Grant will permit BGMC to make its online repertoire more accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing
BOSTON—The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) recently announced that it has been awarded a grant of $10,000 from Liberty Mutual Foundation to expand its capacity to make its music accessible to all people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The award is double that of previous grants from Liberty Mutual, which has given $5,000 to BGMC annually since 2015. The grant was increased this year to make it possible for BGMC to close caption videos that are produced for its website and social media platforms.
“Our mission is to create musical experiences that inspire change, build community, and celebrate difference. We can’t do that if an entire population has difficulty accessing our music,” said BGMC Executive Director Craig Coogan. “That’s why we’re especially grateful for our relationship with Liberty Mutual, one of Boston’s philanthropic corporate leaders, and for Liberty Mutual’s generous support of our goal to make our videos, which are viewed more than 1.5 million times a year by people around the world, more accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
BGMC began providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting in 1983, just one year after BGMC was founded. In 1989, BGMC hired LeWana Clark, Ph.D. to interpret each show, which she has done ever since, including those performed during its international tours to Poland in 2005, the Middle East in 2015, and South Africa in 2018.
“It’s a common misperception that people who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot enjoy music,” said Clark. “Music is experienced in different ways by different people and the American Sign Language interpretation greatly enhances the live experience of music for all patrons. Captioning of videos is yet another way to make the culture of music more available to a deaf or hard-of-hearing audience.”
The National Endowment for the Arts has shown that adults with disabilities make up 12 percent of the U.S. adult population, but less than seven percent of all adults who attend art events. One of the reasons for this, says B.J. Wood, a nationally known advocate for communication access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, is because creative arts organizations do not make simple accommodations available to all patrons.
“I’ve been attending concerts by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus for nearly 30 years,” said Wood, who is married to Clark. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to know that whichever concert I decide to attend will have sign language interpreting. I’m not limited to just one show that is accessible, which is the case for most of the performing arts organizations—though many still don’t even offer that.”
“Making our music accessible to everybody is so important to our mission,” said BGMC Music Director Reuben M. Reynolds III. “I get as many compliments for LeWana’s interpretation as we do for our music. She tells our stories in a way that resonates with all audience members.”
The next opportunity to see BGMC and Clark in action takes place the weekend of May 31-June 2 when BGMC perform “God Save the Queens” at Jordan Hall featuring music from The Beatles, Sir Elton John, Sting, David Bowie, Boy George, Wham, One Direction, Adele, and Queen!
About the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus is one of New England’s largest and most successful community-based choruses. Founded in 1982, the 200-voice ensemble is celebrated for its outstanding musicianship, creative programming, and groundbreaking community outreach. Under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Reuben M. Reynolds III, the BGMC sings a wide spectrum of classical and popular music and creates social change by providing a positive, affirming image of the gay and lesbian community. The Chorus is heard live by more than 10,000 people each season and thousands more through recording, television and internet broadcasts. CBS-WBZ named the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus one of the “top 5” choruses in the city of Boston. BGMC are Cultural Ambassadors — being the first LGBT chorus to perform in Poland in 2005, the Middle East in 2015 and in South Africa in June 2018.
[From a News Release]