The new guys

The Turtle Creek Chorale bounces back with a new management team but the same commitment to being forever turtle

Concerts

SYNERGY OF NECESSITY | Trey Jacobs, front, was chosen as the interim conductor of the Turtle Creek Chorale only weeks after David Fisher, rear, assumed his position as its new executive director. On Sunday, they will oversee the inaugural concert for both, launching the chorale’s 32nd season. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

David Fisher hadn’t even started his first day on the job as the new executive director of the Turtle Creek Chorale last summer when the word came down: The then-current artistic director, Jonathan Palant, was leaving his post, effective immediately. Forget about setting up pictures of his husband and son on his desk; there would be time for housekeeping later. Right now, they had a bigger priority: Finding someone to lead the 180-member gay men’s chorus.

If ever there was a definition of hitting the ground running, this was surely it.

Arts administration is nothing new Fisher, who for years has worked with Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and founded the Festival ofIndependent Theatres. But managing the chorale was uncharted territory for him. Before he’d even learned the names of all his co-workers, he and the chorale needed to find an interim conductor.

In walked Trey Jacobs.

Jacobs had worked in choral music since 1980, although his closest connection to Texas before now was living in Fort Worth for a time in the mid-1980s. Then, while attending a choral convention in San Antonio in 1993, he heard, for the first time, the TCC sing live.

“I was so moved by the beauty of these men’s voices,” he says. “I became a huge fan and started collecting their CDs.”

For the last four years, Jacobs has worked at Eastern Michigan University, but two-plus years of that has mandated a long-distance relationship — his partner had taken a job in Mobile, Ala. — grew too much. In July, “I took a huge leap of faith and resigned” from the university without having a new job in place. Two weeks later, the chorale called. He jumped at the opportunity.

Together, Jacobs and Fisher, along with interim assistant conductor Sean Baugh, formed a quick partnership. Both newcomers in their own way, they have leveraged their skills to manage a smooth transition.

“Trey has such a long history with chorale music, and the chorale fits all of his artistic sensibilities,” Fisher explains, while “I know the

Dallas scene and the community, but little about choral music.” Such symbiosis has helped them go from greenhorns to concert in barely nine weeks. The proof will be the performance this  Sunday of Messiah, the inaugural concert for both at the TCC and the season premiere for the 32-year old chorus.

Although the chorale’s season had already been planned by Palant before his departure, Jacobs says the specific programs had not been laid out. That has allowed him the flexibility to add his own artistic elements and opportunities to express his own ideas.

The cornerstone of the performance, of course, will be selections from Handel’s Messiah, sung in conjunction with other local choruses, but the first act will be a set highlighting favorite numbers from the chorale’s storied repertoire, including “We’re Not Lost, We’re Here” — the first song the chorale ever performed in concert.

The process has been complicated. Jacobs quit his job in Michigan to spend more time with his partner in Alabama. Presently, Jacobs is still living in Mobile, commuting in to Dallas about once a week for rehearsals, while working remotely with Baugh to get the singers prepared. He’s in town more this week leading up to Sunday, and expects he’ll be here almost constantly in December as the holiday concerts approach.

“The [singers] have been incredibly receptive,” Jacobs says, saying his partner has also been unendingly supportive. “I see it in their eyes — they are so excited.”

But while the chorale has an eye toward the future, including a nationwide search for a new permanent artistic director, Fisher and Jacobs stress that for now, Jacobs’ focus is solely on the task.

“One of the stipulations of the contract is not to focus on next season,” Fisher says.

“The interim position was an 11-month contract or until a new artistic director is hired,” Jacobs adds, noting that he has not applied for the permanent post. Instead, he’s concentrating on Sunday’s concert.

“First and foremost I want, from the first night, the audience to be struck thinking, ‘BAM! That’s the Turtle Creek Chorale.’ That sound that is so specific to them, I want recognized from all who attend.”

But there’s another factor everyone who knows the chorale is familiar with, and it’s not about the music per se; it’s about showmanship.

“It’s absolutely crucial,” Jacobs agrees. “I’m stealing this from [former TCC artistic director] Tim Seelig, but what I heard from him is: Every concert should have a gasp, a tear and a chill bump, in whatever capacity. That’s something I’ve always believed in, too.”

When the concert’s over, maybe Fisher will finally take a deep breath and find time to put up those pictures.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Top 10: Dallasites helped fuel GetEQUAL

Reed.Mark
SPEAKING UP | GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed-Walkup of Dallas uses a megaphone to get his message across outside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office last week during a protest of her vote against repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 9:

View all of the Top 10

Dallas activists have played key roles in GetEQUAL, which has quickly become one of the most influential national LGBT direct action organizations since ACT-UP.

According to its website, GetEQUAL’s mission is “to empower the LGBTQ community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.”

The group was founded on March 11 by Robin McGehee and Kip Williams — organizers of last year’s National Equality March — as an alternative to other groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.

Mark Reed-Walkup, a Dallas business owner who also helped organize the National Equality March, now serves on the board for

GetEQUAL, which gained nonprofit status in June. In May, Reed-Walkup became the third activist from Dallas to be arrested at demonstrations organized by GetEQUAL. He was arrested along with five others for chaining himself to the White House fence in a protest to demand a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

On March 18, Dallas activists Chastity Kirven and Michael Robinson had been arrested — Robinson in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington office and Kirven in Pelosi’s San Francisco office — during protests to demand a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This same day, Lt. Dan Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence in his first protest of DADT as part of GetEQUAL’s new direct action campaign. Choi was dischraged from the Army under DADT.

Local members of Get Equal also organized several actions in Dallas.

They held an ENDA rally outside the Dallas office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. They also protested outside ExxonMobil Corp.’s shareholders meeting at the Meyerson in June, and at Oak Lawn-area service stations.

Last week, Get EQUAL Texas held rallies outside Hutchison’s offices across the state to protest her vote against repealing DADT.
Reed said GetEQUAL is just beginning to organize chapters in all 50 states and should  become more active in Texas in 2010.

— From staff reports

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: GetEQUAL Texas calls out Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for vote against DADT repeal

Transgender woman Chris Tina Foxx Bruce holds a sign conveying the message of today’s rally outside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office.

About 10 people gathered outside Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office this afternoon to protest her vote on Saturday against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The protest was organized by GetEQUAL Texas, the state chapter of the national LGBT direct action group, and similar rallies were scheduled today outside Hutchison’s offices in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

Wielding signs, bullhorns and a Rainbow-colored American flag, the Dallas protesters chanted “Shame on Kay!” and “Retire, Kay Bailey!” as they stood on a grassy median along the service road outside her 11th floor office in the Hotels.com building at 10440 N. Central Expressway.

Despite Hutchison’s vote against DADT repeal, the bill passed and is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday. However, the protesters  didn’t appear to be in a celebratory mood.

“This is just the beginning,” said protester Marlin Bynum, a 47-year-old former preacher who came out as gay five years ago. “We still need ENDA. We’ve still got to repeal DOMA. This is just the beginning. In fact, I don’t know if the fight will ever end.”

Another protester, Chris Tina Foxx Bruce, said she attended the rally because she wanted to make sure the transgender community was represented.

“We have to put on a united front,” she said.

Foxx Bruce added that she’s toying with the idea running for Hutchison’s Senate seat in 2012. Foxx Bruce said Hutchison voted against DADT repeal even though everyone knew it had enough votes to pass.

“She was making a statement, and her statement was, she doesn’t believe in equality,” Foxx Bruce said.

Jade Rea, who traveled to the rally from Fort Worth and said she was representing the bisexual community, acknowledged that Hutchison is unlikely to ever support the LGBT community.

“Probably not, but it’s better for her to see something going on in support than nothing at all,” Rea said. “If you’re not vocal, you’re not heard, you’re not seen, it’s like you’re invisible.”

At the end of the rally, a representative from Hutchison’s office, Byron Campbell, came down to meet the protesters, who handed him two signs on which they’d written personal messages.

“Eighty percent of this country supported the bill,” GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed-Walkup told Campbell as he handed him the signs. “We e-mailed, we called her, she asked for a study, the study came back positive, and then she still voted no. We’re extremely disappointed, and we’ll be back.”

“I appreciate this. Thank you very much, and thank you for your time,” Campbell said before quickly going back inside.

Reed said GetEQUAL, which formed this year, is just beginning to organize chapters in all 50 states and likely will become more active in Texas in 2011.

“We’ll continue to hold our elected leaders accountable,” Reed said.

More photos from the rally after the jump.

—  John Wright

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t ever forget the anti-gay bigots who voted against repealing DADT

The impending end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t change the fact that Texas’ two anti-gay senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against repealing the policy. The beauty of the standalone bill to repeal DADT, aside from the fact it had enough votes, was that it forced lawmakers to take a position on the policy itself. On Saturday, Cornyn, Hutchison and 29 others went on record as supporting injustice, dishonesty and discrimination.

It’s truly sad that both our senators would vote to harm our national security during a time of war by continuing to discharge valuable servicemembers for no good reason. Indeed, those who voted against DADT repeal will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, and we should never, ever forget that.

Which is apparently why GetEQUAL Texas is moving forward with plans for protests/celebrations outside Hutchison’s offices around Texas on Tuesday. From Facebook:

GetEQUAL Texas will go forward with their planned protest of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison scheduled for Tuesday, December 22 at noon in front of the Senator’s offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The group is celebrating Saturday’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but recognizes the importance of highlighting the oppressive vote of Ms. Hutchison on a measure which had the support of over 70% of Americans in several major polls.

Please join GetEQUAL Texas and other community members and allies to celebrate this victory by telling Kay Bailey Hutchison that “Enough is Enough.”

“We will no longer sit by and allow votes like that of Sen. Hutchison on the repeal measure to go unnoticed. Although the repeal measure passed the Senate with a filibuster proof majority, Senator Hutchison attempted to silence those willing to defend the rights and freedoms of the United States with their lives by voting against the repeal. We will not be silenced. The freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans, not just those who the Senator prefers.” stated Michael Diviesti an Army veteran and state coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas.

Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted against repeal, which passed with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

—  John Wright

Hutchison, against DADT before she was for it, has long history of opposing gays in military

That’s right, the GOP senator from Dallas who says she’ll vote against the standalone bill to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” actually opposed the policy when it was enacted 17 years ago.

That’s because she supported the outright ban on gays in the military — open or not — that was in place before DADT.

In fact, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison sparked controversy when her opposition to DADT was featured in a letter promoting a campaign fundraiser in October 1993, according to Dallas Morning News archives. Hutchison was first elected to the Senate in 1992.

“We are well-aware of the tremendous benefits of the Clinton presidency,” the fundraising letter from the Hutchison campaign said. “We get to enjoy such benefits as socialized medicine, gays in the military (not to mention every other government post available), a weakened defense, and if you are a member of the ‘rich’ or the dead, fantastic retroactive tax increases.”

The letter was roundly critcized by LGBT groups, according to a DMN article dated Oct. 28, 1993:

“If she’s sanctioning that kind of tripe, then there are a lot of Texans that can find a lot of reasons not to support her,” said Paul von Wupperfield of Austin, state president of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean going out and supporting a liberal Democrat. But there are a lot of options, including sitting on your hands,” he said.

Deb Elder, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said Ms. Hutchison’s fund-raisers should be working to recruit supporters, not alienate them.

“It’s really sad that neither the political office nor the people heading up her fund-raising campaign are astute enough or respectful enough of the American public to understand that it’s not wise to say some people are equal and some aren’t,” she said.

As the above flier indicates, a protest is planned outside Hutchison’s Dallas office next week in response to her opposition to DADT repeal.

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL to hold ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ protest outside Sen. Hutchison’s Dallas office next week

GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed of Dallas, far right, is shown chained to the White House fence prior to his arrest in May.

GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed of Dallas sends along word that the Texas chapter of the national LGBT direct action group will hold a “don’t ask, don’t tell” protest outside GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office next Tuesday, Dec. 21. As we reported this past Tuesday, Hutchison says she plans to vote against the standalone bill to repeal DADT because it “could negatively impact unit cohesion and overall troop readiness — especially during a time of war.” The bill, which passed the House today, is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate sometime next week.

The protest will be from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday outside Hutchison’s office at 10440 N. Central Expressway, Suite 1160 in Dallas. From the Facebook event page:

Tired of being relegated to second-class citizenship, Texan LGBT activists say “Enough is enough!” It’s time for Texans to fight back against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s hate-filled votes in Congress and tell her to vote YES on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Closeted Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) military servicemembers are forbidden to stand up and demand repeal for themselves, so we must be their voice…. Join us in a state wide rally as Veterans, allies and LGBT community members show our support to repeal this law.

Join GetEQUAL Texas in front of Kay Bailey’s Dallas office for a grassroots protest. Please consider scheduling an appointment to discuss DADT with Kay’s staffers during our around the protest time.

Not in Dallas? Check the GetEQUAL TX Facebook page for other participating Texas cities.

***GetEQUAL Texas is a local chapter of the national organization, committed to fearlessly and urgently pushing for LGBT equality throughout the Lone Star State.***

—  John Wright

Taft joins RCD as associate director

Longtime activist says he is excited, scared by the opportunities he has as head of center’s LGBT programs

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Lee Taft
Lee Taft

Resource Center Dallas has hired Lee Taft as associate executive director of GLBT programs and strategic partnerships.

William Waybourn, one of the founders of Resource Center Dallas, called the hiring of Taft genius.

“Talk about a power couple at the right time for the right organization — [Executive Director] Cece [Cox] and Lee are it,” Waybourn said.

Taft was hired to replace Cox who became executive director of the organization after former director Mike McKay left last spring.

“This place has a regional and community history,” Taft said. “But it also is deeply personal. I worked with John [Thomas]. I worked with Bill [Nelson] and Terry [Tebedo].”

Thomas was the first executive director of Resource Center Dallas. Nelson and Tebedo were founding board members and created the food pantry at their store, Crossroads Market. The Nelson-Tebedo clinic on Cedar Springs Road is named for them.

Taft was an attorney for 20 years. As a board member of the Texas Human Rights Foundation, he was involved in the Don Baker case.

Baker, a Dallas school teacher, challenged the Texas sodomy law. In that 1982 lawsuit, Judge Jerry Buchmeyer declared the Texas statute unconstitutional.

“For me, it was a time when I could have been fired on the spot from my law firm,” Taft said about his own involvement in the case. “Jerry wrote a phenomenal decision.”

An en banc hearing by the full court later reversed the ruling.

Taft left Dallas to attend Harvard Divinity School in 1996. In 1999, he became the school’s dean.

But through his affiliation with THRF, Taft had worked with Lambda Legal since its founding. In 2001, Lambda Legal opened its South Central region and tapped Taft to open the Dallas office.

He became the regional spokesperson for the Lawrence v. Texas case that originated in his Dallas office was the case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Texas sodomy law. It has been cited in every case that has advanced LGBT rights since.

Taft called the wording of Lawrence an apology for Hardwick and an exoneration for Baker.

Taft left Lambda Legal later that year to found his own consulting practice as an ethicist.

Among the many clients he helped was the city of Dallas that hired him to steer it through the fake drug scandal in which police planted fake drugs and charged dozens of people on narcotics violations.

“Madeleine Johnson hired me in guiding the response,” Taft said, and based on his recommendations, “The city council passed a five-point resolution.” Johnson was Dallas city attorney at the time.

Among Taft’s recommendations were expressions of remorse, directions to settle the case and changes of policies and procedures. He said the settlement was financially efficient, avoided a racial fracture in the city and has been cited as a model of how a city should respond.

Including expressions of remorse rather than just issuing an apology is something that Taft said was confirmed for him during a discussion he had in Dallas with Bishop Desmond Tutu.

He said reconciliation in South Africa was failing because all that was required was an admission of deeds without an expression of regret.

He said he would bring that lesson to some of his work at the Resource Center, specifically citing the center’s domestic violence program.

Taft said he doesn’t believe an apology is all that’s necessary from batterers: There also needs to be an expression of remorse.

Cox said she was excited about the rich background Taft brings to his new position.

“He has an understanding of this organization and how we fit into the overall GLBT movement and HIV communities we serve,” she said.

She said she planned to keep him quite busy.

“I expect him to be able to do a number of things — position our programs to be more sustainable and relevant in the future; integrate our health and GLBT programs to promote wellness.”

Although Taft wasn’t looking for a job when he applied this summer, he said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“When Mike McKay became director and described Cece’s position, I thought it was the coolest position in the community,” he said.

Taft said his new job will allow him to be innovative and creative and do something important.

Taft calls his resume eclectic. His list of community activities is as long and varied as his professional career. In addition to THRF, he was a founding board member of AIDS Interfaith Network. He worked with Gay Line, a help line that was later folded into Oak Lawn Community Services. Today, Resource Center Dallas receives many of those types of calls.

Earlier this week, Taft was in California speaking on ethics at Pepperdine University School of Law. After he assumes his new role at the Resource Center, he plans to continue doing some speaking, which he hopes will help develop strategic partnerships for the agency.

Cox added “strategic partnerships” to the job title and said she considers developing new relationships for the agency to be a major goal for Taft.

He said his new position would give him an opportunity to grow.

“There’s something about this,” he said. “It’s on-the-ground community activism that excites me and scares me.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATED: ‘Crunch time’ on DADT; Defense bill now set for vote on Tuesday afternoon

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting that the Defense appropriations bill, which includes the amendment to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” is set for a vote next Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21. MetroWeekly reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture Friday on the Defense bill, and the Senate will vote on whether to proceed with debate at 2:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday. If there are 60 votes to proceed, debate will begin. The debate could include amendments to strike or modify the DADT repeal provision.

ORIGINAL POST:

“It’s crunch time,” according to Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Both HRC and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network issued action alerts Thursday pleading with people to call and/or e-mail their senators and tell them to support a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” which is expected to be voted on by the Senate next week.

It makes no difference that Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn are unlikely to support DADT repeal, the groups say.

“This is a 100-senator strategy, and we need your help to make it work,” Solmonese wrote.

SLDN is urging poeple to call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. The line is open 24 hours a day. Ask for your senator’s office, then say the following:

Tell your senators to vote with Sen. Reid and Sen. Carl Levin in opposing a filibuster, or any amendment to strike “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal from the larger defense bill.
• Tell your senators that it is critical they vote and finish the Defense bill before they leave for the election recess.

You can also call Hutchison’s Dallas office at 214-361-3500 and Cornyn’s Dallas office at 972-239-1310. HRC has posted a form for e-mailing senators.

—  John Wright