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

Interim no more: Jacobs in at TCC

It’s official: Trey Jacobs is in as the new, permanent artistic director at the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Following the TCC’s Madonna to Madonna concert Sunday, where Dallas’ gay men’s chorus sang songs from liturgical hymns like “Ave Maria” to medleys of Madge’s pop hits, managing director David Fisher, pictured right, announced that their “new” artistic director would be the guy who has led the group since last summer, pictured left.

It was both a surprise and not. The surprise came because, in an interview with the Voice last October, Jacobs claimed he did not intend to apply for it, as he had recently moved to the same town as his partner after a commuter relationship for years.

I was never totally convinced, even though Jacobs was a rush replacement last year when former A.D. Jonathan Palant’s contract was not renewed at the close of the season. And it was not a surprise when you looked at the Facebook posts in recent days of TCC members, who seemed devoted to Jacobs’ leadership. When Fisher took the stage, I saw it coming.

The reaction from the crowd was enthusiastic, probably owing in no small part to the excellent concert that has just been performed. There was an energy to the chorale that had been missing in some prior concerts, and the membership roster seemed especially healthy. (The subject matter — the role of women and their strength throughout history — was particularly poignant in light of recent political debates concerning women’s health.) Jacobs’ selection was a popular choice and the singers, too. One member of the search committee told me after they looked at 16 candidates, but “we all love Trey,” so he was offered the job.

Another clue it would be Jacobs: A note in the program that the 2012-13 season would be announced soon. That’s the job of an artistic director.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

Turtle Creek Chorale seeks new members with open rehearsal, auditions coming in August

On the heels of the news last month that Jonathan Palant was stepping down as artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, the organization wants to make sure everyone knows there’s still a full season of music ahead — and a need for more singing members.

On Aug. 23 at their home at the Sammons Center, the chorale will host a new member reception at 6 p.m., where new faces can mingle with old ones, including staff and board members, followed by an open rehearsal anyone can attend. Then on Aug. 28, the TCC will hold open auditions for new members from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The constancy of change

Everything changes but the dedication of the Turtle Creek Chorale members, TCC president says

SEAN BAUGH  |  Special Contributor

In the song “Change,” Melissa Etheridge sings, “The only thing that stays the same is change.” As president of the Turtle Creek Chorale, I am here to tell you, that quote applies to all of us.

The Turtle Creek Chorale is not immune to change, and we have certainly experienced our share over the past 31 years.

Honestly, though, five artistic directors in 31 years? That’s a pretty good track record for leadership when compared with senior management trends in the non-profit and artistic communities.

Change came to us last week in the form of news that Dr. Jonathan Palant was leaving the chorale. Jonathan has been my friend as well as the chorus’ artistic director.

His departure is a tremendous loss for so many of us.

I know my fellow chorale members well enough to say that we’ll weather this change, just as we have weathered many a difficult time. We have survived the AIDS crisis; we can survive anything.

It is our daily challenges that make the Turtle Creek Chorale what we are today: a strong, resilient and dedicated community of singers, friends and brothers.

With comings and goings also come growth and an incredible journey. The chorale will continue to sing with an even stronger voice as we rally to support our new artistic leadership.

In the coming weeks we will begin a nationwide search for the next artistic director, and you can rest assured that he (or she!) will meet a vibrant and dedicated group of men that recognizes its history and lives up to its reputation as one of the finest choirs in the world.

As Melissa’s lyrics coax us:

“And so it goes
This too shall pass away
It cuts so strange
The only thing that stays the same
Is change.”

In the coming weeks, the Turtle Creek Chorale kicks off its 32nd season with auditions for new members and rehearsals starting Aug. 23. I invite you to join us either by purchasing season subscriptions, giving to the chorale or singing with the TCC.

We, the Turtle Creek Chorale — the decorated Dallas, Texas men’s chorus — will continue on our mission to entertain, educate, unite and uplift our community. We are, and will be, an organization that you can be proud of.

This — I can assure you Miss Etheridge — will never change.

Sean Baugh is president of Turtle Creek Chorale. For more information on the chorale, go online to TurtleCreekChorale.org

—  John Wright