Activism Through Music
For Randy Hite, singing with the Heartland Men’s Chorus has become a way of life.
“To me, the chorus combines so many things in my life,” Hite said. “It combines my love of music and singing, but it also combines my love of activism, being publicly out as a gay organization.
“Most importantly, it’s a place where we create community. And that’s a community of supportive people within the chorus -- I tell people it’s a place where I feel I belong. There’s that community inside the chorus, but then when we present a concert, I feel we’re creating a community for the whole LGBT community in Kansas City -- an event where they can go and feel safe and affirmed and see their friends in a public setting.”
Hite has been with the chorus for about 20 years, he said. He took a few years off in the early part of his participation.
“My personal story of why I stopped is a little telling about the early years of the chorus,” he said. “This was the ’80s. It was a new organization, and there were just different ideas about what the organization was. For some people, it was a safe place to be among friends. They did not want to be political at all. I, on the other hand, saw it as [a place> that we could be a force for change, and so I wanted us to be more out than some people did.”
He stepped away from the chorus until that difference of opinion had resolved itself and members were being more out and open.
Hite sings baritone and is the baritone section leader in the chorus.
“I have a degree in music education from UMKC and so I have some skills and background in that,” he said.
Hite said he really couldn’t single out any one concert that was his favorite. But he did say that he liked the concerts like “When I Knew”, “I Am Harvey Milk” and others with messages about bullying awareness, gay activism and other more political causes.
Hite has also been involved in the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, which served for years as Kansas City’s leading LGBT political organization. But lately, Hite said, Four Freedoms has been disbanding because the members feel that the work of other organizations now duplicates much of what they had been doing.
In addition, Hite runs several times a week with the Frontrunners LGBT running/walking group. In August, he competed in the 5K, 10K and half marathon events at the Gay Games in Cleveland, Ohio. He won a bronze medal in the 10K, coming in third in his age group.
For about 19 years, Hite has been in a relationship with Rick Fisher, the executive director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus. They were married in July 2014, and they share a home in the Valentine neighborhood. The two met shortly after Fisher moved to Kansas City in 1996, but not through the chorus.
They met around the time when Hite returned to the chorus after taking a break. Part of the reason he returned was to be able to participate in the convention of GALA, the national group of gay and lesbian choruses.
Hite said he had gone to an earlier GALA convention and “It was a life-changing event, and so I was hooked.”
He and Fisher were able to go together to the 1996 convention.
Although the couple did not meet through the chorus, Hite said it’s common for participants to meet their life partners there.
“I can tell you the names of partners who have met through the chorus,” he said, laughing.
A Raytown, Mo., native, Hite has worked in customer service for the U.S. Postal Service for 23 years.
“I started as a teacher,” he said, “quit teaching after a few years and landed at the post office. And it turned into a career.”
Another role that Hite plays in the chorus is that of a buddy coordinator. The chorus assigns each new member a buddy, who introduces the newcomer to other members, guides them through the rehearsals, and more.
Hite encourages people to audition at the times of year when there are open auditions.
“It’s a great place to meet friends and sing and really make a difference in your community and world, I think.”
Hite spoke of what he feels is the important work of all gay choruses through GALA.
“We’re a part of something that’s much bigger,” he said. “We have important work to do. It’s not just the work we do in our own cities. We help improve the lives of LGBT people. As GALA says, ‘Our Voices Win Freedom.’ "