National Music Festival abandons Floyd and heads to Maryland

The National Music Festival, the two-week classical music series that drew much praise in its debut season in Floyd County this past summer will stage its second season in Maryland.

In August, the Festival announced it was in the black and told The Roanoke Times it had expanded its board to include Floyd County notables Bernie Coveney, Marie Henry and William May among others.  Festival organizers talked glowingly about a second season, which new members of the board — and many of the festival’s financial contributors — assumed would be in Floyd County.

“For a new nonprofit organization, in this economy, we are proud that as we enter our second fiscal year we have paid all our bills and don’t have any debt,” Festival Executive Director Caitlin Patton told The Times. “We are now working hard to plan next year’s Festival.”

On July 5, the Festival posted on its Facebook page:

To everyone who donated so generously and worked so hard this debut season, please accept our heartfelt thanks. We will continue to work diligently and use our collective abilities to bring the finest concert music to Floyd, Virginia, the New River Valley and the Nation.

On August 24, the Festival posted on Facebook: “Planning the 2012 Festival…a lot of great music in store for next year!”

On September 1, the Festival posted: “Today marks the beginning of our second fiscal year, and we are very pleased to announce that the Festival is in the black – all bills have been paid and we have no outstanding debts!”

On September 9: “We’ll be announcing next year’s Festival season soon, so keep your eyes and ears open…”

Then, on Nov. 26: “”The second season of the NMF will be June 3-16, 2012 in and around historic Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.”

Coveney and Henry are missing from the site’s board of directors page on the festival’s web site although Henry is listed as a member of the advisory board on one page and is not listed on the advisory board on the other.

The festival’s donors page is still dominated by Floyd County resident and business contributors.  Some of those contributors now tell us privately they gave money with the understanding the festival would remain in Floyd County and are not happy that festival organizers have packed up and left.

On the festival’s Facebook page, a question asking for an explanation for the move went unanswered publicly.

On December 1, the festival changed its location and phone number on its Facebook page.

On December 3, festival organizers went on Facebook to ask for volunteers in and around Chestertown, MD, to help unpack the moving van that brought the festival’s belongings from Floyd to the Eastern Shore.

No contributor we contacted wanted to talk openly about the festival’s change of venue.  The sudden departure of the music festival — which added to the county’s musical heritage — leaves a sour taste in the mouths of some.  Email requesting an explanation for the move went unanswered.  Phone calls were not returned.

And the web site for Executive Director Caitlin Patton — as late as Thursday, Dec. 22 — still talked about the National Music Festival as a Floyd event:

The National Music Festival, located in Floyd, Virginia, is an orchestral training festival designed to mentor and provide performance opportunities for gifted musicians on the cusp of their professional careers.  The Festival will present about 25 performances (including everything from large orchestral works to solo recitals) and over 200 free open rehearsals annually.  The second season will take place June 3-16, 2012.

So what happened?

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7 thoughts on “National Music Festival abandons Floyd and heads to Maryland”

  1. I spoke to them (Richard and Caitlin) around the time that they were trying to make a decision. Apparently there was a breakdown in their relationships within the organization and “problems with the board”. In hindsight, it’s too bad they didn’t get a good “Doug Thompson vetting” at the beginning. The “ex” is still running the music festival farther north that preceded the Floyd venture and there was probably some useful (if biased) information available from that quarter. Whether they plan to do anything else in Floyd is unclear; I would be okay with an alternating arrangement if that is what they have in mind (probably not). I imagine that after the bills were paid, there probably wasn’t a lot of money to “run” with anyway but it would be good to know the details. It is worth noting that I was reminded by people who should know that we have some folks in the area (some of whom were involved) that are perfectly capable of managing a similar event here without the Rosenbergs, if such an event is desired.

  2. Rick Parrish is entirely correct. I am on the board of the NMF, and I can vouch for the fact that there was no money left to run with. That is, in fact, why Richard and Caitlin left–a lot of the people who had promised them money actually turned their backs on them for a variety of reasons, leaving Richard and Caitlin without any income. They moved to Maryland–with a great deal of regret–in order to continue the festival, to make it work as they had originally planned, and to make a livable income from their work.

    Anyone who has any questions about the Festival and why it left Floyd may feel free to contact me at my email address. I would be happy to share as much information as possible and shed light on the situation, which seems to be somewhat muddled and confused.

  3. I am the Executive Director of the National Music Festival, and would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on the subject of the Festival’s move to Maryland.

    Far from “taking the money and running,” Richard and I have not seen a single penny in payment from the Festival to date. We donated our time and skills (working full-time for well over a year now), subsidizing the Festival by working without pay, even though we couldn’t really afford to. We paid many Festival expenses out of our own pockets – some we were reimbursed for, others we were not. We had only very modest savings, which we spent entirely trying to make the Festival work in Floyd. The Festival Board had told us that we would begin receiving a reasonable salary after the first festival, but when that was not possible we downsized to a smaller and less expensive rental home, we sold many personal possessions (including my piano) just to pay the rent and keep the Festival alive. We even had to resort to food stamps just to survive. At this point we have no financial “cushion” whatsoever – we can’t even afford to take our dogs for the dental work they so desperately need, or to take ourselves to the dentist, for that matter.

    We operated in good faith with the intention and hope that the Festival would remain in Floyd – and we know our donors and supporters did the same. None of the donations made came with an explicit understanding or restriction that the Festival would remain in Floyd. We were grateful for all of the support (financial and otherwise) that allowed the Festival to pay its modest expenses for the 2011 season, and we did end the fiscal year in the black, but with no surplus. There was no money to “run” with. If there had been more money, the Festival would have stayed in Floyd! I understand the disappointment of the donors and community, but I am very sorry to see these kind of public accusations, and I am surprised that the author did not try to contact us directly before publishing this post.

    There was one donor (I will not name names) who made an in-kind donation of a valuable item, with no restriction made at the time of the donation as to where that item would be used. This person later withdrew the donation upon learning that the Festival would be moving to Maryland, and withheld the item from the Festival. Although the Festival Board does not wish to take legal action, the fact remains that this item legally belongs to the Festival and that withholding it was illegal.

    When it became clear that the Festival was not sustainable in Floyd, the Board of Directors voted to move it to Chestertown, MD, which is my hometown. This decision was legally binding upon the organization – please do not forget that the Festival is a nonprofit organization and is governed by a legally convened board, not just Richard and myself.

    Having given a year of our lives trying to bring something wonderful to Floyd – and having in the process given all of our savings and completely destroyed any semblance of personal financial security – I am so disappointed to see this reaction from the Floyd community. I hope it is only a small segment of the community.

    We were advised by several music/nonprofit experts around the country to leave Floyd and relocate the Festival well before we did. We worked very hard to keep the Festival in Floyd and gave Floyd every chance we possibly could. It simply could not sustain the organization. I wish we had the personal financial means to have stayed in Floyd and continued to work for free and subsidize the organization, but unfortunately that was not possible.

    To Annie who commented above: I am not sure exactly who you are, but you say that you donated money. Please rest assured that your donation was appreciated and was used to help pay for the 2011 Festival in Floyd. No Floyd donations have been used toward any expenses for the upcoming 2012 Festival in Maryland. As I stated above, Richard and I have not received any remuneration at all for our work, so the money donated went to pay the mentor musicians (which was by far the largest expenses), and for printing, insurance, and other costs necessary to run an organization.

    You also state that “someone should warn the MD town.” If you feel that would be the right course of action, I encourage you to do so. The town is Chestertown, MD. Its mayor is Margo Bailey, and she can be reached by calling the town office at 410-778-0500.

    The Festival has two Board members from Floyd: Will May (who commented above) and Margaret McGee. Marie Henry, who is mentioned in the article, chose to resign because she did not feel that she could be of assistance to the Festival from afar. She is a member of the Advisory Board and remains an active volunteer. Please know that the Board decision to move the Festival was a unanimous one. Will, Margaret and Marie are working on a southwest VA chapter of the Friends of the National Music Festival, in the hopes of keeping the connection strong between the NMF and Floyd. Depending on the wishes of the community, plans include a Floyd NMF newsletter, musical events in Floyd, and a bus trip to Chestertown for the 2012 Festival.

    If anyone has any questions regarding the Festival’s move, would like more detailed financial information, would like to be involved in the southwest VA Friends of the NMF, or has any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Finally, as a Floyd donor recently said to me, “We must not lose sight of the fact that the Festival’s main purpose is to help the young musicians, and it must be located where it will best fulfill that purpose.”

    Best regards,
    Caitlin Patton
    Executive Director, National Music Festival

  4. From briefings as a National Music Festival board member, here is my understanding of what has transpired. The inaugural year of the National Music Festival in June 2011 was an incredible success. Caitlin Patton and Richard Rosenberg, founders and directors, took no salary for this initial season so that every penny could go into scholarships for the students, modest fees for the mentors, and various operating expenses. Expenses were well documented. When the NMF inaugural season was complete, there was virtually no money left over. The season closed “in the black”, however, and that is quite a feat. It often takes similar organizations several years to bring in enough funds to cover all expenses.

    The intent was to make Floyd the permanent home for the National Music Festival.

    There were internal problems. As often happens with a new organization and a new board of directors, there were growing pains related to roles and responsibilities. The most substantial issue appeared to be related to the fact that Richard and Caitlin each needed to earn a salary. They work for the National Music Festival. It is their job. They deserve appropriate compensation just as any of us expect compensation for services rendered. Non-profit does not mean “free”. The arts are not free. Somehow I think that many of us forget this.

    Some board members quit. New board members were added. Caitlin and Richard moved forward to further develop essential community connections. It was at that point that they realized that critical components of the Floyd community would not support the National Music Festival. Believing that they had exhausted all of their options, they reluctantly moved the festival to Maryland.

    In the relatively short period that I have lived in Floyd, it seems that the community is uneven in its support for various arts-related activities. I have seen quite a few wonderful programs fail after core community leaders withheld or withdrew support. I know little about the inner workings of the arts and business community in Floyd, but I am discouraged to see yet another wonderful program lose support and move.

  5. As a huge supporter of classical music, the National Music Festival, and Floyd as a wonderful community, I was saddened to first hear of the public reactions to the move of NMF to Maryland via this article in The Muse. In the conclusion to the article, the question was posed, “what happened?” Several clips, taken out of context from the NMF website, were quoted. Private, unnamed persons speculated upon this question throughout the article. None of the persons specifically named in the article were, to my knowledge, personally contacted to shed light on this question.

    Caitlin’s, Will’s and Margaret’s postings offer some perspective on the move, so I will include only a few additional thoughts. As a new, and now ex-board member of the NMF, as well as a volunteer throughout the festival last year, I observed and experienced great things happening for the festival and for Floyd. Generous donations of time, money, resources, and in-kind services were provided by the festival organizers, the then NMF board members, community members, businesses, mentors, students, and excited audience participants from Floyd, the surrounding area, and beyond. Within less than a year, the festival producers were able to pull together a professional, challenging, creative, and inspiring two-week marathon of fantastic music and performing arts. This could never have been accomplished without the full-on support of a great many people. In return, Floyd received accolades, recognition within the professional music community, great publicity, business, and visitors who came to discover and love their experiences in Floyd. All involved wished and expected to see the dream continue and grow.

    The role of the governing board of the NMF was, and is, to best fulfill the mission and goals of the NMF while ensuring its integrity, its financial and legal viability and its continuing success. Late summer and early fall evaluations of the festival’s outcomes and future plans were extensively discussed, researched, and debated. While it was deeply hoped by all that the festival could be continued in Floyd, it became increasingly clear that this was not the best course of action for the NMF. The board’s fiduciary duty is first to the success of the organization, and that is what it is legally and morally bound to pursue. Considering all of its alternatives, the board unanimously and with deep regret, voted to take the course most likely to accomplish this.

    Rather than focusing on Floyd’s loss, this article seems to inadvertently reinforce the discovery that Floyd gained a great many blessings from its NMF 2011 season experience. It enjoyed, and valued, the fine music, the new experiences, and the dreams of expanding and improving the classical music education and community participation involved in the project. We have not been “abandoned” by anyone. Those of us who support the mission and goals of the NMF can continue to do so through continued interaction, and participation in its activities. Those of us who support the joy and importance of classical music as part of Floyd’s already renowned musical heritage can continue to do so by recognizing, supporting and taking advantage of existing efforts like the Floyd Music School, public school music programs, local performing groups, churches, and venues, businesses and community agencies bringing classical performances to the community. Those of us who want to see and hear more can be inspired to think of new ways to encourage and implement these goals. To answer the question posed by the article, I submit that this is what really happened.

  6. I was heartbroken to realize that the necessary support did not materialize in Floyd to keep this incredible event here.

    I believe this is Floyd’s loss. I wish you much success wherever you are. If Floyd is ever able to get our resources together to support a festival such as this I’ll do whatever I can to support it.

    You did a great job here and I believe that our loss is MD’s gain!

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