M E D I A A D V I S O R Y
For Immediate Distribution July 15, 2020
Rick Fisher, Executive Director
Heartland Men’s Chorus
Heartland Men’s Chorus’ New Vision, New Mission, & New Look
With Singing On Hold, HMC Keeps Focused on Its Future
KANSAS CITY, MO – As a nonprofit founded during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Heartland Men’s Chorus is using the current pandemic to focus on its future. A planning committee made up of HMC board members, staff, and singers started on a new vision, mission, and branding in late 2019. “The continuity we had as a branding team, respecting the history and meaning of the organization to its stakeholders, while also looking ahead, created a seamless and constructive
ideation and design process that had energy and momentum,” says Matt Schulte, HMC Board Member.
NEW VISION: “Singing to inspire a world of love and acceptance.”
“It feels very “infinity and beyond” to me, and it leads with “singing” as that is our #1 calling as a chorus,” says Stefan White, HMC Board Member and singer.
NEW MISSION: “To build community, celebrate pride, and empower authenticity.”
Brandon Shelton, a longtime member, started singing with the Chorus in 2005. He is currently the HMC Design Manager and he was also hired to create the new icon and look. “Having worked professionally for 20+ years developing and steering major brands throughout the world, I was honored to be asked to join the committee responsible for the overhaul of HMC’s brand – two of my greatest passions colliding before me in a golden opportunity I could not pass up. In creating the new brand, it was very important to me that we respect and build off the rich heritage of the chorus, 35 years strong, while setting our sights well into the future,” says Brandon.
New Artistic Director Shawn Cullen was also part of the branding team and believes the new look will build on the foundation he started when he was hired. Cullen says, “A legacy of musical excellence, creative expression, and enriching fellowship that changes the hearts and minds of singers and audiences alike. Now more than ever, it seems that united voices against inequities, injustices, and ignorance are needed loud and proud. We stay present so our faces are seen and our songs are heard while we stand with voices strong for those that need us now and always.”
The new branding will be used on www.hmckc.org, on all social media platforms, and printed material going forward.
About Heartland Men’s Chorus
Heartland Men’s Chorus (www.hmckc.org) is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 35th season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, 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 26 years. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.” More information can be found at Heartland Men’s Chorus. # # #
New brand launch video: https://youtu.be/cJ3d8XfJKo4
Mark moved to Kansas City back in 2014, the same year he joined HMC. Music and singing have always been a part of his life and HMC was a way to jump into the community and meet new people. Mark is a Tenor 2 and one of his favorite things about the chorus is seeing it all come together during concert week. During a regular season, that equals three weeks a year. The excitement of the music, the production, lighting, sound, and audience reaction make for an amazing experience.
One of Mark’s jobs that he really loved, even after ten years, was tending bar at a Japanese restaurant. It may have made him a bit of a sushi snob, but eating raw fish hasn’t swayed him from the kitchen. He loves to cook and bake, which seems like a very common pastime for many chorus members. He also is big into antiquing and collecting handmade pottery; both show artistic creativity. Mark is looking forward to one day attending live theater again, and if he won the lottery, he would probably give it all away. HMC would be one of the recipients, of course.
It can sometimes be difficult to accept yourself and as a Freshman in college, Mark decided to take that step. He wanted to be true to himself and it was the best decision he ever made. His hashtag, which hopefully many who read this can relate to, is #ProudToBeMe!
Originally from St. Joseph, MO, this week, let’s meet Kevin. Kevin joined during our ABBA concert in 2018; he is still a ‘newish’ member of the Bass section. He recently really earned his wings as part of a flight attendant duo in last years’ Making Spirit’s Bright holiday show. He’s also jumped in as a volunteer at the HMC Pride Dunk Tank, where he enjoys getting to know our audience and the community more.
A former music lesson child, Kevin wishes he had stuck with practicing and progressing. He saw HMC as a way to bring music back into his life and when a friend in the chorus heard him sing, he invited him to join. In addition to the performances, he is enjoying the fellowship with other members. The ability to meet new people, crack jokes with each other, and a welcome space to continue to grow as a singer.
Kevin accidentally came out his Senior year of High School, unfortunately, he also outed a friend at the same time. It made for a very uncomfortable graduation, but he’s been out ever since that mistake made while talking to friends. What isn’t a mistake is the hashtag he picked to describe himself, #SuperGeek. Kevin loves science fiction and urban fantasy books and movies. When not listening to classic rock, perhaps while cooking and baking, he is proud to be a DC man over Marvel. This may cause some rivalries now that the word is out.
For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Rick Fisher
Heartland Men’s Chorus Announces Artistic Director Appointment
KANSAS CITY, MO (May 1, 2020) — The board of directors of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), today announced Shawn Cullen has been appointed as the permanent Artistic Director of the Chorus. High res photos and video for media use can be found here.
Shawn Cullen, educator, conductor, and artistic director, has earned a reputation for his dedication to musical excellence and striving to make a difference within the communities of which he is part. Of his new role, Shawn said, “”I love being a part of a magic that only music can make. I get to see the impact of such a one-of-a-kind experience for the singers each week-and on the faces of our amazing Kansas City audiences that support the HMC legacy.”
His past leadership includes eight years as Artistic Director/Conductor for Reveille Men’s Chorus & Desert Voices Mixed Chorus, Southern Arizona’s GALA Choruses, and most recently as director of HMC’s small ensemble, Burnt Ends. Recognized for his skills as a versatile music educator, Mr. Cullen has held positions in K-12 instrumental/vocal music, adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music and conductor for the Arizona Repertory Theater with many credits including “Into the Woods”, “Avenue Q”, “The Full Monty”, and “EVITA.” Mr. Cullen is currently a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory completing course work towards his Ph.D. and serves as Director of Music at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church. Mr. Cullen holds a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Masters of Music in Conducting from the University of Arizona and is a proud member of the national board of directors for GALA Choruses.
Cullen has served as Interim Artistic Director for the 2019-2020 season, while HMC conducted a national search for a permanent director. The cost of the search was generously funded by former chorus member, Cliff Schiappa, in memory of his mother, Norma S. Menck. Search Committee chairperson, Steve Dodge, said, “we held all of the applicants to an extremely high level of performance in the areas of education, musicianship, experience, accomplishments, and artistic vision. We were delighted to find all of those qualities already in our midst in our very own Shawn Cullen.”
HMC currently does not have a concert scheduled due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, but planning is underway for the next concert season. An announcement about future performances is expected in the next few weeks.
ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus (www.hmckc.org) is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 34th season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, 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 26 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.”
It seems like Mike was pre-planning for some ‘isolation’ time since he was already part of an online community for amateur/dilettante Egyptologists – he’s learning to read hieroglyphs. This can come in handy reading some of the music we sing in HMC. He sang in college and when he decided to re-enter the singing world, joining Heartland Men’s Chorus seemed like a natural fit. Mike is finishing his 3rd year as a Baritone. He was looking for a group to sing with and found a place of excellence in musicianship and a community of camaraderie.
Mike loves making memories during performances but also finds fun and memory-making moments in chorus gatherings like the Holiday Potluck held each December. It was at a family meal event, Thanksgiving 1984, where he let his sexual orientation be known to his family. There was no announcement, nothing ‘official,’ just who he brought as his date. His Aunt Jean told him to bring someone, so he brought a man. While the rest of his family stood around in awkward silence, Aunt Jean hugged him and said, “You are welcome here anytime.”
Mike married that guy 31 years later in 2015, and they are still happily together. It is moments like Aunt Jean’s that guide families to acceptance and audiences like ours that open their hearts to the music we make and the voice we bring to Kansas City.
When Brian is not off camping or boating with his husband, he can be found in the Tenor 2 section of HMC. Originally from Ottawa, KS he has been singing off and on with the chorus for about 6 years. He had several friends who already sang, always enjoyed going to concerts and he loves to sing so it was a natural fit to become a member. Joining has enabled Brian to be part of a movement to support people of all faiths, races and political perspectives. A road trip for a joint concert with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus in 2017 allowed him to deepen his friendships with other chorus members. Sharing that experience and being on a bus for that long will do that!
Brian’s support of the arts is evident by his involvement in HMC and many community theater productions. From roles in The Music Man, Victor/Victoria and The Grand Hotel to Spamalot and The Addams Family, Brian still finds time to sing with HMC and perform in other fundraising benefits for local theaters. When asked to use a hashtag to describe himself he said #insecure-extrovert. That is something to think about as you get to know him and about all his community involvement. It is not a surprise that if he won the lottery that he would provide donations to many KC Arts Organizations, HMC being one of them. He would also provide a large chunk to other charities in need, help out his family and travel more to enjoy life.
One of his best HMC experiences was yet another road trip to the GALA Festival in Denver. Travis had been to GALA before as part of another singing group, but this time was different. His interaction and support from roommates, time on the bus getting to know fellow singers and the overall experience all provided time to make those connections that build the HMC family connection.
Music must be in his blood, however. He once held a position as a Manager and Buyer at the iconic Tower Records in West Hollywood, CA. Outside of work and HMC, Travis loves to travel and uses some of his time away to see other GALA choruses perform. He is also interested in historical preservation and when not driving enjoys reading extensively.
Keith has been attending concerts since shortly after HMC began in the late 1980’s. A transplant to Kansas City from Toledo, OH. Keith has been active in HMC as a singing and non-singing member. His first time on stage was for the 25th Anniversary Season and he is back on stage this year singing Bass. He has lent his talents in many capacities and joined the Board of Directors in 2014 and is the most recent past Board Chair. He has really enjoyed getting to know some great people in this community and he continues to stay involved because he believes in “who we are and what we do.” From a kid with an ‘egg route’ to being Chair of the Board, we are grateful Keith holds on to that belief and lends his talents in many ways.
When he is not singing, Keith’s main hobby is to spend time with his wife, family and friends. You might also catch him out and about supporting some of the best people he knows who sing for the good of our community in various vocal groups.
Doug grew up in Circleville, KS, a small town about two hours from Kansas City. It’s no wonder that on weekends he likes to escape to his farm and get back to the nature that helps to ground him. If he won the lottery he would disappear for a while, somewhere he could most likely camp and garden and cook. His alone time complements his busy time spent here in the city with work and with HMC.
After many years without music in his life he has enjoyed the past 7 years as a Baritone in HMC. “It is wonderful being back in music” and some of his fondest memories are those songs that give him the chills. If you sing you know what these are, songs that hit you in a rehearsal or a performance that give you ‘the feels’. He joined HMC when a friend talked him into it but has stayed because of the friendships he has made and the personal growth he has benefited from individually.
An interesting fact about Doug, he once worked as a living mannequin. It must have been difficult to not use his quick wit and great smile in that role.
See Doug onstage at our next performance as we present Smitten With Britain on March 28-29, 2020 at the Folly Theater. Visit our tickets page for more info!
PO Box 32374, Kansas City, MO 64171-5374
Phone: 816-931-3338 Fax: 816-531-1367