Pride 2011 • Making business better for LGBT Dallas

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce works to improve the business climate for its members

Vedda.Tony
Tony Vedda

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Pride Guide Dedication

The 2012 Pride Guide was dedicated to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the chamber’s work to advance equality and make things better for the community. And chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said this week that the chamber has planned an even busier year ahead.

In October, the Out & Equal conference comes to Dallas. The chamber was instrumental in bringing that convention to the city, the largest LGBT group that Dallas has ever hosted.

Vedda said he hopes that more LGBT groups — both large and small — continue choosing Dallas for their meetings. He said he’d like to see  Creating Change return and for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund hold candidate training classes here. The next GALA choruses festival will be in Denver but Vedda’s hoping Dallas will snag the one after that.

Vedda said that a variety of smaller groups that have never been to Dallas hold annual conventions, specifically mentioning the Gay and

Lesbian Medical Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association as groups he’d like to see come to Dallas for their annual conventions.

And, of course, he hopes the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber will schedule an annual meeting in Dallas sometime in the next few years.

Vedda said that Dallas has an advantage in bringing groups to the city because of the good working relationship the chamber and the LGBT community in general have with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and with other city institutions.

“We have the same goal as any chamber,” Vedda said. “We help our members become bigger and more profitable. That helps us do good work in the community.”

He said that when an LGBT businessperson tells him that they don’t need the chamber, he tells them that the chamber needs them. A strong LGBT business community helps provide good role models and supports the vast array of non-profit organizations as well as chamber projects, he said, adding that in many ways, the chamber is a big, professional “It Gets Better” organization.

The organization’s newest project is its LEAP scholarships.

“We love our acronyms,” Vedda said, “And LEAP stands for Leadership, Education, Advocacy Program.”

Students who self-identify as LGBT, members of LGBT families or allies who advocate for the LGBT community are eligible. The first scholarships will be awarded in December for the spring semester. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 15 and are available online at GLBTLEAP.org.

Winners will be announced Dec. 8 at the Holly Jolly Ball, which is also the chamber’s major fundraising event for LEAP. Tickets will be $75, with silent and live auctions raising money for scholarships and other LEAP projects.

Vedda said he expects applications for the 2012-13 school year to be available online soon after the first awards are made.

LEAP is also planning an LGBT leadership institute. Former participants in Leadership Lambda have been advising the chamber on what worked in the past. Vedda said he wants participants to leave with a good understanding of LBGT history and accomplishments.

“The goal is to develop more ‘best and brightest’ for the non-profit sector of our community,” he said.

Those who go on to attend Leadership  programs in Plano, Dallas or Fort Worth will be better representatives of the LGBT community, he said.

Working with the National GLBT Chamber, the North Texas chamber is offering a designation of LGBT-certified supplier, Vedda said.

“We’re working to make sure opportunities are given to our community like other minority groups,” he said.

The chamber holds two monthly general networking programs and maintains three closed networking groups.

“Those groups have closed millions of dollars in new business for members,” Vedda said.

Several fun events are coming up as well.

A Cedar Springs Road progressive mixer will be structured like a progressive dinner. The evening starts at Tan Bar on one end of the block and works its way up the street, stopping at several chamber members before ending at Axiom Sushi.

The annual chamber dinner will be held in March. A community marketing conference will be held that month as well.

Vedda said he hopes each of these events and everything the chamber does helps Dallas’ LGBT businesses grow and prosper. He said a strong LGBT business community supports equality and the non-profit groups throughout the community that make it get better for everyone.

For more information, go online to GLBTChamber.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

GALA leaders meeting in Dallas this weekend

Palant hopes annual leadership conference will lead to chance for  Dallas to host 2016 choral festival

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Turtle Creek Chorale
REHEARSING | Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale warm up before rehearsal this week to prepare for a performance at Cathedral of Hope as part of the GALA leadership conference. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The annual GALA Choruses leadership conference began Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Warwick Melrose Hotel in Dallas and continues through Sunday, Sept. 5.

The annual convention focuses on both the artistic and administrative sides of managing choral groups. Every four years, the full choruses gather for a choral festival.

In 2012, the festival will be held in Denver. Dallas was in the running but lost the summer event to Colorado’s milder climate.

But Jonathan Palant, artistic director of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale, said this weekend’s conference is “a wonderful precursor to a much larger festival that will one day come to this city.”
He said he hopes to bring the quadrennial festival to Dallas in 2016.

“We have the venues,” he said. “We have the hotels. We have the Arts District. We have a strong, wonderful GLBT presence in this city.”

Palant described this weekend’s conference as a series of events focusing on three aspects of running a musical non-profit — artistic, executive and membership.

“As an artistic director, this conference is invaluable,” Palant said.

A member of the chorale will present a session for other choruses called, “Getting the most out of your website,” as part of the membership and volunteer portion of the meeting.

Palant said the Chorale is known nationally for its website that promotes the upcoming season, sells tickets, CDs and other merchandise and features musical previews of the group’s performances.

Among the headliners addressing the conference will be Craig Hella Johnson, founder of the Austin-based Conspirare, a professional chamber choir with members from around the country. Johnson is considered one of the most influential voices in choral conducting in the North America.

On Friday, he will lead a six-hour workshop “focusing on repertoire, musicianship, artistry, the roll of musical leadership,” Johnson said.

Johnson talked about the “professionalization of the choral field” and said that audiences have grown to have the same expectations of vocal groups as they do of orchestras.

While Conspirare is not an LGBT group, Johnson said, “As a gay man, I support them as community-builders.”

While the choruses represented in Dallas this weekend range from small ensembles in smaller cities to large choirs like Dallas’ Chorale, Johnson said that the common role of all choral leaders is to inspire.
“We use music to find our way into the greater realm,” he said. “Music is a language that speaks so deeply.”

Craig Hella Johnson
Craig Hella Johnson

On Sunday morning, Palant said they will host a “gospel brunch” at the Rose Room for conference attendees. Denise Lee, Liz Mikel, Gary Floyd, Cedric Neal and Buddy Shanahan will perform.

A number of singers from GALA choruses from around the country will also be at the Melrose this weekend and will perform Sunday afternoon. They will spend the weekend rehearsing a requiem for the 4 p.m. concert at Cathedral of Hope.

The Chorale, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the New Texas Symphony Orchestra will perform the first half of the program. The requiem will conclude the concert. Tickets are $15 and available at the door.

GALA was created in 1981 after the formation of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 1978 and subsequent groups in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and other cities over the next few years. Among that first group of choruses, the Turtle Creek Chorale was established in 1979.

The first national festival took place in 1983 when 12 choruses with a total of 1,200 singers performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center. The annual leadership conference began the following year in Denver.

At the Miami festival in 2008, a new part-time rotating artistic director-in-residence program was launched. Tim Seelig, currently the artistic director of Dallas’ mixed voices choir Resounding Harmony, was elected to serve in that national position for a year.

Veronica Torres of the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said that GALA knows Dallas is interested in hosting the 2016 festival. She is waiting for the organization to put out a call for bids before sending them any new information about the city.

She said that if the city were awarded the festival, it would use all of the venues in the Arts District including the new City Performance Hall that has begun construction.

With several years advance notice, Torres said, reserving all of the venues for GALA’s numerous performances would not present a scheduling problem.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Ladies first

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas proves just why the city needs them

M.M. Adjarian  | Contributing Writer MMAdjarian@GMail.com

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas
LADIES FOR CHOIR | The Women’s Chorus of Dallas plans to go above and beyond on their next season.

GALA CHORUS CONCERT
With the Turtle Creek Chorale. Cathedral of Hope,
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Sept. 5 at 4 p.m. GalaChoruses.org or TWCD.org.

For more than 20 years, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas thrived, happily performing with  SMU’s Caruth Auditorium as its base of operation. But when the chance came last March to become one of the companies based in the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, the group leapt at the opportunity.

“It was pretty powerful when we first moved in there and had our first rehearsal,” recalls Melinda Imthurn, TWCD’s artistic director. “It felt like a different chorus. The women — I could just see it in their faces and hear it in their voices — felt [like] they were home.”

The chorus had arrived — in more ways than one. The move sent a clear message about TWCD’s importance as a Dallas arts organization, and “[as a specifically] women’s arts organization in the Arts District,” says Imthurn. The group does their part to let Dallas shine as part of this weekend’s Gala Choruses Annual

Leadership Conference and plays host, with the Turtle Creek Chorale, as the resident vocal groups of this area.

Like most music groups of its kind, the chorus —originally founded in 1989 as a lesbian community arts organization — started small. The Women’s Chorus has matured into a group with a diverse membership and a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic face reflective of the city’s denizens. Choral performers come from all walks of life and sexual orientations and bring with them a wide range of musical talents, abilities and skills.

That diversity doesn’t stop at the kinds of women who perform with the chorus. The group incorporates costumes, dancing and the spoken word into its concerts, enhancing the overall vocal vibrancy. As Imthurn explains, these performance extras, combined with concerts that are scripted to more resemble theatrical presentations, “make the music more accessible to people, especially those who might not have experience with choral music.”

And then there’s the superbly eclectic repertoire. Much of what TWCD performs at any given concert is choral music from the venerable European tradition. But there are the musical surprises that include everything from Billboard hits to Broadway show tunes to African folk songs … all presented without missing a stylistic beat. TWCD prides itself on being appropriate to each genre. “[It’s] something the chorus works hard at,” says Imthurn.

In keeping with its mission to promote the “strength, diversity and joy of women,” much of the material that the chorus presents is, one way or another, woman-centered. And it is one of the few organizations that gives voice, both literally and figuratively, to lesbian themes onstage. One of the upcoming projects that Imthurn is especially excited about for the 2010–11 season is a performance at the Texas Discovery Garden for Mother’s Day.

“What we’ll be doing for that particular performance is first [to] sing songs that honor mothers, grandmothers, parental-type figures, mentors, teachers and secondly [to sing songs] about nature,” Imthurn says. TWCD members will then encircle the garden’s butterfly sanctuary and 100 butterflies will be released.

TWCD also maintains a keen sense of social mission. It has actively raised awareness of issues pertaining to AIDS and domestic violence prevention; it also participates in fundraising for such organizations as AIDS LifeWalk, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

According to Imthurn, in everything it does, the chorus is clearly a group that takes the “art” in “heart” and brings it to a new level … which is what drew Imthurn — who started as a performer with TWCD in 2004 — to the group in the first place.

“What made me fall in love with the chorus was the heart of the chorus and the heart you can hear in the music,” she says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas