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GMCLA in the Wall Street Journal

This article appears in the May 27, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

As artistic director for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, one of the largest gay choruses in the U.S., Joe Nadeau travels the country trying to make the world a more harmonious place.

The 260-member choral group is known for its performances at venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, featuring guest appearances by celebrities including Conan O’Brien,Lily Tomlin, LeAnn Rimes and the late Bea Arthur. It has released 14 CDs since its founding in 1979 and has been featured on the Academy Awards ceremony, “Will and Grace” and “Six Feet Under.”

In addition to spearheading events in Southern California, Dr. Nadeau frequently finds himself on the road.

Joe Nadeau, artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, conducting.
Joe Nadeau, artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, conducting. PHOTO: JIM GEIGER

There are national and international GMCLA performances to conduct, clinics to lead with other choirs looking to hone their skills and board meetings for the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses to attend.

But also dear to Dr. Nadeau’s heart are the opportunities he has to travel with the GMCLA on its “It Gets Better” tour. These events happen in collaboration with the national organization founded in 2010 in response to a rash of teen suicides and bullying incidents involving gay teenagers.

Volunteer members of the GMCLA tour the country, visiting communities that have seen the effects of antigay sentiment. During these weeklong trips, they hold school assemblies and organize workshops and public meetings with school and community groups, local politicians and the public. At the end of the week, the GMCLA puts on a performance incorporating music and storytelling, with the participation of local choral groups.

Dr. Nadeau packs light for jaunts around the country to guest-conduct, run choral-music clinics and promote tolerance as part of the group’s ‘It Gets Better’ tour. His carry-on bag includes, clockwise from left, conducting batons, a pitch pipe and tempo watch, chewing gum, highlighters, pen and pencil, energy bars, chargers, iPhone, musical score, an iPad for reading, notepad and business cards with the GMCLA logo and mission statement..
Dr. Nadeau packs light for jaunts around the country to guest-conduct, run choral-music clinics and promote tolerance as part of the group’s ‘It Gets Better’ tour. His carry-on bag includes, clockwise from left, conducting batons, a pitch pipe and tempo watch, chewing gum, highlighters, pen and pencil, energy bars, chargers, iPhone, musical score, an iPad for reading, notepad and business cards with the GMCLA logo and mission statement.. PHOTO: IAN SPANIER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The work isn’t always easy. Dr. Nadeau says they focus their attention on towns in parts of the country where he and his colleagues “don’t feel entirely comfortable.” The group occasionally must deal with last-minute cancellations by nervous school administrators.

Dr. Nadeau’s travel routines are simple. He likes to travel light for his short jaunts around the country. Most involve two- or three-day trips. He carries a few things to keep him comfortable for the flight, such as a towel he rolls up to save his back from uncomfortable airline seats, an escapist book and gluten-free snacks. He packs carefully so that he has a range of outfits to mix and match.

Dr. Nadeau’s pitch pipe.ENLARGE
Dr. Nadeau’s pitch pipe. PHOTO: IAN SPANIER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dr. Nadeau’s tempo watch.ENLARGE
Dr. Nadeau’s tempo watch. PHOTO: IAN SPANIER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

When it comes to clothes, he says he thinks first about his shoes and belt: “I have to decide brown or black, and all decisions flow from there.”

For a maestro, there are a few extra accouterments that make their way into the suitcase. A tuxedo, for example, and conductor’s baton are often required, and a pitch pipe and tempo watch, a type of metronome, for when he’s running clinics with singing groups.

He always has his folder of music with him, too, along with differently colored highlighters, so he can work en route and in downtime at his hotel.

Dr. Nadeau describes his work with the GMCLA in Los Angeles and around the country as an opportunity to align his musical training and his political activism.

“We like to think that we’re going out there and helping to change communities in the world and young people and such,” he says. “But when we go to schools and perform for a group of 500 middle school kids…we’re changing as well. It’s inspiring.”

Full article here.