David Fisher steps down as executive director of Turtle Creek Chorale

David Fisher

David Fisher, who became executive director of the Turtle Creek Chorale two years ago, just as a shake-up within the organization led to the sudden departure of its artistic director, is stepping down from his post.

Fisher, who previously worked for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, will return there, once again serving as its assistant director.

“After nearly 20 years working in the arts in Dallas, I’m grateful for my time with the chorale, and I’m thrilled to be returning to the Office of Cultural Affairs where I will be able to continue the work of fostering the growth and success of all of the arts and arts organizations in Dallas,” Fisher said. No reason was given for the move.

Hank Henley, a singing member of the chorale since 2009, will step in as interim executive director.

“Having been vice president and president of the Turtle Creek Chorale, I’m thrilled to be serving this wonderful organization in yet another way,” Henley said in a statement. The board, as well as Henley and current artistic director Trey Jacobs, will immediately begin a search for Fisher’s permanent successor.

“Hank’s experience and passion will serve us well in this role, and we look forward to working with him,” said Zan Moore, Turtle Creek Chorale’s board president.

While at the TCC, Fisher led the search to replace former AD Jonathan Palant. Jacobs was named interim AD in the summer of 2011, and in the spring of last year became its permanent artistic director.

The final concert of TCC’s current season takes place next Thursday at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

Mobil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees. But ExxonMobil rescinded those policies after the merger.

Outside the meeting, dozens of protesters lined Flora Street in front of the Meyerson on Wednesday. About 50 people with organizations including Code Pink, United Steel Workers and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination, while a handful of protesters parodied the CEOs that make the choices and profit from ExxonMobil.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn’t be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

“The people that are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really done a good job of pushing it this year,” he said. “We’ve got a better shot than in the past.”

As for Exxon not voting in favor of adding the protections in the past, Cates said the company had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt business.

“They clinging to antiquated business practices,” he said. “It’s a matter of really learning that this is good for business.”

This year, the resolution was initiated by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who wants the company to not only amend the nondiscrimination policy, but also to begin offering health benefits to the spouses of employees married in the Empire State.

The comptroller controls the state’s pension funds. As of May 18, New York’s pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil worth more than $1 billion.

ExxonMobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a “meritocracy” for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

This is also the first year ExxonMobil appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to have the shareholder resolution thrown out. The company based its claim on a nondiscrimination statement in its Corporate Careers publication.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to throw out the resolution, saying the publication doesn’t have the weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil maintains the lowest possible rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, with a minus-25.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement noting that as of 2012, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

“The shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s EEO policy was a non-binding referendum and the company still has the chance to do the right thing,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As perhaps the largest corporation in the country, ExxonMobil has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; sadly they have fallen far short. The company has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT workers for years and it’s time they treat all of their employees like the valuable assets they are.”

—  John Wright

The Music of ABBA tonight at the Meyerson

Thank them for the music

Unless you were one of the lucky ones a few decades back, The Music of ABBA tribute show is going to be the closest to hearing the Swedish pop gems live and that’s not so bad. This band delivers the goods to astounding perfection.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center. 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $30–$70. DallasSymphony.com

—  Rich Lopez

SEC turns down ExxonMobil’s bid to block shareholder resolution

Protest at 2010 ExxonMobil shareholder's meeting in Dallas

The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected an attempt by ExxonMobil to block a shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy.

The resolution was proposed this year by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on behalf of the state’s pension funds, which own ExxonMobil stock.

Mobil was one of the first companies to offer benefits to its LGBT employees. That company was also a pioneer in banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and had that policy in place for more than a decade before the merger.

Nondiscrimination and benefits were taken away when it merged with Exxon in 1999. At the shareholder meeting held annually at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, an attempt has been made to restore those benefits. The number of shareholders voting for the resolution has increased each year.

At last year’s meeting, votes representing more than 500 million shares supported equality.

The company received a –25 percent score on the Human Right’s Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index last year, the first time a company scored a negative rating. Other oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and BP receive an 85 percent or higher rating. As of 2012, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

—  David Taffet

Like virgins

Turtle Creek Chorale channels its inner Madonna — and other women throughout history — for its latest concert

Madonna9-CUT-OUT

STRIKE A POSE | The chorale gets into the groove Sunday performing Madonna songs, but the concert honors many women throughout history.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Trey Jacobs knew exactly who he had in mind when forging the concept of the upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale concert Madonna to Madonna: The Ageless Strength of Women. The show was conceived to feature music that honors women from the Virgin Mary to the queen of pop. Iconic as they are, Jacobs looked to high school for the women who made him the person he is today — besides Mom, of course.

“As a musician, my role model was my high school choral director Jane Price,” says the TCC’s interim conductor. “She taught me how to express emotion through music.”

Thus, Jacobs will take a cue from Madge and express himself with a selection of Madonna songs — and then some.

Jacobs took over the chorale after the season outline had already been set. Running the gamut of women throughout history, from antiquity to the contemporary, was not his idea. But he expanded the idea to make his own mark.

“There was no music selected yet,” he says. “For me, it was about trying to pair [the idea] with a concept that would resonate with people. And it became this show that truly honors women.”

With a set-list that goes from Rachmaninoff to Shania Twain, the chorale teams up with some special guests for a unique experience. Enlisting the help of local singers Patty Breckenridge and Sally Vahle, New York musician Nisha Asnani and Cathedral of Hope’s the Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, the ladies add the appropriate feminine touch to the show.

While people are scrambling to get loan approval for Madonna tickets in October, there is a distinct curiosity for how the TCC boys will be pulling off some of her greatest hits. There will even be some “chorale-ography” involved.

“They’ll be singing ‘Open Your Heart,’ ‘Dress You Up,’ ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’” says Joe Rattan, who also does the chorale’s marketing. “Oh, and ‘Vogue.’”

Rattan and Jacobs confirm that the TCC men will, in fact, be vogueing.

Clearly Madonna is a big draw for any gay event, but both men are sure to note that the inspiration of this show isn’t just about the material girl or even just about the Virgin Mary.

“The show runs the full emotional gamut,” Rattan says. “It’s very touching, there are some funny moments. Trey really breathed life into it to be this and has done a wonderful job. The guys are excited and inspired by what they are singing and I’ve been moved by what I heard.”

Jacobs assures that a concert about women by men won’t miss the point.

“I had talks with the chorale and many of them would talk about these female role models,” he says. “Sometimes it was a strong character from a movie or musical, or more personal, but it was fascinating to hear all these different men talk about women in such reverence. That’s what this is about.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 2, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 12.23.11

DJBettisFriday 12.23

Maximum Christmas overdrive
Whether you’re staycationing or visiting the Gaylord, prepare for a glorious onslaught of holiday cheer. If the million-plus lights and 52-foot tree aren’t enough, how about the resort’s famous ICE! show featuring Shrek the Halls which they keep at nine degrees? Don’t worry, they provide coats.

DEETS: Gaylord Texan Resort
1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine.
Through Jan. 1. $26.95.
GaylordHotels.com

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Friday 12.23

Hey DJ, pump this party
The GayDays tour comes to town, bringing with it cutie DJ Randy Bettis. He mixes and remixes on  tunes by gay artists Matt Zarley, Ari Gold and Briant Kent along with some diva faves like Britney and Adele. The party will give away 500 free music download passes. So go dance to the music and then take it home.

DEETS: The Brick
2525 Wycliff Ave. 9 p.m.
BrickDallas.com.

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Monday 12.26

Steamroll the holiday season
Between Mannheim Steamroller and, um, Blitzen, the former may have more influence on Christmas, being the best-selling group for holiday tuneage. Sorry, reindeer.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center
2301 Flora St. Through Tuesday. 7:30 p.m.
$40–$110.
DallasSymphony.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Exxon Mobil hits new LGBT low

Company is 1st with negative score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index

IMG_0496

HIGH OCTANE | Queer activist CD Kirven participates in a protest organized by GetEQUAL in 2010 outside the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, where Exxon Mobil's shareholders held their annual meeting. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

IRVING — Exxon Mobil Corp. has again made history for its anti-gay employment practices.

The Irving-based company, which is No. 2 on the Fortune 500 and has more than 80,000 employees worldwide, last week became the first business to ever receive a negative score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index.

The 2012 edition of the Index, which marks the 10th anniversary of HRC’s scorecard, includes ratings for 636 major companies based on their LGBT-related employment practices.

Exxon Mobil failed to meet any of the criteria for the 2012 Index, and had points deducted for engaging in activities that undermine LGBT equality. As a result, the company received a score of minus-25 from HRC.

Before Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999, Mobil offered domestic partnership benefits and had an employment nondiscrimination policy that included sexual orientation. However, ExxonMobil did away with both the benefits and the policy after the merger, and has repeatedly resisted shareholder efforts to amend the policy to protect gay employees.

The 2012 Index marks the first year HRC has handed out negative scores, and Exxon Mobil was the only company to receive one.

“For over a decade, HRC has urged Exxon Mobil to re-evaluate its employment practices and policies regarding LGBT employees,” HRC spokesman Paul Guequierre said. “They continue to give us, and the entire LGBT community, the cold shoulder.”

William F. Holbrook, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, sent Dallas Voice a copy of the company’s “Corporate Citizenship Report,” which says it has a “zero-tolerance” policy against “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

However, Guequierre said the Corporate Citizenship Report isn’t an Equal Employment Opportunity statement, and lacks the legal force an EEO statement carries.

Exxon Mobil’s report also says the company offers health benefits to the partners of gay employees in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, but goes by federal law in the U.S., which only recognizes heterosexual spouses.

Holbrook declined to further discuss the company’s negative score on the CEI.

Exxon Mobil was one of three companies to receive the 25-point deduction for undermining LGBT equality on the 2012 Index. The other two were New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner LLP.

Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Project, said Verizon was penalized for resisting a shareholder resolution to add gender identity to the company’s employment nondiscrimination policy; while Foley & Lardner was docked for representing the National Organization for Marriage in campaigns against marriage equality in the District of Columbia and Minnesota.

Verizon received an overall score of 20, while Foley & Lardner got a 60.

“It is not a designation that we take lightly,” Fidas said of the 25-point deduction for undermining LGBT equality. “These businesses did nothing to rectify these particular situations.”

On a more positive note, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp. (American Airlines) is one of only nine companies that have received perfect scores every year since the Index began in 2002, Fidas said. The others are Aetna Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Apple Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nike Inc., Replacements Ltd. and Xerox Corp.

Those nine employers all managed to maintain their scores of 100 on the 2012 CEI despite new, more stringent criteria — most notably a requirement to offer comprehensive transgender health benefits, including coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

Lauri Curtis, vice president for diversity at American Airlines, said adding comprehensive trans health benefits was “the right thing to do for our business.”

“We don’t look at it as how difficult it was,” Curtis said. “The bottom line is that we have a very diverse population, both our employees as well as our customers, and that’s really what we true ourselves to. That’s our driving guidepost as it relates to our diversity efforts.

“At the end of the day it’s all about equality and respect for everyone,” she added. “I think it just underscores that this is serious stuff to us, because it’s just part of who we are. It’s been part of who we are for a long time.”

American Airlines and AT&T Inc. were the only North Texas-based companies that satisfied all of the new criteria and received perfect scores on the 2012 CEI. That’s down from nine local companies that received HRC’s top rating on the 2011 index.

Nationally, 190 companies received perfect scores this year, down from 337 last year. But Fidas said comparing this year’s scores to last year’s amounts to apples and oranges. In addition to trans health coverage, HRC added criteria in 2012 related to “soft” partner benefits, organizational competency on LGBT issues, and public support for equality.

“It’s a new standard,” Fidas said. “We raised the bar in these four significant areas, and some businesses are just going to take a little more time to get there. We don’t see that as a drop or a lack of commitment.”

In fact, Fidas said, this year’s Index shows remarkable progress as employers strive to meet the new criteria. For example, two years ago, only 49 employers offered comprehensive trans health benefits, but since then the number has jumped to 207.

Representatives from North Texas-based companies that lost their perfect scores on this year’s CEI said they’re disappointed but committed to working toward re-establishing them.

“Anytime that you were on a list and then you’re not a on a list, it does cause some angst,” said Steve Lyle, chief diversity officer for Dallas-based Texas Instruments, which received a 90 on the 2012 Index after four consecutive years of perfect scores. “We don’t want that segment or our employee population to feel disenfranchised because TI’s no longer on this list, or feel like we care less today than we did last week.”

That’s why the company sent emails to LGBT employees in advance of the Index’s release explaining the reason for the lower score: The company’s insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, doesn’t consider gender reassignment surgery to be a medically necessary procedure.

Texas Instruments could have overridden Blue Cross’ decision at a minimal cost, Lyle said. However, that would have been unfair to employees who want coverage for other procedures that aren’t considered medically necessary, including growth hormones for children and in vitro fertilization.

Lyle added that TI is interested in working with HRC and other employers to convince insurance providers that gender reassignment surgery — historically regarded as cosmetic — should instead be deemed medically necessary.

“We’re in the business of making electronics, not in determining medical necessity, but we do want to influence the conversation, because it aligns with our values,” said Lyle, who’s openly gay. “We want to be able to offer benefits to our employees that are necessary for them, but we also want to have internal equity of those benefits.”

Plano-based J.C. Penney Company Inc. also lost points for failing to offer comprehensive trans health benefits, and saw its score drop from a 100 to an 85.  Daphne Avila, a spokesman for J.C. Penney, said in an email this week that the company will “continue to explore cost-effective options for improving associate benefits.”

“Given our record of achieving a perfect score three out of the past four years, our current ranking is not where we would like it to be,” Avila wrote. “While the new guidelines present opportunities for advancement across all industries, our score – albeit not poor – does not accurately reflect our overall commitment to inclusion and diversity. … While we are unable to guarantee our future standings, please know that we are already evaluating the 2013 HRC criteria and are looking for opportunities to raise the bar.”

Representatives from Grapevine-based GameStop, which saw its score drop from 100 last year to 75 this year; and Dallas-based Brinker International, which saw its score drop from 100 to 60, didn’t respond to requests for comment this week.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 09.02.11

Friday 09.02

Always getting caught
The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents Cheaters written by Michael Jacobs and directed by Michael Serrecchia. No, this isn’t a stage version of that horrible reality show putting cheating boyfriends and girflriends on the spot. The couples here intertwine dangerously before a young couple’s wedding. It’s both funny and oh-so wrong. Did he really sleep with her?

DEETS: CTD, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. $22–$32.
ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com

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Sunday 09.04

The way he is
We are starting to think that conductor Marvin Hamlisch has a thing for Dallas. Or at least he’s making it a habit. He was here almost exactly a year ago to the day. We don’t mind it at all if he’s going to keep playing his music from A Chorus Line, The Way We Were and so much more. After all, he’s helming the DSO pops as its principal conductor. Who wouldn’t get excited?

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St.
2:30 p.m. $22–125.
DallasSymphony.org.

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Thursday 09.08

Not your usual night at the mall
Neiman Marcus hosts this year’s Fashion’s Night Out, a swanky event with both men’s and women’s collections, light nibblies and a DJ. The night benefits Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

DEETS: The Shops at Willow Bend, 2201 Dallas Parkway, Plano. 6 p.m.
$50–$100.
AltURL.com/zyiwa.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Palant resigns; Fisher joins TCC staff as ED

Jonathan Palant, left, and David Fisher

Chorale board chair says group is on solid financial ground in the midst of ‘exciting transitions’

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

As the Turtle Creek Chorale is in the midst of gearing up for its 32nd season, word came this week that the chorale’s artistic director for the last four years, Jonathan Palant, had resigned, and that David Fisher had been hired as the new executive director.

Fisher replaces Stephan Tosha, who announced in May that he would be resigning at the end of July to take a position with Morgan Stanley financial services firm.

But despite the upheaval in the chorale’s top staff positions, board chair the Rev. Dawson Taylor said this week that the chorale is in excellent financial position and that the 32nd season, set to kick off Oct. 23 with “Messiah” at the Meyerson Symphony Center, will continue as scheduled.

Dawson Taylor

“We are moving ahead with our ticket sales and looking at all our options” regarding an artistic director for the season, Taylor said. He said the board is creating a committee to conduct a national search to replace Palant and at the same time discussing how to fill that vacancy in the meantime.

“We expect the search to take six to eight months,” Taylor said. “We will determine how the podium is handled until a new artistic director is hired. We may possibly name an interim artistic conductor, or we may work with guest conductors for different programs. Either way, I am confident the chorale will be in good hands until we find a permanent replacement.”

Taylor said it is very possible that if choosing an interim director, the board would choose “someone local,” and that an interim director would be “someone the membership is comfortable with and confident in.”

Taylor said that Palant had turned in his resignation during a previously scheduled meeting with Taylor on Monday morning, July 18.

“He simply stated that he is leaving [the chorale] to pursue other interests, and I am taking him at his word,” Taylor said.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, July 21, Palant said he is not in a position to disclose details about his future plans at this time, saying only that he resigned from the chorale “to pursue other artistic endeavors” and that he has some “exciting opportunities on the horizon.”

He also said that he will continue as minister of music at Kessler Park United Methodist Church, a position he accepted earlier this year, and that he will continue his duties as chief judge of the Dallas Tavern Guild’s 2011 Voice of Pride competition.

Palant said that “making music with” the Kessler Park church is “a new challenge for me, and lots of fun,” and that he enjoys the opportunity Voice of Pride gives him to “promote new talent, hear lots of great singers and spend time with friends.”

In a prepared statement released Thursday afternoon, Palant said of his future plans, “I am excited to be starting a family with my partner, Mark, and academia has never been far from my heart.”

He also repeatedly heaped praise on the chorale, both in his written statement and in his interview with Dallas Voice.

“It has been a true pleasure being the artistic director these past four years and I firmly believe we have made a difference in the lives of many in our Partners in Harmony program, our many musical collaborations both near and far, within the LGBT community and, of course, with and for our local patrons and supporters,” Palant said in the prepared statement. “Each and every contact I have made over these years, in their own way, has changed my life, and I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I wish all the best for the Turtle Creek Chorale and its members.”

He also said that the upcoming chorale season will be “fantastic, and I should know because I planned it! I mean, where else can you get ‘Messiah,’ Laura Bush and Madonna all in one season?”

Taylor said he and other board members notified chorale members of Palant’s resignation Monday and then released a statement, shortly before 9 p.m. that night, officially making the news public. Board members then met with chorale members in a “town hall” meeting Tuesday night, giving members the chance to ask any questions and air any concerns they had.

About 80 of the chorale’s current total of 140 to 150 members attended, Taylor said.

“Many of them [chorale members] are grieving right now, and we certainly understand that. This is not where they expected things to go,” Taylor said. “But I feel that by the end of that meeting they all felt like their questions had been answered.

“We are a flexible organization,” he continued. “We are 31 years old. We survived the AIDS crisis. We have only had five artistic directors in 32 seasons. I think that’s pretty unique.

“We are flexible and nimble, and when the season starts, we will be at our best. I think the news has settled in now, and the guys understand that Turtle Creek Chorale is bigger than one person,” Taylor said.

Taylor also said that turnover in the top positions are not an indication of any financial problems for the chorale.

“In fact, we are in the best financial position we have been in in the last 10 years,” Taylor said. “We are now debt-free, and that was not the case when I came on the board four years ago. The credit for that all goes to Stephen Tosha.”

He added that the chorale’s annual fundraising gala, held last month and this year called “Circque,” brought in $100,000,” and that season subscription sales for the 32nd season are “right on target.”

Taylor also noted that he expects the chorale’s financial good health to continue to improve under new executive director David Fisher. Fisher, who takes over the ED position effective Aug. 15, has worked for the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs since 1995.

During his tenure with the city, Fisher managed the Bath House Cultural Center and the Meyerson Symphony Center. While at the Bath House, he created the Festival of Independent Theaters and directed several productions that drew critical acclaim.

Fisher was a member of the 2004 class of Leadership Dallas and earned a masters degree in nonprofit management from the University of Dallas in 2005.

In 2006, Fisher was appointed assistant director of cultural affairs for the city, overseeing operations at all the city’s cultural centers and the city’s grant programs.

He also led the budgeting and administration functions for the department.

Since last year, Fisher has done double duty as assistant director of cultural affairs and interim general manager of radio station WRR Classical 101.1 FM.

Fisher and his longtime partner, Duncan, live in Lake Highlands with their 7-year-old son, Bennett.

“I could not be more thrilled — or grateful — to be joining the Turtle Creek Chorale as its executive director,” Fisher said in a statement released Wednesday evening.

“Since being part of the Meyerson team that helped produce the first ‘Sing for the Cure’ in 1999, I have followed the Turtles with admiration and appreciation. It is an amazing ensemble with an incredible history and, I believe, an incredible future.”

Both Taylor and Fisher acknowledged that the chorale is in the midst of a time of transition, but both also said the chorale will continue to thrive.

“I am so excited to be on the board and part of this organization right now, and we are all so excited to have David join our staff,” Taylor said. “I don’t think the members of the chorale or our patrons and donors see as being in a time of chaos.

“It is a time of transition, yes. But it is an exciting time of transition. We are moving forward, and I see nothing but good things ahead for Turtle Creek Chorale.”

—  John Wright

Just Koz

Out saxophonist (and proud oenophile) Dave Koz turns collaboration into musical art

JAZZ MAN | Sax and cabernet share a place in the heart of Dave Koz, but it’s only the former you’ll enjoy at the Dallas Symphony on Sunday.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

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DAVE KOZ
Meyerson Symphony Center,
2301 Flora St. June 19. 8 p.m. $35–$85. DallasSymphony.com

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Saxophone player Dave Koz likes to have several things on his plate, so it makes sense that he’d want to pair them with wine — his own wine. He admits to not being a lover of vino, but an outright oenophile who drinks and appreciates it.

He describes his brand’s cabernet, from the Napa Valley vineyard Vinum Cellar (there’s also a Koz chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), as “very fruity, it’s fresh,” before settling on this: “You know, the best way to describe it is friendly. You share it with people you love and it puts you in a good mood.”

While that description might also go for any number of vintages and varietals, it certainly is a good summation of the man Dave Koz, who performs at the Meyerson on Father’s Day.

He has released 12 albums in a 23-year career, including 2010’s Hello Tomorrow, which, as he has done time and time again, is filled with collaborations from important names from the music world at large, including Herb Alpert, Keb’ Mo’ and Sheila E. And as with Hello Tomorrow, which fuses blues, funk and other styles into Koz’s smooth sax sounds, his music puts the listener in a good mood.

That also goes for when he’s tackling heavier themes, such as what inspired his latest album: The constant wave of change sweeping everyone’s lives … including his own.

“I was reeling with my own personal changes, including my mom passing away a few years ago, and the reality of that,” says Koz. “There were also a lot of changes in my business, in my daily life. The more I started talking to people about it, I realized there were so many people waking up going, ‘Wow, it’s a lot different than I thought it was going to look.’”

The music he wrote for songs like “When Will I Know For Sure” and “Anything’s Possible” tap into that, which is more open to interpretation when it’s mostly instrumental music (he also sings vocals on his take on the Burt Bacharach song “This Guy’s in Love With You”).

“Instrumental music is an interesting thing, because we’re living in a vocal world,” he says. “There’s a transparency that comes when someone plays the saxophone or piano or guitar that allows the listener to have a more personal experience with that song. The idea is for me to put as much emotional information into that saxophone so that someone on the receiving end can feel something.”

Having witnessed enough changes to inspire an album, one thing that surprisingly didn’t change for him was when, at 40, he officially came out in a 2004 interview in The Advocate.

“I never thought I would do it, but it just kind of bubbled inside of me and next thing I knew I was coming out,” he says. “It was the best decision I ever made. That being said, I would caution against telling anyone matter-of-factly that you have to come out. The reason it was a non-issue for me was because I was ready.”

Koz says that his decision was embraced in the jazz community, which has had a perception of being homophobic. A few weeks ago, he invited fans to participate in a video shoot in Ventura, Calif., for “This Guy’s In Love With You,” with the idea to celebrate love, and being bold enough to love whomever you wish, regardless of sex, race, religion or creed. He called it a “love mob,” and according to his website, it was a success.

Like his wines, proceeds from which benefit Starlight Children’s Foundation, consider it just another thing he does for a good Koz.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens