Happy Pride Month, Yelpers! Each June, celebrations around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Just as these events honor the struggles and advances of the gay rights movement, Yelp would like to celebrate how businesses with queer connections have shaped the cities that they call home. Follow along all month as we profile some of America’s top LGBTQ small business owners, all Yelper approved.
We spoke with Michael Sattler, the Executive Manager of the Rocky Mountain Arts Association, (the umbrella non-profit of both the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus (DGMC) and Denver Women’s (DWC) Chorus) a member of DGMC, and proud member of the LGBTQAI community, to learn of his passion and story with the Rocky Mountain Arts Association (RMAA) and how they support the LGBTQAI and Denver community at large.
As a Chemical Engineer graduate of The Colorado School of Mines, it didn’t take long for Michael to fall in love with Denver and eventually call it home. After years of working in Environmental Health and Safety, it wasn’t until Michael joined DGMC 7 years ago that he knew there was another journey for him on which to embark. Inspired and galvanized by how the chorus positively changed lives, Michael took the faithful step towards an extreme career change from his former role to Executive Manager of RMAA, and has cherished it every moment since.
Q: How do you and the Rocky Mountain Arts Association support the local LGBTQAI community?
One example of the many ways that RMAA supports the LGBTQAI community is through their recent production, Home: Building Pride, Finding Family. The theme of the concert looked at what the concept of home means to people. In addition, RMAA partnered with 4 Non-Profit Organizations (NPO) that help support and aid those experiencing homelessness. One NPO in particular, Urban Peak, focuses on young people ranging from ages 15-25 who are either homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. Many of these young people don’t have the support system they need as a young gay or transgender person; the DGMC concert is not only able convey that the true meaning of home is where love and support is rather than a physical structure, but is also able to financially assist those struggling on the streets through a percentage of its ticket proceeds. Another component of the RMAA’s philanthropic outreach is their volunteer work with The Gathering Place, a daytime shelter for women and transgender women. In fact, a recent collaboration with both DGMC and DWC, RMAA raised over $2800 for the women in the The Gathering Place shelter. Additional outreach on the RMAA’s roster includes giving $6000 of ticket proceeds to their non-profit partners, collaboration with the Colorado Aids Walk (even singing the National Anthem for the walk), a performance during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Orlando Pulse shootings and many other ways of engaging the local LGBTQ community.
Q: Any Pride events happening around Denver that you’re excited about?
In addition to the Pride celebrations this past weekend in Denver where the the chorus proudly marched in the parade with their float, Anchors Away – the Denver Women’s Chorus A Capella ensemble, Take Note, will be performing live at Live at Jack’s on 16th Street Mall on June 24th. And most recently, DWC performed with the Mile Hi Freedom Band (a LGBTQ community band) for a free concert in City Park!
Q: Any advice for others out there who’d like to start their own chorus in another metro?
The first step would be to contact the GALA Choruses to receive advice, guidance and expertise on the best way to begin a chorus. GALA Choruses leads the North American GLBT choral movement, and has choruses all over – even in the most unexpected places. From Kentucky to West Virginia to Colorado, each GALA Chorus strives to change lives through music and resonates with a unified commitment and passion for community. Once you’ve established your desire to start a chorus, you’ll need to find and assign an artistic director to host auditions and start formulating a chorus and its creative direction.
Q: What other local businesses do you love supporting in Denver?
As a proponent for one of their partners, SAME Café, (So All May Eat) RMAA admires and aligns closely with their mission to create community through access to healthy food. The café sells tokens to patrons that can be given to those in need and redeemed for a nutritious meal in their restaurant. I also enjoy a fun night dancing at Tracks Nightclub and supporting the LGBTQ community through their events at the EXDO Event Center. And as a member of the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, RMAA has access to a large digest of LGBTQ-owned, operated, or allied businesses to help patronize and support.
Q: Is there anything else you can share about The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus?
DGMC is comprised of 110-130 singers, while DWC has 90-110 singers. While upholding their strict policy of no discrimination, period! – anyone that enjoys and is vocally talented can audition. Between a robust calendar of concerts and outreach endeavors, the choruses have reached approximately 8-10K people throughout Denver this year, and continues to make big plans for the future; like the commissioned, world premier piece, Stonewall 50. Scheduled for June 2019, this collaborative concert with the New York and Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choruses (among others) will commemorate the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall riots and will be performed in Denver with aspirations to travel all the way to the NYC for a hopeful performance at Carnegie Hall (fingers crossed!) with both DGMC and DWC singers.
To learn more about the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and their season that launches with a holiday concert and wraps up in June, as well as the Denver Women’s Chorus whose season kicks off in January in conjunction with the Women’s March, please visit dgmc.org and denverwomenschorus.org. There are are lot of exciting things on the horizon!