Here I am, participating in a Zoom forum with other industry professionals, feeling out of place, unqualified, and in way over my head. There are many reasons for this, the main one being I’ve only been at this job for less than a week.
Longtime readers of this site know of my love for classical music and opera. My travel is often scheduled with art and music festivals in mind. A morning along a high ridge, lunch by the lake, followed by an evening of mellifluous melodies, is a good day indeed.
Of all the cultural organizations I’ve been associated with over the decades, there is one which I’ve had ties to since my years at California State University, Fullerton. Held annually in the last half of June, the Baroque Music Festival, Corona del Mar, holds five concerts in eight days. These concert dates are inked on my calendar, and I endeavor to treat them as sacrosanct.
One of the founders of the festival, and Artistic Director for thirty years, Dr. Burton Karson, was my music professor for a couple of classes at CSUF. “Music professor” does not begin to describe the relationship and lasting impact Dr. Karson has had on my life. Instructor, mentor, sage, and friend, Dr. Karson nurtured a nascent interest in classical music into a life-long passion, which at times borders on obsession.
Years ago, Dr. Karson (who insists I call him Burton), invited Ruth and me to his home for dinner. This was during a period when my business travels afforded me the opportunity to dine at the highest rated restaurants in the Santa Ynez Valley. None provided finer fare than the sumptuous repast Burton prepared. Afterward, Burton brought up the Baroque Music Festival and asked if we would consider serving on the board of directors. We were both humbled and honored at the invitation. Having to decline the offer was one of the most disappointing decisions I’ve had to make; but, between caring for my ailing mother and traveling a hundred days a year for my job, I couldn’t do the task justice.
We instead took on a lesser role as part of the festival’s advisory board. We enjoyed helping where we could, but I wanted to do more. There were other inquiries into our availability over the years, but either work, health, or familial obligations kept us from accepting.
Fast forward to early spring of this year, before the COVID crisis hit in full: I mentioned to Ruth in passing that if I received another invitation to join the board, I would like to say yes. The reasons for declining before had changed; there were time and energy available. Ah, be careful what you ask for.
Pat, the current President of the Board for the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival, announced last year that, after thirteen years as a board member, the last seven of those years as board president, she was stepping down. Pat phoned me and asked if I would be interested in joining the board; however, as our conversation continued, it became apparent she was looking for more from me than being another board member, she wanted to know if I would consider being the board president.
Derek Sivers wrote, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” Great advice for our “busy is a badge of honor” oversubscribed culture.
The time was finally right for me to say, ‘Hell Yes.’ The rest of the board supported my nomination. Since then, it feels like I’m trying to drink from a fire hose. Thankfully, Pat has been patiently bringing me up to speed on everything, and we have a very capable Executive Director in Ms. Edwards. Otherwise, I would be drowning from said hose.
And I love it. Loving it because it’s an opportunity to give back to an organization from which I’ve not only enjoyed incredible music, but through which I’ve met many talented performers and made several wonderful friends. It’s also an honor to serve as president. The keyword being ‘serve.’ All the board members are volunteers, giving of themselves to bring world-class Baroque Music played on period-style instruments to the greater-Orange County region.
Which brings me back to why I’m attending the Association of California Symphony Orchestras Online Conference and participating in member forums on topics like “Staging Virtual Galas” and “Optimal Board Engagement During Extraordinary Times.” The coronavirus pandemic has impacted virtually every performing arts organization, and we’re all trying to figure this out together.
Staring into the Zoom camera, everything feels a bit surreal, almost as if I’m embarking on an expedition without leaving my humble abode. And that’s when it hits me, the realization that not all adventures happen outside, as anyone starting a business or any parent with a newborn can tell you.