SAN DIEGO, California -- Outside of the Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) across the asphalt parking lot, San Diego Gay Men's Chorus (SDGMC) president Bob Lehman is greeted with cheers of “Madonna, Madonna!” Two teen boys shout their approval as Lehman carries in one hand the telltale hot-pink poster announcing SDGMC's "LUV Madonna" show and, in the other, a stack of free tickets.
“I guess that answered the question of whether kids still love Madonna,” Lehman said, laughing. “Obviously, Madonna has entered into that rare stratosphere of a gay icon.”
The scene is repeated across San Diego more than a dozen times as tickets are presented to groups ranging from the Lambda Archives student volunteer program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County, a UCSD program for adolescents living with HIV, to San Diego’s MVPA high school for the performing arts. Youth from these groups have all been invited to attend the July 12-13 shows at the Balboa Theatre as guests of the chorus.
This is all thanks to a $5,000 matching grant program launched by a chorus donor and matched by fans, singers and people from throughout San Diego. The purpose is to reach out to young people and students as part of SDGMC’s mission of building community support and providing a dynamic force for social change. Already, 300 tickets have been underwritten with a potential of up to 400 tickets if the grant is fully funded.
“We remember what it was like, especially as a gay kid — wanting to feel like you were a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Joe Florence, a math teacher at MVPA and SDGMC treasurer. “Our chorus uses music to help all kids feel like they belong and that there are people out there who care for their well-being.”
SDGMC has a long history of outreach through its community partner program. For example, the chorus is once again donating dozens of tickets to Stepping Stone (addiction recovery services) and Being Alive (for people living with HIV/AIDS) to allow their clients the opportunity to attend each concert.
In addition, for each concert, the chorus selects a special community organization that has had a major impact on San Diego as well as on individual chorus members. Past partners have included a women’s shelter, a youth arts program, a senior memory center and a meal delivery agency.
For "LUV Madonna," the chorus has chosen the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego as its partner. Through 17 community-based sites, they change lives with quality youth programs and guidance in a safe, affordable and fun environment. The clubs serve kids ages 5-18 with academic achievement, character development and physical fitness programs.
“The clubs were great!” said chorus office manager Jose Navarro Jr., who learned to swim at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Queens, New York as a boy. “They provide an outlet to keep kids off the streets and stay out of trouble. Especially growing up in a rough neighborhood, it was a safe haven.”
Navarro is now a Big Brother in Oceanside and his “little brother,” like Navarro 20 years earlier, is currently a Boys & Girls Club member.
During the "LUV Madonna" show, the Boys and Girls Club programs will be highlighted from the stage. SDGMC members will also contribute “wish list” items like board games and art supplies.
“We are so proud to be partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs,” said Carlos Salazar, SDGMC's director of outreach. "San Diego is a better city thanks to their hard work and the dedication they have for our kids."
Back at the HYC, which provides services for LGBTQ youth, Lehman enters the cozy front room to smiles and applause as he presents the tickets to the young people who have gathered for the evening.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Lehman said. “And it makes us remember that our chorus is more than just about singing — it’s about using our music to reach out and make a difference.”
About "LUV Madonna"
Tickets are now on sale to "LUV Madonna—Music of the Material Girl" HERE or by calling the Balboa Theatre box office at 619-570-1100. Shows are Saturday, July 12 at 8 pm and Sunday, July 13 at 3 pm. Donations, including for the matching grant ticket program, may be made HERE.