LGBTQ Perspectives

Winter 2020

Hello! I hope that you’ve had a restful and restful winter break and are ready for a great spring! I have very much enjoyed working in this new position on the CCDA board. I would like to update you on some of the LGBTQ-related goings in in CCDA/ACDA.

At our January 2020 board meeting, we approved the following statement with regard to trans and gender expansive youth in our honor choirs:

CCDA Position on Transgender Student Equity
The California Choral Directors Association commits to be inclusive for students who identify as transgender or gender expansive. CCDA affirms that students of any gender may audition for any CCDA honor choir that matches their vocal range. Thus, transgender and gender-expansive students may be placed in any honor ensemble in which they feel comfortable. However, it would be expected that the student meets all of the expectations for that ensemble, including demonstrating the necessary vocal range for the voice part for which they are auditioning as part of their audition.
CCDA encourages its members to work with their school and county administration to ensure a positive and inclusive environment for transgender and gender-expansive students. This may include placing transgender and gender-expansive students in voice-specific ensembles (SSAA or TTBB) for which they identify, modifying vocal parts slightly, modifying uniform expectations for all students, and increased awareness of how hormone therapies may affect the singing voice.

We also passed the following statement on the 2021 National Conference in Dallas:

The State of California bans state-funded travel by state employees to eleven states with laws that discriminate against the LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, agender/aromantic/asexual/ally) community. Among these states is Texas, the site of the 2021 National ACDA Conference. In response, the California Choral Directors Association (CCDA) affirms solidarity with the LGBTQA community and supports AB 1887, through which the California Legislature states that “California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.” 

The CCDA board acknowledges that its members will make an individual decision about whether or not they will travel to the national conference and that some members will choose not to spend personal funds in a state that has laws that discriminate against the LGBTQA community. For more specifics, visit  [A longer statement can be found on our site]

These statements are very exciting. We really are leading the way nationally in terms of supporting all of our members.

I would also like to let you know about a very exciting project that I’m a part of. We’ve spearheaded a new commission consortium to bring awareness to the epidemic of violence against trans women of color in America:


Artists: Mari Esabel Valverde & Dane Figueroa Edidi

Did you know that “The senseless killing of trans women” is a rampant problem in American society? (source: Marsha P. Johnson Institute)

Vision of the Work:

  • The first in a series of choral pieces addressing the epidemic of violence, especially murders, of transgender women and in particular trans women of color (TWOC). We hope that this inspires conversations aimed at cultivating intentional solidarity with TWOC with a work created by two trans women of color. The vision is that this composition will eventually become one movement in a larger work. According to our artistic collaborators: “It’s not just one work. It’s a movement. It’s not just about honoring lives. It’s about saving lives.”
  • Length of the Musical Work = ca. 4 minutes
  • For SATB, with SSAA and/or TTBB voicings available
  • To premiere in the 2021-2022 concert season/academic year. Choruses will receive scores no later than January 1, 2021
  • Text to be written/compiled by Dane Figueroa Edidi
  • Music to be written by Mari Esabel Valverde 

Extension and Activism

  • Conversation surrounding the work is necessary and can be extremely powerful in education and activism. Ideas include, but are not limited to:
    • partnering with local organizations, schools, churches, etc.
    • coordinating composer and/or poet talks at the premiere(s) of the work, etc.
    • e-activism involving the distribution of the premiere video/audio recording
  • Option for partnerships facilitated between high-school/collegiate choirs and GALA LGBTQ Choruses (
  • Educational materials connected to the work will be provided for participating choruses.

Cost: Commissioning choruses pay a sliding fee of $300-750 to support the commission process. Includes score and curriculum for high school singers. This commission is offered free of charge to any trans chorus. 

Deadline to commit to the project has been extended to March 1, 2020.

To state your commitment to this project, please click here (Google form).

For more information, please email Joshua Palkki at

As always, if you have any LGBTQ-related questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

My best,

Josh Palkki 

Summer 2019

I am so excited to take on this new role in CCDA. To my knowledge, we are the only state to have an LGBTQ-related position on their board. We really are “leading the way” nationally and we should all be proud of that.

Some vocabulary for common ground first. “LGBTQ” gets thrown around as an acronym often, but not everyone understands what these letters actually represent. The “LGB” and “Q” signify one’s sexuality, while the “T” and sometimes “Q” represent one’s gender identity. These are separate but related concepts. Sexuality (or sexual orientation), represents to whom one is attracted (or not)—physically, emotionally, or sexually. Gender identity is one’s inner “gender compass”—the gender they know themself to be on the inside, regardless of their body. If you woke up today feeling like a woman, then that is your gender identity. Gender expression is how we represent our gender identity in the world, through things like clothing, mannerisms, hair style, voice (choral directors take heed!), and jewelry. For example, I identify as a gay cisgender man (cisgender means that my gender identity and my assigned birth sex match). The Gender Unicorn is a great way to represent these abstract concepts (courtesy of Trans Student Education Resources):

The Gender Unicorn

Something I’d like to impart in this new role is that LGBTQ issues have always existed in choral music—we just “didn’t discuss it” for a long time. When Choral Journal published an article in 1990 about GALA (Gay and Lesbian Choral Organization) Choruses, there was great backlash from the readership. When Music Educators Journal published Louis Bergonzi’s “Sexual orientation and music education: Continuing a tradition” in 2009, there were scathing letters to the editor. Progress has not come easily, but it has come. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We all have multiple layers of identity (e.g., race, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation or lack thereof, sexuality, gender) and all of these play a role in how we experience the world around us—including choral music. Queer issues can be difficult to discuss, and there are varying levels of comfort with these issues. But for many of us in the queer community, these dialogues are powerful—even life changing. Paul Caldwell and I did research before our presentation on LGBTQ issues at the 2015 National ACDA Conference in Salt Lake City. As one of our respondents said: “Choir was my lifeline. I wouldn’t have survived my youth without the beautiful escape” (Palkki & Caldwell, 2018, p. 28).

There has been a lot of great research and scholarship around LGBTQ issues in choral music in the past several years. I started as a repository for these resources. There have been three LGBT Studies in Music Education Conferences thus far and a fourth next summer at the University of Oregon.

I am open to dialogue at any time. There are many questions of late about “gendered choirs”, uniforms, rooming on tours, honor choir policies, etc. I am happy to be a sounding board for anyone in CCDA about these issues. I look forward to the dialogue and I am grateful to Dr. Benson for creating this new position.

My best,

-Joshua Palkki, PhD

Palkki, J., & Caldwell, P. (2018). “We are often invisible”: A survey on safe space for LGBTQ students in secondary school choral programs. Research Studies in Music Education, 40(1), 28–49.