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Eastman seeks new director of concerts

The Eastman School of Music is conducting a national search for a director of concert activities.

Keith Elder, who has held the post since November 2012, started a new position Jan. 23 as vice president and general manager of the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado.

Elder remains under contract at Eastman as the transition to his replacement takes place.

“He is ensuring the success of the Eastman Presents series for this year and helping us to book for next year,” said Michele Gibson, senior associate dean for administration and finance. “There is a lot of work going on right now for next year.”

Elder traveled back to Rochester last weekend to oversee the Eastman Presents series production of “An Evening with Garrison Keillor” on Friday night. It was one of the highlights of the series Elder helped to create in 2013.

Through the Eastman Presents concerts, Elder aimed to feature Kodak Hall as a premiere venue in the U.S. for top artists of many genres. Wynton Marsalis, Kristin Chenoweth and Bernadette Peters have been contracted to appear here by Elders.

“Raising the artistry was something I worked to do with Doug Lowry,” Elder said of the former dean of the Eastman School of Music who served from 2007 until 2013. “He had a great artistic vision.” Current dean Jamal Rossi “has continued that forward, and for many years to come Rochester will have the benefit of hearing artists in Kodak Hall who have played in the likes of Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Symphony Hall in Boston.”

On Feb. 28, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra from Russia is scheduled to perform in Kodak Hall as part of the Eastman Piano series Elder coordinated.

“The Rochester community is such an arts community, so artists love to play here,” Elder said. “Next season is a continuation of premiere acts with a variety of jazz, orchestra, dance and rock and roll,” he said, declining to divulge names until the official season announcement, which he predicts will be late March or early April.

Until then, Elder is traveling back and forth between Aspen and Rochester, doing both jobs. In Aspen, Elder is a member of the senior management team. 

He leads the year-round operations, including the summer festival with more than 300 events, along with winter events, facilities management and collaboration with other institutions.

Elder describes the Aspen Music Festival as the premier summer music festival in the world. His responsibilities mirror his position at Eastman, yet there are things he will miss here.

 “I will miss working with the faculty and the musicians at Eastman,” Elder said.

He also collaborated on a couple of Xerox Rochester International Jazz festivals and will miss working with producers Mark Iacona and John Nugent.

Elder envisions his relationship with the Eastman School of Music leading to new connections with the Aspen organization.

“The quality of the artists (at Aspen) is the quality that would play Kodak Hall,” Elder said. “It could be beneficial for both. Music is a small world.”

Elder, with his prior experience managing operations at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops and Tanglewood Music Center, took over the box office at Eastman.

He also coordinated bookings for the Ranlet, Kilbourn and World Music concert series. 

Gibson said replacing Elder will not be easy.

“He has generated an awareness of what’s going on at Eastman in a way we didn’t have before and elevated the position beyond concert activities,” Gibson said, noting there are times when the position involves working closely with Rossi as well as faculty.

The position evolved through the artistic talent Elder brought to it, Gibson said, and the goal is to hold the role to the high standard he has set for it. 

 “We will look for an individual who has the breadth of experience that Keith brought,” she said.

Gibson said the search committee has identified some promising candidates and the hope is to fill the position by summer.

What role Elder will play in the transition of the new hire, if any, is to be determined. 

“Keith really touched Eastman in such a special way,” Gibson said. “He had an ethos of excellence in everything he did. I think Eastman left a very special mark on Keith and he is connected to our school.”


2/24/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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