Tanner McClellan: Founder of Best Buddies Friends Choir

This week’s HC Campus Celebrity is junior Tanner McClellan. As a student, she founded the organization called, Best Buddies Friends Choir right here in Oxford. Tanner has always shown passion for helping people with disabilities, so she made her dreams into a reality.

What is the “Best Buddies Friends Choir?”Tanner McClellan: It is a student-run organization that pairs up Miami students with mentally impaired individuals in a choir with hopes of helping the individuals gaining more confidence and positivity! We have multiple choir performances around the area that – I think – really helps everyone involved get over stage fright.

HC: What inspired you to start the organization?TM: In high school, I taught choir to three [intellectually disabled] kids. During one of my dress rehearsals, I noticed that there was a student with Down syndrome singing with the sophomore choir and having a great time. And at that moment, I realized that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy music the same way that I have always been able to. As a senior, I continued my work with the club as part of my senior capstone project, and was really eager to start back up at Miami. When I arrived to the University, I did not get a one-on-one match automatically, so that inspired me to start the Choir as a way to further get involved with the diagnosed individuals and continue with my passion for helping others!

HC: Tell us about your own match.TM: Sophomore year, I got matched with Tommy and we have been together ever since. He is twenty-five, and he does have Down syndrome, but that does not stop us from bonding and having an absolute blast together. We hang out once a week outside of the Choir. And to be honest, he is the best thing that has ever happened to me!

HC: We bet that being the president of the organization takes up a lot of time. How busy are you?TM: Well, the Choir meets every Saturday in Hamilton as a halfway point for the students and for the Buddies, so you can imagine carpooling can get a little tough. We also have a bowling league and swim practices after the Choir, so my Saturdays are pretty nonexistent. Apart from that, I work at Bagel and Deli, I am in a sorority and sing in two music groups, so combine all of that plus being a student, I barely sleep. My friends call me “the girl that never sleeps,” but I don’t mind. I love knowing that I help people with disabilities live a full life by devoting myself to the program. That is what makes all of it worthwhile.

HC: What do you hope to see happen with the Choir when you are not here?TM: Since freshman year, we have quadrupled in size. I certainly did not expect that, but I hope the program continues to flourish. My Vice President,  sophomore Kyra Klantz, also helps lead rehearsals, so I am confident with leaving the group in her care. I have to admit, the group has become a part of me, so to think about myself no longer being here with my Buddies, it truly breaks my heart.

HC: How much attention have you and the Choir received?TM: When I first founded the organization, I had an article published in Miamian Magazine on what the program is all about. Since then, President Hodge has contacted me and presented me with the “I AM Miami” award for embodying the code of Love and Honor. Last spring, we were finally recognized as an organization, which means we can receive funding. Such great news actually led to me being published in a book series. I was contacted by Project Up To You to be featured in the third book of their series about making change in the community. It is very exciting, and proves that you can combine everything you aspire to into doing what you love.

Further information can be found on the Best Buddies Friends Choir website, Facebook, and in an article on Miami’s website. Donations are much appreciated, and can be made on the GoFundMe website!