Recent Comments


    Profiles of Compassion and Courage: Joshua Klipp

    stuJazz vocalist Joshua Klipp believes that life’s length is measured in breath, but it’s depth is measured in love. This talented transgender role model adds with passion, “I love life!” His coolness factor is off the charts as he continues to impress audiences both locally and nationwide. You can catch him and the Klipptones swinging the Palace Hotel in San Francisco this and most Fridays, from 8 PM to midnight. No cover!

    SS: How did you become involved in your work?

    JK: I was raised in a musical family. My parents met singing at a wedding and music was always a part of my home life.  During many holiday seasons my family sang at Christmas Eve mass and my friends called us the “Von Klipps,” which was super embarrassing. My dad played the piano and subscribed to Sheet Music Magazine.  Every month, a new edition came in, and he’d sit down at the piano and teach me songs. He played; I sang. Years later, I learned these were mostly jazz standards. That’s how I got involved with music, and specifically jazz.

    SS: Name one of your key mentors and explain how he or she inspired your work.

    JK: I don’t feel like I have mentors; I feel like I have heroes. My mom is one of my heroes. She sings like a bird. Growing up, the sound of her singing was like home to me: comforting, familiar and grounding. She became disabled through polio at a young age, though, and because of that, and the times in which she grew up, no one would put her on stage. She also wasn’t included in a lot of social activities, like dancing, which she loves. Despite this, she found, and continues to find, ways to survive and thrive and live a life full of love and music. And when she dances, she is vibrant. My Mom’s life instructs me and how I approach my music – that no matter what, I have to sing, I have to do this in this life, and do it with all my heart. She’s my hero.

    SS: If you could fix or solve one major problem in the Bay Area, what would it be and why?

    JK: San Francisco has a rich history of live music. Population growth and gentrification, though, have really crowded it out. Back in the mid 20th century and earlier, you couldn’t walk down the streets without live music pouring out of bars and restaurants. There was the Fillmore and Tenderloin, as well as North Beach establishments and the “Harlem of the West.” But before that there was the Barbary Coast, and all those buildings downtown that now house fancy design firms were rollicking piano and cabaret joints. Somewhere along the way, live music got the reputation of being a nuisance, probably blacklisted as devaluing property. As a musician who sees the impact my music has on the people who come and listen, I know the opposite is true. Live music brings people together. It creates community, connection and possibility. People dance, talk, and laugh together. People are moved. People meet each other and sometimes even fall in love over a song. So if I could solve one major problem in the Bay Area, it would be to have beautiful live music in every imaginable space.

    SS: Among your many achievements, which one are you most proud of and why?


    JK: I’m most proud of being able to sing. As a transgender person, this isn’t a given. In order to transition and live authentically, I had to be at peace with the possibility that my voice might not be there on the other side. I’m almost nine years into transition now, and my voice still has its issues. What’s changed is my attitude. I learn and re-learn to love myself just the way I am, with all my flaws, and realize that this honesty is more beautiful on stage than even the most perfect voice. And hey, my voice isn’t too bad. I never take it for granted. In fact, there are so many times when I’m on stage singing and can’t believe what a fortunate life I’ve had and continue to lead.

    SS: What are your future goals and aspirations?

    JK: I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I’d like to help others do what they love, and generally leave this world a better place.

    For a complete list of Joshua’s gigs and for more information, please visit

    Stu Smith is board chair emeritus of Shanti Project, board chair of The Paratransit Coordinating Council, a member of the Castro Country Club Advisory Board and the LGBT Senior Task Force, and producer and host of the public access TV program “The Drag Show.” KQED has honored Stu as a 2013 LGBT Hero.