Our People: Q&A with John Quillin

Music is happiness for the Gay Men’s Chorus director

At age 57, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte Managing Artistic Director John Quillin says he is “old enough to know better.” This is just one example of the friendly wit that makes conversation with Quillin an enjoyable experience. Originally from Kingsport, Tenn., Quillin moved to Charlotte in 1981 and has been inspiring the local LGBT community with his creativity ever since. The Gay Men’s Chorus has two events upcoming: they are a part of Flourish, the “festival within a festival” during Charlotte Pride from Aug 20-21. The chorus is also holding recruitments at the Google Fiber headquarters on Sept 5.

What can you tell me about the upcoming show at the Bechtler?

We are part of “Flourish,” which is during Pride. So we’ll be performing for Pride. What “Flourish” is, it used to be that we would sing on the stage during Pride, but it wasn’t a very satisfactory experience for anybody…So we started “Flourish” four years ago. We started working with a wider group of lesbian and gay artists in town. We wanted to do something that was in an indoor space, was a little bit more controlled…So we started doing “Flourish,” which we call a festival within a festival.

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What has been your involvement with the LGBT community over the years?

I moved to Charlotte in 1981, and in about 1983 I was involved with what was then the Gay & Lesbian Switchboard. So I had been involved since then. I worked at the switchboard for probably until ’89, then I started in One Voice and I was their assistant director for several years…I did that until 2004, and then I founded the Gay Men’s Chorus in 2006. I’ve also been on the board of the Lesbian and Gay Fund. I have done some statewide organizing in AIDS and HIV. I’ve done two stints on the board for the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses.

Is music what makes you happiest in the world?

It’s definitely music.

How does it feel when you’re on stage or watching a production that you took part in?

What’s the most fun for me is to see the looks on the faces of the performers. If you’re not a performer it’s hard to know that experience of when you’re able to really communicate something that’s inside of you and to know that you’re really reaching your audience. To see that on the faces of the performers is a magical moment.

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What does your job with the Gay Men’s Chorus entail?

I do manage the shows and the administrative side. Pretty much everything you see on stage is my fault [laughs].

Why do you think it’s important that the LGBT community share in musical performances?

One of the most important things that the gay and lesbian people do is to help create culture…The gay and lesbian movement is only since 1969, when we began to be visible… When we talk about gay culture, it’s really important that we acknowledge that we have a unique and valuable culture and I think gay and lesbian choruses work very hard to create and present that culture.

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