David Bielenberg will be the first-ever executive director in the organization’s 37-year history
In his teen years, David Bielenberg sang in school musicals and church choirs. He later grew into the LGBTQ choral movement.
“It became a way to tell the LGBTQ story, in addition to a hobby, he said.
On June 1, Bielenberg will begin a new chapter of his own story,and that on an iconic singing group. He will become executive director of Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus — the first ever in the group’s 37-year history.
Bielenberg has more than two decades of experience as an arts director and recently served as executive director of Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. He will lead the group’s newly launched, three-year strategic plan that emphasizes funding, membership engagement, increasing diversity and other initiatives.
The hiring committee selected Bielenberg out of nearly 100 candidates during a multi-month search. He stood out because of his prior experience, as well as his enthusiasm for the arts, said Joseph Buches, PGMC artistic director.
Bielenberg also shared the organization’s vision for growing the group and enhancing its diversity.
“Especially in the city of Philadelphia, there’s been so much fighting over different things around diversity,” Buches said. “[We’re] just trying to bring the community together in all that we do, to have that openness.”
Bielenberg aims to showcase the diversity in the choral-arts group and use music to empower members’ personal experiences.
“It’s a way for people who are still struggling with their identity to become part of a community that’s not a bar or, way back when, not a bathhouse,” he said. “[It’s] very much a social-support network. There’s an internal community that’s built among the membership that we all take care of each other.”
Executive and arts directors are PGMC’s two full-time staff positions. Part-time marketing, administrative and development-consultant positions were eliminated to fund the new position.
As executive director, Bielenberg will concentrate on the choral group’s long-term growth, particularly securing grant funding. The need for this focus is why the position was created, said Adam Funck, PGMC’s president.
“There were certain things that can only be done on an ongoing basis by an executive director,” he added. “You need somebody full-time who can attend all of the networking events and social events and the donor-cultivation pieces where they can really put the time forward writing grant applications and all that.”
By securing additional funding, the group can grow its artistic side and diversity emphasis.
“Art touches everything,” Funck said. “Our goal is to really be the premiere LGBTQ arts organization [where] everyone can feel like they’ve got a place and a home.”
Bielenberg said he also hopes to help the choral group make a splash on a larger scale through performances at well-known city venues like The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He added he’ll focus on community outreach and youth education programs.
PGMC began partnering with local organizations in 2014 to perform outreach concerts in the city’s schools. Members have worked with more than 10,000 high-school and university students across Philadelphia, according to the organization’s website.
“That’s where we can have the most impact with our message,” Bielenberg said, “reaching the next generation and sharing our stories in that way with them.”