When John Evans quietly left his job as General Director and President of the Oregon Bach Festival in late 2014, he said said he was assigned to draft a long-term strategic plan for the festival in his final months on the University of Oregon payroll.
Last month I sent a public records request to the UO – an institution hardly known for its transparency – for a copy of that plan.
To my surprise, it came by email last week. The UO public records office didn’t even demand a payment for the effort of locating it.
On the other hand, this is the UO. The 116-page document, titled “Oregon Bach Festival: The Next Decade,” is marked by a series of odd redactions – words and phrases and whole sentences are blacked out (or, in some cases, whited out). I say “odd,” because in many cases it’s perfectly easy to tell what the document must actually say. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of OBF can fill in many of the blanks, which tend to be names like artistic director Matthew Halls and founders Royce Saltzman and Helmuth Rilling.
Evan’s 116-page plan is actually a 35-page document with a ton of appendices (including, oddly, a newspaper story I wrote in 2006 about a consultant’s report critical of the festival’s management).
His biggest recommendation is that OBF should put the executive director clearly in charge of the festival, rather than having shared governance, so to speak, between the exec and the artistic director. That recommendation already seems to have been ignored in hiring Janelle McCoy to replace Evans; she has the title “Executive Director,” rather than “General Director,” which Evans insisted on to give him sole authority.
Also interesting is the steady decline in attendance you see in figures taken from festival wrap-up news releases contained in the report’s vast appendices. Attendance plummeted from a high of 44,148, in 2011, to “nearly 20,000” in 2014, the figures show – a drop of more than 50 percent in the transition period from Helmuth Rilling as artistic director to the current artistic administration of Matthew Halls. Ticket revenue in that period peaked at $550,000 in 2012; subsequent releases omit revenue numbers.
Evans goes on in his report to suggest the festival needs to clarify its vision.
It’s hard to know exactly what he has to say, though, as a whole section of his report is blacked out, as below:
He seems to be saying that Halls isn’t conducting enough Bach, considering that this is a Bach festival. (It was Halls who conducted Haydn, Bruckner, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler at the festival in 2015; Rilling conducted the St. John Passion; and Masaaki Suzuki conducted an orchestral program with the Berwick Academy.)
Anyway, Evans is gone, the new executive director is to start work this month replacing him, and so OBF is free to file and ignore his plan. It will be interesting to see what Halls and McCoy actually do in the next few years.