MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Philip Wilder
By Zachary Lewis
December 7, 2021
President & General Director
When Philip Wilder assumed his position with Chanticleer in August 2020, the pandemic was in full swing and San Francisco, the venerable group’s home base, was at the height of its lockdown. But Wilder, a member of the all-male ensemble himself 30 years earlier, was resolved that there would be no layoffs, and that Chanticleer would keep singing, even though vocalizing in groups at the time was, in his words, “one of the most discouraged and feared activities in the world.”
For Wilder, the first order of business was to get out of San Francisco. He quickly moved artistic operations outside the city to a former factory, where abundant open windows and 42,000 square feet, coupled with strict protocols, enabled the group to rehearse safely. He also hired a new music director, Tim Keeler, former conductor of the Men’s Chorus at the University of Maryland, who he said proved “incredibly creative and brave” under the circumstances. Wilder, fresh off a fruitful seven-year executive tenure at the New Century Chamber Orchestra, then set about finding new ways of reaching listeners at home during the shutdown. In partnership with Stanford Live, Chanticleer created A Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light, which was viewed by thousands worldwide and generated much-needed revenue at a critical moment.
A second video, Chanticleer: Live from London, went on to receive a Silver Telly Award, and a virtual concert and fundraiser in October 2020 outperformed all past Chanticleer galas, with fans tuning in from 42 states and 14 countries. Chanticleer also continued its education programs, working remotely with some 3,000 students over the course of the pandemic. If keeping its singers artistically engaged during the shutdown was a priority for Wilder, so was keeping the organization afloat and all 12 members and staff fully employed during a period of “unthinkable” duress. But Wilder declines to take credit. He points instead to the group’s board and the “extraordinary” generosity of donors and other Chanticleer family members around the world. “I am indebted to [their] strong support and leadership,” Wilder said, noting that without them, “we would be in a very different place.”
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