Local Gay Tenor Performs for Trevor Project
Aaron Spencer wanted to do something important for young gays and lesbians struggling with issues of coming out and bullying. After Tyler Clementi, a Rutger’s student, jumped to his death last year after being outed online by his college roommate, Spencer and a few of his friends – all classical musicians and opera singers in Philly – created a one-night-only event to benefit the local arm of the The Trevor Project.
On Saturday, Jan. 22 (7:30 p.m.), Spencer, a tenor, will be joined by countertenor Bryan DeSilva, violist Shane Barker and pianist Jean-François Proulx for a concert at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church sanctuary with 100 percent of donations benefitting Philadelphia’s Trevor Project. Stir Lounge will be hosting the official after-party (9 p.m. – 2 a.m.).
“The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBT youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24-7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy and educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone,” explains Philly’s Trevor Project co-chair Jeanne McIntyre. “These performers, all gay men themselves, know all too well the challenges of growing up homosexual in a less than accepting community and can think of no better way to thank the Trevor Project team than to give of their time and talents in support of this mission.”
Spencer sat down with G Philly to discuss why this organization is close to his heart and what people can expect from this one-night-only event.
How did you get involved with the Trevor Project in Philly?
I got involved through my friend Shane Barker, the violist in the concert. He called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a benefit concert for the Trevor Project with him and our friend Bryan DeSilva. We were all at Temple University together and the idea came to us in the wake of all of the gay teen suicides, culminating in Tyler Clementi’s death. That one hit very close to home. We decided to do this concert with gay musicians with whom we were friends – it is important to note that my friend Diana, the harpist playing a set with me, is not gay, but the set was too perfect to pass up. Each and every musician in the concert is donating their time and talents.
What will you and the others be performing tomorrow night?
We will feature selections from Brahms, Robert Stevenson and Bach, as well as Vaughan Williams and Schubert.
What’s your background as a musician?
I grew up in a small town in Southwest Florida with no music program and with very little exposure to music other than what you hear on the radio. I went to the University of Florida (UF) as a magazine journalism major, but decided to sing in the Men’s Glee Club as a one-credit elective just for fun. I met the gentlemen of Phi Mu Alpha there and became involved with that fraternity. They are the ones that brought me to the voice faculty at UF and had me sing for them – that’s how I changed my major to music.
Opera’s a far cry from what you hear on the radio. What made you decide to focus on it?
I didn’t begin to seriously think of opera as a possibility until a few years later, but I realized a passion for music that I still carry with me. I got a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance there and stayed to get a Master’s in choral conducting so that I could learn more about music and study with Elizabeth Graham, the head of the voice department.
What brought you to Philly?
I sang in a couple of school productions and then auditioned for a second Master’s, this time in vocal performance, and ended up coming to Temple University. I studied with Philip Cho.
Where have we seen you perform in the region?
I have sung as a studio artist with Opera New Jersey and in the chorus with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. I have also sung as a recitalist and tenor soloist in several oratorios. And I have been a tenor section leader with St. Mark’s Episcopal Church since I moved here almost three years ago.
What impact has the Trevor Project made on you as an out gay man?
All of this action with the Trevor Project and the current political climate has led me to a career in politics to try and do something lasting and good in this world. I am now studying for the LSAT and am intending to refocus and go to law school.
Trevor Project Benefit Concert, Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1625 Locust St.