In his first sit-down since becoming TCC’s new permanent artistic director, Trey Jacobs looks ahead to the season’s last concert & beyond
The final show of this season’s Turtle Creek Chorale is also a first for its newly minted artistic director, Trey Jacobs. Although he led the gay men’s chorus for the entirety of its 2011-12 season, this is his first performance since being appointed the permanent AD. Interim no more, he is the guy — a position he almost finds ironic.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this would be a good fit for me. I have always been teaching music,” he says. “But until I got in and started rehearsing, then it was this amazing sense and I immediately felt like I was home.”
After previous AD Jonathan Palant left the chorale suddenly last summer, Jacobs was named interim while a search committee looked for a permanent replacement. At the time, Jacobs said he was out of the running — it was a condition of his appointment. But fate stepped, and it was clear to both parties it was an ideal match. The search language was amended and he was officially brought on board in March.
Faced with the challenge of working within the parameters of a pre-set season, Jacobs found ardent support as he adjusted the season to fit his vision. He was given near carte blanche to imprint his stamp on the shows.
“To everyone’s credit, knowing those parameters, we all were stepping up,” he says. “Without fault, everyone from the board to the members basically said, ‘We trust you and we’re gonna go with whatever you decide.’”
This worked out well for the group’s Made in America concert, which closes out the season on Thursday. Teaming again with the U.S. Army Chorus, Jacobs plans to expand the program, offering a performance that touches on TCC lore and extends the experience beyond the Meyerson doors.
“I figured what would work well from pieces in our library to the Army’s repertoire and put this fabric of a program together based on all that,” he says. “A different idea we also had was to truly honor veterans. I’m excited to have a veteran from every single conflict since World War II. We’ll also honor the family of a soldier who was killed in action.”
That hit close to home for Jacobs, as his brother, in the Army reserve, is awaiting deployment to Afghanistan. Jacobs’ nephew will be in attendance. But the concert isn’t just about song. The TCC will also offer information on local agencies that help vets who have returned but are struggling with finding work or even a place to live.
“I’m a firm believer that music is a healing balm,” he says. “I think this is a way to broaden the audience’s experience.”
They will also perform original compositions by late accompanist Anne Albritton. While the chorale looks ahead with its new AD, Jacobs doesn’t and almost can’t disregard its history. As someone coming to Dallas, he says the Turtle Creek Chorale is the epitome of the chorus circuit and people outside the city revere its history and reputation.
“For me, not being from here, and having taught and worked in several different states, the TCC is like the supreme chorus,” Jacobs says. “They are like the rock stars of the chorale world and it’s funny because the guys and even Dallas don’t realize that.”
That’s something Jacobs is still wrapping his head around. While he loves that people revere the group and he’s proud to be a part of it, he still has to figure himself into the new equation.
“It does make me a bit uncomfortable,” he admits. “I’ve just been a teacher my whole life and making music. But being a ‘celebrity,’ doing all of this, the interviewing, it’s a struggle for me. If you could watch me rehearse the chorale, that’s all anyone needs to know about me; that’s where I’m most comfortable.”
The educator side of Jacobs has come through in some of his initiatives for the future of the chorale. He plans to establish the Turtle Academy, an educational program available to chorale members that will offer classes on music literacy, voice, dance, even acting. He plans to add master classes to attract high-profile instructors.
Jacobs also hopes to add in a theater component; next season could see the debut of the Turtle Players. “The plan is to do Nunsense as our premiere and then either following through with a play or some one-acts,” he says.
In addition to the Thursday concert, TCC will perform a benefit Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church. A rehearsal space for the singers, Jacobs hopes to raise money for repairs and maintenance. “This is our little way of giving back to them for providing us this space,” he says.
While Jacobs is settling into to his new prominence within the Dallas arts community, he still has a few basic things to take care of. Like where to live. He’s still flying back and forth to Mobile, Ala., which he and his partner Thomas of nine years still call home.
“I’m staying within the pocket of town here by our offices, and so we don’t want to live too far away, but we don’t know where he’s going to be until he finds a job,” he says. “But we are both so excited about this venture and I thank Dallas for welcoming me and my partner. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds not just for us, but also for the Turtle Creek Chorale.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 18, 2012.