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‘It’s just time’: Music in the Mountains artistic director retires

A farewell party for Greg Hustis was held Tuesday at the Rochester Hotel’s Secret Garden. Hustis is pictured with his wife, Julia, center, and Angie Beach, executive director of MiTM. In the background, Guillermo Figueroa, who performed on the viola for a chamber music offering at the event. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)
From 1988 on, Greg Hustis has experienced festival from inside out

“It’s better to retire a year early than a minute too late.”

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, Greg Hustis sums up his decision to retire as artistic director of Music in the Mountains.

“It’s time,” Hustis said in a recent interview. “I’ve played with the Festival Orchestra since year two, 1988, and I became artistic director in 2007. It’s just time.”

Celebrating its 36th season, MiTM has already launched a sparkling series of musical events. This weekend alone, the Festival welcomes back A-list violinist, and long-term friend of MiTM, Vadim Gluzman for a concert of works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Saturday is Pops Night featuring music from Harry Potter films with conductor Richard Kaufman. On Sunday night, the Festival Orchestra returns to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College with Guillermo Figueroa conducting works by de Falla and Sibelius.

All of this wouldn’t be possible were it not for a dream shared by Mischa Semanitzky, founder of MiTM, Hustis and a group of Durango music lovers.

Greg Hustis, right, talks with Dallas Symphony horn player Alex Kienle at a Music in the Mountains event. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Reminiscing about the late 1980s, Hustis said: “Mischa and I went on a mystery tour of Colorado. We were looking for a place for a summer music festival. We traveled all over the state, Cañon City, and other places. I remember saying, ‘Let’s look at Durango and Fort Lewis College.’ I thought we could be associated with a particular place and a particular college.”

That’s simply what happened, Hustis said. “And over time, the Festival has evolved. The orchestra is changing; it has become truly excellent. It’s capable of magnificent performances with only a minimum of rehearsal time. There are younger musicians who are coming in now and are part of the tradition. They are the ones with an investment in the future. We’ve survived throughout some difficult times – including the one we’re still experiencing now.”

The trend, Hustis said, comes down to commitment: “In the past, we learned that people will show up, but I worry about this. In my lifetime, ticket sales will not be a predictable moneymaker for organizations like ours. More and more, we will depend on the largesse of patrons. And, it’s up to us to convince them Music in the Mountains is worthy of their support.”

From 1988 on, Hustis has experienced the Festival from the inside out. He began as principal French horn, from 1988 to 2013. His role as a musician overlapped with administrative duties after 2007, then solely as artistic director to the present. For decades, Hustis’ day job was principal horn with the Dallas Symphony plus teaching on the music faculty at Southern Methodist University and also the University of Texas-Dallas. In addition, his musical career found him performing in a number of professional chamber ensembles and recording.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Hustis started his professional career in Canada as principal horn of the Hamilton Philharmonic in Ontario. Over the years, he has added the Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Mainly Mozart in San Diego and the Santa Fe Music Festival, among others. At the University of Texas-Dallas, he was the director for both the Wind Ensemble and University Orchestra.

Quoting another famous line about retirement, Hustis cited Bette Davis: “Getting old ain’t for sissies,” he included other institutions on his departure list.

“I left SMU this year.” he said. “I left UT Dallas last year. I also resigned as president of the Dallas Chamber Music Society. But I’m always available if anyone wants some unsolicited, free advice.”

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.