Communities in Harmony

Lesbian/Feminist Chorus, Amasong, Transforming Community of Champaign-Urbana, IL

The United States has a long tradition of feminist activism.  We’ve come a long way since the women’s suffrage movement began at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1868.  From its inception, the feminist movement has included a multiplicity of voices and individuals with intersecting social identities.  Audre Lorde famously said, "Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference -- those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older -- know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.” (Sister Outsider:  Essays and Speeches)

That is exactly what Dr. Kristina Boerger decided to do when she created The Amasong Chorus in the small Illinois college town of Champaign-Urbana.  Amasong is a play on the words amazon and song.  Boerger said, “The word amazon conjures up images of strong women who make their own decisions. It was a way of coding our group in a certain way.”  She did not find a place to fit in when she, as a student pursuing a master’s degree in choral conducting, first moved to the town that bridges rural and urban identities.  She decided to use the art of choral singing to give voice to and create community for a diverse group of women who shared her passion for activism. 

The chorus has grown from a roomful of women who responded to a flyer posted around town to a nationally recognized choral ensemble comprised of women who are diverse in interest, age and experience.  Now in their 26th season, the group champions works by female composers, performs two annual concerts, hosts choral festivals and marches in the local C-U Pride Parade.  In 2002, Jay Rosenstein produced a PBS documentary that tells the story of Amasong called The Amasong Chorus:  Singing Out. Now under the direction of Jill Crandall, the chorus continues to welcome women and to give voice to lesbians and feminists in the Champaign-Urbana area and beyond.  

Florida State University Chorus and Gadsden Correctional Facility Chorus form FSU-MTC Glee Club-“Balm in Gilead”

The Gadsen Correctional Facility (Quincy, FL) is a privately owned women’s correctional facility that houses approximately 1,530 prisoners for the Florida Department of Corrections.  Florida State University (Tallahassee) is comprised of 16 separate colleges with nearly 42,000 students enrolled.  These institutions located 25 miles apart had nothing in common until Shelly Sonberg (Warden of Gadsen) invited Dr. Judy Bowers (Professor of Choral Music Education/FSU) to work with the women’s choir at the facility.  Hesitant at first, Dr. Bowers’ mind was changed after spending two hours working with the women.  Since her first visit in the spring of 2015, she has been taking a group of nearly twenty FSU College of Music student and faculty volunteers to Gadsen each week for a two-hour joint rehearsal. 

The program has shaped her students’ view of the world and has proven to be a powerful education tool, particularly when it comes to developing empathy and compassion for others. Sonberg says, “What she can do in an hour and a half with women who maybe have never taken a music class in their life or never thought they could sing — she teaches them how to read basic music, teaches them about theory, takes the time to talk about the origin of music.  It truly is a learning experience for the women. That’s just the beginning. They may be shy, but suddenly they are doing something that is deep, personal, intimate … and they’re sharing.“

"The students come and they love us because we're people just like they are. We made a mistake and we're learning from it," said glee club member Jenifer Lockwood.  Bowers says “I do know that what we are doing for the prisoners is good for them, but I’m going to tell you very selfishly that it is good for the FSU kids,” Bowers said.  The FSU-MTC Glee Club was invited to perform with the Tallahassee Community Choir, comprised on over 200 singers and conducted by Dr. Andre Thomas.  The MTC Glee Club recorded their performance in advance because they were not able to physically attend the performance.  The concert theme: “Praise & Redemption —the power of song.”  Learn more about how choral music is being used to build bridges in the greater Tallahassee community by watching the video below. 


The Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix, organized in 1929, is the longest continuously performing arts group in the state of Arizona.  During World War II, the chorus performed with 21 singers because many of their other members, including the director, were serving in the military.  According to their website, men from all walks of life sing in the chorus including teachers, students, businessmen, ministers, attorneys, doctors, salesmen, law enforcement officers, and construction workers.  The group has performed in fourteen countries, as well as many cities in the United States. 

During its storied past, the group has managed to adapt to changing times in relevant ways.  In the past decade, the chorus has rebuilt its membership from 28 to over 75 members and bolstered its commitment to strengthening the broader community.  In addition to multiple music performances, the group sponsors Boys to Men, an annual music festival promoting community-wide access to choral training and development of young male singers.  Orpheus has performed for more than 1,000 students in three city elementary schools, annually sponsored a singer in the Phoenix Children’s Chorus, and performed outreach concerts in retirement communities and for the benefit of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Association, Hospice of the Valley, and Arizona Children’s Center among organizations.  Members also engage in community outreach by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Race for the Cure, local food pantries and Rosie’s House, a music academy for children.

The chorus continues to sustain its commitment to the art of choral singing while using its collective actions to make a difference in the Phoenix metro area.