A Retirement Message from Robert Verhoogen, CMC’s Chair Emeritus and former Artistic Director
From the now-retired Board Chair and Artistic Director – a brief look back and thanks
As I contemplated retiring and since firmly deciding on the date and then actually retiring as both CMC Chair and Artistic Director, I’ve experienced moments of mixed feelings about being retired. I felt that I was not only contributing to the cultural life of the community while also enjoying collaborating with and benefitting from my association with fellow Board members and lovers of classical music. It has been a marvelous and rewarding experience, educationally, culturally, and socially. Let’s take a look back at CMC’s journey over the course of those past ten years and see what we have accomplished.
Introducing a greater diversity in the instrument configuration of the ensembles presented, beginning in early 2015, was the most significant change in CMC’s programming. String instruments and piano ensembles, with very rare exception, were the mainstay for the first 55 seasons. Folks who attended classical music events, up close and personal, in our wider community, were rarely exposed to non-string instrument configurations (wind, brass, early period). CMC made it a point to diversify.
Major decisions about our performance venue that followed my assuming the chair of the Board of Directors in 2012 were to move: from the more costly LaSells Stewart Center’s Austin Auditorium, with it’s 800-seat orchestra section no longer suitable for the sizes of our chamber music audiences, to the much more affordable, suitable, and friendlier Sanctuary of the First Methodist Church for the 2015-2016 season; then three blocks east to the Sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, with its new Hamburg Steinway piano, that many felt was acoustically preferable along with its more up-close seating, for the 2017-2018 season.
Concerts had been taking place on a midweek evening through part of the 2014-2015 season, the actual weekday depending on the availability of the LaSells auditorium and the ensemble. Once we moved to a church venue, fixed Friday evening concerts, begun in early 2015, became the standard practice, as the church’s Sanctuary was most often available that night of the week. An end-of-the-week concert would seemingly appeal to people still employed and to parents desiring to expose their children to chamber-style classical music in the evening hours.
The printing firm we had been using during my first eight years on the Board changed three times, the first (2010) and third (late 2015) when notified that the firm had suddenly gone out of business from one day to the next. Our association with a small, family-owned firm in Albany (Pride Printing) since February 2016 has been a very beneficial and happy one. There were significant advantages (flexibility and cost) to changing from an entire season”s concert booklet (roughly 25 two-sided pages with numerous sponsoring ads) to an individual one-sheet, four-sided program leaflet with no ads for each of the five concerts in the 2014-2015 season. The previous season, 2013-2014, we replaced the dull/matte paper with topknots gloss, a change since maintained with the leaflets, giving the paper a better feel and making for quieter page turning, as well as making possible a more appealing use of color photos of the ensembles.
Speaking of “color,” by far the most enjoyable aspect of my responsibilities was finding, selecting, and booking the ensembles, presenting a mix of ensemble types with different instrument configurations during each season of five or six concerts, communicating with their respective agent representatives or some of the musicians themselves, and hosting at least one musician per each concert. Though there was a gradual increase in the ensemble / agent asking fees, by establishing and maintaining close and warm working relationships with the agents by email or phone, it was possible to stay within a limited budget. Agents were willing to lower their fees, largely based on those trusted working relationships, the excellent reputation CMC had developed among agents and musicians over several decades, and the desire of ensembles to visit and perform in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. CMC has prided itself in being able to offer high quality classical chamber music with only very modest increases ($20->24) in subscription ticket prices over the course of the past nine to ten years.
Color was also added when Martha Dayton very kindly offered each spring to paint in water colors a combination of some musical instruments pertinent to the upcoming concert series to embellish the front panel of the season’s brochure, after helping to choose a color theme for our brochure and posters for each season.
My very sincere and deepest thanks go out to my fellow Board members, to Martha and our volunteers, to the management and personnel at the two churches and LaSells, to the printing and graphic firm personnel for contributing to and being part of a very memorable and gratifying experience as CMC’s Board Chair and Artistic Director. Last but not least, I want to thank our audiences for their on-going and active support of classical chamber music and the cultural life of our wider Corvallis community.
Corvallis, September 2020