Aspen Music Festival CEO discusses impact of event |

Aspen Music Festival CEO discusses impact of event

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Alan Fletcher

ASPEN – The Aspen Music Festival is “the engine that is really pulling the train” of the city’s summer economy, festival president and CEO Alan Fletcher said Friday.

Fletcher discussed the economic impact of the 63-year-old event and made other wide-ranging remarks during a presentation to the Aspen Business Luncheon at the Hotel Jerome.

“We’re very proud of what we accomplish here in the summer,” he said. “We think it’s good for the city.”

He also introduced the event’s new music director, Robert Spano, who elicited laughter from the audience with one quick comment: “I got in yesterday – and the first 16 hours have been really great.”

Spano took a bow and received a great deal of applause, but didn’t say much else. He doesn’t officially move into the role until 2012. This summer he will hold the title of director-designate, conducting four concerts this season. The festival has been without a full-time director since April 2010, when David Zinman resigned from the position he held for 12 years.

Fletcher went on to talk about the benefits the festival brings to the community. This summer, roughly 1,000 people – 637 students, 140 faculty, 100 seasonal staff and numerous guest artists – will come to Aspen to put on the event, he said.

Citing previous economic surveys, he said one-third of all summer visitors to Aspen attend music festival events. The classical-music enthusiasts fill hotels and restaurants, and spend more than the average tourist, Fletcher said.

“They are coming here for a purpose,” he said. “They are the highest category of visitor. They know what they’re here for, they want to be here and they are typically not just passing through.”

Of the total Aspen Music Festival audience, 50 percent are visitors, 25 percent are locals and 25 percent are second-home owners, Fletcher said.

“Over and over again, I hear [people say], ‘I came skiing in college, then I started coming every year to ski. Then someone said there was music in the summer, and [that’s when] I bought my house.’ This is not one or five or even 20 people who have told me that story,” he said.

Fletcher talked about the difficulty of putting on such a massive event and recruiting students. The festival reaches to more than 30 countries and 40 states and evaluates thousands of applicants each year.

“It’s harder than recruiting a football team for the following reason,” he explained. “We want, for example 12 oboe students. We don’t have a junior varsity. We want 12 absolutely sensational, the best, oboe students in the world. If we have 13, it’s terrible. Because they don’t get the right kind of performance opportunity, which is one of the things that make our program great.”

And 11 oboe students would be equally disastrous, Fletcher said. “If we have 11 oboes, we cannot do our program. We have to find someone and give them oboe lessons really quick.”

The same precise recruiting is involved with flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, tuba, French horn, bass trombone, trombone, B-flat trumpet, C-trumpet and other instruments, he said.

Fletcher also discussed the numerous free events the festival provides to the community as well as the discounted locals pass. He also spoke about the year-round educational programs that reach 3,000 youths in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s highly organized work that we do in outreach and education,” Fletcher said.

The 2011 season runs from June 29-Aug. 21. For more information, visit the website

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