Jeffrey P. Haydon main Ravinia into a brand new period, and a return to dwell performances amid a pandemic


When Jeffrey P. Haydon took over as president and chief govt officer of the Ravinia Competition in early September, six months into the devastating coronavirus pandemic, he didn’t have the posh of a delicate touchdown.

The seasoned arts administrator needed to instantly assist stabilize the venerable Highland Park occasion’s shaky funds and start figuring out if there have been a method it might current much-desired, in-person performances in 2021.

The massive information is that Ravinia will current a dwell season this summer time that can have about the identical period as standard however will possible function 80-85 classical, jazz, pop and household occasions in comparison with the 110-120 that sometimes happen in a traditional yr. The schedule is anticipated to be introduced in early Might.

“The board and I had a really passionate dialog the place all of us agreed that we wished to open up Ravinia if it have been secure to take action,” Haydon stated. “Everybody realized that we now have a mission and we have to fulfill that mission by bringing dwell music to individuals.”

Jeffrey P. Haydon determined to hunt the place of president and CEO of Ravinia Competition due to his lengthy admiration of the occasion.
Tyler LaRiviere/Solar-Occasions

Ravinia is the longtime summer time house of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and a spotlight of this yr’s season will probably be a full six weeks of performances by the ensemble, with the utmost variety of on-stage musicians capped at round 50 due to COVID-19 security protocols. Seven concert events will probably be led by Marin Alsop in her first season as Ravinia’s chief conductor and curator.

As a result of Ravinia was not capable of current a summer time season in 2020, the group suffered a $6 million deficit in its fiscal yr ending Sept. 30. It made up that loss by borrowing from its endowment fund, the funding earnings from which it usually makes use of to assist subsidize its operations.

“You’re robbing a little bit bit from the long run while you try this,” Haydon stated. “However I believe all people felt assured that was a kind of one-time rainy-day moments the place it made sense to try this.”

Haydon, a San Francisco Bay space native who grew up in a household of entrepreneurs, all the time beloved music however didn’t wish to be an expert musician. When he attended the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, he grew to become concerned with a student-run performing arts sequence, and humanities administration has been his ardour since.

He has loved a assorted profession that included a three-year stint within the growth division on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Most just lately, he served eight years as chief govt officer of the Caramoor Middle for Music and the Arts in Katonah, New York. It presents an annual summer time pageant, which, although smaller than Ravinia, has a considerably comparable multi-genre thrust, together with classical, jazz and roots music.

Leonard Bernstein’s Mass is presented at Ravinia in 2018. Live performances will return to the stage of the Highland Park venue in July.

Leonard Bernstein’s Mass is offered at Ravinia in 2018. Reside performances will return to the stage of the Highland Park venue in July, following the cancellation of the 2020 season as a result of COVID-19.

Haydon determined to hunt the Ravinia place partly due to his lengthy admiration of the occasion. His spouse is a fourth-generation Chicagoan, and when the 2 have been discussing marriage, she took him on a tour of her favourite locations in Chicago and one them was Ravinia.

“Clearly, the services listed below are second to none,” he stated, “and seeing what Welz [Kauffman, former president and CEO of Ravinia] had finished over time to broaden the affect of Ravinia not solely as a live performance presenter but additionally locally, that was an enormous alternative to say sure.”

Kauffman held the chief govt place for 20 years and oversaw $65 million in infrastructure enhancements, together with building of the RaviniaMusicBox, an immersive multimedia house set to open this season. Haydon, who comes throughout on first assembly as even-keeled and all the way down to earth — a seeming distinction to Kauffman’s generally outsized persona — had nothing however reward for his predecessor.

“I’ve actually appreciated the steerage and mentorship that he’s given over time. He has enormous footprints to step into right here, and I used to be actually humbled by the chance to comply with in these footsteps.”

Together with his palms full making an attempt to reopen the pageant in 2021, Haydon stated it’s too quickly to debate his longer-range imaginative and prescient for the pageant. However he did voice robust assist for the Steans Music Institute, Ravinia’s well-regarded summer time coaching program, and its neighborhood training initiative, Attain Educate Play.

“The actual fact,” he stated, “that Ravinia values its work locally as an advocate for the significance of music as an equal a part of its mission to me could be very inspiring, and only a few different arts organizations have that.”

The pageant has delayed the announcement of this season’s line-up partly due to last-minute determinations of what performers will probably be accessible.

“We’ve a lot of pop artists which are booked already,” Haydon stated. “I’d say the massive, huge headliners, these are all circling round proper now. Simply within the final couple of weeks, they’re extra significantly making an attempt to determine how they could tour.”

On the similar time, the pageant is coping with the various COVID-19 security measures that need to be thought-about. It has partnered with Northwestern Drugs and consulted with an array of different organizations that current outside occasions from the Chicago Cubs to the Tanglewood Music Competition in Lenox, Mass.

If present Illinois Division of Public Well being protocols maintain, seating capability will probably be 25 % when tickets go on sale for the primary half of the season. However Ravinia officers hope that most will probably be relaxed to a point by then as vaccinations enhance or not less than by early July when the second spherical of tickets are anticipated to grow to be accessible.

“You possibly can’t create a one hundred pc risk-free setting — it wasn’t that beforehand and it received’t be that afterward,” Haydon stated. “However how will we do it the place individuals really feel snug?”

Kyle MacMillan is an area freelance author.

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