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Harth leaves Music School

Stewart Oksenhorn

After 12 years as president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Robert Harth is headed for Carnegie Hall.

Harth was hired yesterday as executive director and artistic director of New York’s Carnegie Hall and has announced his resignation from the Aspen position effective at the end of this summer’s festival.

“It certainly is my dream job,” said Harth from New York. “I’m very excited about it. But I must say, I’m also leaving a dream job.”

“I am delighted to welcome Robert Harth to Carnegie Hall,” said Hall President Isaac Stern in a press release. “Robert literally has music in his blood, and his entire professional life has been informed by that passion. Whether at Aspen, the Los Angeles Philharmonic or the Ravinia Festival where his career began, his devotion to musicians has been unparalleled. His commitment to music education is unwavering.”

A search committee for Harth’s replacement is being put together by Matthew Bucksbaum, chairman of the Music Festival’s board of trustees. Harth had been talking with the search committee of Carnegie Hall’s board of directors for two months. He will take over his new position in September.

Harth said his new job entails similar responsibilities as his position in Aspen.

“There are similarities, but it’s on a much larger scale,” said the 45-year-old Harth. “Carnegie Hall has a wealth of diverse programs – it’s a presenting organization, a producing organization and is deeply involved in music education.”

Looking back, Harth believes he is leaving the Aspen Music Festival and School in excellent shape. That belief is based largely on accomplishments made under his watch. In 1997, Harth convinced David Zinman to leave his position as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and accept the same position in Aspen, a hiring which ensured the prestige of the Aspen Music School. Working with Zinman, Harth helped create the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, an intensive program meant to train the next generation of conductors.

Under Harth’s leadership, the Music Festival completed two capital and endowment campaigns that raised $47 million for three major projects. Harris Concert Hall, acclaimed as a superb small venue and a vital part of the Music Festival’s performance program, was completed in 1993. The Benedict Music Tent opened last year, replacing the 35-year-old Bayer-Benedict Music Tent. Also completed last year was the Burlingame Housing Project, which provides 200 beds for summer students.

Asked about his achievements, Harth said: “I think most important is solidifying the Music Festival’s commitment to Aspen on a year-round basis, through the construction of Harris Hall and the new tent. And providing a strong financial underpinning for the festival, by creating an endowment that matches the size of the festival.

“I’m leaving the place fiscally healthy [and] artistically healthy with David Zinman and the faculty. And the physical plant is in excellent shape.”

Harth, a native of Louisville, Ky., who was raised in Chicago and Pittsburgh, began coming to Aspen as a child. Both of his parents were violin faculty members with the Aspen Music School. Harth worked summers on the stage crew, grounds crew and tech crew for the Music Festival. While studying at Northwestern University, Harth worked at Ravinia, the classical music venue in the Chicago suburbs. In 1979, at the age of 26, he was hired to the dual jobs of general manager of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and managing director of the Hollywood Bowl.

In 1989, Harth returned to Aspen to replace Gordon Hardy, who had been the president of the Music Festival for 28 years.

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