His humble approach to leadership is what attracts people to the chorale’s talented conductor
Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh isn’t the larger-than-life figure one of his predecessors was. Those who work with him at the chorale and at Cathedral of Hope, where he serves as associate director of music and worship, describe him as warm and approachable, but at the same time, he is someone who gets his vision across.
Dallas Voice readers this year voted Baugh as their LGBT Role Model. Friends and coworkers this week said the honor is well deserved.
While clearly a fan of what’s come across on stage under Baugh’s leadership, Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster is awed by Baugh’s ability to express his musical vision to such a talented but diverse group of men.
“He retains a level of humility that is incredibly endearing,” Jaster said.
He called that “servant leadership.”
Tri Truong credits Baugh’s leadership for building and retaining membership in the chorale.
“He made extraordinary changes putting us back out in the community,” Truong said. “We’re part of the community and need to be out there.”
That includes everything from singing after the Orlando Pulse massacre to help the community heal, to singing at a funeral to help a family heal.
Truong said Baugh bases his values on the question, “When things happen, what can we do to help our community?” Baugh is, Truong said, “really good at that.”
The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas with Cathedral of Hope said Baugh a role model in the way he collaborates. When Cazares-Thomas suggested a musical series of programs, and “Within three weeks, he had a program laid out, and was recruiting folks to expedite it. To me, that’s really good leadership.”
Folks at the cathedral worried that as more and more of Baugh’s time became consumed by the chorale, they’d lose him. But they’ve learned he needs both aspects of his music — the liturgical and the performance — to fulfill him.
“He’s funny, witty and always brings something to the conversation, whatever that conversation’s about,” Cazares-Thomas said.
B.J. Cleveland will be the ringmaster for the upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale performance, Topsy Turvy. Cleveland, one of the area’s busiest actors, is also a director. But he said working under Baugh’s direction has been a pleasure.
“He’s a great leader,” Cleveland said. “He gives positive affirmation about the work first and then gives the notes.”
That is a great leadership skill, Cleveland said. It’s too easy to simply go after what’s wrong on stage; that’s what much lesser directors do. But that’s not how Baugh operates.
“Sean has good vision,” Cleveland said. “He’s done his homework.”
Baugh said he was humbled by the recognition.
“I guess I try to be kind to everybody I meet,” Baugh said. “No matter their age, looks, who they are.”
He doesn’t see the chorale as just a group of men that blend into one voice. He sees each person in the group as an individual, each with his own story. His advice to each of them is: Follow your dreams.
Baugh is certainly following his. Five years ago, he said, he never would have dreamed that he’d have a full-time career back in music.
And how does he balance two full-time music jobs?
“Not well,” he said.
Of course, everyone associated with the chorale and with the music ministry at Cathedral of Hope disagrees.
Ideas, Baugh said, come to him at any moment of the day — while he’s reading, driving and listening to music, watching TV or just talking to friends. He keeps his phone nearby at all times to record those ideas that may result in an idea for a new concert or how to arrange a particular song.
Baugh said he tries to live a life of authenticity and integrity. “I hope others see that,” he said.
Not only do the eople who’ve performed under his direction see it, but they voted him the LGBT community’s best role model for it.
“Trying to hold court in a room full of 250 gay men is difficult and he does it so well,” Cleveland said. .
The Turtle Creek Chorale’s next concert is Topsy Turvy at 7:30 p.m. on March 23-25 at City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St. Tickets at TurtleCreekChorale.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.