Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus explores new music from the LGBTQ+ perspective of Gen Z

The Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus will perform the world premiere of "@Queer Z" this Saturday evening, Oct. 15, at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech. (Photo Courtesy of AGMC)

A groundbreaking new piece of music explores the perspective of the LGBTQ+ community from Generation Z. The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus will perform the world premiere of “@Queer Z” this Saturday evening in the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech.

Donald Milton III is artistic director of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the new composition and its upcoming performance.

Interview highlights follow below.

Music exploring queer Gen Z life from a zoomed-out perspective:

“It’s nice to see how many things have changed positively and yet how, how much work there is still, still to do, you know, it’s so beautiful getting to hear from a younger generation and learn from that space, things we wouldn’t have thought about in our own spaces. So this piece talks about how it feels right now to be queer, and as even that definition of queerness is expanding in beautiful ways, it brings in the idea of social media and how that has changed everyone’s lives and our entire landscape…”

He went on, “But it also has universal themes, like how to choose an extracurricular activity or, you know, this new thing that all of our children have to do, like active shooter training and difficult things like that. But also, I think Generation Z, in its glory, is doing a better job than any generation before it of allowing people to be themselves — to not hide behind anything or cultural norms and just love what you love and be who you are.”

Composer Julian Hornik tackles school shootings, being “outed” and being disowned:

“[These topics are] the reality of queer children growing up. The percentage of queer children who are kicked out of their house when they come out of the closet is still shockingly high, and there is a movement about that happening to a kid. And then what that leads to, it’s terrible, and it’s sad, and it’s heavy and difficult. Now, there isn’t a movement about a school shooting. It is a movement about the specter of a school shooting. It’s about the fact that every single day, our children have to worry about that active shooter training.” Milton added, “I mean, because we are a queer chorus, our whole organization did active shooter training a few years ago … It’s terrorizing in itself. You do not leave feeling good or safe. You leave feeling bad, and our children are doing that every year and that is a tragedy.”

Milton on his passion for performing new works of composition:

“I read a thing in ‘The Robert Shaw Reader’ when I was 20 years old. ‘The Robert Shaw Reader’ is a collection of Robert Shaw’s letters to the ASO chorus. After that, he would write every night after rehearsal. They would mimeograph them and mail them out the next day. ‘Dear People…’ and in one of his letters he wrote — they were probably premiering a brand new work — and he said that a music director or conductor needs to figure out how much new music its audience can stand, and perform that much plus 10%. And that just struck me.”

“When I was 21, I started a choir that only did 20th- and 21st-century music. So commissioning is near and dear to my heart, but commissioning is also gambling; you’re rolling the dice. You’re hoping it’s good, and I’ve been part of commissioning projects that were fine. I was part of one commissioning project that was bad and was never performed, but this piece is so amazing. I know it’s going to be performed by choirs all over the country, all over the world,” said Milton.

The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus presents “@Queer Z” at Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech on Oct. 15. Tickets and more information are available at