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Panel: “Considering Gender in Our Choirs”

The choral experience is "gendered" in many ways, and one's singing voice may be inextricably linked with one's gender identity. For instance, calling sopranos and altos "women" and tenors and basses "men" can be problematic, as it is not necessarily true that students will identify with these assigned genders. How can we adapt our language and vocabulary for choral singers who are increasingly incongruent with gender-normative assumptions? How does the choral experience reinforce gender stereotypes? Will gender variant singers feel comfortable and safe in our choirs? From the names of our choruses to the uniforms we wear, how do we grapple with issues of gender that are wedded so deeply into the fabric of what we do and who we are?

Dr. Joshua Palkki, California State University, Long Beach — Moderator


Joshua Palkki serves on faculty of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach as Assistant Professor of Vocal/Choral Music Education. Joshua received his Ph.D. in music education (choral conducting cognate) from Michigan State University, where his dissertation explored the experiences of three transgender students in high school choral programs. At MSU, he received a university-wide award for his work on LGBTQ inclusion in choral music education. Dr. Palkki has presented at several national events including the 2015 and 2017 National ACDA Conferences, NAfME National Conference, and the Society for Music Teacher Education Symposium.

Palkki was a finalist in the graduate division of the 2011 ACDA national conducting competition while earning a master's degree in choral conducting at Northern Arizona University, and holds and an undergraduate degree in vocal/general music education from Ball State University. His K-12 career involved teaching middle and high school choral music in California and Maryland, including time at two performing arts schools in San José. Palkki remains active as a guest conductor and clinician and his writing appears in journals including Journal of Research in Music Education, Research Studies in Music Education, and Choral Journal.

Dr. Matthew Garrett, Case Western Reserve University


Matthew L. Garrett, Associate Professor of Music Education, Director of Choirs and Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies in Music, joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University in 2009. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education, conducting, and he directs the Case Concert Choir. Originally from South Carolina, Garrett holds a BME and a PhD in Choral Music Education and Conducting from Florida State University. He earned an MM in Conducting from Boston University.

Garrett's research on LGBTQ+ issues in music education is published in Research Studies in Music Education, Bulletin for the Council of Research in Music Education, and UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Education. He is an active member of the CWRU LGBTQA Committee and founded an interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ research group. He recently received the CWRU Prism award for outstanding contributions to the campus LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging his role in securing transition-related healthcare for transgender faculty and staff members.

Garrett is an active clinician/adjudicator and has conducted choruses throughout the Eastern US. He has presented at state, national, and international music education conferences in the areas of developing critical thinking skills in music classrooms, choral pedagogy, and diversity in public school and higher education learning environments.

Dr. Amelia Nagoski, Western New England University


Amelia Nagoski is assistant professor and coordinator of music at Western New England University (WNE), where she conducts three choirs, and teaches courses in music appreciation, theory, and psychology. As a trained Safe Person at WNE, her office is designated a campus Safe Space for LGBTQIA students. She holds a DMA in conducting from the University of Connecticut, MM in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College, and BM in music education from the University of Delaware, as well as certification in Tai Chi practice leadership from the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi. Her academic research focuses on music psychology, especially music making as embodied cognition, and the intersection of art and identity. She is a co-author with her identical twin sister, wellness educator Emily Nagoski, PhD, of their forthcoming book on feminist wellbeing, Burnout (Simon & Schuster, 2018).

Dr. Jace Saplan, Hamilton College


Dr. Jace Saplan is an assistant professor of music and the director of choral activities at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. At Hamilton College, Dr. Saplan conducts the Hamilton College Choir and the College Hill Singers and teaches courses on Hawaiian music, indigenous vocal music as protest, and the intersections of music, gender, and sexuality.

A scholar and advocate of native Hawaiian choral music and queer indigenous agency in music, Dr. Saplan is the artistic director of Nā Wai Chamber Choir, a professional women’s choir in Honolulu dedicated to the preservation and propagation of Hawaiian choral music. He is a satellite music curriculum specialist and instructional coach for Kamehameha Schools, Hawaiʻi’s largest K–12 Native Hawaiian-serving educational institution. Dr. Saplan is also the founder of Eō, an Indigenous Hawaiian non-profit organization that uses community singing as a tool for inclusivity and cultural belonging for queer Native Hawaiian youth.

Dr. Saplan has presented interest sessions at the state, regional, and national level for the National Association for Music Educators, the American Choral Directors Association, and LGBT Studies and Music Education conferences. He received his DMA from the University of Miami and MM from the University of Oregon.

Ms. Danielle Steele, Earlham College


Danielle Steele enjoys a multifaceted career as a conductor, educator, clinician and singer. Danielle serves as the interim director of choral activities at Earlham College where she directs the Women’s Chorus, Concert Choir, and Chamber Singers. Danielle’s ensembles regularly tour the East Coast and Midwest, with upcoming performances in Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington D.C. She recently finished her tenure as interim director with MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Chorus. Prior to Earlham, Danielle held the position of director of education for Indianapolis Opera.

Danielle received her education at Butler University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City.

Danielle is the organizer of the national Transgender Singing Voice Conference, a bi-annual conference exploring the unique needs of transgender singers and intersecting issues that affect transgender musicians’ lives.

Her current research involves the integration of transgender singers into their preferred gender ensemble and vocal pedagogy for transgender singers. Danielle continues to work across the country with music education programs as they seek to better prepare their pre-service teachers to work with the needs of transgender singers.

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