SF Gay Men's Chorus ED leaving
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The executive director of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus is leaving his post.
Teddy Witherington is set to become director of events at another locally-based nonprofit, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates.
"I've been with the chorus now for coming up on six years, and I turned 50 earlier this year," Witherington said in an interview. "It was time to take stock and think about where I really could be of maximum service. I had intended to move on from the chorus at some point before the end of next year, so while those thoughts were going through my head and I was evaluating where I should be, this opportunity [with Out and Equal] came across the transom."
Witherington's last day as full-time executive director of the chorus will be June 15. He'll assist the chorus "on a much-reduced schedule" after that, and his last time with the chorus as its executive director will be July 13 for a performance benefiting the Matthew Shepard Foundation. His first day at Out and Equal will be June 25.
A Tuesday, May 29 news release from the chorus said the organization, also known as Golden Gate Performing Arts Inc., would conduct "a broad search" for Witherington's replacement.
The chorus has 311 members and a budget of just over $1 million, said Witherington, whose salary with the organization is $90,000.
"The chorus is deeply grateful to Teddy for his exceptional contributions," chorus board President Michael Tate stated. "Teddy has a long and passionate commitment to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and helping us build connections to each other and to the rest of the population."
During Witherington's tenure, the 34-year-old chorus "has achieved some of its most notable successes," according to the organization.
Among other accomplishments, in 2010, the chorus embarked on the California Freedom Tour, a series of concerts in California cities where support for the state's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban was strong. The tour was an effort to change minds among people who were likely more conservative and may have opposed marriage equality. Voters passed Prop 8 four years ago.
The chorus is currently working on Harvey Milk 2013, a multimedia stage production about the life and legacy of the slain San Francisco supervisor and gay icon. Witherington proposed the idea to the chorus board in 2010. The production will premiere next year.
In their statement, chorus officials also credited Witherington with "forging new relationships with foundations and doubling contributions from individuals."
Among other previous posts, Witherington co-founded the European Pride Organizers Association, and he was the first executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee.
He said his single-biggest accomplishment with the chorus has been ensuring the security of the group's endowment. Witherington said there's currently about $377,000 in the fund, which is under the control of the Horizons Foundation. He said that every year, the chorus receives 4 to 5 percent of the average value of the endowment over the last three-year period.
Witherington said he's excited about working for Out and Equal because when he started his professional career, he couldn't have the photo of the person he loved at his desk.
"That's the change I want to see in the world, is that no one has that fear about putting a photograph of the people they love on their desk at work, and that's what it's all about for me," said Witherington, who's been with partner Rob Basham, 46, for almost five years.
Asked about Witherington, Out and Equal Deputy Director Kevin Jones said, "Because events are such a critical part of what we do, the director of events is a position that's important, and we were looking for somebody that was experienced, who had good connections, and who was able to bring creative ideas to our events." He added, "We're also looking to expand our events outside the U.S." and Witherington brings "tremendous global experience and skills to the role."
Prior to heading up San Francisco Pride, Witherington was the festival director for London Pride.
Witherington declined to disclose his Out and Equal salary because he wasn't permitted to release it. Jones wouldn't divulge Witherington's salary, explaining his agency doesn't share salaries "other than in regulatory filings."