The Passing of the Torch at the American Composers Forum
On January 18, the board of the American Composers Forum promoted John Nuechterlein, currently the managing director of the ACF, to the position of president and CEO of the organization. Two days later, current president Linda Hoeschler formally announced her retirement. The transition will officially take place on July 15, 2003, although Hoeschler will continue to perform an advisory role through September.
Hoeschler describes the next stage in her life not as retirement, but as semi-retirement, indicating in the official letter that “After a brief respite I will do some consulting work, and undertake joint projects and more travel with my husband, Jack.” Under Hoeschler’s leadership, the American Composers Forum initiated numerous ground-breaking projects including Continental Harmony and Faith Partners, two composer residency programs; educational services such as BandQuest, a new music series that promotes immersing students in works by world-class composers; and the offering of financial aid for recordings on innova, the ACF-supported record label, through the Recording Assistance Program. These new programs built upon the solid multiplicity of awards, performance initiatives, and media assistance that the ACF has always offered their 1700 composer members. Of course, Nuechterlein has been a major part of many of these innovations and Hoeschler is enthusiastic about Nuechterlein’s promotion to the role of president and CEO, stating, “We hired the best successor possible when we hired John Nuechterlein as Managing Director five years ago…His thoughtful leadership and vision for building audiences for new music will make for a smooth transition.”
Nuechterlein, who has a degree in piano and organ performance as well as an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School, was involved in consumer marketing for two decades before joining the staff of the ACF. He acknowledges that he has big shoes to fill, but is eager about the opportunity to lead the organization. “I really think the challenge for me is going to be continuing the legacy that Linda Hoeschler started in innovative programming for the field of new music.”
Nuechterlein is particularly proud of the community-based residency programs that the ACF has been developing in recent years and is looking forward to continuing to grow them as he takes the reins, but it was the expansion of innova that elicited the most excitement from Nuechterlein. “We have some incredible plans coming up for that in terms of its growth and it’s putting out about 25 CDs a year now and especially because CRI went out of business, I think innova is just perfectly positioned for people. And you know, we’re broadening the catalog, we’ve been really beefing up the jazz component of innova which up until this point has been heavy into the classical spectrum or electro-acoustic or experimental but we’ve really been broadening the catalog so I think that innova is really going to be one of the big focuses of the Forum.”
In addition to expansion of existing programs, Nuechterlein pointed to a number of new ideas that are “in the hopper,” but honestly admitted, “It depends on how things go with funding.”
Of course, money isn’t flowing as easily through arts organizations as it had during Hoeschler’s tenure, and Nuechterlein recognizes that, his “challenge in very different economic times is to continue this innovative programming and establishing creative partnerships.” Despite wariness about the facility of fundraising, Nuechterlein points to broad support from the ACF staff and board as his major resources for a smooth transition that will preserve the confidence of funders. “I have an incredible staff, one of the most creative staffs that I know of and I think that’s one of the greatest assets that I have…and the board especially is also one of my strongest allies. It’s a very strong board and they are very supportive.”
Another major focus for Nuechterlein will be the stabilization of the ACF chapter network, which includes chapters in 8 cities across the United States, which will soon become their own 501(c)(3) organizations in their individual states. This will allow each organization to do local fundraising in their home state and city in addition to the support given by the national parent organization. ” We’re trying to understand the needs of the composers in the cities in which they are actually in and that really varies. L.A. composers have different needs than [composers in] San Francisco and Atlanta. Those composers have very different needs…it strengthens them that they are now going to be autonomous in their programming.”
Above all, Nuechterlein emphasizes the seamless nature of the transition and his dedication to maintaining the goals of the organization, which, according to him, are to support the artistic careers of composers and develop new markets for their work.
“We’re always trying to think of new places that a composer can go and work with a particular performing organization and try to get more and more people thinking about composers as artists that they want to work with. Those things are what the Forum has been about ever since it went national and it’s still exactly where we’re at. I’m not going to be changing anything.”