Culture shift

The Breckenridge Music Festival is taking a giant leap on its new course for the future. A pillar of the community formed nearly 40 years ago by local residents, the nonprofit organization is well-known for its summer festival that features chamber music programming delivered to audiences by its professional orchestra, its Blue River Series of diverse national touring acts, and year-round, in-school music education programs. But now, after asking a range of strategic questions regarding what the future should look like, the group is shifting its focus and brand.

In November 2016, the Breckenridge Music Festival (BMF) launched a strategic planning process that produced a new vision and mission statement, spearheaded by a committee led by board chair Brian Hall. They studied data to learn what local and visiting audiences seek and what has worked for comparable organizations, and used their findings to plot a new strategic direction.

“This process has evolved around how the BMF can complement the current arts and culture landscape in Breckenridge,” said Tamara Nuzzaci Park. Park came on board as executive director of the BMF last year and her talent and experience are taking the organization to new levels of diversity and excellence.

Most significant will be a creative shift away from some of its purely classical-based products to music-based productions that span a range of artistic genres—whether in the form of collaborations between classical musicians and popular groups or instrumentalists not generally paired with orchestra, or programming that crosses into different art forms altogether, such as writing and dance. New partnerships with mission-aligned organizations throughout the region will help the BMF expand its offerings while serving broader audiences.

On August 1, for example, the BMF orchestra will travel to Gerald Ford Amphitheater in Vail to perform the scores for two American ballet classics, “Serenade” and “Fancy Free,” with the Vail Dance Festival. Then on August 10, the Vail Dance Festival will come to Breckenridge with the Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet company, BalletX, to perform two choreographed works accompanied by live string quartet at the Riverwalk Center. “Vail is a destination for today’s top dancers, dance companies, and choreographers. We are thrilled to match their stellar productions with high-caliber live music,” Park said of the budding relationship, “and to deliver that experience to Breckenridge.”

The BMF’s approach is accompanied by a shift in the artistic and organizational mindset— one that views the resident 45-piece orchestra less as an orchestra in a traditional sense, and more as “a flexible collective of professional musicians,” Park said. For example, during another dance-and-live-music collaboration taking place at the Riverwalk Center August 3, a smaller group of 10-15 players will perform scores by Vivaldi and Tartini to accompany a contemporary performance by Denver’s Wonderbound dance company.

The shift enables the BMF to capitalize on another finding—that Breckenridge audiences appreciate the intimate, boutique nature of concerts likes its in-home Champagne Series, and the opportunity to attend performances in smaller and outdoor venues, in addition to its mainstage Riverwalk Center programming.

“We don’t exist to exist,” said Hall. “We need to make sure we remain relevant in Breckenridge and Summit County—that we meet the needs of the community. We are looking at a strategy that I think is a really good course correction in terms of what we offer, how, and where.”

Among the planned changes is an expansion and refinement of the already popular Blue River Series, which features touring acts in a variety of genres from pop to jazz, including last year’s Indigo Girls concert. This summer’s program includes an increased number concerts, as well as a focus on emerging, fresh talent like the Turnpike Troubadours on June 29, and acts that will appeal to younger audiences like Mandolin Orange on July 6.

“We are also focused on presenting high level artists for the sophisticated listener,” said Park, citing Branford Marsalis on August 2. As a recruitment strategy, the BMF will make its resident musicians available to national touring acts for innovative collaborations.

“We are not only interested in classical music,” said Hall. “Classical music is just one component. We are being bold about our ideas, and what we need to be more inclusive or appeal to a broader audience,” he said, citing the free family concert—an 11 a.m. performance of “Babar the Little Elephant” accompanied by a live illustrator while children draw their own interpretations, taking place July 30—as an example of the BMF’s efforts to be relevant to families and people of all socioeconomic levels. In that same vein, the organization is committed to expanding its year-round educational programming, inclusive of adults.

To communicate its program shift, the BMF will introduce a new look to support its identity, including all of the organization’s classical, cross-genre, and popular programming. “All of our promotional materials will have a different feel from what is traditionally presented here in our market, to distinguish us,” said Park. “There will be a real Colorado vibe and a clean, contemporary take on what we are doing.”

“If you start to look different, people start to think about you differently,” said Hall. “We are rethinking the BMF. You can describe that in words, but it’s very impactful with design. We thought this was a good time to refresh our approach and our look and our message.”

The BMF Board of Directors already gave the nod to the strategy, and will do a formal review of the plan in June. In the meantime, festival organizers have been fine-tuning the plan based on input from various stakeholder groups.

“It’s always a good idea to pause and evaluate an organization’s reason to exist, and to discuss that with a cross section of who you are trying to impact,” Park explained. “We are adapting to a cultural landscape here in Breckenridge that has changed enormously over the last three years. Asking ourselves those big picture strategic questions ensures that we are always complementing and adding value to that external landscape.”

Like any good strategic plan, the BMF’s is data-based and flexible, so if the data says to take another path, they can do so. “The importance is in the process,” she said, “in inspiring a conversation and elevating that above the day-to-day to determine how a nonprofit organization can provide the greatest value to the community it serves.”

Breckenridge Music Festival //

Photos: Graphic design imagery and photos, including Branford Marsalis, BalletX, Mandolin Orange, The Mavericks, Robert Cray, David Danzmayr, Turnpike Troubadours, Del McCoury and David Grisman, Aniello Desiderio, Teddy Abrams, Elizabeth Hainen, and Wonderbound, courtesy of the BMF and Cast Iron Design