Not sure “fun story” is exactly the best description of my life, but most of it has been fun and it certainly has not been boring! This is the Cliff’s Notes version. The “official” version is in the next tab. The really long version is in the making – seriously. Be frightened. Or happy.
Many people are described as having two personas. Usually professional vs. personal. Well, some say there is a BIG Tim and a Little Tim. The people closest to me know that big and little are all mixed up. However, be advised, mixing them up does not result in a Medium Tim. No such thing. I love living with childlike joy on stage. I enjoy bringing home the hard-working Type A Tim!
This is a fun story, but I can’t tell a fun story about my life without sharing everything about me. That’s just who I am; an open book.
AT THIS POINT, YOU MAY WANT TO TURN YOUR CHILDREN AWAY FROM THE PRINTED WORD DISPLAYED ON YOUR SCREEN.
Or you can just skip to the next button over and read the Long Bio (Zzzzz….)
Let me tell you about Little Tim. Precocious, overachieving, people-pleasing, usually dressed up. He sang, he played the string bass, he was at church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and sometimes for visitation on Monday to call on wayward prospects. Fun?
Because manners were top priority in the home, he wasn’t really a loud little boy, but his life “volume” nob never found a comfort level less than mezzo forte. (or a little bit higher) His first performances were standing on the piano bench singing for captive guests (like many of you). Fun.
(Switching to first person. Third person is exhausting. And I can hear you!)
My brother and I were raised in a prize-winning, model Southern Baptist home. Mom and Dad were both professional Baptists. My Father was the Vice President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 30 years. My Mother was a singer and taught voice at the seminary’s school of music at the same time. She also sang all over the world as a gospel singer. And boy was she the most fun person on the planet. She was the daughter of a U.S. Congressman and held the title of “Queen of Everything” until she passed. At that time, and this is the truth, my Dad gave me the painting with that written on it! He thought I was definitely the one to get it. Spoiler alert. Very fun.
For the first 35 years of my life, the Baptist Church and music were my center.
That was my first life.
It went well. OK, even better than well. It included lots of schooling, lots of professional singing, a lovely wife, two perfect children. Sacred albums. Singing literally around the world. Four degrees, including one from Salzburg, Austria. I grabbed the brass ring with a full-time opera career in Switzerland. The over achiever was killing it. Of course, I look at that history and am incredibly proud and grateful for all of it. I was Assistant Professor at Houston Baptist University and Associate Minister of Music at First Baptist Church. Fun. Busy fun.
Pretty dang perfect. The dream life, really. Except for me, it was a nightmare.
I thought I could live the lie pretending to be heterosexual. After all, as an opera singer, I had trained in acting. My “sexual preference” was heterosexual. From the ages 19 – 35, I sought professional help of Christian psychiatrists and counselors. Countless were the times during the ‘Invitation’ or ‘altar call’ at the end the services, I would literally weep and ask God to “take this cup from me” and allow me to be straight. Maybe just one more verse of “Just As I Am? No. He did not remove it. It was many years before I finally accepted the fact that He did not change me because I was already whole and perfect and a homosexual.
So, at 35, with the perfect career, perfect family, perfect life, I could not take it one more day. I came out. It was not about living a homosexual lifestyle which I knew almost nothing of, it was about telling the truth. The year was 1986.
Some people have asked, with a twinkle in their eye, “How’d that go for you?”
Super Cliff Notes: I lost everything in one way or another, except 2: music and self. I would not trade any of it, not one day, except the pain I caused my family, not watching my children grow up, holding them, reading them stories, watching them go off to school and grow into beautiful young adults.
When I came out, Mom and Dad – the super Baptists - asked what they did to make me queer. I told them absolutely nothing. What they did was instill a deep sense of telling the truth that would not allow me to live a lie anymore. I am not sure they were happy with that answer. Fun.
Life #2 started in the same manner as #1. Fresh, new, clueless, fragile, not one physical thing that was mine, and dependent on the kindness of strangers. Gay strangers. Fun
My biggest worry was whether or not I would still find a career in my first love of music.
A year after coming out, I heard there was a gay men’s chorus in Dallas looking for a conductor. I had no idea there was such a thing, but I needed a job to pay child support. I took the part-time job with the Turtle Creek Chorale, all 40-some singers, and was a full-time temporary secretary (Dr. Kelly girl) on the side to make ends meet. The rest is a dream. I stayed there, conducting those wonderful men, for the next 20 years. FUN!!! I arrived as the AIDS epidemic was taking off. I had tried to escape the moniker of minister and here I was doing it to a level I had never imagined in the church. Our losses where unimaginable. But we learned what “church” was as we took care of each other in every possible way, loving, learning and grieving.
Those 20 years were magical. We found ourselves climbing mountains we never even knew were there. Accolades and Awards abounded. Rover 30 recordings, 2 documentaries, multiple appearances at national choral conventions. They may have been heady years, but our feet were held firmly on the ground by the losses around us and the challenges before us – equal rights for our LGBTQ+ community! We did our best. Big, important fun.
In 1989, I co-founded The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, and in 2008, co-founded Resounding Harmony, a mixed chorus based solely on choral philanthropy. They are both still alive and well.
I stepped down at the end of year number twenty. (It’s never good to step down at year #18 and 1/3. Oh, the tongues wag). It was bitter sweet since I had no position lined up. That certainly worked out. I was on the adjunct faculty at Southern Methodist University. I had written 6 books on choral music. I was hired as Artistic Director of the non-profit organization Hope for Peace and Justice and hired as the first Artistic Director in Residence for GALA Choruses (LGBTQ choruses of North America). So, my fears were set aside. Really busy fun.
Three years later, the position of Artistic Director for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus became available.
Oh, come on, people. I was perfectly set in Dallas. What the heck?
Well, there was nothing to do but risk it all and apply and audition. I got the job. I began in January 2011.
Life’s rocket continued its trajectory of FUN and fabulous. It’s San Francisco after all. It was the right time, the right place for me. And I think for them as well.
It has been a time of meteoric growth. Of great joy. Of unfathomable music making and community building. Our challenges are different here. It is not a challenge to be “out” as it was in Dallas. (understatement). But what being in this city does is throw you right into the middle of gay mecca. All of a sudden you are a spokesmodel for all things gay. It’s amazing, but daunting.
The chorus’ first public appearance was at the candlelight vigil for Harvey Milk. He loved music and activism and we feel we received the baton from him to carry on his legacy.
We have worked hard in these 8 ½ years. Commissioning important works for everyone by Stephen Schwartz, Ola Gjeilo, Stephen Flaherty, John Corigliano, Andrew Lippa, Jake Heggie and so many more on topics of Coming Out, Teen Suicide, Gender fluidity, and gay men in the Holocaust. Our next commission is @queerz…. the voice of today’s Generation Z by 23-year-old phenom, Julian Hornik.
But it hasn’t been just in San Francisco. We took just under 300 singers to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North and South Carolina to bolster them in times of deep discrimination against them. It resulted in the Documentary, Gay Chorus Deep South. It had its premiere at Tribeca where it won the Audience Favorite Award! It’s on its journey.
Finally, in our spare time, we purchased a building for SFGMC’s home and are creating the National LGBTQ Center for the Arts.
I would be remiss in telling my story without this. It hasn’t all been fun. On a personal note. I mentioned 2 perfect children, Corianna and Judson. And now two grandchildren Clara Skye and Eden Mae. In October, 2018, Corianna died suddenly. We have been regrouping as a family. Indeed, there is nothing that can ever compare to that. My Mom, Dad and only Brother are gone. But guess what is still there? Music.
That’s all for now.
And, it’s a fun story.
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
January 2011 – Present (5 years 11 months)
Turtle Creek Chorale
August 1987 – August 2007 (20 years 1 month)