Bringing music to the mountains |

Bringing music to the mountains

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN The Aspen Music Festival and School, which is entering its 60th summer music season, has really matured as an organization, said its current president and chief executive officer, Alan Fletcher, noting that it started as a great idea running on a shoestring budget. With annual expenses of roughly $15 million every year, employees that number in the hundreds (including volunteers) and an endowment of approximately $80 million in assets, the organization has definitely left that shoestring in the dusty closet of history. Fletcher, whose salary of more than $325,000 per year puts him at the top of the list of the areas nonprofit organizational leaders, is now into his second year at the helm of what is formally called the Music Associates of Aspen Inc. (MAA).In addition to his salary, Fletcher receives a housing allowance of $76,457.He reports to a board of directors with 50 members, 11 of whom must be members of the schools faculty under the organizations bylaws. Those faculty members earn anywhere from just over $20,000 to a maximum of $53,23, according to the schools IRS tax form 990, the tax form used by nonprofit organizations.The MAA has a full-time staff of 37 employees, Fletcher said. The salaries and wages paid out by the school amount to nearly $6.2 million, according to tax documents.The top five school employees whose salaries are more than $50,000, according to the tax documents , are Jennifer Elliot, chief financial officer, $173,761; Asadour Santourian, artistic administrator, $148,253; Jim Berdahl, general manager, $148,253; Mimi Teschner, development director, $128,153; and Joan Gordon, dean, $119,153. Each of the five employees listed also receives full-time employee benefits that together total $65,645.In addition, the organization lists two contractors paid more than $50,000 Paul Kantor, a faculty violinist, at $56,115, and David Zinman, music director, $152,000.The schools enrollment this year totals 760 students from around the United States and other countries.Students either pay the full tuition, $7,800 (half for music instruction, half for room and board if provided by the school), or receive scholarships from the school. The total amount paid out in scholarships comes to roughly $1.75 million in non-cash assistance and $327,000 in cash scholarships, according to the schools tax documents.Fletcher said roughly 60 percent of the students live in school owned housing, either at the Marolt or Burlingame seasonal housing complexes. The rest, he said, find housing on their own.Each year, Fletcher said, the school draws five percent of its assets funds for operating expenses. In 2006 the school took in more than $18.1 in revenues and paid out nearly $16 million in expenses, according to tax documents.Its list of assets in 2006-07 included buildings and land worth some $11.7 million after depreciation.The two highest priorities for the school in the coming years, Fletcher said, are the $60 million redevelopment of its Castle Creek campus, which will be shared equally with the schools wintertime tenant, Aspen Country Day School, and the task of buying or building housing for students, teachers and visiting faculty.While the school had been thinking of issuing bonds for its entire share of the redevelopment project, Fletcher said, he is expecting to ask the board to change that to a partial bond issue to pay for the first phase of the project. The subsequent two phases will be paid by later bond issues, he said, the timing of which will depend largely on prevailing interest rates.As for the housing, he said, the school has begun working with potential winter partners to share the cost of construction. The initial focus is on land owned by the City of Aspen on Castle Creek Road, next to the Marolt seasonal housing complex. The current thinking, he said, is that the MAA and its partner, whom he declined to name, would pay all construction costs, but leave the property in the hands of the city. The details, he indicated, will be worked out in the coming