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Op-Ed Response: Festival a Major Force

  • Oct 27, 2006
By Dave Frohnmayer and Linda Brady Last Saturday, the Register-Guard ran a story on the Oregon Bach Festival that many supporters of the Festival found disconcerting. As President and Senior Vice President and Provost for the University of Oregon, we have both a personal and a professional interest in the Festival, which is an integral part of the University of Oregon. The article's negative tone painted a picture of the Oregon Bach Festival, the Festival's relationship to the University of Oregon, and of Festival co-founder and Executive Director Royce Saltzman that was unfair and just plain wrong. The basis for Saturday's story was a report commissioned by the University of Oregon that looked at the strategic and organizational structure of the Oregon Bach Festival. While the report identified areas for improvement, it also recognized the Festival's high standing in the international music scene. The independent evaluation cited the Oregon Bach Festival as being "remarkable in the annals of both the performing arts and American higher education." The consultant's report praised the Festival for serving as a major force in the celebration of Bach's music and in the creation of highly acclaimed commissioned works. Unfortunately, this information was not reflected in the Register-Guard story. With regard to Mr. Saltzman, the university and the community owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude. During the 37 years in which he has led the Festival, he has taken it from a few small workshops many years ago to an event recognized around the world for its quality and impact. Were it not for Royce, the Festival simply would not exist, and someone of the quality of conductor and Artistic Director Helmuth Rilling would not continue to do what he does year after year to make the Festival so special in the life of the university and the community. The University of Oregon has been reviewing Oregon Bach Festival operations for the last several months. After reading last Saturday's story, one could be left with the impression that the university is conducting its assessment solely due to financial concerns. We can assure you that despite what the article would lead one to believe; it is not just about the money. It is about the music, the university, and the community, and about our shared commitment to making certain that the music will continue to be enjoyed by future generations. Resources are simply a tool. Fortunately, these financial concerns are on the way toward being addressed. Three years ago, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Bach Festival Board established the goal of creating a $10 million endowment fund to support the work of the Festival. We are pleased to report that we are more than halfway toward realizing that goal. This endowment fund will play a critical role in guaranteeing the long-term viability and success of the Oregon Bach Festival. Together the university and the Oregon Bach Festival Board are working in collaboration with staff and Festival volunteers to ensure that the resources needed to sustain the Oregon Bach Festival remain in place. The university has supported the Festival financially in the past and will continue to support the Festival in the future. The issue we must address collectively is the need for the Festival to operate in the black, assuming the university's current level of support. University officials are extremely pleased with the conversations we have had with the Board as we examine ways to improve the Oregon Bach Festival. The frank and engaged nature of those discussions gives us great hope that we will be able to work collaboratively to forge a solution that will assure the Festival's future. By working together, we are confident that the Oregon Bach Festival will continue to hold its rightful place as one of the finest music festivals in the world. Dave Frohnmayer President University of Oregon Linda Brady Senior Vice President and Provost University of Oregon