Chris Verdugo (he/him) is the Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC), which aims to create extraordinary music and experiences that build community, inspire activism, and foster compassion at home and around the world. The Chorus was founded in 1978 as part of the modern gay rights movement and its first public performance was a candlelight vigil held on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall on the day that Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered. Today, the Chorus is among the Bay Area’s most beloved arts institutions, an LGBTQ community touchstone, and a leader of the country’s gay choral movement. Approximately 20,000 people a year attend the Chorus’ MainStage performances, and thousands more hear the Chorus perform at community and school events as well as their online performances. In the coming year, the Chorus will play an even more prominent role in the LGBTQ community and in the arts through its Chan National Queer Arts Center, located in its new permanent home in San Francisco.
Chris is the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father who escaped the revolution in the 1960s. From a young age, he was passionate about combining art and social justice to create spaces and opportunities for individuals to learn about each other, achieve greater awareness about themselves, and work together to create more loving, creative, equitable, and just communities. Chris’ journey in the LGBTQ choral movement began when he joined the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida at age 18. The experience opened him up to what it can be like to have a queer community to belong to, and to the potential for art to serve as a vehicle for change. Before joining SFGMC as Executive Director in 2016, Chris served as the Executive Director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. He also founded a production company that created and produced major fundraising events in Los Angeles for leading LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and Bienestar.
Like many performing arts institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the unanticipated disruptions and transitions for SFGMC have been grueling to manage. Chris says, “Although we have not only survived the pandemic but indeed, thrived, it has come at a personal cost.” He welcomes the reprieve of a sabbatical to rest and recharge, saying “I’ve learned during the pandemic that it’s important to make time for myself and my family.”