Grant Park Music Festival names former artistic advisor as new chief 

September 06, 2011

by Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

Paul Winberg has been named as the new executive director of the Grant Park Music Festival.

The 49-year-old administrator comes to Chicago from Oregon and his current post as executive director of the Eugene Symphony, which he has held since 2004. He succeeds Elizabeth Hurley, who left the festival in January after just one year on the job to become development director for the Art Institute of Chicago.

The incoming exec said that the lakefront festival will “absolutely” continue the envelope-pushing repertoire that has made it the leader in adventurous classical programming in Chicago.

“It’s really a hallmark of that festival,” said Winberg. “I love the program mix. I think that’s one of the things that Carlos is quite good at—digging out the unusual gems and giving them very dedicated performances.”

“And I think it’s absolutely essential to keep the commitment to American music going and it would be fun to see just how far we can take that.”

During his time in Oregon, the Eugene Symphony saw a 24% increase in subscribers, and a nearly 100% increase in single ticket sales.

“Paul has an incredible wisdom when it comes to knowing how to connect a first-rate arts organization with the community around it,” said Carlos Kalmar, Grant Park’s artistic director and principal conductor, in a released statement. “He has a bundle of really creative ideas and a brilliant track record in Oregon….We are going to do astounding things together in the coming years!”

Winberg also has an association with the Grant Park Music Festival having worked as an intern in 1997 while working on his graduate degree.

Two years later he took the position of orchestra manager and artistic administrator at the festival. “That was around the time they were going through the music director search and appointed Carlos, so I got to work with him his first two seasons with the orchestra.”

While he hasn’t kept in close contact with Kalmar, even though Eugene is just two hours away from Portland, “I’ve certainly watched him grow the artistic capacity of the Oregon Symphony over the seven-and-a-half years that I’ve been on this side of the country,” said Winberg. “And I think the work he has done here really culminated in the performance [last season] at Carnegie Hall, which I think really put him and the orchestra on the artistic map.”

Winberg noted the move into the Pritzker Pavilion and the creation of a board changed the “basic structure of the way the festival was supported” and said getting consensus with the current unwieldy structure would likely prove his greatest challenge.

“There are a lot of players that have some say and influence over the direction of the festival,” said Winberg. “I think the biggest challenge is going to be just getting everybody on the same page.”

He noted one positive change from his previous tenure in Chicago is that the Grant Park Music Festival now has the ability to generate its own revenue through fund-raising and a more robust membership program.

One new initiative Winberg would like to see is the creation of a new composer residency program every summer. “I think that would be a natural fit for the orchestra and the festival. We could also turn it into a little bit of an institute where the composer in residence could work with young composers. And with so many wonderful music educational institutions in the Chicago area there are great opportunities for something like that.”

Winberg would also like to continue the festival’s recording series and  expand the current daycamp program with the Chicago Park District.

Winberg will take up his post November 1.

Source