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    David Woemmel’s Journey to the Healing Power of Music and Sports

    By John Chen–

    Dave Woemmel was so excited to move to San Francisco with his partner eight years ago, eager to build a new life together in an historic LGBT city. But for the first six months, the excitement quickly dissipated. Dave felt isolated, segregated and unable to connect with the people and the community. Then he found and played gay softball and life suddenly became exciting and worthwhile again. Now Dave wants to share his story through songs, performing for everyone solo because, well, he is after all a diva.

    A corn-fed Midwest boy, Dave was a strapping young lad full of promise excelling in sports, academics and choir. Armed with great confidence and optimism, Dave carved a successful career path in Chicago after graduating from Kansas State University. Not too long after, cupid’s arrow hit the bullseye and Dave was lovestruck. Leaving everything he knew and built behind, Dave followed his heart to iconic San Francisco, where the promise of a new and even more exciting life awaited.

    The idea of building a life together in the most significant LGBT city in the world was romantic and heart pounding. All of that promise waned quickly and Dave found himself confused, confounded and confined. Dave felt little connection to the romance that San Francisco offered. Maybe making such rash decision to move on a whim wasn’t the most logical choice, but he’s here.

    In the midst of doubt and disappointment, Dave found gay softball (San Francisco Gay Softball League), and took a chance on joining a beginner team. Having played and competed mostly in basketball and tennis, Dave didn’t really know how to play softball, so this was an exciting opportunity to learn a new sport, just like learning to live in a new city.

    Immediately, his new softball family welcomed him and provided unconditional friendship and support. They learned the game together, played together, ate, drank and socialized together, participating in a myriad of events the league and San Francisco had to offer. And just like that, Dave felt at home—the home he had envisioned when moving out west.

    Life in San Francisco seemed about right, and at the same time, wrong. Dave’s relationship had eroded and left him with a couple of very difficult choices concerning leaving his partner and quitting his beloved softball team. Suddenly Dave found himself in a very dark place. Mired in self-doubt and anger, life was not fair, especially losing all that he had worked so hard for.

    Moving day to day aimlessly, Dave felt empty and not much mattered to him. His only social human contact was with a person with whom he shared a crippling and goalless outlook on life. Somewhere down the road, this unsympathetic contact inexplicably bonded them. He helped them to see the mistakes that they were making and the destructive paths that they were taking. Their unlikeliest relationship and empathy grew from the depth of great adversity and hopelessness to one of love and understanding. Together, they faced their fears and inner demons, gradually conquering them.

    On his way to recovery, Dave rekindled another one of his former passions: singing. Dave began belting out ballads of empowerment in his shower because it was a time when no one can hear or see his pain. In time, a chance meeting afforded Dave the opportunity to join the Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus, where he quickly formed a strong mentor-student bond with the Chorus’ director at the time, Stephanie Lynne Smith.

    She introduced Dave to her performance classes, and gave him the strength and courage to sing in front of audiences. Over the next several years, she not only helped Dave to grow as a performer—whether it be style, repertoire, technique or stage presence—but she also more importantly helped Dave to find himself and to grow into a healthier and happier person.

    Today, Dave is once again excited because he has someone who completes him, and is busy preparing and rehearsing for his first solo performance called ‘Back to Life,” thanks to Miss Smith Presents hosted by Society Cabaret. In his performance, Dave tells his story through songs, some of which he wrote while focusing on the brightest and the darkest of days, his path to healing, and his readiness to tackle a new life and play sports once more.

    Like many of us, Dave Woemmel was a hopeless romantic. He followed his heart to San Francisco only to have it broken. But through it all, Dave found his niche in softball and eventually peace through music. “Softball helped make San Francisco my home where I am finally happy,” he told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “Now I want to share my journey through music with friends and family and whoever is willing to listen.”

    Miss Smith Presents “David Woemmel – Back to Life” on May 4 at the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts in San Francisco. For more information and tickets, please go to

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.