PVOP MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Alix Genter

Dr. Alix Genter

“I like the diversity of PVOP – it's not just for gay men or women. I like that this is an LGBTQ choir and that we have allies – that works for me... I like to meet people who aren't exactly like me.”

By Caroline Edgeton

PVOP's resident historian, Alix Genter, has a unique take on American history. She isn't as interested in focusing on the typical narrative you probably heard in U.S. History classes from high school. She'd rather discuss the marginalization of women in the 20th century or the evolution of butch-femme culture from 1940 to 1970.

“I just really like exposing to students how gender is constructed throughout the 20th century and how certain ideologies about womanhood and manhood are constructed for particular purposes at particular times,” Genter said. “It depends on what's going on in the nation in terms of cultural anxieties, or war, or peace, or economics, or whatever – a lot of times woman and their bodies and their reproduction and their ability to conform, or not, to certain standards of femininity are really attacked in those moments and that is when gender ideologies are created. The idea of what is important for women to do is created as a result of larger issues.”

Genter, an Abington native who has been a member of PVOP since the fall of 2013, attended New York City's prestigious Barnard College, the all female school of Columbia University. She then obtained her PhD in May of 2014 in United States Woman's and Gender History from Rutgers University. Since then, she has been an adjunct professor at the College of New Jersey teaching a course called Women in the 20th Century in the United States.

“I think it's important to expose the idea of divorcing gender from biology and showing students how gender is actually constructed over time is important, and, in general, really interesting. The students seem to find it interesting, too. Usually...hopefully,” Genter said.

“If you're raised in the U.S., you're used to a standard American history narrative. The students don't know a lot about what I tell them. A lot of them will tell me, 'I can't believe I never learned this before, I can't believe I never learned that.' It's because what I teach isn't really taught in high schools. It's not pretty. We talk about marginalized groups – if it's women, if it's African Americans, if it's queer people, or people who identify as all three – it's not going to be a good history. It can be depressing and hard for people sometimes, but it's important,” she said. “But that's the professor thing, the historian thing is different.”

While Genter is a professor by day, professionally she is a historian and prefers to spend her time researching as much as possible. She truly enjoys what she teaches and where she works, but it isn't what she spends most of her time doing.

“What I'm really passionate about has to do with some of the things I teach, but my book that I'm writing is different. It's about butch-femme lesbian culture in New York from the 1940s to the 1970s, and it's about how these different gender identities have manifested in different bodies and how different people constructed them based on their lives or subjectivities,” Genter said. “It's a history of this culture that was lesbianism before the 1970s when feminism changed what lesbianism could mean and meant...so what I'm talking about is during a time when [lesbianism] was really criminalized and considered sick and sinful.”

“The culture and the identities these women created is really incredible and exciting, I think, because of the major risks these women had to deal with. To create a culture that was so vibrant, and their ability to find love and have good sex and figure out who they were and be who they were is just...I really love my book,” she said.

While her studies are based in New York City, Genter knows what she is researching extends well beyond the city limits.

“It's a period before the '70s with the explosion of feminism and challenges to the gendered social order really became apparent...and how new ideas about lesbianism changed what was lesbianism in general. Before that, this other style called butch-femme – where one woman is a bit more masculine and the other is a bit more feminine to varying degrees and in different ways – was considered a pairing that goes together. That style of lesbianism has a really weird rap as being very rigid, but my research shows it wasn't at all rigid – it was flexible and forgiving and accommodating... it was actually an adaptable system and that's my big intervention in the history of this style of lesbianism.”

Outside of teaching and working on her book, Genter, obviously, is a member of PVOP. One of the main aspects that drew Genter to PVOP was the fact that it was an eclectic choir that isn't specific to a certain identity.

“I like the diversity of PVOP – it's not just for gay men or women. I like that this is an LGBTQ choir and we have allies – that works for me. I think it's great and welcoming. I think that's important. I like to meet people who aren't exactly like me,” Genter said.

When Genter auditioned on her 30th birthday in 2013, she viewed joining the choir as a bit of a birthday present to herself. She had sang quite a bit up until junior high and in her synagogue choir. She also performed at open mic nights and talent shows as a solo singer and guitar player. Until 2013, though, she hadn't had the opportunity to sing much since her teens.

“I performed in some musicals when I was younger, too. The last one I was in was when I was 16. I was in Annie and I played Pepper, the mean bully,” Genter said. “I love musicals, so this concert is really exciting to me. I get really excited about musical music. Really excited.”

Genter, who is currently glowingly pregnant, resides in Northeast Philadelphia with her her partner of seven years. They have been married for the past two and a half and are expecting their first born this June!


PVOP MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Robert Blackwell

by Caroline Edgeton

Robert Blackwell

“PVOP has just improved so much throughout the years – it's really great to see that... I'm really happy to see where PVOP is going. We're in a really good place right now.”

A choir's success is determined by a number of aspects. A solid director, a knowledgable accompanist, and enthusiastic singers generally yield very positive results. Fortunately, here at Philadelphia Voices of Pride, we have all three of these things. And our accompanist, Robert Blackwell, is most certainly a crucial aspect to our success.

Standing at about 6'5”, Blackwell is PVOP's gentle giant. You wouldn't know it at first glance as he is frequently seen sitting behind the piano. However, he is always armed with a good joke or comedic commentary that always concludes in laughter.

Blackwell has been a member of PVOP since its inception 10 years ago.

“I had a friend, Shannon, who told me about PVOP and invited me. I mostly came because I felt isolated and wanted to be more involved with the gay community,” Blackwell said. “It wasn't as much about professional or music reasons – I just wanted to branch out.”

Blackwell has been playing piano since he was a kid. Hailing from Ohio, he wound up attending Ohio State University on a music scholarship. From there, he moved to New York City to pursue a career conducting musical theatre.

“I lived in New York for 12 years, and now I've lived in Philly for 12 years. I wanted to start a career as a theatre conductor. I just got there and started calling people,” Blackwell said. “I got a lot of work working with dance companies...they generally need piano players for dance classes. I worked for the Dancers of Harlem – that was my first job.”

“I did that for a few months and then I started getting work with shows. I wound up traveling a lot for work. These companies would just call me and say, 'We need you on a plane tomorrow.' They'd just FedEx me a ticket and I'd be gone for six to 10 weeks. I did that for years,” he said.

The traveling Blackwell had to endure was pretty intense. The shows he worked were located anywhere from New York to Oregon to Germany. After growing tired of traveling and dealing with New York City's bustling environment, Blackwell thought a change of pace and scenery might work in his favor.

“I also had a crush on a boy who lived here and I wanted to be closer to him. I wanted to get out of New York, it was getting too crazy,” Blackwell said.

Despite having a heavy music background, Blackwell didn't immediately try to jump into music-based work.

“I also came here to study rebirthing. Rebirthing is about breathing modality...it's also about looking at people's birth experiences as way to understand how people form their strategies for living in the world,” Blackwell said. “When you're born, you undergo your first experience of being in the world and your first experience of change... people make certain decisions about others and they'll carry those strategies out into the world.”

“We look at all the different things that can come up during pregnacy. From there, we sort of know what steps to take in helping people,” he said. “The person breathes for a whole hour and we help guide them through it. It's very condensed, circular breathing, you almost get a high from it, but all this creative energy comes to the surface so if there any changes they are experiencing at the time or if there are any goals they are trying to achieve, rebirthing helps people tackle those things with more energy and creativity.”

If you already think Blackwell is a busy guy, think again. He also has a day job as a coordinator for the Annals of Internal Medicine, one of the world's leading medical journals, and he is in the process of writing a young adult fantasy novel based in Philadelphia.

“Getting into writing is kind of a new thing for me. I took a writing course in college that I did really well in, and with my day job I'm constantly writing e-mails all day, all the time...so I just started thinking this is something I'd want to pursue,” Blackwell said. “I read all of the Twilight series, Harry PotterThe Hunger Games...that genre is just appealing to me – it's a huge market right now.”

In his (very) spare time, he is known to frequent restaurants (Wedge and Fig, Tallula's Daily, and the Tarte Shop being some of his favorites), the Sporting Club in Center City, and Dollar Stores.

“I am obsessed with Dollar Stores...I think it's so interesting that you can get one thing that's $4 at Whole Foods but at the Dollar Store it's only a $1. I don't know why, but I think they're so weird and interesting,” Blackwell said.

Overall, Blackwell definitely stays on his toes with his daily work and activities. One thing that is for certain, though, his love and dedication to PVOP is unwavering.

“PVOP has just improved so much throughout the years – it's really great to see that,” Blackwell said. “We have a lot of younger women coming in, too, and that has been good to see. That really helps with balancing out the sound. I'm really happy to see where PVOP is going. We're in a really good place right now.”

"Brahms & Broadway" is Bound to THRILL!

Our Spring 2015 concert, “Brahms & Broadway,” is a glorious homage to living life to the fullest. This choral concert will invigorate your soul and inspire you to live every day like it’s your last. No regrets as we celebrate standing up for what’s right, finding independence and appreciating all that matters in life—true happiness. Enjoy a riveting evening as we sing Brahms, and other songs from some of your favorite performances to ever grace the stage like Newsies, Rent and Into the Woods!

Tickets available at the door:
$25 General Admission
$15 Students with I.D.

 

Want to place an Ad in our upcoming concert program? Download our Sprint 2015 Ad Contract HERE or find it under SUPPORT

We've made some changes!

PVOP welcomes new board members!

Better late than never, we wanted to let you know of some changes our Board of Directors has undergone within the past year.

Justin Aurand has finished his wonderful term as President and has passed the baton on to former Vice President,  Kirsten Schaney. Paul  Jensen, a former PVOP President, has returned to the board picking up where Kirsten left off as Vice President. Some new faces are on board for the ride. Caroline Edgerton is our new Secretary and personally approved by former Secretary, John Kane. Membership's new Team is the vivacious duo, Mandie (Levin) Spindler and Cira Nerino-Davis... who if you were paying attention, both married over the summer. Hence the slight name changes. They're pretty much our Olivia Pope and "handle" any questions our membership has. Yvette Wilson, a former Member at Large,  has been our graphic guru since 2009 and also took at seat on the board this past Fall as the Marketing Chair.

To our new and returning Board of Directors, WELCOME. We appreciate all the work you have done and will do. Now, lets make some magic happen this season!