Gay Men’s Chorus Seeks New Director

Maestro Gordon Roberts

The 170-voice Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida (GMCSF) is opening a nationwide search for a new artistic director.

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For the past five years, maestro Gordon Roberts led the critically acclaimed ensemble that splintered from the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus after disputes over that group’s management.

The GMCSF quickly grew, regularly selling out its three-concert seasons and launching a successful collaboration with the Symphony of the Americas during Roberts’ tenure. The chorus is among the largest gay men’s choruses in the country and the largest vocal ensemble in the region.

In a press release to SFGN this week, the chorus announced plans to conduct a national search for a new artistic director.

According to GMCSF executive director Mark Kent, during negotiations this summer over Roberts’ annual contract, it became apparent to the board it was time for the chorus to move in a “new direction.”

“(Roberts) has given us five fabulous years and developed us into a great organization,” Kent said.

Board chair Doug Pew said in the release, “We believe Gordon has great things ahead of him in his career and wish him tremendous success.”

Roberts did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Concerning the search, GMCSF president Bill Spinsoa added, “We are looking for the next, great artistic leader for the chorus. South Florida has a vibrant LGBT community that is exploding with growth. Our vision is to become one of the leading gay men’s choruses in the country, and we are enthused to bring a top talent to the podium who will take us to that level.”

Until a replacement is hired, GMCSF will be directed by guest conductors. The first performances, traditional holiday concerts at Sunshine Cathedral, are currently scheduled for Dec. 11- 12 and 18-19 at Sunshine Cathedral.

For more information about the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, go to GMCSF.org.

UPDATE: SFGN obtained a copy of the response from former Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida artistic director Gordon Roberts to the August announcement that negotiations over the renewal of his contract had broken down and he would be leaving the organization. In the letter, Roberts blamed the situation on unacceptable provisions the board refused to negotiate. Roberts was not available to comment, but the full text is available below.

To my chorus brothers:

I'm concerned that false rumors about next year's Artistic Director contract are making the rounds.  I'd like you to hear what is going on from my point of view.

As it stands now, it would seem that Harold and I will not be with you this next season.  It is true that Harold has signed a contract but it was with the presumption that I would continue on as Artistic Director.  But, in good conscience, I can't sign the contract that was presented to me.

To make it clear up front, this has nothing to do with money.

If I sign the contract presented to me, then I must agree that this will be my last season as your Artistic Director.  This is the work of Doug Pew.  He has wanted me gone for a long time and now he is trying to force me to sign a contract that basically says, "give me your best this year -- then you are fired."   I think this is unfair, especially since my official review in July indicated I was doing a great job.  And, I don't believe that the things we accomplished together by developing this chorus into a highly recognized and valued artistic endeavor deserve that kind of treatment.

I'd like to share with you some background.  This dates back to our first year.  You may not know that Doug Pew resigned as Chair that first year because the Board overruled his desire to be involved in Artistic programming.  I went to lunch with him and another board member and we talked him into coming back.   Since then,  Doug has spent much of his time trying to convince others that I should be replaced.

Six years ago when this chorus was started -- and I was there, arguably ground zero, and there were certain goals set.   I believe The Artistic Team has lived up to the goals set for us.  We are quickly becoming recognized as one of the best choruses in the country.  We sing with the Symphony of the Americas, at the Gusman and this year at the Wold Performing Arts Center because we are a very respected and respectable chorus.  We are the largest gay men's chorus in the state.   We have continued to sell out every performance during our five year existence - something no other artistic entity in South Florida has accomplished.  We are the only group to ever sell out Bailey Hall.  Wouldn't you agree that, artistically we must be doing something right?

But, let's also applaud The Leadership Team for doing an amazing job.  They work very hard. Men from within the chorus giving their many individual talents to lead this ship.  Without that leadership and those many talents, our growth would not have been possible.  And without you following their lead and working hard, we wouldn't be where we are today.

But, I believe we have one weak link.  Our Board, under Doug Pew as Chair, has not attempted to live up to the goals we set for them that first year.  Many of us recall that we wanted our Board to be a DIVERSE Board of "movers and shakers."  We wanted community leaders (representing all three counties) from outside the chorus who could reach out to businesses, corporations and the like to lead the fund raising efforts of the chorus. This has not happened.  Instead we have a Board made up of friends of Doug Pew who live within a few minutes of his house.   We are the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida and our Board should reflect that.   We are not the Chorus of West Wilton Manors.   

I have pushed this issue to my detriment.  Over the years I have continued to ask about Board diversity.  But Doug Pew has resisted including “outsiders” on the board.  He has shut down any efforts to recruit community leaders outside of his influence.  He has become the same kind of bully as Todd Wiley.  We at one time had a straight woman on the Board.  She stayed less than a year.  Doug made her vetting process next to impossible and then it was made clear that she was not welcome.   

I am asking you to look at this and make your own judgment.   Is there ANY DIVERSITY on that Board?   Do we have straight men, women, ethnic, corporate leaders, etc.   Or only friends of Doug Pew who meet  socially --- and live mostly in Wilton Manors.   This is not the healthy, diverse Board  of community leaders that was our original dream.   And if we want to go to the next level in our growth,  this glaring weakness must be addressed.   

Remember that you, the chorus, own and control the chorus.   The Board works for you and you have the power to make changes.   You have the power and the right to demand the Board of Directors be the group of South Florida leaders this terrific chorus deserves.

Bill Spinosa is a sweet wonderful guy - and someone I am honored to call my friend.   He tells me he does not agree with the “fire him” clause Doug Pew added to the contract.   He is a great nurturing personality who will do anything to make things run smoothly.   He chairs our Leadership Team and his focus is the day-to-day workings of the chorus.    But, it is not in his DNA to put up a fight within the board to fix this.

And, Mark Kent, our new executive director, is, I think, the perfect guy for the job.  

So, we have a terrific Leadership Team, a respected Artistic reputation and the right staff personnel to accomplish our dreams.  If we had the Board we want and deserve, we would be poised for a remarkable future.  The sky would be the limit.

It is up to you, individually and collectively, to take a stand and try to make the necessary changes.   It has been a tremendous honor to stand with you and produce amazing music over the last five years.   Don't let Doug Pew set events so he can hire an Artistic Director that he can completely control (which is what he wants) and diminish what we have accomplished.  

Don't let this chorus become a "playtoy" for some wealthy guys from Wilton Manors.

Many thanks for listening.  I love our time together and I'm excited to get back to work without a gun to my head.

Gordon


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