Who We Are

Trans Voices Festival Steering Committee

Picture - Shirazi

Amir Shirazi (they/them/theirs) serves as Artistic Director to Transpose PDX, which is a non-profit choral organization serving the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community of Portland and is comprised of the Transpose Community Choir and a cappella group Acchord. They also serve on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Amir is an active composer, arranger, sound designer, and song-writer. www.amirbshirazi.com

 Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

Too often and for too long have trans and non-binary voices been left out, silenced, and unsupported. I’ve been privileged enough to help others create a space and community where their voices are affirmed, empowered, and heard. This festival is a continuation of that work for me, and I’m here to listen and learn just as much as I am here to offer anything. As a non-binary person of color, I lack and crave opportunities like this that don’t just touch on some aspect of my identity but fully embrace me for the things that have made me feel different or alone. My hope is that this festival continues to blaze the trail for more inclusion, support, and individuality.


Charlie Hersman (he/him) I’ve been singing for audiences since I was 5 years old. I grew up listening to people sing words I wasn’t allowed to say; words about personal strength, about finding yourself, about being true to who you are. I sing to myself to allow myself to express feelings of joy, or anger, or sorrow when I don’t always realize I need to feel it. I sing to others and with others to give freedom to those who still can’t speak. With a group I can say the words that are sometimes so hard to say alone. I sang with Transpose Community Choir for a year, and have been singing with Acchord since its foundation in 2017. I’ve sung with Portland Gay Men’s Chorus for the past three years.

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

I believe that hate is rooted in fear, and fear is caused by the unknown. Educating allies is important in normalizing transgender voices. As a lifelong singer, the challenges and dysphoria that are common with singers in the community are not always understood. I spent long hours researching what happens to voices that undergo medical transition through testosterone. My voice is key to my identity. Being able to talk to other people who had also taken testosterone and having them tell me it would be okay gave me the courage to move forward. I’m excited to help provide a platform where we can all learn more and be united in our love of music. We all have our unique challenges. Something that might not be challenging to me could be a huge barrier to someone else. I want to hear everyone’s stories and take what I learn from this festival to make all spaces more inclusive.


Kimber

Kimber Sieffert (they/them) has made Portland their home for the past 7.5 years after moving to Oregon from Dickinson, ND to enhance their career. They truly love living in the Pacific NW! Besides their professional experience, Kimber’s love for choral singing began in middle school. They joined the Portland Lesbian Choir soon after moving to Portland where they sang as Alto for four years and served as Treasurer for three years. Kimber then sang with the Transpose Choir for one year and has held the Treasurer position for Transpose PDX for two years. Kimber also serves as President/Board Director for Portland Chamber Music and has an extensive career as a Social Worker serving vulnerable populations in both the Midwest and Northwest regions.  Kimber brings to the Trans Voices Festival an extensive history working within the non-profit sector and along with that, brings both their musical background and education to help create a festival that is educational and enjoyable.

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

I attended the 2018 Trans Voices Festival in Minneapolis, MN and the 2016 GALA Festival in Denver, CO. Both of these events provided me with so much inspiration and I developed lifelong friendships with some very wonderful people. Music is essential for our mental health and has provided me with a wonderful stress release while also giving me an opportunity to meet folks who have many of the same goals and aspirations that I attain to. I’m both excited and honored to be a part of the Portland Oregon Trans Voices Festival and I’m looking forward to getting to know so many beautiful talented people on this journey.


Landon Shimek (he/him) began playing piano and guitar at age eight. He sang with the the Seattle Men’s Chorus for two years before moving to the Portland area and finding a new voice with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. After singing with PGMC for a few years, Landon helped start Transpose PDX, which then lead Landon to spearhead a new chorus for people who identify as Queer; thus was born the Northwest Queer Chorus (NWQC). Landon is known for his easy going personality and his love for people and his Queer community. As a trans man, Landon’s vision is to use musical excellence as a platform for positive interactions between Queer and non-Queer identified communities. 

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

I chose to be apart of this festival because as a trans man myself, I wish I had something like this growing up. I want to leave the world a better place. This is my way of giving back to my Queer/trans community. As trans people we are deserving!


Marybeth Sanford grew up in a family that loved music. Her mother played piano while both she and her brother played violin.  They had season tickets at the Portland Opera and a favorite memory is singing with her Mother while she played piano.  They performed “Johnny One-note” and “My funny Valentine” by heart!

As Marybeth got older she started singing with church choirs. Bob Mensel (former Artistic Director of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus) was the choir director at her church, which led to her learning about PGMC. Then her daughter Alex joined PGMC and one thing led to another. Marybeth started volunteering for PGMC, got encouraged to join PLC and from there she learned about the Trans Voices Festival and here we are!

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

My eldest daughter is transgender. I remember when she finally told me that she was trans. She was so scared, so worried that she would be murdered. There is nothing worse for a mother than hearing your child weeping on the floor convinced that someone is going to kill her.  My youngest daughter Kylie saved that evening by being so excited that she now had an older sister!

I am here to bring visibility and normalization to transgender artists.  We hate what we don’t understand. This festival is a chance to bring an  understanding of people who are transgender.


Michael

Michael McDonald (he/him, they/them) serves on the Board of Directors for GALA Choruses, Inc., and is an active member of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and Resonance Ensemble.  He has a Bachelor’s degree in Music and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. After almost two decades in the high tech world, Michael now devotes his time to selling Real Estate, singing, and helping strengthen the community of people brought together through music.

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

My experience participating and singing in several GALA Choruses has exposed me to many people with amazing histories and stories to tell. It was only a few years ago that I began to be fully aware of people in my social circle who were dealing with gender identity issues. I found that when I opened myself up to truly hear the stories of my friends, I started to ask myself gender related questions, and my inner conversation has only helped me know myself better and understand others better. I can’t see gender as simply binary any more, either for myself or others. This revelation inspires me into action, and for me one very important action is coming together to make music in a space where it’s safe to express whatever gender identity we have.


Río Amani (They/Them/Elle) is a long-time student of life and avid storyteller.  They have been involved I community outreach and advocacy throughout most of their life.  Their involvement throughout movements in the spiritual community as well as many facets in the secular sector has contributed to their versatility in approaching many social issues. Through their 20 year-old yoga practice, they encountered the transformative practice of Vedic chanting.  In this exploration, they noticed not only the healing properties of sound, but also the ability of sound to be able to influence a myriad of emotions.

Why I Chose to be Part of this Festival:

My journey through life has been very dynamic and full of contrast.  As I’ve navigated my multiple intersecting marginalized identities, I’ve been able to discover my power and my passion for community.  As a transfemme nonbinary person of color, I’ve been fortunate to gain a lot of perspective on several issues.  I believe that visibility as my most authentic self is extremely important.  It is also imperative to recognize where I have privilege and to utilize that to provide a platform for all of those who do not.  When I discovered this festival I saw an instant opportunity to give my siblings the space they need to foster a stronger sense of community.