Colorado Music Festival faces another transition

Executive director Andrew Bradford resigns after 18 months on the job

By Peter Alexander

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF), which underwent a full change of leadership and administration 18 months ago, faces another transition.


Andrew Bradford

Andrew Bradford, the executive director who was hired in the summer of 2014 and started work Aug. 11 of that year, announced last Thursday (Feb. 11) that he had resigned, effective Friday, March 25, 2016. Bradford is leaving to take another position, which will be announced soon.

When Bradford was hired, the position had been open for a full year, during which time there had been one failed search for executive director (ED), and the position of musical director (MD) was also open.

The larger organization that Bradford heads includes the CMF, headquartered at Chautauqua in Boulder, and its affiliated educational arm, the Center for Musical Arts (CMA), located in Louisville.

Bradford and others say his departure will not affect the upcoming 2016 summer season. Bradford has worked with Zeitouni and the CMF staff to plan the 2016 festival, and will be in place through the public announcement of the season on March 2.

“I’m staying through the end of March, and I’ll be working full steam ahead 100% until my very last day,” he says. “We’re going to all work together to make sure that the transition is as seamless and as smooth as possible.”


Edward Lupberger

The CMF/CMA Board of Directors will oversee the transition to the next ED. Edward (Ted) Lupberger, who became the board president last month, says the directors will appoint an interim director, probably from inside the organization, and then begin a search for a permanent director.

“Right now we’re addressing what’s the best mode for moving forward,” he says. “We’re definitely starting a search, but we’re also going to the people that did the search (before). Some of the people at that time were close candidates, so we’ll start pursuing those as an option, but also in the short term before that, what we’re doing is going to the staff.

“We have a really strong staff that know how to produce a festival, they know the CMA, they know the donors and what we need to be planning for. We probably will give an interim title to someone (from the staff), because it seems that’s the prudent thing to do, and it conveys to the community that we have a person in that leadership role.”

Because he is new to the president’s job, Lupberger said he would continue to work with a team that forms “kind of an executive committee” within the board. That group, comprising Lupberger with board secretary Jane Houssiere, treasurer Dave Brunel, and director Caryl F. Kassoy, worked to facilitate Lupberger taking on the role of board president, and they will continue to work together during the search.

At this time, Lupberger says, there is not yet a specific timeline for the search and hiring process. “I’d rather take more time and get the right person than go quick and get the wrong person,” he says.

# # # # #

Over the past year, the CMF/CMA has been developing a strategic plan for the organization’s future, guided by a consultant who specializes in the arts and non-profit sectors. According to Lupberger, the consultant’s recommendations, which have only recently been given to the board, include directions on how to be ready for administrative changes. “It just happened sooner than we expected,” he says.

“There’s directives for the board in what we should be doing to better support the organization, there’s directives for staff on how to do operations and what things we need to be focusing on.”

While the 100-page consultant’s report has not been made public, Lupberger does not plan on keeping the board’s plans secret. “We are working on more of an executive summary, and then I think we all want to get the world to know what we’re planning,” he says. “It’s not going to be shocking.”

Both Lupberger and music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni praised the condition of the organization after Bradford’s 18 months in charge. “We’re a very healthy, strong organization,” Lupberger says.


CMF music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni

Bradford “was a very strong asset (to CMF),” Zeitouni wrote in an email from Montreal, Canada, where he lives during most of the year. “To his credit, we are in a really good place right now: The staff is strong and enthusiastic, the board is really committed and involved, our budget is approved, the festival season is all planned and we are moving along nicely towards long-term artistic planning.”

Bradford and others have mentioned an 18% increase in ticket sales in 2015 from the previous year’s summer festival as a basis for the CMF’s current strength. While that is an important figure, the full context shows that it is a one-year increase from the 2014 season, which was the year of the music director search. Without a highly popular music director on the scene, with no central theme to the summer, and several different conductors coming in and out of Chautauqua, audiences were visibly smaller in 2014 than in the previous two or three years. Consequently, it is difficult to put the 2015 increase into the long-term context of ticket sales and revenues for the festival without consulting detailed financial records over the past five to ten years.

# # # # #

The recent history of the CMF/CMA administration provides insight into the issues faced by the board. In 2013 the organization lost both its executive director, Catherine Underhill, and the popular musical director of the summer festival, Michael Christie, in a single year. A search was undertaken immediately for a new ED to be in place before the summer of 2014, when finalists for the MD position would each lead the orchestra in a pair of concerts.

The board of CMF/CMA announced in Dec. 2013 that David Pratt of the Savannah (Georgia) Philharmonic had been selected as ED and would be in place early in 2014. Instead, he backed out in January 2014, and the board had to begin another search. Bradford was announced as the new ED in June, nearly a year after the position was first vacated, and he was present for the audition concerts by the three official MD candidates.

He and the board chose Jean-Marie Zeitouni as the new music director, announcing the appointment Sept. 8, 2014. Zeitouni conducted his first festival season last summer, July–August 2015. In the meantime, many of the top administrative positions at the CMF/CMA turned over in the first months of Bradford’s tenure, including one person who was hired early in the fall of 2014 and then left May 1, 2015. That position was covered by other staff members during the 2015 summer festival.

While no specific reasons have been given for most of the departures, Bradford is unstinting in his praise of the current staff. “I am absolutely delighted with the folks that I’ve hired,” he says. “These are fantastic, really capable people.”

Through all of this change, Lupberger believes that the CMF and CMA have remained strong. “At the end of the day, the board and the two organizations that make up the one, the Center for Musical Arts and the Colorado Music Festival, have maintained their identities—what they are, who they are—through this whole period. We have a strong orchestra, and we have a strong faculty at the Center (for Musical Arts), and that’s remained true through this whole process.”

For that reason, Lupberger remains upbeat about the future of the CMF/CMA organization. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about an organization that produces amazing music in the summer, and then educates others throughout the year,” he says.

“The core of what we do is what we should be excited about. The rest of it is less important, because what we do is a great thing and we should be proud of it and focus on that and move forward.”

Edited for clarity 2/16

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