As it is, this is the last Concordian of the 2018-2019 school year. That means it’s the last chance I have to play the “Conco Critic” and openly discuss my concerns about Concordia College and its organizations. So far, it’s been a great run. I’ve had a chance to openly engage in conversations about diversity, inclusivity and acceptance on campus. However, I still think these topics are important to talk about. The discussion can’t stop now, and it cannot be limited to select institutions on campus. The way policies are written now, many of our organizations on campus struggle to be entirely inclusive. Whether it’s the theatre department, athletics or student government, our collegiate institutions struggle both in language and policy to include our trans and non-binary students. Personally, I have seen these issues arise in one of our top musical ensembles: The Concordia Choir
For the 2018-2019 school year, I was a member of The Concordia Choir. Overall, it’s a great ensemble. We are a group of dedicated individuals who truly want to make and create music. As a choir, we rehearse around 7-8 hours a week, memorize and learn copious amounts of repertoire and commit ourselves to a two-week tour across the nation. The sound we make is beautiful. For some people, it is a group where they feel supported, listened to and respected. For others, it’s not quite the same.
While this may seem like a letter of personal grievances, I really want it to be the beginning of a conversation. I want The Concordia Choir to be an organization that thrives in every aspect of its existence. I already think it’s a beautiful place to make music. I already know the choir and Dr. Clausen demand discipline, attention, and time. That’s wonderful! However, I think the choir can be better.
Over the past few weeks, I have started conversations with Dr. Culloton and The Concordia Choir board about changing some of the current policies of Concordia’s choir ensembles to be more inclusive and accepting. My biggest concern is changing the traditions about language and dress code to accommodate and include our trans and non-binary friends. In our ensembles, there is absolutely no reason that we should be using binary language, especially if we have non-binary students within our ensembles. The sections of the choir can be referred to as soprano, alto, tenor and bass, not women and men. If it’s an all soprano-alto choir, it can be a treble choir. If not, it can be a bass chorus, lower clef chorus, etc.
We also need to be aware of our dress codes and adapt them to be gender neutral. No student should be obligated to conform to a binary dress standard. If I want to wear a suit and tie, I should be able to! If someone wants to wear the iconic early 2000s Brittney look (skirt, tie, button up) on tour, they should be able to! We can change our language to allow our students to feel comfortable and accepted in rehearsals, in handbooks and in dress expectations. And we’re starting to, but as they say, it takes a village.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a change that is going to happen overnight. It’s also not a change I can demand solely from The Concordia Choir board, Dr. Clausen and Dr. Culloton. It’s a change I can demand from all of you. Over one-third of our students are involved in a music ensemble. Over one-third of our students are participating in these ensembles and traditions. Over one-third of us have the opportunity and the chance to help advocate for our non-binary and trans friends. Believe me, this is a conversation I cannot have by myself. My goals after this article are generally as follows: 1) begin the conversation about transphobic/homophobic language and traditions, 2) raise awareness of these important issues, 3) acknowledge the efforts of The Concordia Choir board, Dr. Culloton and Dr. Clausen in recognizing and changing these traditions and 4) ask for support and understanding from the student body.
This is a conversation we can all have. We have the opportunity to make our ensemble spaces more inclusive, welcoming and accepting. We have the chance to change the traditions of The Concordia Choir to better ourselves, our community and our choir. I really hope we take it.