“Through music, men's voices unite as a vehicle to entertain, educate, bring healing, joy, community and build bridges to the public at large.”
MenAlive’s Mission Statement can be heard resonating through every musical performance. And although the chorus is often looked at as a talented and complex ensemble, each person- singer, dancer, envelope stuffer, or costume designer- brings a unique perspective and an individual story which adds color, depth, and insight into that which is the gay experience. Bass Bill Reed is one of those incredible individuals.
Bill was born and raised in Laguna Beach. After High School, he left to attend college in Arizona, but left after two years to backpack around Europe. “I had one of the best times of my life traveling around Europe. I met so many wonderful people and saw so many beautiful sights. I had my 21st birthday in Rome. My most memorable time was in Mykonos where I lived with a Greek family for a month.” Upon his return, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, spent two years on an aircraft carrier, and completed two military tours to Vietnam during the height of the war. He later went on to complete a degree in marketing, which lead to many corporate-level management positions. After Bill returned to Southern California in 1989 to be closer to his father, he worked at several jobs with the U.S. Government and retired in 2005. Now, he shares the home he grew up in with chorus member Craig Tyrl and his partner Noe. Bill is proud of his “loving family of three.”
From his early years as a “boy soprano in church,” music has always had an important place in Bill’s life. He has sung in several church choirs, been a performer for the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Chorale, and had parts in musicals like Carousel and Oklahoma. In 2003, Bill met fellow MenAlive bass Jack Middleton, who encouraged Bill to attend St. George’s Episcopal Church choir. Jack told Bill that the choir director, Rich Cook also directed a gay men’s chorus, and, after attending a performance, Bill successfully auditioned. He performed in the 2003 holiday show “Christmas in New York” and has been with the chorus since then. Bill currently sings with both the Saddleback College Emeritus Choir and MenAlive.
Bill describes the MenAlive experience as a miracle. “By the time I reached 7th Grade, I began to have feelings towards other boys. During my first year in college at ASU, when I was about 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I was gay.” As a gay man growing up during the Cold War, Bill always felt that he had to be very careful in the way he acted and with the things that he would say. He says that after many years, he became a pro at it, but it was always a degrading feeling. It wasn’t until joining MenAlive that Bill was able to allow himself to no longer hide:
In March 2008, my 30 year old nephew Sam and his girlfriend visited me from Australia. I bought them two tickets to MenAlive’s production of “Vegas Gold.” I told them that it was the Orange County Gay Men’s Chorus. It was really the first time that I had ever admitted to any member of my family that I was a gay man. I remember after the performance I met Sam in the lobby and we hugged each other and cried. It was at that moment that I felt the secret of being gay was over and I didn’t have to worry about exposing my life as a gay man to my family or anyone. The chorus did for me what I could not do for myself. I am forever grateful to MenAlive for a much more inclusive and fulfilling life.
So when you go to the MenAlive website and scroll down to the bottom left, take a moment to reflect on what the Mission Statement is saying. Seeing how we entertain and bring joy and community is easy. But men like Bill Reed take the part about “healing and building bridges” to heart. He’s lived it.