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Astoria Music Festival Board Resigns Amid Dispute

<p>The Astoria Music Festival's artistic director, Keith Clark, during a live taping of OPB's "State of Wonder" from Astoria's Liberty Theater.</p>

Phoebe Flanigan

The Astoria Music Festival's artistic director, Keith Clark, during a live taping of OPB's "State of Wonder" from Astoria's Liberty Theater.

The board of directors for the Astoria Music Festival has resigned, as first reported by The Daily Astorian, citing unresolved differences over the festival’s future in a statement given to OPB.

The eight outgoing board members and the managing director, Carol Shepherd, said they are leaving in order to allow artistic director and festival co-founder Keith Clark to take the lead in developing the organization’s structure.

Now in its 13th year, the music festival has grown into a beloved Northwest classical event, drawing music lovers and world-renowned musicians alike. This year was the festival's most successful to date with over $100,000 in ticket sales.

Up until 2014, the festival was operated entirely by unpaid board members and volunteers. In an effort to professionalize its structure, the nonprofit applied for and received grants from the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Oregon Community Foundation to hire a managing director and consultant, Linda Magee, the former Executive Director of Chamber Music Northwest.

However, since Clark stepped off the board in December, he and the board have not been able to find agreement over the direction of the organization and Clark’s role in it.

“I’m very supportive of professionalizing and forming a team,” Clark told OPB, adding that he initiated the process. “I know the concern of some of the musicians, and in my own opinion, was that we are moving too quickly in the direction of trying to emulate a large symphony orchestra, where there’s a large staff, and where the distance between the musical leadership and administrative leadership is rather significant.”

When rumors began to circulate that Clark would not be invited back after the summer’s concerts, Clark says he and several key musicians informed the board that, should he not continue on as the artistic director, “our artistic team wanted to stick together and make music together and would continue under own auspices.”

Diane Tiedeman, outgoing president of the board of directors, said that instead of seeing Clark split off to pursue his own vision of an Astoria music festival, the board decided to resign.

“It was a no brainer,” she told OPB. “We felt we had to step aside and let new leadership come onto the board and help him develop it down that direction. The bottom line is we want the Astoria Music Festival to survive and thrive.”

The board’s resignation won’t be effective until Sept. 1, as it will need to confirm new board members.

“I would anticipate, given the enthusiasm of new people, that we’ll probably double the population of the board, which I anticipate will involve several musicians, which I believe is very healthy,” said Clark, referencing artist-run festivals in Europe.

“I hope this will not deflect what is really important, which is great music.”

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Aaron Scott, Reuben Unrau