Music man: meet Chris Verdugo, director of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

Author:Arredondo, Cesar
 
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Verdugo's leadership, "a activism and passion for music have led him td meet people like music icons Emilio and Gloria Estefan and actress Reese Witherspoon.

"No other gay men's choir does what we do in terms of advocacy," the executive director declares with pride.

Chris Verdugo is a music lover.

Maybe he was born that way.

"I was hooked on music probably from birth," he says.

Born in Florida, Verdugo grew up listening to tropical rhythms at home-his father is Cuban, his mother Puerto Rican. He pursued singing in college, but dropped out to perform on cruise lines and try other ventures.

Today, music still rules his world but with a twist. Verdugo, 43, is the executive director of the ; Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

With about 300 members and a $1 million budget, the group is one the largest of its kind in 0 , the U.S. And Verdugo, GMCLA's first Latino director, is one of the main reasons behind it. & *

When he took over in 2011, GMCLA had around 170 members and a budget of a half-million dollars. The group has increased its popularity under Verdugo, too. "We have raised the profile of our organization, growing our brand both artistically and from an advocacy standpoint," he says.

GMCLA has been featured in television shows like I am Cait with Caitlyn Jenner and Parks and Recreation, the VH1 Awards, and the Academy Awards, when they were hosted by comedian Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame.

Recently, the group's It Gets Better: True Colors video, featuring the choir performing Cyndi Lauper's classic hit, surpassed one million views, according to Verdugo. He says the 2010 video inspired an even bigger project, the It Gets Better Tour, an ever-expanding, one-week residency program that visits high schools and middle schools in Southern California and across the nation to promote the prevention of bullying against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual persons. But it also tackles racism, obesity and even climate change.

"No other gay men's choir does what we do in terms of advocacy," the executive director declares with pride.

Some projects speak to Verdugo's Latino roots. This year he brought Mano a Mano, Cuba's first and only men gay men's chorus, for their first performance ever in North America.

His leadership, activism and passion for music have led Verdugo to meet people like music icons Emilio and Gloria Estefan and actress Reese Witherspoon. I This summer he met presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I

And in early October he...

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