About Us

Dr. Robert Strauss
Artistic Director

BIO

Dr. Robert Strauss has been praised for his sensitive, intelligent interpretation, his attention to musical and textual nuance, and his versatile tenor voice. An avid recitalist, he has presented the programs Chamber Music of Benjamin Britten, Seasons in Song and The Recital That Dare Not Speak Its Name with Eastman School of Music faculty member Benton Hess. On the stage, he has sung Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Peter Quint (The Turn of the Screw), Tony (West Side Story), as well as Federico in L’amico Fritz, with the Centro Studi Italiani Opera Festival in Urbania, Italy. In February 2016, he sang Bastianello the Younger in the premiere of the orchestrated version of John Musto's Bastianello. Strauss has also appeared as one of the tenor soloists in Rossini’s Messa di Gloria in the composer’s hometown of Pesaro. He has toured Italy performing opera scenes and arias from the standard Italian operatic literature with the Centro Studi Italiani Opera Festival. Having served on the voice faculty of the Fredonia School of Music since 2007, Strauss is also a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), serving on the Executive Board for the Central New York-Finger Lakes Chapter first as Auditions Chair then Vice-President, and currently as President. He holds degrees from SUNY Fredonia, UNC-Greensboro, and earned his Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature from West Virginia University. As a Senior Lecturer at the Fredonia School of Music, he teaches applied voice, is Producer for the annual Hillman Opera, and runs the Honors Solo Vocal Camp for high school singers.

Board of Directors

Paul Berglund, President
Bryan Whitley, Secretary
Rachel Fangsrud
Will McCourt
Brian Rotach

Our History

At the end of 1999, the vision for a Gay Men’s Chorus in Buffalo was conceived.  This chorus would offer a voice that would build bridges within the community through song, and music that would lift the spirits of listeners and singers alike. Guided by Roger Parris, a vigorous group of men explored this concept thoroughly. With the support and success of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus to encourage them, these men decided that it was time for Buffalo to join the growing list of GLBT choruses all over the world.  After 15 months of intense work, a Steering Committee led by Parris, Mike Longo, Jeff Wilson, Bob Rose, Jim Estep, Bill Fay, Bill Gardner, Russell Link, Michael Bardo and many others, had written by-laws, filed papers of incorporation,  and held fundraisers raising over $5000 in seed money. The final steps of creating a mission statement and electing the first officers of the organization. After an extensive search, area choral conductor, Barbara Wagner, was asked to be the charter Artistic Director.  Wagner, in turn, brought on Debi Overton to serve as the Charter Accompanist.  Both women, being highly respected musicians, would serve the chorus well.  In fact, Wagner was to join the ranks of only four female conductors of Gay Men’s Choruses throughout the country. In 2007, the number dwindled to only two, Kathleen McGuire, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and Wagner.  

The first auditions ...

...were held in May, 2001. To the organizers’ surprise, there were 30 men lined up in the halls of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo waiting to sing for the Artistic Director.  By day’s end there were 36 chorus members.  By month’s end there were 45.  Soon there would be a dozen more.  Rehearsals began on September 11, 2001 a day of infamy that would be filled with national horror, fear and death.  The decision was made to go on with the rehearsal on a day that was destined to alter the course of history.  There was controversy around that decision, but, at the end of the day, it proved to be a wise one.  Forty men, many of whom didn’t know each other began to gather, eerily silent, in the Alliance Room of the Unitarian Church.  As the men and Wagner held hands for the very first time in a community circle, there were anguished murmurs of meditation and prayer.  It was a birth fraught with complications and anxiety.  They sang - “from you I receive, to you I give, together we share and from this we live.” They learned “How Can I Keep From Singing” and began forging the bonds that still hold them together to this day.  “How Can I Keep From Singing” was to become their theme song and was the very first music the audience heard as the BGMC processed down the aisles of the Unitarian Universalist Church for the  first time.  That inaugural concert “Music From the Heart,” presented on February 9, 2002, set the tone for all concerts to follow.  The energy that filled the church that night validated the reality of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, and the bonds formed that night continue to remain strong all of these years later. The audience that night was huge - the church was filled, chairs lined the aisles and sadly, people had to be turned away at the door. All concerts after that were offered twice in one weekend and six years later, they are considering adding a third concert to each series and a third performance of each one.  Their audiences continue to be huge and diverse, and the BGMC performs pieces in English, French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Zulu, and Swahili, and feature sign language interpretation for the deaf and hard of hearing.  The BGMC has also commissioned two pieces for their concerts:  the six-part Adamic Songs, featuring poems by Walt Whitman with music by Roland E. Martin; and Yes!, a poem by Countee Cullen, the Harlem Renaissance writer, set to music by Adolphus Hailstork.

The awards began...

...coming as they grew in stature and musical expression.  Three awards from Artvoice’s “Best in Buffalo” proclaim them “Best Chorus.”  They have been invited to sing on the stage of Kleinhans Music Hall with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra twice - once for a subscription concert in 2004 and later for a benefit for the orchestra and the Olmsted Conservancy in 2006, with Maestra JoAnn Falletta conducting.   Mary Louise Nanna, founder and conductor of Ars Nova asked them to sing on her Viva Vivaldi Series. BGMC was recognized by the Empire State Pride Agenda in 2005 with the ESPA Award for Community Service for the excellence of their music and their dedication to the community.  In March 2008, the BGMC was chosen to receive the prestigious Buffalo and Erie County Arts Council Award for exceptional contributions to the arts and cultural community in Western New York.  The citation reads as follows:

“Your nomination and selection to receive this award is a testament to the years of time, talent, personal and professional resources you have invested in supporting, promoting and advancing art and culture in our region.  You are an outstanding model of leadership by example.”

Their success has brought many requests from worthy organizations to perform benefit concerts, and they try very hard to honor these. They have received grants and gifts and much support from both the gay community and the community at large along the way and they are eager to give back. 

A major force in the success of BGMC has been the impressive dedication of the all volunteer chorus itself.  These men take the chorus’ artistic ambitions seriously: they are resolute rehearsal attendees and have worked hard to build their choral skills.  The chorus’ social impact on the community at large has been unprecedented and immense.  The very existence of this chorus in a relatively conservative community has helped make enormous strides in acceptance and equality for the GLBT community here.  In addition to enlightening the community at large, the chorus has been an important factor in raising the self esteem of a historically marginalized society.  Its high profile has established the BGMC as a positive model for those who are grappling with the negativity all too often imposed on homosexuals. And so the hard work continues with each note sung by the intrepid men of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus.

Benefit Concerts ...

Some of the Benefit Concerts for which the BGMC has raised their voices:



We  have also provided complimentary tickets to their performances for GLYS (Gay and Lesbian Youth Services), and Gay and Straight Alliances in schools.

Performance Venues