Transgender singing voice subject of new conference on campus | Earlham College Skip to Content

Transgender singing voice subject of new conference on campus

December 12, 2016

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.

“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." 

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


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