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Desert Voices "Why I Sing" Member Profiles

  

Kelly Kurtz (Tenor and Founding Member)

WHO I AM

I am one of the founding members of Desert Voices and have been joyously singing in the chorus on and off for the past 26 years--half my life! My musical training, however, is not in choral singing. Throughout my previous career in music, I played clarinet and alto saxophone. I attended the University of AZ and have a Bachelor's in Music with a major in instrumental music education.

 

For the next 9 years, I taught marching bands, choruses, guitar ensembles, elementary bands and even a marimba band!

 

Although I no longer teach music, I discovered my 2nd work passion through my teaching experience: I began to notice how many young people come to school with serious problems in their lives. I sought out a career in mental health and have since earned a Masters degree in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy.

 

I am now a Certified School Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I teach in the graduate counseling program at the University of Phoenix and counsel students at a local high school. I enjoy my work, but I especially revel in continuing my connection to music through singing with Desert Voices.

 

WHY I SING

I had my first choral music experience in 1987. While living in Winkelman, AZ, I was asked to join a very small community chorus of about 15 members. I immediately responded by saying, “I don’t sing; I play instruments!” After much cajoling, I decided to attend one rehearsal. I have been hooked on choral music ever since!

 

I sing because singing gives meaning to my life. There is nothing more spiritually fulfilling than singing with others. It is a unique experience to lose oneself in the emotion and power of a song.

 

Music has the potential to change lives, elicit deep emotion and transform the world. Singing brings me joy and is a constant invitation to improve my skills as a musician. I cannot imagine my life without singing!

 

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

There are so, so many reasons why I sing with Desert Voices. DV members have always and will continue to be my extended family. When I came out in 1987, I felt very alone and had a difficult time feeling accepted in the world. Joining Desert Voices two years later was the most beneficial decision I have ever made. Each week, I look forward to rehearsal and to the fun and laughter we share as we work hard to be our best.

 

Desert Voices also provides an opportunity for me to express my passion for music. I have had the opportunity to work with fine conductors who have contributed to my growth as a musician.

 

One of the most important benefits of being a part of Desert Voices, however, is that I found my lovely spouse! With the support of fellow chorus members, I was finally courageous enough to ask Carol out on a date. As they say, the rest is history. We have just celebrated our 5th anniversary!

 

Throughout the past 26 years with Desert Voices, I have had the privilege of experiencing a sense of community like no other. Many thanks to our chorus family for your support and love. If this sounds appealing to you, I hope you will join us!

 

 

Norb Peil (Bass)

WHO I AM

I’m 65, a licensed massage therapist, and in my 5th season singing Bass in Desert Voices. I enjoy life, give great massages, and I travel with my wife of 38 years and our daughter every chance I get.

 

I am an Air Force veteran, have a B.A. in Psychology as well as a Doctor of Ministry degree. I served as an ordained minister for over 20 years, in NC, VA, West VA, TX, and CA--until 11 years ago when, at the strong urging of my doctor ("Reduce stress and change your lifestyle or die early!") I resigned my pastoral position. I moved to Tucson to study massage therapy at the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts.

 

WHY I SING

I started singing when I joined a high school choir and discovered the choir comradery. I was hooked, and over the years I sang in church choirs and occasionally in community choruses.

 

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

I was invited to sing with DV by the partner of a singer who, when she heard I liked to sing, spent the next half hour telling me how great the choir was and how much I would enjoy singing with them. How could I resist? I came to rehearsal, was welcomed warmly, was challenged by the music, and became part of a family.

 

I continue to sing not only because of the friendships I have formed, but also because I feel that in some small way I can “be the change I want to see” while also doing something constructive (after a transformative change in consciousness) to repair the damage caused in a homophobic past:

 

In my early years of church work, I was quite conservative in most things, especially in LGBT issues, and acted accordingly. Then, in 1991, I was randomly selected to serve on the Committee on Human Sexuality at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We were to make recommendations for action on a Report that favored full acceptance of LGBT folks.

 

While studying the report and interviewing people from all sides of the issue, I came to the realization that the people who more clearly demonstrated the gospel were from the LGBT community. I recognized my own homophobia. And when I apologized for it in an open meeting, it made the NY Times (which was among the many news agencies following the debate).

 

The More Light Presbyterians accepted my apology and pronounced forgiveness. Thus began my lifelong commitment to promote equality for all persons. It's important to me, as an Ally, to raise my voice with my sisters and brothers until we stand in equality in life as on the stage. This is WHY I SING.

 

 

William and Becca Carroll (Bass, Soprano)

WHO I AM

WILL: I am 75, an avid reader, armchair genealogy researcher, and above all a Singer! I am becoming healthier again, since my daughter now "drags" me to the gym every week. I am in my 2nd season with Desert Voices.

 

I was born in Atlanta, GA, and came to Tucson at age 11 in 1950. During Christmas break in 6th grade, my voice changed; I went from singing soprano in the Christmas program, to bass when I returned. I was in the first graduating class from Catalina High School in 1957. I got my BA and Master's Degrees at the UofA.

 

In 1966, Becca's mother & I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I lived there for 42 years. After I was single again, I sang professionally in the SF Symphony Chorus and then the SF Opera Chorus, plus singing solos and roles with other Bay Area companies and churches.

 

My favorite non-singing job was running a snack table at UC Berkeley's English Language Program for college students from all over the world. I loved visiting with them; I even got to sing for them! After I retired, I lived for four years in rural east Texas with family. Then, a year and a half later, I moved to Tucson to be near Becca.

 

BECCA: I am 44, an avid birdwatcher, and a transplant to Tucson from the SF Bay Area. I ought to be a native, though, since my parents met & married in Tucson and only later moved away and had me, an inherent desert rat. I graduated with a BA in Dramatic Art, minoring in Ethnic Studies, and achieved Phi Beta Kappa while attending U.C. Berkeley. This is my 10th season with Desert Voices.

 

As an adult, I kept seeking warmer climes, and new birds to see, within the Bay Area until my second company-wide layoff in 4 years prompted me to follow my mother and stepfather to Tucson, a birder’s mecca. But I was very lucky to grow up where and when I did, with the family and community and schools and church that I had--I was never taught to hate myself or others.

 

I work in accounting, love to write, and I live with Pat, my amazing, funny and wonderful partner of 6 years; 3 cats; and a pit bull, whose kisses, grins and wiggles have taught me to love this much-maligned breed.

 

WHY I SING

WILL: Even as a kid, I hummed Mozart-like tunes while I was playing with my bottle-top armies, their commanders my toy soldiers, and their stuffed-animal generals. (Well, it was during WWII!) In addition to classical and church music, my family liked Broadway shows and operettas, and I remember us all singing around the piano with Dad playing an oompah bass.

 

Later, in Tucson, Dad would pick all of us boys up after school and we would ride home, four basses singing "The Lord's Prayer", "How Great Thou Art", etc. My first solo in school was in junior high: "Let My People Go". I was moved by the power of the words and the music, and that has been my main inspiration in singing: great music wedded to great words.

 

BECCA: I grew up with music: Dad sang in church choirs and Mom played piano. Even my tone-deaf step-dad performed in church musicals. Julie Andrews records sang me to sleep when I was little; when I got a bit older, I hummed along to the Star Wars soundtracks, not just the melodies, mind you, but the ENTIRE soundtracks. I think they’re still committed to memory!

 

I regularly sang in school choruses, later church choirs, and learned to play piano, clarinet and oboe, playing in various youth orchestras. The concept of music-as-ministry in my life first really hit me when I performed in Hair at my Catholic high school (!!). The spirit of it, the social justice message, set to really cool tunes, still rings true.

 

Years later, another huge highlight for me was singing Mozart’s Requiem here in Tucson during the worldwide Rolling Requiem on the first anniversary of 9/11. Music, specifically singing, has become my ministry, of sorts…not about religion or God, as I’m adamantly agnostic, but about justice, spirit, fun, healing and community.

 

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

WILL: My daughter! Before I moved back here, I visited Becca several times and attended Desert Voices rehearsals each time. I was impressed with the type of music they sang and the quality of their singing. Also, I was moved by the chorus's friendliness in welcoming "ol' Dad" to rehearsals, and I could see how much the group liked and appreciated my daughter, and she them. So when I came to Tucson to live, it was natural for me to join DV.

 

I sang two summers ago in the gathering in Tucson of all the LGBTQIA groups in AZ, a great experience, and I even got to sing a "duet" of several measures with Becca! Then, a year ago, Shawn came as our interim director and put me in the Holiday program as a grumpy Santa. I am so glad that this year the group has grown and has a really impressive governing board.

 

I have always been sympathetic with folks who were "underdogs", especially in America. Groups who were discriminated against have always had my support, whether it was because of being against the war in Vietnam, or being racial or ethnic minorities or women.

 

It took me a while to become aware of things LGBT, but I soon was convinced that I should "talk the talk". Then, when Becca came out, I discovered that it was a little tougher "walking the walk". Since then, as my brother told me, we have all grown. I told Becca that in my mind it was like a piece fitting into a puzzle; it was just right.

 

Several members of DV have come up to me and said that they really appreciated how Becca and I act with each other, that their families were not so supportive of them. I was quite touched, as I have been several times when members have spoken up about their history.

 

So I am honored to be a member of this joyful, talented bunch of singers and human beings! I guess I would be called an "ally", but I think of myself as FoF---Family of Family!

 

BECCA: I joined Desert Voices because I had previously attended a fun and moving holiday concert, and my girlfriend at the time was already a member. I stayed after the breakup because I had found a home and family here.

 

I am still here 10 years later! I love the variety of music. I love the high performance standards to which we’ve been held. I love how we welcome everyone. I don’t think I’d stick around if we were limited in composition or had to identify a certain way—inclusivity is too important to me, and while I enjoy hearing all-women’s or men’s groups, I much prefer to sing with mixed voices.

 

I love how we lovingly challenge each other and our audience to learn and grow and heal, so often through laughter. And attending the 2012 GALA Choruses Festival in Denver together was an amazing experience, akin to the Olympics, joining our brother/sister LGBTQIA choruses from all over the world in song.

 

I love how much fun we have. I have sung under a number of choral directors in my life, but my two extra-favorites have been right here with Desert Voices because of their breadth of knowledge and ability, commitment to excellence, humor, and friendship. But it runs even deeper than that: I love them as brothers.

 

I love that my dad now sings in DV, too, and that my partner serves on the Board. It’s truly a family affair! I love how I have grown musically and personally through weaving Desert Voices into my life. I can’t think of a better place to sing.

 

 

Sylvia Kerns Yeager (Alto)

WHO I AM

I am 75 years old, an Alto, and this is my 23rd season with Desert Voices. My partner Becky and I have been together for 15 years as of tomorrow!

I was raised in Indiana and graduated with a BA in Health, Physical Education & Recreation. I moved to Rochester, NY and taught Physical Education & Health at the college level until 1983, when I moved to Sonoita, AZ with my husband & two children.

I opened a restaurant there, The Cactus Flower, which I ran for 10 years. My marriage ended during that time, but then I met these women on motorcycles ……..! Not too long after, I sold the restaurant and moved to Tucson (to be with gay people!), where I worked in the Parks and Rec Dept. until retirement in 2001.

WHY I SING

All my life I have been involved with singing. It is an essential need for me. I especially loved singing at Girl Scout camp where all music was a cappella, and I could harmonize to my heart’s content. I sang in church choirs for 30 years. I even formed a trio in the restaurant with two of my workers where we entertained our diners and sometimes out in the community.

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

I joined Desert Voices, at the urging of friends. I had no idea of the impact it would have on my life! Joining a GALA singing group gave me a vehicle for coming out slowly to my family and coworkers. Or so I had planned....

However, more quick public exposure came via a group photo published on the front page of the entertainment section of the Tucson Citizen. But you know what? The public announcement of my "gayness" made no difference to the people I worked with and saw on a daily basis. That, along with my DV family, has given me the strength and yes courage to keep coming out and supporting the LGBT community.

As an older member of the chorus, it has been challenging at times as far as memorization is concerned. But, as some of us grey haired folk claim, we are preventing Alzheimer's by continuing to use our little gray cells!

Being a part of this group has allowed me, over the years, to exercise my satiric sense of humor in the parodies I have written for a quartet composed of a variety of wonderful women with me as the “reining baritone". I thank all singers and especially the artistic directors, past and present, for indulging me.

When I fantasize about retiring from the group, I begin to think about the people I would have missed getting to know had I done so. Not knowing these many fabulous people would have been a huge loss. And since my partner continues to encourage me and is a non-singing member of Desert Voices herself, previously as office manager and now as a Board Member, retirement is not even in the long range picture.

As a mixed chorus, not only do we have men, women, and transgender people, we have all ages, backgrounds and personalities. We come together as a family and, together, we make wonderful music. I am so proud and thankful to be a member of Desert Voices. This is WHY I SING.

 

 

Aedan Fregoso (Tenor)

WHO I AM

I am a 31 year old, queer tenor. An introvert, a recluse, and a wee bit of a curmudgeon... basically picture the main character from "Up", only 40 years younger and without the "Greatest Love of All" back-story (or the follow through to blow up a million balloons... I'd hit balloon number three, go: "Oooo, shiny" and run off to play with the dog). I am sarcastic and have a quirky sense of humor... some people might say I use humor as a means of masking my insecurities... and those people would probably be right. I also have a tendency to over use ellipses... sorry.

 

I was born and raised in Tucson, graduated from Tucson High and the University of Arizona, and stick around this town because my wonderful family is here. I love my dogs, my handful of dear friends, singing and shoulder-dancing in my car, art, writing, and long walks on the beach at sunrise... yeah.

 

WHY I SING

I was born into a family of singers. My grandfather was a choir director and met my grandmother while she was singing in one of his church choirs. Similarly, my parents met while singing in choir at Pueblo High School, a group also directed by my grandfather. The sound of singing always filled my household and still does. In fact, my father is a proud member of our brother GALA chorus, Reveille.

 

I started out singing in St. Philip's children's choir then moved on to musical theatre, youth choir, and high school choir. But I didn't really discover my voice until a friend took me to karaoke for my twenty-first birthday... it's amazing what a few shots of tequila can do for an otherwise shy, quiet guy.

 

Why do I sing? Because I love it! Singing is therapeutic. It's a way to say how you feel, express words you'd never have the courage to say out loud, and release pent-up energies.

 

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

After 10 years of not participating in any choirs, several people suggested giving Desert Voices a try. With a bit of coaxing and a heavy dose of Xanax, I eventually overcame my social anxiety enough to find myself auditioning. In Desert Voices I found a second home and family. Every individual in the group is a 'beautiful and unique snowflake', but our differences along with our common ties bind us into a harmonious resonance of glorious music.

 

This family makes performing fun. Rehearsals are filled with laughter and each arrival is greeted with smiles and hugs. It's a choir in which I genuinely feel accepted for every part of who I am.

 

I have been a member of Desert Voices on and off for the last three seasons. One other aspect that keeps me coming back for more is the amazing allies who sing in our ranks. If I was asked to name off all the straight members of the choir, I simply couldn't (and that's not just because I'm terrible with names). There are no lines dividing us, no walls separating us, no one running around proclaiming their heterosexuality.

 

This wonderful group of people gives me a peek at how the world should be, as well as the hope that maybe one day that is exactly the way the world will be.

 

 

Chad Michael Mosher (Bass)

WHO I AM

I am a cellist, amateur iPhone photographer, counselor & program coordinator for Living Out Loud.... and a new Desert Voices Bass singer and Board Member!

 

I am originally from upstate NY/New England & moved here 10 years ago for a psychology internship @ the VA Hospital. I stayed because of the mountains & landscape--I thought I knew what a sunset looked like until I saw the sun set in Tucson!

 

My sister & parents lives in New England--They don't appreciate cacti, and I am not a fan of humidity or snow. My cat, Romeo, and dog, Elepheba, keep me entertained at home. I am currently single.

 

I played the cello for about 30 years, really wanting to be in a punk rock band. I never did join a punk band, or a band at all, because my cello and my education always came first, but one day I hope that dream comes true. Now, I am a counselor and administrator for an LGBTQI health and wellness center, and I love to sing with Desert Voices.

 

WHY I SING

Why sing? Because I always thought I had a terrible voice! I sang when I was young, but when my voice changed I became self-conscious and fearful. Cello was my voice. But once I started learning guitar, it was inevitable that I learn to sing. Both my guitar playing & singing are still in their infancy stages, but I sing because it feels so darn good!

 

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES

I sing with Desert Voices, an LGBTQIA group, because of the sound, the philosophy of togetherness, and the hope that we can be stronger as a cohesive community. I enjoy singing in a mixed chorus because the spectrum is fully represented. Aesthetically, the sound spectrum can be more fully present in a mixed chorus. Politically, there are many other places in society for divisions and segregated groups.

 

Besides, there are no LGBTQIA cello or string ensembles here, sol...fa me re do I sing with Desert Voices. Plus, where else do I get to sing a low E-flat? (My office-mates don't get as enthused as the bass section does.)

 

Desert Voices has been an inclusive, creative, humble, and veiled treasure in Tucson. I could give a long explanation about the social justice, feminist, advocacy implication of Desert Voices, and I will if asked... but why I sing with Desert Voices is because I felt a sense of belonging, and it is... FUN!

 

One of the songs we sing, "Choose a Box," expresses a societal pressure to fit into clearly defined rules about an identity. I came out as bisexual in high school, and identify as bisexual now; though I also use the words gay and queer to define myself. I prefer male pronouns, and identity within the bear community. These boxes really do not allow me to express what I feel about my identities within the LGBTQI communities, but it is also important to be out and open about them, too.

 

Arts and activism are difficult to disentangle. Come to our concert and find out WHY WE SING!

 

 

Lanita Haver (Soprano)

WHO I AM
I was born and raised in Alabama, a good ole’ southern girl, and I believe weekends in the fall belong to college football! Roll Tide!! I'm 52, a Soprano, a Registered Nurse, and I currently oversee the Physician Peer Review program at a local hospital.

WHY I SING
I sang in the church choir and the school chorus and in the back seat of the car with my family. I remember Sunday afternoons sitting at the piano and singing for hours between church services; it was my escape, and still is how I relieve stress. Music has always been a way to express myself and a way to close out the external clutter.

WHY I SING WITH DESERT VOICES
So how did I get from Alabama to Desert Voices, you ask? The most wonderful woman in the world brought me to Tucson in December, 11 years ago, to see how I liked it. The rest, as they say, is history.

That same wonderful woman and I won Desert Voices season tickets at a Wingspan Silent Auction. When we saw the chorus perform, they looked like they were having so much fun up there!!! So, I filled out one of those post cards in the concert program saying I was interested in singing. The next season I got an e-mail about the open houses and decided to give it a try.

That year was the World War II season. I love the music from that era, and getting to do costuming and staging was such a bonus. I made new friends, and quickly learned this wasn’t all fun and games, it was HARD WORK, but so worth it!

Hearing the audience giggle at the right spot or sniffle after a particularly touching speech or being quiet at the end of Silent Night set over the bombing of Pearl Harbor because they were speechless-- that was worth every hour of memorization, sectionals, pounding out notes, and yes, laughing and having fun with my family.

I am now in my 10th season. From that very first show I knew Desert Voices would be a part of my life for as long as they are here and I am in Tucson. And yes--We are still having fun up there!! From the moment I stepped across the threshold I felt like I was home.

This chorus is the most open, accepting group I have ever had the pleasure of being a part. The players may change from time to time, faces come and go, but the soul of this group remains constant.

Since that show, there have been lots of rehearsal hours and new songs and costumes, lots of laughter and tears, lots of change, and even some challenges for our beloved chorus. Through it all, the kinship of this group has never wavered.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not the “Stepford Choir", we don’t all agree. But we all accept. Even within discord, there can be harmony.

It doesn’t matter if we don’t agree, sometimes we may not even understand, but it is a safe environment to ask questions, to learn and teach, and to be open. There is no place for hostility and anger with each other-- we all encounter enough of that in the outside world. Inside our Desert Voices space, there is peace, love and acceptance. This is WHY I SING!