Lincoln Bonner, a first tenor, has been in the New York City Labor Chorus since its inception in 1991. An Aircraft Mechanic with the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Lincoln was activated into the military during the Persian Gulf War from 1990 to 1991. When he returned to New York, Lincoln needed something to unwind from the stress of war. He read about the formation of a Labor Chorus in his union CWA Local 1180's newspaper. Lincoln then sent in his application and was called in for an audition.
When asked by our former Music Director, the late Dr. Geoffrey Fairweather, if he has any professional singing experience, Lincoln's response was "I like to sing in the shower." Geoffrey made him feel at ease telling him he has the tenor voice he was looking for; and Lincoln joined the other 20 or so people in the Chorus at the time.
Lincoln was born in Donnington, a small town in northwestern Jamaica. He finished high school and college in Jamaica, and migrated to New York when he was in his 20's. Lincoln grew up with a love for music. He played harmonica from age 7, and he often performed at his church with the encouragement of his father. Lincoln said,"At the age of ten, I was making my own guitar using fish line and bamboo. I was also making drums from a cheese can, clay solution and remnants of khaki materiel gathered from the local tailor shop. You could not tell me and my cousins we did not have a band then".
Since joining the New York City Labor Chorus, Lincoln has become an enthusiastic and gifted percussionist. He plays several percussion instruments including: Djembe, Bongos and Congas. He has played at the Pete Seeger-inspired Clearwater Music Festival. Lincoln remembers the first time he played in front of a sold out concert at Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan. "When I walked on stage and saw the size of the audience, I wished I could change my mind.
I was sweating bullets. After the first song though, I was OK".
Lincoln is a percussionist, song writer and reggae lead vocalist of the New Jersey-based High Maintenance Band."I travel 80 miles to Pemberton, New Jersey for band rehearsal". says Lincoln. "I guess I love music that much".
In 2004, Lincoln formed the R&B group Third Vision which includes current chorus member soloist Denise Jones and former chorus members Sol Diaz and Linda Boney. They brought down the house at a summer fest in New Jersey at their debut performance when they performed Lincoln's original song "Late in the Race", which he wrote four years earlier. In August, 2005, "Late in the Race" was selected for the Battle of The Bands Contest. "We did not win the contest" says Lincoln, "but our selection was in itself a winning achievement."
"One of the most memorable moments for me was in July, 2005, while performing at the Sea Girt Pavilion at the Jersey Shore. This was when this old lady came backstage with her 8 year-old grandson Joey. Little Joey handed me what seemed to be the wrapper from a sandwich saying he wanted my autograph. I can still see the two missing teeth freckled-face smile that little Joey flashed that day when I hugged him and told him he was my hero and number one fan. I really wish I could see Joey again".
Lincoln hopes one day to form a drum circle to entertain in senior citizen centers around the city. Lincoln works for the New York City Administration for Children's Services as a telecommunications liaison. He has worked for the City for 28 years, and for the Air Force Reserves for 29 years. Not bad for someone who is 50-something years-old.
Lincoln believes the only direction for the Labor Chorus is up. "The more we perform the more acclaim we get. I enjoy singing. The only thing I like better than singing right now is being around my family. Performing before an audience is a privilege, especially when we perform before my union CWA Local 1180's members; the applause is like dessert. When I see the audience give us an ovation, it's like having your favorite dish; and having the owner of the restaurant prepare it in front of us and pay us to eat.
If I was not singing, I don't know that there would be much else to do. Singing is therapy after a grueling day of work."