“I’ve stayed five years beyond my expiration date,” Kathy Myrick said with a wry smile.
After 15 successful years as executive director of the San Juan Symphony, Myrick has decided to move on.
Sitting in her symphony office, surrounded by symphony brochures, Myrick recalled a mentor’s advice.
“No chief executive officer of any organization should stay longer than 10 years,” she said, remembering the late Joel Jones, former president of Fort Lewis College and Symphony board member. “That’s what Joel told me when he supported my hiring in 2007. And, he added: ‘There is life after retirement. One should retire when the time is right.’ That’s what I’m doing now. The time is right.”
Myrick explained her decision in a resignation letter to the symphony board: “I have taken the symphony as far as I can go, literally and figuratively. In the last 15 years, we expanded our reach to Telluride, Cortez, and Bayfield. We established youth and family concerts, youth orchestras, pre-concert-talks, after-concert receptions … a year-round development plan, and a strategic planning process.”
In 2007, Myrick inherited a meager, 40-name email-address database and a cultural organization $20,000 in debt. Today, the symphony has a mailing list of 3,500 households with an additional 200 contacts plus a budget that is $130,000 in the black. Sheltered grant money, Myrick said, amount to an additional $28,000.
“Kathy Myrick is an inspiration. Working with her for the last five years has been a distinct honor and pleasure. She deeply loves the music and the people of the Symphony, and she managed so many facets of the organization as a one-woman team. We always worked well together and built strong relationships in the community, and I will miss having her as my partner in the San Juan Symphony. Still, there is no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of Kathy Myrick! Wherever she decides to point her creative focus will certainly benefit from a most dedicated and passionate soul.” - Thomas Heuser, Conductor and Music Director of the San Juan Symphony.
“Our biggest fundraising effort took place during COVID when I wrote Government Stimulus Grants – in my basement,” she said.
As a performance organization during COVID-19, the symphony didn’t miss a beat. In close collaboration with Music Director Thomas Heuser, Myrick said the goal always was “to reproduce the concert experience as much as possible. Thomas selected music that required the minimum number of players so we could socially distance on whatever stage we had chosen. And we found new venues for performances, Blue Lake Ranch and the Reising Stage Center, for example. Thomas continued to give his popular pre-concert talks, and we even continued to hold our post-concert champagne receptions – thanks to our sponsors.”
Now, six orchestra concerts have been scheduled plus 19 community events including the annual Nutcracker Ballet.
Myrick’s job description runs four pages. Duties and responsibilities range from strategic planning to supporting the “artistic, financial and public relations objectives of the organization.” Advising the symphony board, developing volunteer resources and setting up clear communications relate to internal affairs. Effectively interacting with arts organizations, government agencies and the general public come under external responsibilities.
Expectations are spelled out with verbs such as develop, ensure, assist, negotiate, provide, consult, attend and maintain a slew of relationships in the community and beyond.
“Accounting, managing and fundraising,” Myrick said, noting that she acquired her broad skill set gradually.
Before the symphony, back In 2006, Myrick was a marketing specialist at Lore International Institute (now Korn Ferry). For two years, she specialized in organizational consulting and assessment for Fortune 1000 companies worldwide.
WHAT: San Juan Symphony’s 36th season; Thomas Heuser, music director and conductor.
WHEN: Oct. 16 (Durango) and 17 (Farmington): Two First Symphonies: Beethoven, Adolphus Hailstork and Elgar’s Salut d’Amour.
WHERE: Community Concert Hall, Durango, and Henderson Performance Hall, Farmington.
TICKETS: Durango: single tickets range from $16 students to $55 adults. Season tickets: students, $58 to adults, $198. For more information, call 247-7657 or visit www. durangoconcerts.com.
Farmington Henderson Performance Hall: Single tickets range from seniors and students $18 to adults $23. Season tickets, seniors and students $29 to adults $90. Call 382-9763 or visit www.sanjuansymphony.org.
“Then out of the blue, I got a call from Arthur Post, then the symphony conductor,” Myrick said. “He had called Brian Wagner (former director of the Durango Arts Center) for an executive director recommendation.”
Over the previous five years, the symphony had had four executive directors and needed a steady, high energy, experienced administrator.
“In 2006, I happened to be on the board of DAC and the Animas Museum, mostly doing fundraising,” she said. “Brian apparently told Arthur I was the best fundraiser in Durango.”
Post invited Myrick for coffee to discuss the leadership position with the symphony, and her nomination went from there.
“Kathy Myrick’s tireless, behind the-scenes work has resulted in much more than the economic and artistic survival of the San Juan Symphony. She has also wisely and carefully crafted a solid foundation for a future in which we can continue to thrive. Kathy has been invaluable, and the search committee for her replacement realizes that it may never encounter another executive director who can claim her amazingly diverse skill set. All of us connected with the SJS are deeply grateful for her devotion to our art form, or organization, and our community.” - Rochelle Mann, Symphony colleague and head of the search committee
A graduate of Washington College with a graduate degree in psychology and an undergraduate degree in American Studies, Myrick started her professional career there as head of publications and public information. From Washington College she held a series of directorships in curatorial services, marketing and development at institutions in Maryland and Delaware before moving West. She’s certified in long-term care administration and as a hospice administrator plus nonprofit management. Along the way, she also wrote a nonfiction history of a parish church published by Chesapeake College Press. Once out West, Myrick has created a photographic archive of the American West and owns Kathy Myrick Photography and the Fifth Corner Photo Gallery.
Among her many interests, hiking and nature photography will probably take up much of her time after executive symphony leadership.
“My best work here is done,” Myrick said. “I don’t know what the next chapter holds for me, but I can assure you I will be making a difference for the greater good, wherever I am most needed, and where I can find a sense of purpose.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.