''He really took us to a new level of artistry,'' Chase Maggiano, executive director of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington (GMCW), says of Jeff Buhrman. Buhrman has announced that he will step down in June after 14 seasons as artistic director and more than 25 years of involvement with the chorus, now in its 33rd season.
''My time with the Gay Men's Chorus has been simply amazing,'' Buhrman tells Metro Weekly. ''It has been my family of choice for all of that time.'' Buhrman calls his impending departure ''100 percent bittersweet,'' and a tough decision, one ultimately made for family reasons. ''My husband Roger and I have been talking about finding new opportunities, moving out of Washington, D.C.,'' he explains, ''and we just came to the decision that it was time to do one of those major moves that sometimes we get to do in life.''
Buhrman has left ''huge'' shoes to fill, to use Maggiano's word. During his tenure, the chorus – one of the largest and oldest in the gay choral movement – has raised its profile markedly: from regular performances at the Kennedy Center, including singing for Elizabeth Taylor at the 2002 Kennedy Center Honors, to singing for President Obama at an official 2009 Inaugural event. The chorus of more than 275 members is also one of the more prominent groups in D.C., which has been called the choral capital of the country. GMCW has won four WAMMIE Awards from the Washington Area Music Association.
''Jeff has set a very high bar,'' Maggiano says. Among other things, ''He is very committed to creating original works that add to the cannon of gay and male chorus literature.''
For his part Buhrman stresses his efforts at outreach to the broader culture and society, and in particular to youth through its 13-year-old GenOUT program.
''It's still an important time for LGBT equality in this country,'' he says, adding that, ''Music changes hearts and minds,'' and emphasizing that his successor should be ''as passionate about their music as they are about social justice.''
The chorus will conduct a months-long national search to find Buhrman's successor, and is now working out details about the search committee and the job description. Interested parties should contact Maggiano via the chorus's website, gmcw.org.