Performing Arts

A world-famous Fort Worth arts group is looking for a new director. The CEO’s out too

Chief executive Clint Riley, left, and artistic director Jason Bishop have left the Texas Boys Choir and its affiliated conservatories and schools.
Chief executive Clint Riley, left, and artistic director Jason Bishop have left the Texas Boys Choir and its affiliated conservatories and schools. Courtesy photo

The world-renowned Texas Boys Choir, for 60 years one of the leading classical choirs, is without its top two officials after the recent resignations of artistic director Jason Bishop and chief executive Clint Riley.

Bishop, the director for two years, announced his resignation with a fiery Facebook post in a private group, decrying what he called unethical behavior and attacks on his character.

Associate artistic director Kerra Simmons will fill in while the choir searches for a new director, according to an announcement from Texas Center for Arts and Academics.

That umbrella organization operates the choir, its two related conservatories and a public charter school system.

Chief executive Clint Riley, the choir and school’s business manager for seven years, departed the school July 16, according to a school announcement.

Riley sent a letter saying he planned to leave Sept. 30 to seek “other opportunities.”

Superintendent Natalie Texada was named acting chief executive of the choir, conservatories and schools, including the high-rated Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts.

Board chair Melissa Goodroe did not return calls and referred questions to the arts group’s attorney.

In a statement, she said Riley “was the right man, at the right time, for this job and organization. ... We have accomplished much in his seven years.”

Riley weathered parent backlash last year after a popular high school principal departed and a member of the school board was removed by fellow directors.

Bishop was hired in 2017 to replace choir artistic director S. Bryan Priddy.

Under Bishop, the choir recently completed a spring tour of the New York and Boston area, playing halls including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and Sanders Theatre at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Contacted online, he confirmed the Facebook post but asked that it not be reprinted. The post described the choir and school work environment as contentious and dysfunctional.

The choir was founded in Denton in 1946 and moved to Fort Worth in 1956. It was once ranked alongside the Vienna Boys Choir as the world’s top classical choirs, and retains a global reputation and following.

The school — originally for choir members — was added in 1994 and became a public charter school in 2001.

In 2016, Texas Center for Arts and Academics received $6.7 million in state money to operate its two charter schools, FWAFA and the newer Texas School of the Arts, according to the organization’s tax return for that year. The total budget was about $8 million.

The two schools received $7.4 million for 2018-2019, according to Texas Education Agency reports.

The schools have been under monitoring by the Texas Education Agency since March 2017 after parents were illegally charged fees in 2013-14 and earlier years, according to the TEA.

Board trustee Barry King also resigned, leaving seven directors.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.
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