Heartland Men’s Chorus to Launch New Anti-Bullying Program in KCMO High School
Pilot Performance Set for October 10th at Lincoln College Prep (LCP)
Dustin S. Cates, Artistic Director of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced Thursday that Schools With Heart, the new HMC anti-bullying pilot program created for area high schools, was successfully underway at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Working for two years with area educators and educational institutions, and scouring volumes of research, 15 members of the Heartland Men’s Chorus grew this idea from a different motivation and with a completely new twist . . . getting the students themselves involved in leading the effort.
HMC actually began developing Schools With Heart upon the suggestion of Artistic Director Cates, “The premise is to shine a light on bullying in schools, not only for LGBTQ+ youth, but for all students. Schools With Heart is a movement that takes a comprehensive, student-centered approach to improving school culture. Through standards-based, original curriculum, empowered student leaders, and a live performance by the Chorus, we will be taking our message of love, respect and inclusivity to schools throughout Kansas City.”
“The research is actually staggering,” said Max Brown, former educator and chairman of HMC’s school outreach committee. “Earlier this fall, The Kansas City Star reported that ‘Missouri ranks third in the nation for having one of the biggest school bullying problems.’ We knew right then that we were concentrating our efforts in the right place. We knew we needed to do something different, something that could have measurable outcomes, and something that could truly have an impact. Many of our members have experienced extreme prejudice in their lives, even hatred to the point of violence. With that kind of understanding of those who have been bullied and those who bully, who better to create a program that could potentially have the greatest results?”
“One of the most exciting components to this new program is that it was a wonderful way to involve so many different members in the chorus who have different skill sets,” said Brown. With expertise in education, statistics, survey development and deployment, data gathering and analysis, budgeting, curriculum development, and more, the program began to develop. “Each meeting brought us closer to our goal.”
The program is seemingly different than any other anti-bullying program in the metro KC area. In the three Wednesdays prior to the performance by the chorus, two members of the HMC outreach committee along with a teacher at the school, Danielle Enriquez-Fowler, LCP Choral Music Teacher, meet with a pre-selected 16-member student leadership team. First the team deploys the anonymous survey that tests students’ current perceptions of bullying at their school. Then, Teams are charged with delivering pre-performance curriculum to the student body and developing data based culture improvement programming. They prepare slide presentations and discussion questions that center on empowering all students to stand up to bullying whenever they see it, be able to identify it, and champion students to help end its existence in their school environment. Then, on October 10th, HMC will give a concert performance and talkback, encouraging students to have a school that becomes a place of safety, comfort and learning for all. After additional post-performance discussions, the team will train future “With Heart” leadership teams to help spread to the program to other schools. A final survey is given again in a few months to assess changes that may be attributed to the Schools With Heart influence on the students.
Said Brown, “Our hope is to evaluate each program with the follow up survey so that those results help to tweak our presentations, therefore bringing more “Schools With Heart” to the Kansas City area. Our goal is to utilize the student leadership team from Lincoln, who have hopefully been inspired by the process and the experience, to train the students mentors at our next Kansas City area high school in 2019.”
Considering this program is completely free to participating high schools, what is in it for HMC? “Taking our voices to places where they need to be heard has always been a high priority for HMC,” said Rick Fisher, Executive Director of HMC. “Beyond the concert hall, we take our music and message into the community where they have the greatest impact in changing hearts and minds.” In Rick’s 22 seasons with the chorus, he has discovered how important continuing to have impact is. “Making a difference in the lives of our youngest citizens — our future leaders — has been an important focus for the Chorus since its inception. And it’s more important now than ever. Recently The Kansas City Star reported a statistic from the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, ‘Nineteen percent of students in grades nine through 12 said they were bullied on school property in the previous 12 months. And 14.9 percent said they have been the target of cyber-bullying.’ Obviously, our work is not done, and this compels us to work even harder.”
Director Cates concluded, “Community impact is part of the fiber of the Heartland Men’s Chorus. Whether on the Folly stage or at a community event, each time we raise our voices it is with the aim of making a difference. We hope to reach out to the students of our community With Heart!”
ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus (www.hmckc.org) is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 33rd season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 25 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. They regularly perform at GALA Choruses International festivals. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”
Visitfor more information about Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 2018-2019 season. High-resolution photos of the chorus can be obtained by visiting hmckc.org.