rainbow and the rest is history! JJ has been such an incredible part of our lives, and we attended GMCW last year when they played “Hedwig” in the And the Tony Goes To… concert. We were blown away. JJ was the one who told me that “At the Heart” was going to be performed and made the connection for me. For me, what is most exciting is honoring my friend Debi by narrating her piece, but also watching JJ perform their solo, “This is Me”. To be on that stage together will truly solidify him as one of our closest chosen family, and I am so glad I’ll get to be there to support them.
What do you hope people will take away from the song/the concert?
I want people to feel the love and affirmation pouring off that stage. I want the sounds to permeate their bodies and hearts, and help hold space for those in the audience who need it. I want people to feel inspired and connected— and most importantly, part of a community. All in that room on those days are not alone.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you to Thea Kano for this amazing opportunity. As the daughter of a choral director, choral music has paid a huge role in my life. I am honored and thankful.