Erin Guinup

The American Academy of Teachers of Singing is pleased to recognize Erin Guinup with a 2024 AATS Award “in recognition of her work creating and directing the Tacoma Refugee Choir.”

Erin responded to the rising number of refugees in the Seattle area and welcomed them through the medium of music, giving them a sense of home and community. She founded the Tacoma Refugee Choir by combining expertise in music, arts administration, a compassionate soul, and community activism.

The Tacoma Refugee Choir creates space for authentic expression, interconnection, and healing through song and music. Started as a pilot project in partnership with Tacoma Community House, since 2016 the non-auditioned choir has had over 700 participants from 65 nations along with diverse U.S. members. What started as a simple choir has become a deeply connected group of people committed to supporting one another and offering a beacon of hope to the community. The impact extends beyond the public concerts and videos, as members have supported one other through births, weddings, and citizenship, to evictions, house fires, deaths, and immigration challenges. The weekly gatherings are designed to help people overcome barriers and engage in a communal experience of music, food, and dance. Participants have said:

“I thought the choir was about singing, and it is, but it really is about so much more than that. It’s about people coming together and telling their stories, through song and through the relationships we build in the choir. From there, anything becomes possible.”

​“When we’re singing in a group, I feel like I’m a good singer. The songs, the stories, and the love that everyone in the choir shows to each other, it fills you up.”

“For the first time in my life, I’m not running. I feel safe and at peace. This changes everything for me…”

The choir has performed at national conferences, at citizenship ceremonies, and has been featured on PBS and network television with original songs created with members.

Erin Guinup, Executive and Artistic Director of the Tacoma Refugee Choir is a soprano, teacher, author, composer, and conductor, and was named a Senior Fellow Tacoma/Pierce County chapter of the American Leadership Forum. https://www.refugeechoir.org