The Mission of Bridging Voices (the Portland GSA Youth Chorus) is to create a safe, welcoming and accessible place for queer, straight, and questioning youth to experience empowerment and unity through music. We believe bridges are better than walls and aim to break down the foundations of homophobia and transphobia through diversity and visibility.
Bridging Voices is Portland’s only Queer/Straight Alliance Chorus for youth, one of just twelve in the nation. It is a NON-AUDITION chorus—meaning everyone can participate—and it serves the greater Portland metro area, with students coming together from as far away as Banks, Vancouver, Gresham, Hillsboro, Canby and Wilsonville.
Bridging Voices is also a place for youth to be themselves—without excuses or explanations. One parent wrote about Bridging Voices: “I have seen some kids come in through the door with dark, stormy clouds over their heads and in a matter of months, one day a week, transform into more confident young adults who are comfortable sharing what’s on their minds and for once, being themselves.”
One member said: “I was treated like family. Never in my life have I felt more comfortable with myself. For the first time the words I sang weren’t just words but the fuel to my fight for equality and the human right to love whomever I choose. This concert didn’t just bring me closer to myself or my cause, but also to my family. Following the concert my crying mother told me how proud she was of me.”
Rehearsals are held most Sundays, at 5:00pm at Waverly Heights UCC (3300 SE Woodward Street). Youth, ages 13-22, are encouraged to bring a friend and drop-in on a rehearsal. Check out the Join Us page or for the most up-to-date information go to our Facebook page at facebook.com/bridgingvoices. Have questions or need more details? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
History: In June 2013, Paul Davis (minister at St. Stephens Episcopal Church) teamed up with Colin Frey (Music Director of Waverly Heights UCC), and Jared Brayton Bollenbacher (Artistic Director of Seattle’s Diverse Harmony QSA Youth Chorus) to raise money for a youth chorus in Portland by holding a concert.
After that performance, Paul and Colin joined Adam Schecter and Mark Clift, both members of Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, to set up a series of meetings with Waverly Heights leaders and other community members, including founding Advisory Board member Rebecca Bard and her daughter, Rachel. Together, they launched Portland’s first GSA Youth Chorus. Waverly Heights generously served as host for the new youth chorus, providing free rehearsal space and a home, while Colin Frey volunteered as Music Director.
The formation of the chorus, then named The GSA Youth Chorus, was officially announced at Waverly’s Pride Sunday service on June 16, 2013 and our friends, Diverse Harmony traveled from Seattle in support and song for this momentous occasion. The first official rehearsal was held, July 2013 with a handful of singers.
On December 28, 2013 at the 15th anniversary celebration of SMYRC (Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center), the choir had it’s very first performance. It would not have been possible without the tremendous support from PFLAG and the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC (United Church of Christ) as well as, initial encouragement, mentorship, and advice from Diverse Harmony and GALA, the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Choruses.
More performances followed and in May of 2014, at its Waverly Heights home the youth chorus produced an entire concert. At the end of its second season, founding Artistic Director, Colin Frey announced he had been accepted into a highly competitive graduate conducting program, and would be stepping down from his role with the chorus. Local musician (and volunteer from the chorus’ first year), Erik Gullickson, seamlessly stepped in as the new Artistic Director. This was also the time when the name of Bridge City’s official GSA Youth Chorus transitioned to Bridging Voices.
Now in its 4th season and with over 60 performers, Bridging Voices continues to connect a vibrant group of youth in a safe and welcoming place, through the power of music.