Succession is the most critical factor in the success of nonprofit organizations as well as in family businesses. Without a clear path to a new leader or the next generation, nonprofits lose their way, and family businesses lose their purpose.
Last Wednesday’s big story about the Astoria Music Festival’s struggle was, among other things, about the lack of succession.
I have heard more than one person claim to be the music festival’s founder. But this annual event was the brainchild of an alumna of Portland State University’s opera program — Katherine Matschiner. She came to Astoria to be a voice teacher at Clatsop Community College in the early 2000s. Deac Guidi was one of her students.
The most astounding thing that Matschiner pulled off in the inaugural festival was a fully staged and costumed production of Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro.” The show’s director was Brenda Nuckton, who had done work at the big leagues. The performance played to a near-capacity audience in the Liberty Theatre, which was still in an unrestored state.
My wife and I have supported the festival as home stay hosts and donors from the beginning. In other words, we’ve had a personal stake in the festival’s success. Getting to know our home stay guests has been a delight. Among them were the violinist Adam Lamotte and his wife, Janet Coleman.
There have been many high points in the festival’s long run. There was a concert version of Verdi’s opera “Falstaff,” with Clayton Brainerd in the title role and three stunning voices playing the merry wives of Windsor. Years later, Metropolitan Opera stars Angela Meade and Ruth Ann Swenson sang during the festival.
And then there was the arrival of Sergey Antonov, the virtuoso Russian cellist. Among an array of excellent soloists and chamber players, Antonov had star quality.
The sad thing about the festival’s slow decline, which has been apparent a few years, is that Keith Clark gave us so many great moments. But when it came to taking the advice of smart board members, Clark was tone deaf.
Some eight years ago, Dr. Bill Armington and I participated by conference call in a festival board meeting, as non-directors. The board had put together a sound path for succession at the top. But Clark would not agree to it. That was unfortunate, because there were many younger talents, including Antonov, who easily could have been Clark’s protégé and succeeded him. Clark could have maintained laureate status and gone out on a high note.
Happily, the Liberty’s director, Jennifer Crockett, is poised to move the festival in a new direction. And Antonov has signed on. This will bring new life and sparkle to the festival.
A sendoff for Marquis
The March 2 retirement party of Josh Marquis was great fun. The emcee, Buzz Bissinger, captured Josh’s eccentricities — including his penchant for telling his friends the same story twice, thrice and even four times.
The evening was also a reminder of what wretched shape the district attorney’s office was in prior to Josh’s arrival. I had forgotten that Judge Cindy Matyas had been one of District Attorney Julie Leonhardt’s deputies. And that Matyas stood up to Leonhardt when the DA sought an indictment that turned out to groundless.
The enjoyment of such events is seeing old friends. Dirk and Amanda Rohne were there. So were Joan Herman and Rebecca Rubens. I especially enjoyed visiting with Pam Trenary, who shares jazz show hosting with Josh Marquis on KMUN. Josh’s on-air moniker is the “DA DJ.”
I am a connoisseur of KMUN’s jazz hosts. I probably remember some of those men and women whom station managers have long forgotten, or never knew. Such as Elliot Narr, who had moved here from New Jersey and brought an East Coast sensibility to the show. He especially loved playing Stan Kenton. Our newspaper did a cameo of Narr, probably 25 years ago. My other favorites have included Chris Gilde, Ben Hunt and Trenary.
Deep knowledge of performers is what we get from these DJs. I am eternally grateful to Trenary for playing Janice Scroggins one evening. A Portland jazz pianist, Scroggins died at the age of 42. On that night, Trenary played a cut from one of the two albums Scroggins recorded. It is a CD of Scott Joplin rags. America rediscovered Joplin when the 1973 Robert Redford-Paul Newman movie “The Sting” was released. The Houston Grand Opera even mounted a production of Joplin’s 1911 opera, Treemonisha, and the production traveled to Washington National Opera.
The great justice that Scroggins did for Joplin is the slow, deliberate tempo at which she plays his rags. It is not unlike listening to Glenn Goul play Bach.
Gould became an international sensation in the 1950s. His signature moment was playing Bach’s piano music deliberately, exquisitely — in a way that startled even the best concert pianists. Partly because Gould was such a sensation and partly because he died at the age of 43, there is a Gould cult.
If I worship at the memory of Janice Scroggins, I am also a member of the Glenn Gould cult. So as we left the Elks Building after Josh’s retirement party, I said to Pam Trenary: “I’ve realized that Scroggins did for Joplin what Gould did for Bach.” To my delight, she agreed.