25 Years of VOX Choir Memories
Dr. Iris S. Levine
Founding Artistic Director
1. What is your "other" job outside of VOX? I have had an extraordinary career at Cal Poly Pomona University. Over 32 years, I have served as faculty and department chair in the music department, Associate Dean and then Dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. I have also served in a “double Dean” role adding Interim Dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies. Last summer, the President asked me to serve as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. It was one of my greatest honors to serve the University in that manner, as I oversaw the leadership in all of Academic Affairs, including eight distinct colleges, the Arabian Horse Center, Enrollment Management, Office of Student Success, Office of Faculty Affairs and much more! As of April 1, I completed my service as Provost and am now serving as the Special Assistant to the President, completing various projects for CPP’s President, Soraya M. Coley. 2. What, or who, inspired you to start VOX? Jon Bailey - He was the Artistic Director for the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles and was interested in having a women’s chorus in Los Angeles that would mirror GMCLA. We had many, many conversations about this before he and I came to the same conclusion about who VOX would be. He told me that VOX would change my life and he was correct! 2. What do you remember from the first year? First auditions - I was blown away by some of the voices that came to sing with us. They were all asked to sing something a cappella (voice only - no accompaniment). One singer came in and sang a full Handel aria! First rehearsal - the sound was SOOOOO beautiful that I nearly wept. I knew that this was going to be something special. First performance - 19 singers stood on the stage of the Alex Theatre with 200 GMCLA men behind us - literally creating a physical and emotional support to us. We rocked the house and got a standing ovation each night! First VOX concert - our first concert was given in what was a former furniture store and what would become MCCLA. We made posters and flyers to promote the concert and before we could even get them mailed out, the concert was sold out! We had to add a second night and adjust all the flyers and posters. What are your favorite memories from the pat 25 years? Oh, there are so many wonderful memories… the relationships built, the music made, the community impact, the national impact on the choral field. Wow.. I’m not sure how to identify favorite memories, but I’ll give it a try. First ACDA performance when we definitely made a positive impact on the choral community, yet we witnessed people leaving the hall because we represented the gay and lesbian community. First GALA performance when we were the “talk of the town” for our outstanding, memorable performance. Singing Mahler 8 with the LA Philharmonic under Maestro Dudamel’s baton. Singing at the first Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles. In 2008, singing at many lesbian weddings when we finally won the right to marriage equality! Singing the National Anthem at LA Sparks games (bringing my love for basketball and VOX together!) Commissioning new works that speak to women’s stories. Performing "The Notebooks of Leonardo” by Jocelyn Hagen - an incredible multi-media work that opened my eyes to so many future possibilities. Singing “One with the Wind” at the Tapestry International Festival in Vancouver with choirs from Japan, Iceland and Vancouver (Elektra). Sustaining VOX during the pandemic through our film production of Suffrage Cantata. These are things I am most proud of, and I’m sure I left out a gazillion other memories! 3. What would you like to see VOX do in the future? Travel! It has been a while since we took to the road or flight to bring our music to other communities. Imagine the impact we would have with a road trip singing Suffrage Cantata before the November elections. Or, imagine the impact it would have on our singers and other communities to bring our music to another country, where we collaborate with local women’s choirs. I would love to see VOX commit to a “regular” travel calendar. 4. Anything else you would like to add, or anything people would find surprising to learn about you? People talk about how much I have given to VOX, but I want people to know how much VOX has given to me. When you make music with others, you open your heart and soul to each other - I have benefitted from making music with hundreds of Voxxies along the way and numerous guest artists. Because of VOX, I have served women’s choral music as a clinician, a guest conductor, a scholar, a board member, a commissioner and an arranger. VOX and I continue to strive to make the world a better place, one day at a time.
What is your role at VOX and how long have you been with the organization? I am the Production Coordinator and I have been with VOX since 2013 (9 years) What do you do outside of VOX? I am a Production Manager and Assistant Director for independent filmmakers here in Los Angeles and I assist the Los Angeles Master Chorale with their high school education outreach programs. When I am not on a film set or a concert stage, I teach set management and assistant directing at the Los Angeles Film School. What is your favorite memory of working with VOX? I believe it was my second season with VOX before a concert at Zipper. I was going around making sure everything was running smoothly and the signers were gathering in a circle before going on stage. Realizing what they were about to do, I wanted to give them their privacy, so I started to walk away. One of the singers grabbed my hand and said, "Where are you going? You're one of us!" At that moment I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Is there anything you would like to do with VOX in the future, or that you would like to see VOX do? I would love to see VOX continue to grow. VOX not only helps give women a voice in LA, but all over the world. The transition to virtual concerts during the pandemic has given VOX such a big outreach, thanks to technology and I want to see that continue and expand! Anything else you would like to share (fun fact, etc.)? Even though I am never on stage and the audience may have no idea who I am, Iris and the singers have always made me feel like I was a part of the VOX family. I have worked with other groups that treat the production manager as a personal assistant and VOX has never done that for a second. They have always embraced me with open and loving arms for who I am and respected what I do; that is rare in this industry! I hope they know just how special they are.
Former Board Chair
Friends can lead you along paths you might miss, and that was my experience with Vox Femina back in 2001. Bettie Teel was asked to be on the Vox Board by Stacy Poston, the co-founder. Bettie declined, but put forward my name as a recent retiree who might have both the time and interest. I did have both and was delighted to be asked. (Thankfully, Bettie joined the board a year later and was the asset they knew she would be.)
1. What do you do outside of VOX?
I have been gratefully retired for almost 4 years now and am really enjoying being able to sleep in more often! I am very active in my church, West Hollywood United Church of Christ, where I’ve been a member for the past 32 years, and in the Association of 48 UCC churches around LA, where I’ve served for the past 8 years. I love spending time with my kids, Damien & Andrew Rozendal, and their wives and my two grandchildren, Autry (14) and Redmond (6). Many of the Voxxies know Andrew, who’s been coming to our concerts faithfully for the 23 years that I’ve been part of the group. I’m also close to my 3 younger sisters, who live back in Michigan & New York, and spend delightful weeks with them a couple of times a year.
Singer & Former Board Chair
1. What do you do outside of VOX? I am a Senior Vice President at Creative Circle, which is a digital, creative, and marketing company that helps bring creative projects to life with staffing and consulting services. I live in Mount Washington with my wonderful wife, Brenda; our three cats, Fizz, Cooper and Mittens; and our pandemic puppers, Mochi. My pronouns are they/them and I identify as non-binary.
2. What drew you to singing with VOX in the first place and how did you hear about it? I first heard of Vox in 2000 right after my move to Los Angeles. I had been singing in the Stonewall Chorale in NYC and knew I wanted to continue singing. My girlfriend at the time (Suzy Brown, Soprano in Vox) and I went to see a concert and were so amazed we asked if we could audition mid-season!