North Coast Men’s Chorus: A Family of Friends Singing Our Hearts Out
By Tom Dlugopolosky, (2nd from left in the photo opposite) Financial Planner at Skylight Financial Group*
I love singing. Ok - I’ve said it. But for one reason or other I stopped singing for a good number of years. Back in middle and high School I sang in choirs but then other things took over and I got out of the way of singing - just one of those things I guess. Then over the last few years, some of the friends that I hang out with started asking me to join the North Coast Men’s Chorus which is a 100-strong male chorus and the largest LGBT arts organization in North East Ohio. And to be honest, despite them nudging me for nearly two years, I didn’t really give it any serious thought. I think in the back of my mind, I was concerned about being the only straight guy there. Then one evening, I was watching The Voice and listening to one of the singers butchering a song and I started making up funny lyrics on the spot and singing them with my mom (this is something we often used to do together). When we stopped goofing off, my mom said that she missed me singing. I mentioned the North Coast Men’s Chorus and she looked at me and said “you’re going to have to join now.” So that was is – the next Sunday I was at rehearsal.
I have to admit that I was pretty terrified about joining! It was a big thing for me. I had to audition and put myself out there and I was very conscious of being one of the few straight guys there. I cocooned myself around my friends but by the second week I started loving every minute of it … it was kind of like getting over that awkward first date! I also had to get used to singing again. Imagine not playing sport for 10 years and then returning…. well, it’s like that with singing as you need to learn to breathe properly again and strengthen muscles.
Not only has it been a return to singing but it’s also been a welcome return to performing. My first show was right after the Orlando shooting, I have to admit to being a bit scared about performing and got an understanding of the fear the LGBT community has to go through. Luckily everyone who comes to our concerts seems to leave overwhelmingly happy and entertained. And the buzz you get from an appreciative audience quickly calmed all my fears! What I also like about the Chorus is that many of our concerts make a political statement to help spread a message of acceptance for the LGBTQ community but what’s particularly effective is that we can do this subtly as we are able to entertain AND get a message across at the same time.
Another thing I love about the Chorus is that we integrate ourselves with the Cleveland community and give of our time and talent to many worthy causes. This ranges from College/Youth Outreach programs to performing in support of charitable organizations throughout the year. Recently I had the pleasure of singing at a Providence House (A Crisis Nursery) event which the Chorus has partnered with for many years. I’m also hoping in the future that FLARE, which is a new young professionals network group that Skylight’s LGBT Resource Team (of which I’m also a member) recently kicked off will partner with the Chorus College Outreach program as there is a great synergy in what both groups do. I am also helping to plan a karaoke night in Skylight’s penthouse in March for; Playhouse Square Partners, the North Coast Men’s Chorus and Windsong (Cleveland’s only feminist chorus) - more fun and integration lies ahead!
So, I’ve now been in the North Coast Men’s Chorus for nearly 8 months and it’s been great to rediscover something I lost. I’ve been so accepted as a straight person by the gay community and outside of singing, we get to socialize regularly together which helps us get to really know one another. My experience has been nothing short of awesome and the chorus really holds my interest – a combination of my love for singing and being with a varied group of guys. For me, it brings together a great community of people and the chorus just happens to be the connection!
Thanks Tom for sharing your story. If you fancy catching Tom and the North Coast boys, the Heart Throbs concert is taking place on March 25 & 26. Check out the flyer for further details or visit the website.
* Tom Dlugopolosky is an associate and financial planner at Skylight’s Cleveland office where he offers comprehensive financial planning services to young professionals and families, small business owners and pre-retirees. He is also an associate in the LGBT Resource Team and understands the concerns and unique financial needs of LGBT individuals, couples and their families. He provides tools and resources to help LGBT individuals or couples achieve their goals and is committed to supporting better understanding, inclusion and diversity for LGBT members in our community.
Thomas Dlugopolsky is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC OSJ:2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680.