Sparkt Bridges

There's No One Quite Like Them: Singers Use Their Time and Talent To Make A Difference

Listen to them sing, not only to experience the emotional power of their voices, but also the power of their message.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

Joe Stuligross loves to make music. His fiancee Deb Sadowski loves to help non-profits be successful. So when they started talking about how to combine their passions to make a difference in Pittsburgh, one idea hit the right note: form a singing group, the likes of which no one had ever seen or heard.

The group's concerts are meant to evoke strong emotions, even among the singers.VoiceGivers Choir/Steve Mellon

Out of that came VoiceGivers, a professional chamber choir that not only makes beautiful music, but aims to raise awareness about important economic and social issues in their community, and inspire everyone who hears them to get involved too.

The couple founded VoiceGivers in 2019, while they were on a bike ride, belive it or not. The idea really fit their personal committment to giving back. "It seemed a natural fit that we would found a choir that would seek to do good in the world," said Stuligross.

"There's so much in our world that's transactional and in the moment," he added. "When you buy a concert ticket you buy a service and expect to be entertained." The couple wanted VoiceGivers to be different.

The group's fall 2019 concert focused on medically vulnerable children and benefited a palliative care group.VoiceGivers Choir/Steve Mellon

That's why the focus of each concert is carefully chosen and the choral pieces are selected with an ear for what will resonate and reinforce that issue. Then speakers are invited to provide personal reflections during the show.

The concert I attended (listen here) was held at Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, just west of Pittsburgh, where they care for unaccompanied minors separated from their families at the Mexico border.

Given the focus of this concert, there were songs sung in Spanish and traditional instruments like guitar and drums.VoiceGivers Choir/Steve Mellon

During the concert, caregivers told stories about the children, what they'd been through and what lay ahead, stories that were at the same time sad, funny, and hopeful.

Speakers talked about the trauma immigrant children faced being separated from their families.VoiceGivers Choir/Steve Mellon

"This is about the audience experience," said Sadowski. "We want people to experience beautiful music, but for it to be something more. For them to feel a real connection with the cause and an affinity that's working to make a difference."

VoiceGivers performances are on hold right now, but if you live in the Pittsburgh area I encourage you to keep an eye on their website for their next concert and buy a ticket. I think you'll be moved and inspired like I was!

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Life Changing Medicine.

How can you start something good?

If the VoiceGivers Choir and their message inspired you, why not support them. You can donate, volunteer, or even (if you're a high level singer) join them. Click here to find out how.

VoiceGivers concerts benefit the organizations that they sing about. The winter concert proceeds went to Holy Family Institute where they care for families and children in crisis, including children separated from their families at the Mexico border. Click here to find out how to support them.

Their fall concert focused on medically vulnerable children and the people who care from them, benefittting the Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition. Click here to find out how to support them.

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