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Five Years Young: Where Tacoma Refugee Choir is Going from Here

By Erin Guinup

We recently celebrated our fifth anniversary and are proud of how far we’ve come together. As we continue to grow, we’re thinking a lot about why we started.

Refugees and many other immigrants often endure extremely difficult conditions before being forced to leave their home countries. Once they get here, it can be disheartening to realize their challenges are not over as they encounter often overwhelming practical challenges––including suspicion and disdain from others. When you’ve lost everything, community is all you have left. And yet it can be excruciatingly hard to find a sense of belonging when you are repeatedly treated as an outsider.

Singing with others can be one of the most joyful ways to connect with others and be part of something bigger than ourselves. If you’ve ever crooned a chorus or belted a bridge with your friends in the car, you know this to be true. When you sing together, you are connected. A sense of purpose fills the void of isolation and we start feeling safe to be authentically ourselves. When we feel safe to be ourselves, new possibilities emerge and challenges are not as overwhelming. As one member recently said, “For the first time in my life, I’m learning that my voice matters and that my voice has power to do something about the sadness around me.”

This work is changing lives– and saving lives. When someone has lost all hope, music can reach where words fail. This is why we do what we do. Music may not change the world but music changes people and people that are healed change the world.

Of course, we’ve also had the opportunity to share our music and our story with over 100,000 people, welcomed over 600 people from 53 countries to the choir, written 18 original songs with our members, produced 7 music videos, plus interviews and other content that has been featured in Singapore, China, Sweden, Kenya, Washington D.C., Chicago, and with partners here in beautiful Tacoma.

Although we’re amazed by how much has changed from our earliest days, even more, has stayed the same. At our core, we believe that everyone has a song to share and that music can heal anyone brave enough to lift their voice. Every song we write, performance we add to our schedule, music video we edit, and project we take on is dedicated to our mission of loving and supporting one another in our community.

We recently completed a strategic plan and have big plans this year including recording our first album, the expansion of our Teen Sings program, a music therapy program, a tour to perform as invited guests at the NW-ACDA conference, a Tacoma Sings Festival (which will include opportunities for members of the community to sing with us), and much more. Everything we do remains centered on our members and supporting healing together.

Five years feels like forever and nothing at all. We know that we’re just at the beginning and we’re so excited to take on the future with you.

You can support our mission by giving the give of hope through a monthly donation. Continuous giving of as little as $5 can offer stability and longevity to our members and our choir. Learn more about where your donation goes on our website.

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