New executive director joins Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus

Jason Conner
Jason Conner.

Jason Conner, an entrepreneur and long-time fan of the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, hopes to continue spreading the sense of community he has found in the organization as its new executive director.

Conner first saw a PGMC concert shortly after moving to Philadelphia and said the experience “was the first time I ever felt the power and messaging of what PGMC does,” and that he “felt this overwhelming sense of pride coming from these awesome folks who are out so openly and sharing that pride with the city.”

After attending numerous concerts and the organization’s annual gala for years, Conner said that when the executive director position became open, “I had to do it.” 

This year marks the chorus’ 42nd season. The chorus was originally a place of community for the gay male community, Conner explained, but has since become a chorus that is open to anyone who can sing in the TTBB (Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Bass 1, Bass 2) vocal range. 

“We don’t have any metrics around gender identity or anything like that. If you sing one of those parts, come join us.” 

The chorus also participates in philanthropic and educational efforts, as well as a youth outreach and engagement program that was started in 2014. 

“We have a youth education program that engages musically gifted people in schools and oftentimes exposes, specifically, LGBT or queer students to success and happiness. You know so much about our narrative is always told from the negative, right? We’re suffering from this, we’re struggling from this. And I think our goal is to show you can be happy, you can find a sense of community, and you can find a sense of pride. And I think the youth program helps do that.” 

Conner’s main goal for the chorus is to continue the welcoming community that it creates for its members and spread that message to more people throughout the city, similar to how he felt visiting Philadelphia for the first time and realizing there was an LGBTQ+ community there that he wanted to join. 

“I grew up in rural West Virginia as a Mormon,” Conner said, “and so I did not know that queer community existed outside of San Francisco, like so many people. And this was sort of before the apps and the internet.”

During his first visit to Philadelphia, Conner was participating in an Equality Ride for Soulforce, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit “dedicated to ending religion-based violence in hostile Christian contexts,” for which he was program director.

“I decided that after the ride, I was gonna move to Philly. Came here with no job, no money, just was like, ‘Alright, this is where I’m going. I need to find my people and my community,’” he said. 

Prior to landing the role at PGMC, Conner worked for several nonprofits and in real estate. 

“I spent most of my real estate career in the business owner side, but I started out as an agent and doing direct sales, and I really built my business there around focusing on the queer community,” he explained.

In addition, Conner has worked for Foyer, which focuses on homeless LGBTQ people, and Affirmations, which focuses on queer Mormons. 

About his new position with PGMC, Conner said that “I want to make sure that we’re providing that support for one another,” he said. “But we’re also expanding that support across the city in the ways that we interact with other nonprofit organizations and the ways that we draw attention to issues and causes, in the ways that we participate in Pride and other things that we do.”

Conner also said among his missions as executive director is “to make sure that we’re growing the chorus in a way that, again, looks and feels like our community. I want to make sure that folks of any gender feel comfortable coming in joining us, folks of any race feel comfortable to come and join us. And so that’s something that I’m really focused on and making sure that is top of mind as we grow and go into the next 40 years.” 

Among the exciting things coming up are the chorus’ 45th and 50th anniversaries, as well as some impending changes.

“This year marks the 20th and final year of our artistic director, Joseph Buches,” Conner said. “He’s moving on to his next project. And, you know, while we’re sad that he’s leaving, it’s also exciting because it gives us an opportunity to bring in new voices, new talent, and look at all kinds of different ways to branch out and grow with what we’re doing.”

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