Dallas Street Choir: Homeless, Not Voiceless-Dallas, Texas

There are approximately 3,900 homeless people living on the streets of Dallas, Texas according to the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s 2016 count.  That number represents a 24% increase over 2015.  These statistics frame the magnitude of the problem, but the challenge of addressing it has as many solutions as there are homeless people.  In an effort to create change, Jonathan Palant, a highly esteemed choral conductor in the area, undauntedly founded the Dallas Street Choir in October 2014.

“The Dallas Street Choir strives to offer an otherwise marginalized community of people a place to experience art, and specifically choral music. Our members come from all walks of life: 68% stay in shelters while 23% live on the streets; nearly half are in their forties and fifties; two-thirds have high school diplomas, and 64% are African American. Thus the tagline for the Dallas Street Choir is Homeless, Not Voiceless.  Our model demonstrates that participation in a consistent, structured, safe, and creatively engaging environment better equips individuals experiencing homelessness to find a job, housing and improve their overall lifestyle. For our members, we aim to provide: practical musicianship training; an environment that promotes accountability; and a community that offers compassion and hope.”  -Website   

In 2015, the choir created a music video that captures the humanity of some of the 3,900 and gives voice to their struggles.  (See below)  The Dallas Street Choir is changing the face of homelessness in Dallas and using choral music to create community in the face of formidable odds.  If you live near New York City, mark your calendars for their June 14, 2017 performance in Carnegie Hall! 

Inmate-led Goose Creek Singers "Ultimate Light In A Dark Place." Wasilla, Alaska Goose Creek Correctional Facility

The Goose Creek Correctional Facility in Wasilla, Alaska is the last place one might expect to a find a community chorus.  It houses all of Alaska's approximately 1,050 prisoners.  There, community is formed by common circumstances.  In spite of those circumstances, inmate Chris More engaged his passion for choral conducting and created a choir comprised of fellow inmates.  His effort has strengthened the bonds of community and created a sense of hope in what would seem to many to be a hopeless situation.  

Loren Holmes' December 15, 2016 story for Alaska Dispatch News tells the story of this choir.  Their recent concert attracted a large audience.  "We never get this many people showing up for one thing, not even church," said choir member Chris Binkley.  "It's almost like you can see the convict come off of people in here."  "This place isn't the way society may see it," he continued.  "This place can be full of hope, full of joy, and we can have something to live for.  There's some people with good hearts in here, who've made mistakes, but they're on the road to recovery."  At the end of the story, Chris More says "we've all seen the studies that show how music can change lives, how it's great therapy, and that's no exception here.  In fact, it's doubly so here.  It's the ultimate light in a dark place."  I invite you to learn more about this story of hope and transformation by watching Loren Holmes' piece below.