The Tacoma Refugee Choir began as a pilot project in August 2016 in partnership with Tacoma Community House with a group of 22 refugees and community members. The program was well received and quickly grew to create a welcoming and affirmative learning experience for over 600 participants from 52 nations along with diverse members from the U.S. The group's primary objective is to create space where meaningful relationships can develop and members can uplift one another, using music as a tool to engage members and open the door for authentic expression, interconnection, and healing.
Erin Guinup is the founding Executive and Artistic Director of the Tacoma Refugee Choir. A passionate advocate of community singing and the power of music to heal and unite communities, she has led community singing events and spoken at national conferences for Chorus America, National Association of Teachers of Singing, American Choral Director’s Association, and the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Stockholm, Sweden, and TEDxSeattle. As a solo artist, Erin frequently performs as a guest soloist with ensembles including Symphony Tacoma, Ensign Symphony, Northwest Repertory Singers and Tacoma Concert Band. Specializing in both classical and contemporary technique, she is a sought-after clinician and voice teacher with students on Broadway, regional theatre and operatic stages, and television’s American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent. She is a composer and author, contributing to the books So You Want to Sing Music by Women and My Body Was Left on the Street: Music Education and Displacement. Most recently, Erin was named one of five Women to Watch by South Sound Magazine.
Thierry Ruboneka is a peace advocate, entrepreneur and has a great passion for music. He moved to United States in 2016 with his family as refugees after spending so many years away from their home country DRC which was torn apart with war. He studied Multimedia while in his refugee in Uganda and went ahead to manage one of the most successful digital music startups in Africa. He has over Seven years’ experience in administration, business development and management. After arriving in United States he has worked with organizations for Refugee Services and resettlement, he is an exceptional event organizer with hands on experience very detail-oriented, with a reputation for thorough process documentation creation, review, and training. His ability to speak fluently 5 different languages gained two years’ experience working with immigrants and refugees from different countries and nationalities. in the same year of his arrival he worked with Uganda North America Association to bring the first beauty pageant of Miss Uganda North America to Washington and has started his own start up to promote African Culture and life style.
Maurice Lekea, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), arrived in the US in 2000. After 19 years of living in Washington, his Asylum case finally got approved in July 2019. While raising 5 children (3 sons and 2 daughters) as a single dad, Maurice went to school in North Seattle College and worked a full time job. He then continued his education at Edmond Community College. Despite speaking no english when he first arrived in America, Maurice eventually became a certified French - English Interpreter/Translator in 2008 . He worked for Rosetta Stone coaching French. He also provided translation services for hospitals, social services, courts, and immigration. Maurice has enjoyed his volunteer work with the Shoreline YMCA after school program “Hangtime”. In August 2019, Maurice joined the choir: “it was an outstanding experience to meet people from different backgrounds, ethnics, cultures etc...developing friendship.”