Gleeks on campus

At UNT, students unite for a diverse, inclusive show choir. And there’s no Sue Sylvester

TEENAGED DREAMS | UNT Glee Club’s 19-year-old members — RaShard Turley, Raena McEuin, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Gianna Millares (she’s 20), Lindsay Harris and Marissa Davis — were inspired by the hit Fox series to pursue their love of performing. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Thankfully, there are no slushies in the face for members of UNT Glee Club, an organization inspired by the smash-hit Fox TV show, Glee. There’s no Sue Sylvester, either. But there are plenty of similarities between the college club and their TV counterparts.

Founded in 2010 by Jose Coira, who recently graduated, the club arose as a direct result of the TV show.

“He was inspired to give students on campus an opportunity to shine like the stars they are,” says Kendall Butler, a 23-year-old dancer and current president of the club. “UNT Glee Club is compiled of talented performers who sing and dance.”

Unlike traditional collegiate glee clubs that focus on classical music, Butler says his group is inspired by and performs all types of music. Auditions for the 24-member show choir and 20-person dance team that comprise the club were so popular they had to turn away plenty of good talent.

“It’s very competitive and nerve-racking because you want them all to be in Glee, but it just doesn’t work out that way,” he says.
Comparisons to the show are easy because of the group’s diversity, according to Butler.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they follow us around and steal ideas for the actual show,” he says. “We get anything from the sweet Southern belle to the hard rocker, with only one thing in common: Music.”

And music is definitely one thing that the University of North Texas is known for. Having a talented glee club blossom on its campus is not a stretch of the imagination at all.

“We get all sorts of talented students that audition. From music majors to bio-chemistry majors, students come from all over campus and impress us with their voices and technical dancing skills,” Butler says. “Everyone we pick must be able to sing and dance. Most students can sing or dance, but we need our Gleeks to be well-rounded. Personality is also key — we want people who represent who we are.”

When asked if they were interested in commercial success similar to what the stars of the television series have enjoyed with their No. 1 CDs and iTunes downloads, the reactions of its members are somewhat surprising.

“Personally, I don’t feel like being world-famous or having record albums is what Glee is about,” says 19-year-old soprano Lindsay Harris, a psychology major. “Glee is about making friends, having fun and the enjoyment of being on stage and performing. Don’t get me wrong, I think seeing our glee club on a CD cover would be awesome, but our club is so much more than being famous.”

Alto and fellow psych major Jessica Ailene Rogers, 21, agrees.

“We have had our fair share of news coverage, as well as different people hire us to perform, but when it comes to ‘making it big,’ we just prefer to have fun and put on a great show for our friends, families and local fans.”

Butler believes a recording is definitely the direction the club would like to take eventually, but for now, everyone involved seems content to just explore their talents and have a good time. Most of all, UNT Glee is a place where students can be themselves, gay or straight, outgoing or reserved.

“It’s the club where friendships are born,” Butler says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Sue Sylvester launches ‘Stop Believing’ campaign, urges boycott of upcoming ‘Glee’ movie

OK, I know it’s a cheesy publicity stunt, but it’s also a pretty funny one. A 3D concert movie of the hit show Glee is set to make it to theaters next month, and not everyone is happy — including, it turns out, Sue Sylvester. Sue is the character played by out actress Jane Lynch on the series, who’s always trying to destroy the glee club. So the studio has initiated Sue’s “Stop Believing” campaign to “boycott” the film. Below is the release. Note especially some of the details, like the “dictated but not read” warning. Clever stuff.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rutgers holds vigil for gay student who killed self

Tyler Clementi

Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University held a silent vigil Sunday night to remember a student who committed suicide after his sexual encounter with a man in his dormitory room was secretly streamed online.

The tribute to 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi drew a few hundred people, many holding candles, to the school’s campus in New Brunswick.

While some area religious officials briefly addressed the crowd during the hour-long vigil, few words were spoken by the participants. Most in attendance took the time to reflect on what had happened to Clementi, sharing hugs and holding hands with others in a show if unity.

Among those attending was Rutgers student Julie Burg, who said she wanted to spread the message that help is available for students in crisis.

“There are many groups anywhere you go to that could help support you,” Burg told WCBS-TV in New York.

Burg was joined at the vigil by her mother, Annmarie Burg, who was saddened by the events leading to Clementi’s death.

“It had to take such an unfortunate incident like this to create, probably, an even larger awareness,” the mother said.

Prosecutors say Clementi’s roommate and another student used a webcam to broadcast on the Internet live images of Clementi having the intimate encounter.

Clementi, a promising violinist, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River three days later. His body was identified Thursday.

Rutgers President Richard McCormick said the vigil was an opportunity for students and staff to come together and “reaffirm our commitment to the values of civility, dignity, compassion and respect.”

The vigil was the latest in a series of remembrances for Clementi at the university that included the establishment of a Facebook group, In Honor of Tyler Clementi.

On Friday, students wore black and were encouraged to leave flowers or mementoes at a makeshift memorial for Clementi. The Rutgers Glee Club marched to the memorial and performed a rendition of “Rutgers Prayer,” which is traditionally sung when an important member of the Rutgers community dies or a tragedy happens at the university.

On Saturday, the school had a moment of silence for Clementi before the start of its homecoming football game against Tulane.

Clementi’s death was one of a string of suicides last month involving teens believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. On Friday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old central California boy who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

—  John Wright

Dallas Observer honors TCC, Uptown Players, Station 4, Gary Fitzsimmons, Kevin Moriarty

This week’s Observer goes jumbo size with its annual Best of Dallas issue. These are the best issues because it’ll give the obvious kudos to best club, restaurant, actor, etc., but then also goes out of the box for awards like “Best Shiny Happy People” (The Dallas Family Band) and “Best Two-Fisted Drinking” (The Dirty Dusty at City Tavern (Ed. note: agreed!)). We were happily surprised to see the space they gave to some LGBT faves.

Right at the front of the first section in Culture, we see the award for Glee Club given to the Turtle Creek Chorale with a feature written by Elaine Liner. She continues her gay ways with a second feature, “Homecoming Queens” about Israel Luna’s travails as a controversial indie filmmaker. If you caught the live video stream of his radio show today on Rational Broadcasting, he flashed the page for the camera.

Other LGBT awards went to Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center (best theater director), “Broadway Our Way” by Uptown Players (best theater fundraiser), Gay List Daily (best blast of gay), District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons (best bureaucrat)and Station 4 (best dance club).

There are some others, but you’ll have to snag your own copy to read further on. But don’t try the boxes down here on Fitzhugh. They are cleaned out.

Congrats to all the winners.

—  Rich Lopez