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TRC Bio

The Tacoma Refugee Choir is a non-auditioned choir of refugees, immigrants, and friends who seek belonging and are committed to creating a more equitable and welcoming community. In its first eight years, the choir has welcomed over 800 members from over 70+ countries, and performed for over 50,000 people at community, educational and government events, including WE Day, the National ACDA Conference, National Race & Pedagogy Conference, Governor's State of the State Address, and U.S. Citizenship ceremonies.  The choir received standing ovations at TEDxSeattle and has been featured on PBS and network television with stories and music videos of original songs created with members.  The choir has produced 15 concerts and ten music videos in partnership with the community with over 160,000 cumulative views. Additional programs have included Harmony After Hours community singing events, school outreach programs, a symposium centered on welcoming and cooperation, the Heart of Tacoma Festival, a refugee-centered podcast, and group music therapy classes.

A sense of belonging is a universal need.  



When we belong, we find emotional support, validation, motivation, connection and psychological safety. Connection gives us a sense of purpose and makes it easier to persevere and maintain hope.

The Tacoma Refugee Choir creates space to fulfill these fundamental human needs for social connection, identity, support, and validation, contributing to psychological well-being and enhancing overall quality of life.

 

Singing together provides the opportunity to create space where meaningful relationships can develop and members can uplift one another.  We use music as a tool to engage members and open the door for authentic expression, interconnection, and healing centered in love and compassion.

Prerequisites of Belonging

  1. Person sees a clear opportunity to be accepted and meet needs

  2. Feels safe

  3. Trust is cultivated

  4. Has opportunities to contribute

  5. Identity is valued and seen as an asset

  6. Community recognizes contributions

  7. Recognized by all as part of community

Our Mission
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Our Mission

Creating spaces for authentic expression, interconnection, and healing through song and music.

Our Vision

Uplifting the power of voices through the arts

Our Values

Love

Authenticity

Interdependence

Humility

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Our History

We began as a pilot project in August 2016 in partnership with Tacoma Community House with a group of 22 refugees and community members. The program was well received and quickly grew to create a welcoming and affirmative learning experience through music. 

Community building and education are central to our program as we emphasize the power of each individual to welcome and support others and use their voice to make a difference. Singing together offers the opportunity to literally find one’s voice and empowers participants to be leaders and recognize the value of all members of our community.  

Tacoma Refugee Choir, which meets weekly during the school year, is designed to quickly help people make enduring friendships, overcome barriers between people who might not otherwise interact in the community, and build a sense of community health through heartfelt conversations and uplifting music. The result is a fun, high-energy, and affirming weekly gathering that one member called “my best day in America.”

Frequently Asked Questions
 

1. How did the choir get its name?

The choir began as a response to the refugee crisis in 2016 and a desire to support those who might resettle in Tacoma. After we began, we came to a greater awareness of the profound pain associated with the word "refugee." We have long sought an alternative that captures our unique focus on reaching out to refugees and others who find themselves in our community, amplifying the unique challenges of refugees, and providing a space of love, hope, and belonging but have yet to make that name transition.

 

When asked the question, “When does one cease to be a refugee?,” one member responded, “When you feel like you belong.” In that way, our name is a complete misnomer since our goal is to help all who come within our space to feel a sense of belonging.

 

2. What is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee conflict or persecution and has crossed an international border to seek safety. They cannot return to their country without risking their life or freedoms. It is a legal term that carries with it certain protections that refugees are entitled to. You can learn more here.

3. Is everyone in the choir a refugee?

No. Our choir has members from many different backgrounds, including refugees, immigrants, and community members seeking belonging and healing. Our outreach focuses on welcoming refugees but we believe everyone has a role in creating a welcoming community and that we all benefit when we come together for a common purpose.

4. What happens during rehearsals?
A typical rehearsal begins with chairs set up in a circle, hugs to greet one another, and a physical and vocal warmup. We then do a check-in to share challenges and important life events, as we find we can be more authentic in creating music after this authentic moment of sharing. We sing many of our favorite songs weekly and often learn a new song written by a choir member or introduced by a choir member from their tradition. Choir members are highly encouraged to dance, drum, improvise, and engage with one another in the high-energy pieces and to share their thoughts and emotions on the more introspective pieces. We have fun traditions for birthdays and days when we are "tired" and incorporate activities that strengthen our community. We end every rehearsal singing and dancing to “Everyone Can Love Someone." Conversations often extend long after the rehearsal ends due to the cathartic uplift we feel from our time together.

5. Do I need to read music to sing in the choir?

We teach all songs by rote and encourage a lot of autonomy and improvisation in our communal music-making. This not only allows people to sing in the choir without Western music training but also provides a more equitable space for creating together and encourages a reclaiming of creative agency which is often compromised by trauma.

6. How can I join the choir?

We accept new members in September and January (with possible exceptions at other times) based upon the number of openings available (we have a current cap of 45 members). If you are interested in joining the choir, please fill out this interest sheet and we will be in touch when we have openings. New members are invited to join after a zoom interview with the Director and/or Assistant Artistic Director. Attending Harmony After Hours events prior to these new member windows is highly encouraged as it helps us get to know you personally.
 

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