Only a decade ago, each of the five male members of the nine-member New Directions Veterans Choir was homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. Now they are part of a nationally known choir that has sung on America’s Got Talent. On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, they shared their own stories about this remarkable transformation.
The members—George Hill, Marine Corps veteran and group leader; John Hill and Danny Tucker, Army veterans; Carleton Griffin, Navy veteran; and Bobby Hanna, an Air Force veteran—each spoke to some aspect of their experience in the military and how they came to be homeless. They went on to explain how the Los Angeles-based New Directions program help them, along with becoming members of the choir.
They also took a variety of questions from the primarily IUP student audience members on topics ranging from military to music. Their answers were straightforward and came from their own personal experiences. Twice during the session they took time to sing a song as a preview to the evening performance, including their signature tune, “Lean on Me.”
The session was hosted by the Lively Arts in partnership with the IUP Libraries as the first of three Library Lively Arts Mary Jane Schafer Memorial events, and was MC’d by Michelle Papakie, a Journalism professor and lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
Said one of the ROTC commanders, Captain David Sabulsky, “It was great having the group here, as several topics discussed had attributes and lessons geared toward the development of a leader.”
The group also announced their work towards the recording and release of their first CD, appropriately titled New Directions Veterans Choir: The First Recording. It is being done through Kickstarter, a Web-based initiative for raising funds for the project. They are determined to raise awareness of homeless veterans through their music and this project, and to spread their message of “There is hope, there is help.” If you are interested in supporting the project, go to Kickstarter and follow the links for the New Direction Veterans Choir.
For the evening performance on November 13, held in Fisher Auditorium, the five veterans were joined by four female singers, all of whom have close ties to the military and the choir.