Ciara Ried | Liberty Press
The Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC) has announced Dustin Cates as its new artistic director. A life-long Kansas Citian, Cates says he has always enjoyed attending HMC performances and appreciates their impact on the community.
A search committee that included chorus members, past board chairs, community arts leaders, donors and chorus staff conducted an extensive nationwide search to fill the position. Cates is thrilled to become the next artistic director of HMC. “If you would have asked me a year ago if I would be doing anything but teaching high school choral music I would have told you that you were nuts,” he says. “Second only to my husband and our little boy, teaching high school choir was my life’s greatest joy. The opportunity I had to impact the lives of the students that sat in my classroom every day was a reward like none other.”
An opportunity presented itself last spring; Cates was given the chance to work with HMC as a guest conductor for last spring’s concert, I am Harvey Milk. Through this experience, he was able to get to know the men in the chorus. “They shared with me their stories, I saw the support and genuine care they had for one another and most importantly I saw the powerful impact they had on our city,” he says. “I quickly came to realize that, while I was stepping out of a role where I felt as though I was making a difference, my leadership role as the artistic director of Heartland Men’s Chorus allows me to continue to work to make our city and our world a better place in some pretty amazing ways!”
In addition to his guest conductor role, Cates says his previous experience prepared him well for this artistic director position. He attended college at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He taught high school choral music for 11 years, and served on the music ministry staff at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, and performed with theater companies throughout Kansas City.
“I work to be the kind of person who sees every experience as preparation for what comes next,” he says. “Each of these experiences has shaped who I am and the kind of artistic director I strive to be for Heartland Men’s Chorus.”
Cates joins HMC as the organization prepares to begin its 29th season. The first show of the new season will be Kansas City Christmas, HMC’s official annual kick-off to the holidays. “The concert features seasonal classics that we know and love, fun holiday songs and some outrageously hilarious and campy numbers as only HMC can do,” Cates says.
Given the amount of buzz Kansas City has experienced recently (how about those Royals?), Cates says the holiday show will cast the spotlight on local pride. “Especially with the recent national spotlight on our city I think there is a sense of civic pride that I’ve not encountered in a lifetime of living here,” he says. “With Kansas City Christmas, we will celebrate that civic pride, some of Kansas City’s finest composers, performers and of course, Kansas City’s own, Heartland Men’s Chorus.”
The second show under Cates’ direction will be an original musical documentary that celebrates and tells the story of the changing face of the American family. The final show of the year will celebrate the music of famed contemporary musical theatre composer Stephen Schwartz, whose works include music from Wicked, Godspell, Pippin, and Prince of Egypt.
Cates says the concert will also include the Midwest premiere of Testimony, a work written by Stephen Schwartz utilizing material from Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.