To Be a Chorus Leader

Posted on: July 12th, 2013 by Teddy Basham-Witherington GALA Articles No Comments

What will your Chorus Board look like, come Labor Day?

Dysfunctional Board MeetingAt times, it seems that we require a little too much of the average Chorus Board Member; the courage of Rosa Parks, the wisdom of Solomon, the agility of Nadia Comaneci, and the foresight of Nostradamus. The reality is that your Chorus Board will comprise people very much like you, that is to say “human” – with all that entails. So, as we break for the traditional summer hiatus, what will your board look like come Labor Day?

The principal function of the board is raising money for programs to carry out a shared vision. If board members do not believe in the vision, they should not be on your board. If they do believe in the vision, they should support it with wealth, wisdom, and wallop.

Chances are, if you are still reading, you may have served, be serving or be thinking of serving on the board of your chorus. If you fall in one of these categories, I salute you, period. There are as many motivations as there are people who serve on Chorus boards, but what I have observed is that those who stay, have a positive influence and – oh yes – have fun, share certain characteristics.

The most important is to be generally animated by this spirit of service: giving without expectation of reward. If you have the ability to work towards unity based on a shared vision, you will have a stimulating and rewarding experience. You will make lifelong friends and make this world a better place.

There is, however, a little bit more to it than that…

A quick back of the envelope inventory should reveal if you are ready to step up, or step aside. Such an inventory might start with these three key questions:

  • Have you or are you available to have a good attendance at board meetings, prepare for those meetings, and participate at them?
  • Have you or can you make a financial contribution that conforms to what is expected and/or is meaningful to you?
  • Have you brought or can you bring all your capital: financial, intellectual, social, political, and reputational to the table?

If you’re having some reservations, you might not be ready or it could be time to gracefully retire. If you have a say in who gets to serve, these might also be questions you’d like to ask them.

Nothing lasts forever and the time comes for even the most committed board member to step aside and allow others to fill the seat. Before that moment arrives, hopefully you will have planned for it and been an active partner in recruiting your successor.

Ideally, when the time comes, you will be able to look back on your board service with a warm feeling that comes from having been acquainted with other board members, getting to know the staff (volunteer and/or compensated) and having supported the administrative and artistic leadership.

No board service is possible without having a vision; it would be pretty pointless serving if you didn’t. People will either share your vision or they won’t. You can even persuade and influence along the way, but if you find yourself a lone voice, then stay or go, as feels right to you, but support the collective conscience in public. If you can’t, then you could even start your own chorus, built on your values and vision. If this is you, then I issue a cheerful invitation to you to follow your star and I wish you well.

In my opinion, there can never be too many choruses effecting social change.

Teddy Witherington serves on the GALA board, served as Executive Director of SF Gay Men’s Chorus, 2006-2012 and currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Teddy Basham-Witherington

Teddy currently serves as the Chief Marketing Office of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and has been onthe GALA board since February, 2011.

Teddy was born in London, England on April 13, 1962 and following graduation from college spent 10 years working as a lawyer in the City of London specializing in private client and non-profit law.

In 1991, Teddy joined the London LGBT March and Festival, and was its executive Director until July 1997. During that period, the London event grew from a local one attracting 40,000 people to become Europe’s largest annual free music festival, attracting 280,000 to London’s Clapham Common in June 1997. Under his leadership, London became the venue of the first-ever EuroPride Festival in 1992.

Following an extensive worldwide search, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration hired Teddy in August1997 as its first-ever Executive Director. In his nine years as Executive Director of San Francisco Pride approximately $900,000 was granted back to over 100 community groups and charities and the event transformed into a multi-cultural festival. Teddy then served as Executive Director of San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus from 2006 – 2012. During his tenure the capacity of the organization more than doubled and the Chorus embarked upon the ground-breaking California Freedom Tour in the wake of Prop 8.

Teddy‘s other accomplishments include being the co-founder of the European Pride Organizers Association in 1993 (which he led as President for its first four years), being one of the founding directors of the London Pride Arts Festival and serving on the Finance Committee of the International Lesbian & Gay Association. In 1997, Teddy was an honorary Marshal in the Santa Fe Gay Pride Parade and in 1999, he was awarded the honor of being the Grand Marshal of the very first Reno Gay Pride Parade. In 2000, he received the “Man of the Year” award from CAPI (Consolidated Association of Pride). In June 2000 Teddy was elected to the Board of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, which he served on for three years.

From 1997 – 2000 Teddy was Co-President of InterPride, the international association of gay pride coordinators. He stepped down as President in October 2000, was re-elected in 2002 and served for a further year. San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown acknowledged Teddy’s accomplishments by proclaiming March 6, 2002 as Teddy Witherington Day in San Francisco. In June 2008, Teddy became the very first recipient of The Teddy Witherington Award presented to him at San Francisco City Hall by Mayor Gavin Newsom for his outstanding service to the Pride movement.

Teddy’s culinary skills are renowned and he is a contributor to San Francisco Bay Times. He is also an avid tennis player. Teddy and his husband Rob live at home in San Francisco.

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