As executive director of the Ojai Music Festival, Jeff Haydon has replaced ailing performers, rented 100 metronomes for a single concert and overseen the $4 million project to remodel Libbey Bowl.
And now he is leaving.
"It really is bittersweet because I feel I grew up here, personally and professionally," said Haydon, who joined the festival in 2003.
Next month, Haydon, 37, will start a new job as Chief Executive Officer at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, which presents several weeks of concerts each summer in Westchester County, N.Y.
Both festivals unfold at outdoor settings prized for their beauty -- the tree-shrouded Libbey Bowl in Ojai and a 90-acre estate that includes themed gardens and an Italianate mansion in New York.
Both are well into their sixth decades: Ojai wrapped up its 66th season in June, while Caramoor concluded its 67th summer slate of concerts this month.
"Both have a strong sense of place that blends history and nature," said Haydon, who will be making the move with wife Katie and their 5-year-old son, Christopher.
Haydon's duties at Caramoor will echo those at Ojai: guiding the organization's community outreach and music education programs while also raising money for efforts to renovate the property over the next five years.
"It's the perfect amplification of what I'm doing here. The major difference is that they own their own facility; they are a place first and a festival second," Haydon said.
He succeeds Michael Barrett, who had been CEO and general director at Caramoor since 2003. Barrett announced in January that he planned to step down this summer; he will return to Caramoor in 2013 as a pianist and conductor.
A national search for Haydon's replacement has begun, said Stuart Meiklejohn, incoming president of the Ojai Festival Board.
A similar search was mounted when Haydon's predecessor in Ojai, Jacqueline Saunders, retired after serving for six years as executive director.
"What small but vibrant organizations like the Ojai Music Festival understand is that we tend to be places where people come for a certain period of time," Meiklejohn said. "(Caramoor) is a really interesting career opportunity for Jeff and we're very happy for him. And we are confident that his successor will build on what he accomplished here."
A native Californian, Haydon played trumpet in grade school and the tuba in junior high, then took up singing in high school. But he decided to minor in music while earning a bachelor's degree in business administration at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state.
"I realized that business is critical to helping music survive. Even in junior high and high school I was the student who was in the rehearsal room saying, 'Has the director thought about marketing this concert this way?' " Haydon told The Star in 2003.
Awarded one of the American Symphony Orchestra League's competitive Orchestra Management Fellowships in 1997, Haydon also is an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business' Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders in the Arts.
He worked with the Seattle Symphony and the Aspen Music Festival and was a development officer for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra before moving to Ojai.
Haydon's first summer as executive director of the Ojai Music Festival coincided with the last season organized by retiring artistic director Ernest Fleischmann, former executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Fleischmann's farewell program included an all-Pierre Boulez program conducted by Boulez himself -- a fact that drew even more of the international arts media to Libbey Bowl than usual.
Pianist Mitsuko Uchida was slated to appear until illness forced her to bow out; Haydon and company quickly contacted two others to perform in her stead.
But for Haydon, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham's performance of Ravel's "Sheherazade was the defining moment of the summer.
"After the final notes, the audience was absolutely still for, 30, 60 seconds. Crickets filled the space before the applause," he recalled. "It crystallized the magical connection between nature and music and the audience."
Lightning struck again in 2006, the first year that the festival's programming, which is planned several years in advance, represented the ideas of Haydon and current artistic director Thomas W. Morris, Haydon said.
It was the festival's 60th anniversary, and soprano Dawn Upshaw was scheduled to perform Osvaldo Golijov's "Ayre." It was an overcast Sunday morning and the journalists from London were grumbling about the lack of sun, Haydon said.
The sound-check rehearsal hadn't gone well. Backstage, Upshaw worried aloud that she wasn't feeling well enough to give the piece its due. Then she began to sing.
"And something changed," Haydon said. "By the end, the sun had come out. It was a visual indication of what we all felt, which was that we had just witnessed a special moment in a special place."
Things weren't always so serious: In 2007, Haydon's duties included supplying the titular instruments for a concert in which Ojai resident Albert Behar, then 15, conducted György Ligeti's "Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes."
In recent years, Haydon and Morris have doubled the number of festival events, adding seminars and screenings to its full-immersion schedule. Subscription ticket sales have increased by 49 percent since 2003, while donations have more than doubled in the same period, Haydon said.
Haydon also spearheaded efforts to raise the $4 million needed to rebuild Libbey Bowl in Libbey Park, the festival's main venue. But he credits the community with making the project possible in the midst of tough economic times.
"They were interested in rebuilding it for all the right reasons. But it was almost as though they were further emboldened by the collapse of the economy -- that donating to the campaign was their way of taking a stand," Haydon said.
Built in 1957 and rotting away, the old Libbey Bowl was demolished just days after the final festival concert of 2010. Designed by Ojai architect David Bury, the new Libbey Bowl opened in its place about a week before the 2011 festival.
Festival audiences likely will see him in one of the bowl's seats in the future, Haydon said."A piece of my heart will always be here in Ojai -- physically with the bowl and emotionally with the people," he said. "You won't be able to keep me away."
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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