Jaster appointed permanent executive director of Turtle Creek Chorale

Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster, who took quickly over as interim executive director for the Turtle Creek Chorale following the departure of the previous post-holder in January, has been confirmed as the new full-time permanent executive director, the TCC announced late Friday. The ED is responsible for the management and business side of the organization. Sean Baugh, who was made full-time artistic director earlier this spring after overseeing the most recent season of the TCC since the departure of Trey Jacobs last June, will continue to be in charge of the music, programs and singers.

Jaster received the unanimous support of the board of directors in voting him to the post. He has been on the board himself for 10 years, and spent 15 as a singing member. Since assuming the interim role, he has led the chorale through a dicey period in its history, building up its financial security and “continuing the chorale’s movement toward stability and new growth,” according to a release. Jaster was with Price Waterhouse Coopers before stepping away to take the interim position in January.

“The chorale has been a part of my life since first attending a concert on the early 1980s. To be able to now serve as executive director is a dream realized,” Jaster said.

The chorale is Dallas’ 35-year-old gay men’s chorus, one of the fourth oldest gay men’s singing groups in the U.S. It starts its 36th season Oct. 9.

When I jokingly observed that the timing of the promotion from interim to permanent looked conditioned upon the Supreme Court bestowing marriage equality, the TCC’s director of marketing Tri Truong laughed, adding, “I feel like you can spin it that way.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chorale announces upcoming season of concerts for 2015–16


TCC music director Sean Baugh.

It was just this weekend that the Turtle Creek Chorale concluded its 35th season, and now just a few days later we know what to look forward to.

The four mainstage shows, all of which will take place at the City Performance Hall, begins with Heartland: An American Songbook, featuring everything from showtunes from Gershwin and Rodgers & Hammerstein through folk classics by Woody Gurthie and Bob Dylan. Oct. 9 and 10.

Next up will be, of course, the traditional concert of holiday music, Home. Dec. 17, 18, 19 and 20. The spring concert is entitled Heroes, with the first half devoted to honoring members of the community who have been role models and leaders; the second half will be a performance of the choral work Tyler’s Suite, written in honor of Tyler Clementi, the gay student who committed suicide after being bullied online. March 31, April 1 and 2.

The season will conclude a year from now with the summer concert, Heartstrings, which tracks the emotional roller coaster from first date to first heartbreak, as expressed by composers from Beethoven to Lady Gaga. June 9, 10 and 11.

You can get your season tickets here or by calling 214-526-3214.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chorale scores big bucks at Big Thickette, receives big grant

3 contestants

Lisa Condo, Aida Lott and Shebeata Pinata at the Miss Big Thickette pageant and fundraiser.

We like things big in Texas, and the Turtle Creek Chorale has had a big week.

First, their fundraising pageant, Miss Big Thickette, proved a huge success on Sunday night. Usually, the benefit for TCC’s LifeWalk team nets around $4,000 for the night; this year doubled that, with contestants (and generous supporters) ponying up more than $8,000 in donations — a gigantic step toward the LifeWalk team’s goal of $35,000 by September. The winner ended up being Shebeata Pinata, with first runner-up going to Aida Lott and Lisa Condo taking Miss Congeniality.

Then last night came word that Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York has bestrowed an Art Innovation and Management Grant on the chorale. The exact amount of the two-year, unrestricted grant is confidential, though interim executive director Bruce Jaster characterized it as “sizeable.”

Yup, we knew it — Texas is full of “sizeable” queens.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sean Baugh named TCC artistic director


Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh

Sean Baugh, who has been serving as associate artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale this season, has been named permanent artistic director.

Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster said the singing membership strongly supported the appointment and the announcement during the Chorale’s Tuesday night rehearsal was met with a standing ovation.

Throughout the season, Baugh has reversed declining attendance and recent shows have been sold out.

Jaster said Baugh would work with the Chorale full time and reduce his affiliation with Cathedral of Hope to part time. Thursday rehearsals and Sunday services would continue at CoH under Baugh’s direction.

“Cathedral of Hope is my spiritual home,” Baugh said. “I’m excited to be able to continue my work there as well. Both organizations are dear to me and I cannot imagine my musical life without both of them working in tandem.”

Baugh has been with the chorale nine years. He joined during former artistic director Tim Seelig’s final season. Through most of his tenure at TCC, he has been a conductor of specialty groups and has also served as an officer of the organization.

Jaster said planning has begun for the 2015-16 season that will be announced before this season’s final concert in June.

The next concert, entitled “Britain, Beatles and Bond,” takes place April 23-25 at City Performance Hall. Tickets are now on sale.

This weekend, the Chorale performs twice — at the DIFFA event on Saturday and at a memorial for former Chorale president Chet Flake at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 6525 Inwood Road.

—  David Taffet

Turtle Creek Chorale’s 35th anniversary concert: The boys are back

IMG_9683Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until you find it again. That’s what it felt like Saturday night at the Turtle Creek Chorale’s 35th anniversary concert at City Performance Hall. When the curtain rose on the first half, audiences were pleased to see a full complement of tuxedoed men, ably led by interim artistic director Sean Baugh. They were delighted by the singing. But when Act 2 opened and the ranks had increased by 50 percent — and, at the end, with the addition of members of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, fully doubled if not more — there were audible gasps from the audience. This is the chorale longtime fans remember. And many were there to walk down memory lane with Tim Seelig.

Seelig led the chorale for 20 years — from 1987 to 2007 — and has been the head of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus since 2011, so this reunion was filled with memories … not the least of which was Seelig’s gift for gab and his snarky humor, which he amply shared from the stage.

IMG_9687But it was also the performance of the chorale — not just during Seelig’s set, but Baugh’s as well — that seemed invigorated, inspired. The past two seasons have been hard ones. Baugh spoke more from the stage in six songs than I think former director Trey Jacobs did in two years, and while no one can imitate Seelig, the chorale is always best when its whimsy, sincerity and Texas personality come through. Just as important is its commitment to the gay character of Dallas, something the recently departed executive director shied away from during her disastrous tenure. All that made these past years unmemorable ones for the chorale; Saturday night was not only a concert for remembering past glory days, but — with Baugh and new interim E.D. Bruce Jaster in place — a reason to feel excited that more such days are destined for the future.

At the end, Seelig made an spontaneous plea to the audience to commit to giving — “$5, $10, $100, $10,000 if you have it” — a donation to the chorale within the next three months to keep this significant group (one of the oldest gay men’s choruses in the country, and perhaps the world’s most recorded men’s chorus of all time) alive and kicking for another 35 years. “I won’t be here then,” Seelig said, “but the chorale needs to be.” And after Saturday’s concert, it feels not like empty hope, but an actual, achievable mission.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

There’s still time to win a grand in the Top Hat photo contest!

Time is running out to win money. We’re not joking.

You know how EASY it is to win $1,000 for charity? Pretty damn easy! Get some kind of hat. It can be a beret. Or a snood. Or a box of oatmeal cereal. Then find a head. It can be bald. Or teased  and treated. Or on a dog. Then get a camera — even a smartphone. And take a snapshot. THAT’S IT. After that, just email it to TopHat@dallasvoice.com with the name of your nonprofit by Friday. We’ll whittle the entries down to the top nine, and the winner (chosen by Voice readers) gets a photo of them in their hat on the cover of an issue in March and a donation made in their name.

OK you members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, or volunteers for DIFFA, or chefs who donate to the food pantry, or fundraisers for AIDS Arms or ASD or Black Tie. You don’t have to sell tickets, you don’t have to make a matching contribution, you don’t have to design a denim jacket. All you need to do is take a photo and make a grand for charity. If you’re email address ends with .org, you probably already work for an eligible agency. It’s like free money! Think how you can impress your boss!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

First off, if you’re not already wearing purple today, go back home and put some on. Oct. 19 is Spirit Day, sponsored by GLAAD to draw awareness to bullying. (You can even turn your Facebook pic purple.)

Next, if you don’t already have tickets to see Madonna this weekend, good luck finding them …. though if you are going, we have a little primer for you about what to expect.

And for those who don’t have ‘em and can’t afford the scalper prices anyway, this is the final weekend to see Hello Again at Uptown Players (pictured) and also Freud’s Last Session at Theatre 3.  Or you can just see a movie — and Keep the Lights On is definitely worth seeing.

For a little more interactive experience, the IGRA’s Gay Rodeo World Finals are in Fort Worth this weekend, with plenty of events and parties. While you’re in Cowtown, swing over to Bass Hall to catch Ben Stevenson’s staging of the ballet Peer Gynt. Or you come back to Dallas and  gorge yourself on Burgers & Burgundy, a fundraiser for DIFFA, on Friday night.

You can gorge yourself also on Sunday by coming to the Texas State Veggie Fair, held this year at Reverchon Park. In addition to the fried (vegan) food competition, there will be vegan food sellers and all sorts of vendors promoting a vegan lifestyle.

And the final thing to set aside time for this weekend: The Turtle Creek Chorale has its fall “Partners in Harmony” concert on Sunday at the Meyerson.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

TCC settles lesbian former professor’s discrimination suit for $160K

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Tarrant County College administrators agreed to pay a former lesbian professor more than $160,000 as part of a settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department at the Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

Gill sought compensation for the time she was unemployed, as well as the opportunity to complete the application process at TCC, her attorney Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, previously told Instant Tea.

Although the settlement doesn’t accept liability, Lambda Legal announced that TCC agreed to pay Gill more than $160,000 and to provide her with a positive letter of recommendation.

TCC, which adopted a nondiscrimination policy that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation last March, added a written policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new policy was not part of the settlement, according to the statement.

“Jackie’s fight resulted in a published decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that makes it clear that public employers can no longer claim ignorance about whether discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution,” Upton said in a statement.

—  Dallasvoice

Ex-TCC professor’s anti-gay bias suit advances

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

FORT WORTH – In a preliminary victory for a lesbian former professor, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied a motion Monday by Tarrant County College administrators to dismiss her lawsuit alleging she was prevented from interviewing for a permanent teaching position based on her sexual orientation.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

The co-defendants, English Department Chair Eric Devlin and Dean of Humanities Antonia Howell, sought qualified immunity, which guards state officials from liability unless there is an established law. However, discrimination by public employees based on sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution, said Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who is presenting Gill.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has said that that’s not a valid basis for discriminating,” Upton said. “What we wanted to show is that it is clearly established that you don’t get to judge someone’s job performance based on sexual orientation. … (The court) ruled that it was clearly established when they treated Jackie differently presumably based on the fact that they thought she’s a lesbian.”

—  Dallasvoice