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Transgender Singing Voice Conference

The growing national conversation about transgender students in the music classroom is the subject of a new conference at Earlham College this winter.

Sponsored by Earlham’s Music Department, the Center for Social Justice and the CoLab, the Transgender Singing Voice Conference will bring together students, educators and allies for training sessions and panel discussions led by singers, composers and leaders of transgender choruses. The conference runs from Jan. 20-22 in the Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Facebook“This is the first conference of its kind,” says Assistant Director of Choral Activities Danielle Steele. “The conference will focus on etiquette, vocabulary, de-gendering the choral classroom, anti-bullying initiatives, legal protections and inclusive programming in a music setting.”

Part-time and full-time students in high school and college can attend the conference for free. So can Earlham faculty, staff and students. The fee for all other attendees is $100 per person, but one-day passes are available for people interested in specific sessions.

Founding members of Boston’s Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus, Lindsey Deaton of the Los Angeles Transgender Chorus, and composer Mari Valverde will join Steele as keynote speakers during the conference.

The ACLU, Freedom Indiana, the Indiana Transgender Network, Indiana Youth Group, and Transgender Resource also will make presentations.

In addition to this conference, Steele is pioneering research on the transgender voice as part of her doctoral studies. In May, she presented a qualitative study of two transgender students at the LGBT Studies and Music Education Conference at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. She plans to publish the research’s first case study within the next year.

"With transgender and non-binary students coming out earlier than ever before, it is vitally important that educators be equipped to provide a safe and welcoming space for all their students,” Steele says. “It is especially urgent in the music classroom, where we come to express ourselves and find community, that a teacher understand how to effectively assist a transgender singer as they go through transition to help them find a healthy and natural voice that resonates with who they are as a human being."

Through its connection with the Center for Social Justice, this conference is another example of Earlham’s distinctive approach to the liberal arts.

"Social justice is not limited to a single discipline or a single issue,” says Welling Hall, director of the Center for Social Justice. “When we embrace social justice in our curriculum, everyone can benefit in every field." 


• Transgender voices trained at Earlham CollegeNUVO Indy's alternative voice (January 11, 2017)

Real Boy

A highlight of the conference will be the film screening of Real Boy at 7:00 p.m., on Saturday, January 21, at Lingle Recital Hall in the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Real Boy is an award-winning documentary about a transgender teenager searching for his voice as a musician, a friend, a son — and a man. The documentary explores a young man’s transition and his mother’s journey. There is a post-show discussion with a member of the cast.

Admission is free and no ticket is required. The film screening is co-sponsored by Earlham’s Office of Student Life.


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Friday, January 20
3:30 p.m. Conference check-in Birenbaum Atrium,
Center for the Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA)
4:00 - 5:45 p.m. Open rehearsal
Conference Mass Choir

Clinicians: Mari Valverde, composer
Lindsey Deaton, LA Trans chorus director
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
6:00 p.m. Welcome
Welling Hall, Center for Social Justice, Earlham College
Bill Culverhouse, Director of Choral Activities, Earlham College

Opening remarks
Danielle Steele, Conference Organizer

Keynote Speaker
Lindsey Deaton, LA Trans Chorus
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
7:00 p.m. Dinner
On own - please see your packet for a list of suggested dining options and coupons
Saturday, January 21
8:30 a.m. Conference check-in

Coffee and light breakfast items provided
Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
9:00 a.m. Welcome Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
9:15 - 11:30 a.m. Allyship, etiquette, advocacy and legal training sessions

Kit Malone and Katie Blaire, American Civil Liberties Union

Lane Bannister, Indiana Youth Group
Room 216, CVPA
11:30 a.m. Lunch
(Please use meal ticket in your packet)
Runyan Center
Earlham Dining Hall
Banquet Rooms
1:00 p.m. Inclusive Programming: Incorporating Trans-Friendly Repertoire into Your Choral Program

Danielle Steele, William Sauerland, Mari Valverde and Lindsey Deaton

Video Presentation
Sandi Hammond and Mimi Lemay

With guests from Earlham College Choral Program
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
2:30 p.m.  Break
Coffee Provided
Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
3:00 p.m. Warm-ups and Pedagogy for Trans Singers
Danielle Steele

Master Class
Julie Lynn Barber, D.A.
Voice teacher, Western Kentucky University
Alexander Reeves, tenor, WKU student
Room 150, CVPA

Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
if overcrowded
4:00 p.m. Break Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
4:15 p.m. Keynote Speaker
Laurie Wolfe, Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
5:00 p.m. Dinner
on own (see info packet for suggestions)       
7:00 p.m. Movie Screening: “Real Boy”
A son’s transition, a mom’s transformation

Award-winning 2016 documentary chronicling the journey and struggles of a young, trans musician and his family.
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA
8:30 p.m. Q & A
Meet a member of the cast of Real Boy!
Room 216, CVPA
Sunday, January 22
8:30 a.m. Coffee and light breakfast items provided  Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
9:00 a.m. Welcome
Peter Blair, Center for Global Health, Earlham College

Speech Therapy, Singing and Transgender Clients:
Medicine Meets Music

Erin N. Donahue, B.M., M.A., CCC-SLP
Voice Pathologist & Singing Voice Specialist
The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis and Rehabilitation
Room 216, CVPA
10:15 a.m.  Break
Coffee Provided
Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
10:30 a.m. Reclaiming Your Body, Reclaiming Your Voice:
Using Alexander Technique and Fitzmaurice Voicework to Combat Gender Dysphoria and Free the Voice

Meagan Johnson, Alexander Technician and
Diane Robinson, Fitzmaurice Voicework trainer
Lingle Recital Hall, CVPA 
11:50 a.m. Break Birenbaum Atrium, CVPA
Noon New Directions: What’s Next?
A moderated discussion on current work in the field with an eye toward facilitating collaboration for future work. Non-researchers welcome!
Room 216, CVPA 
12:45 p.m. Closing Remarks and Closing Silence Room 216, CVPA
1:00 p.m. Depart to change the world!