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    Singing for Our Lives … and a Cure

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    We know the legendary story of Holly Near composing “Singing for our Lives” 46 years ago on her way to the Candlelight Vigil for Harvey Milk. It was 1978. Two years later, across the country, another remarkable event was taking place. It would change the course of women’s health as Harvey Milk’s assassination changed the future of queer history.

    In 1980, a young woman named Nancy stood at her sister Suzy’s bedside as she lay dying of breast cancer after a fierce, years-long battle. Nancy held Suzy’s hand and promised she would leave no stone unturned to change the face of breast cancer. In 1982, Nancy founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Suzy’s memory. To date, the foundation has invested more than $2.9 billion into its mission to end breast cancer. Nancy did a herculean job making good on her promise to Suzy.

    The most exciting part of the article is an invitation for you to sing the life-changing music in a city near you or at Lincoln Center on November 23, 2025! It’s true. Read on.

    When I came out, my life was saved by a gay men’s chorus. I was also thrown into the depths of the AIDS pandemic. Two years later, in the summer of 1989, my best lesbian friend and I decided it was time to create a sister chorus, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas. It took off like a rocket, and before long, there were 100 women. They didn’t hesitate a moment in embracing their musical siblings. They helped feed, hold, love, and sing with and for them. Had we known what lay ahead, we might have named them the Florence Nightingale Chorus.

    Fast forward to 1999, when the first member of the Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Jerri Lynne Smith, died of breast cancer. The women were devastated. So were the men. Around the same time, Nancy Brinker had the idea to create a choral symphony based on the stories of breast cancer survivors and those left behind by those who did not survive. The Turtle Creek Chorale had commissioned the first AIDS Requiem in 1991. Her dream was for this to mirror that in many ways. Just a lot bigger. Nancy said, “We have raced for a cure. We have jumped and cooked and spoken. It’s time we sing!”

    We began to raise money and eventually gathered an amazing array of artists, including a librettist, ten composers, orchestrator, and narrator. On June 6, 2002, Sing for the Cure had its world premiere at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. There were 300+ singers from the two choruses, a 60-piece orchestra, and a narrator. Wait for it. That narrator was Dr. Maya Angelou. The recording is available on all streaming platforms.

    A remarkable thing happened at that concert. The men of the TCC had been fighting AIDS since it was first discovered the same year the chorus was founded, 1981. Before the concert, the men of the chorus voted unanimously to change its red AIDS Awareness pin to one that would now proclaim awareness for AIDS and breast cancer—half red, half pink. The chorus members pinned each other with the new pins as the concert began. There was not a dry eye in the house.

    From that auspicious beginning, Sing for the Cure traveled across the U.S. and Canada, with two performances at Carnegie Hall and a stellar performance at the Southbank Centre in London. Through the performances and recording, I was lucky enough to become friends with Dr. Angelou. She allowed me to throw her 80th birthday party at the Meyerson Symphony Center. It was quite a blowout with choruses, orchestra, a huge birthday cake, and 2,000 birthday well-wishers.

    Lincoln Center

    Next year will be the 25th Anniversary of Sing for the Cure. The original organizing committee is back together promoting twenty performances in major cities across the U.S. On its way to Lincoln Center, Sing for the Cure will be performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Dallas, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, Wichita, Fargo, and many other cities.

    The year will culminate with a spectacular anniversary celebration at Lincoln Center in November 2025. That’s where you come in. You’re invited to join us on stage or in the audience. If you can’t do that, it will be livestreamed.

    The final lyrics of the piece, penned by Pamela Stewart, echo in all of us: “We are one voice. We will keep on singing ‘til our work is done. We will keep on singing ‘til the race is won. We will keep on singing ‘til the ribbons that we wear wave like banners of life. We have one life. One choice. We are one voice.”

    We really are inviting folks from all over the U.S. to join us at Lincoln Center on November 23, 2025! For more information, contact us at

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversation
    Published on May 23, 2024