The Dallas Street Choir has found a vast amount of success since it was founded in 2014. One of its notable feats is performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City last year — the first concert by homeless musicians in the history of the venue. More national exposure is underway as the choir is featured on an upcoming episode of Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition.
The episode, which airs Friday, stars former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders disguised as "Willie," an old man wanting to coach football in Dallas. He undertakes the task of leading the Dallas Street Choir through a rehearsal and speaks to its founder and director, Jonathan Palant.
Palant says the choir had no prior knowledge of being filmed and that everything Sanders went through was completely genuine.
“Willie spent quite a bit of time learning what goes into conducting a choir,” Palant says. “He experienced what it was like to stand in front of a hundred singers and engage them both musically and personally. Willie and I also discussed our mission, and then we hosted a meal for the choir members. Everything Willie saw and did was 100 percent authentic. As best as I recall, singers weren’t even told ahead of time they would be filmed that morning.”
The television show found out about the organization through people linked to Sanders. The show’s executive producer, Greg Goldman, says the Dallas Street Choir attracted Sanders because of its aid to the homeless.
“Deion did not have any connection to the choir before we shot with them but had heard from a few different people in Dallas that their work was amazing, so he decided to pay them a visit and see what they were all about,” Goldman says. “Helping the homeless is something that Deion is very passionate about and routinely does.”
Rather than concentrating on shelter, the Dallas Street Choir emphasizes the positive traits of its homeless members. Appearance can have a negative influence on the homeless, leading to misjudgment or treatment as a pariah, and can affect people's wellbeing. Goldman believes the organization is making a powerful impact in the Dallas community.
“What Dr. Jonathan Palant and the Dallas Street Choir are doing is nothing short of amazing,” Goldman says. “Oftentimes people have the wrong idea or misconception of who and what homeless people are. The Dallas Street Choir helps break these stereotypes so everyone can see homeless people for what they are — they are people, like you and me, with dreams and aspirations, and who want to belong to something and make a difference in this world.”
Homelessness in Dallas has grown since last year, according to the 2018 State of the Homeless address given by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. There’s been a 23 percent increase in unsheltered homelessness in Dallas. There are roughly 4,140 people sleeping on the streets or in shelters on a daily basis.
Although Dallas Street Choir members may not get a place of residence, each gets a snack and a public transportation voucher in exchange for singing for one hour every Wednesday. This also includes potential opportunities to travel and perform in various music halls, which enrich the singers’ spirits and recognize their capabilities.
Palant explains that while the homeless may be in an unfortunate situation, they can still have a voice and be represented through the Dallas Street Choir.
“Our mission is not focusing on finding housing or jobs for our members but rather on showcasing all that is good about those who sing with us,” Palant says. “All too often, those who are experiencing homelessness are marginalized and relegated to a 'less than' place. Through public performance, the Dallas Street Choir has proven itself able to educate the wider community on an otherwise neglected part of society. Although homeless, our members still have joy, love, talent, gifts and honor. We may be homeless, but we are not voiceless.”