Now in its 28th Season, the Ventura Music Festival (VMF) in the beautiful coastal city of Ventura, CA, seeks a creative, savvy Executive Director (ED) with solid hands-on experience, preferably in a performing arts or music-presenting organization. The ED interacts with City and School District officials as well as volunteers, festival-goers and Ventura County’s artistic, cultural, educational and philanthropic communities.
Mission and Background:
The mission of the Ventura Music Festival is to bring world-class music to the community, foster audience-artist relationships, and enhance the joy of music through diverse offerings for all ages. VMF seeks to create an inclusive, welcoming environment in which people both see and hear themselves reflected in the music. Youth education programs and community engagement have been essential components of VFM’s mission from the beginning.
The Festival was created 1994. In 2004 VMF celebrated its 10th Anniversary, dropped “Chamber” from its name, and Nuvi Mehta was named Artistic Director. At that point the chamber music/classical focus evolved to embrace jazz and other offerings – including sponsored outdoor concerts featuring the likes of Chris Botti and Pink Martini. Since 2015 VMF has described itself as a world-class, mixed genre music festival, presenting world music, bluegrass, country, and crossover, along with jazz and classical. As of 2015 VMF has been presented in two July-August weekends, and has secured the Ventura College Performing Arts Center as its primary professional 400-seat venue.
Ventura is a vibrant community with a sizable and growing agriculture, manufacturing, construction, health services, professional/scientific/technical services, and hospitality business base. The organization wishes to remain a “small but precious gem” among the musical offerings in Southern California. Ventura’s overall population decline belies a noted increase in younger and wealthier residents, particularly post-COVID. This newer population provides an opportunity for greater engagement on the governance and donor fronts.
Opportunities and Challenges
A recent organizational assessment has highlighted several significant strengths. Among them are: 1) a positive reputation and an appreciation/fondness for the organization among the Ventura populace; 2) a long-tenured Artistic Director who is very talented and well known in professional musical circles in California and beyond; 3) its consistency and positive reputation among a small but significantly capable base of major donors; 4) having a sizable endowment and a willingness to use it to ensure quality and stability; 5) a new 10-year bequest (an aging population suggests possibly more such bequests to come); 6) a talented and productive exiting Executive Director whose successful tenure will provide valuable information to an incoming new ED.
In the course of discussions, a number of challenges have been identified that will require attention of the board and Executive Director, including: 1) visibility (VMF is not as connected with the City and County of Ventura as it should be; VMF should also have better relationship with business community); 2) festival scope (current six-concert summer series is perceived to be too small to excite donors); 3) geography (historically, audiences are not traveling from areas outside of the immediate City of Ventura area; 4) venues (Ventura College PAC is desirable, but its smaller size is a challenge to generate income for larger acts, and it poses difficulties in scheduling; 5) board governance (the board is too small and not diverse; it has expressed its desire for the ED to provide support for development, fundraising and other types of training); 6) staffing (with just one full-time staff person (the ED) and part-time positions (Artistic Director, office support, graphics) there is not enough staff for greater engagement with community members for partnerships and funding; 7) financial challenges (the current 2023 fiscal year is likely to have a significant deficit due to the delay in some expected major gifts).
Short term goals (one to two years):
- Venues: actively explore more robust relationships with existing and prospective venues, particularly the Performing Arts Centers in Ventura and Camarillo, and determine optimum outdoor venue.
- Board: conduct board training to expand board in number and diversity, with connections to local businesses and institutions as a goal; establish robust committee structure and actively seek participation on committees by both board members and non-members. Seek board participation by individuals from local school systems and major employers. Goal of 20+ “leadership volunteers” between governing board and committees.
- Size/scope: expanding current stand-alone series into a full-out festival of multiple concerts each day over a single weekend, and offer programs at other times of the year.
- Fundraising Plan: operationalize a comprehensive fund development plan with traditional and new devices; fully analyze past successes and challenges to fundraising; create a formal “Legacy Society” to encourage legacy giving and engagement.
- Office/support capacity: explore staffing configuration to enable more community engagement and publicity/visibility/responsiveness.
- Education engagement/expansion: increase numbers of educational sessions in schools; work with multiple school districts.
- Explore active partnerships with other arts and educational groups.
Longer term goals (three to five years):
- Respond to changing trends of the attending public; establish unique events for fundraising/visibility/engagement; couple special events with performances; find ways to seek input on programming desired by the public.
- Expand the Festival to a year-round schedule, with the main festival in July/August and add major performances in the winter holiday period and spring.
- Explore feasibility of utilizing a permanent shell for outdoor concerts.
- Expand Schools programming to middle and high schools, and/or internships.
- Explore viability of youth performers’ competitions.
About the Executive Director
The new Executive Director of VMF will need to be skilled in donor/community relations and contributed income generation, and be able to operate efficiently with a small staff. He/she will represent the agency in collaborations with governmental leaders, facilities, funders and media platforms.
He/she will also need expertise in strategic business planning and be savvy in fiscal management and technological advances. He/she will need to be a resourceful problem-solver, provide empathetic and supportive leadership to staff and volunteers, maintain standards of performance excellence and ensure a positive environment.
The new ED will help position the organization for long-term success and sustainability through diversified funding streams, strong donor relationships, robust partnerships, long-term staff retention and strong financial management.
- Develop/oversee a comprehensive plan for the acquisition and retention of philanthropic funds from individuals, foundations and corporations; develop and interact with potential and current major institutional and individual donors.
- Maintain and enhance relationships with governmental funders who can or do support VMF.
- Joyfully assume the role of chief story-teller, attaining wide visibility among all stakeholders as a leader in the field.
OUTREACH AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS:
- Actively cultivate community partnerships to enhance credibility and visibility of VMF and to engage supporters of various types.
SUPPORT FOR GOVERNANCE AND PLANNING:
- Maintain a keen eye on opportunities and challenges and present options to the board for their strategic decision making; facilitate organizational strategic planning processes and goal-setting; support the board in its development efforts.
- Provide primary staffing for the board to ensure its efficient and effective discharge of its duties; assist the board in its recruitment, diversity efforts, development, orientation and training.
- Maintain, monitor and evolve financial recording, reporting and budgeting systems to ensure accuracy, efficiency, safekeeping, and understandability for decision-making.
- Work hand-in-hand with the Board to closely monitor VMF’s financial health, cash flow, reserves, investments and liabilities, and make informed, strategic decisions (financial and organizational) to best position the organization for long-term sustainability and impact. The new ED will need to guide the organization onto more solid financial footing, make decisions to keep spending aligned with revenue, and maintain reserves.
- Evaluate public responsiveness to existing programming and support the Artistic Director to maintain “world class” offerings in diverse genres.
- Ensure the solicitation, retention, evaluation and support of sufficient and qualified personnel to provide quality services and maintain high-quality business operations.
- Oversee operations in multiple locations and maintain policies, protocols and systems to ensure consistency with overall operational goals and contract requirements.
The ideal candidate for this position will be knowledgeable and passionate about VMF’s mission and will actively work to understand and honor its rich traditions. He/she will oversee and direct the organizational leadership, fiscal, marketing and management activities, while collaborating with the Artistic Committee and Artistic Director on programming, all in service to the mission. The ideal candidate will have proven business and nonprofit management skills and be an inspirational and collaborative team builder and leader. The ED must exhibit a facilitative leadership style, active listening with a diverse group of people, a transparent work ethic, and openness in considering and valuing the contributions of many in a collective impact effort. Essential qualifications include:
- A history of successful resource generation among private and public funders;
- Demonstrable knowledge of the Ventura area, and appreciation for its unique attributes;
- Demonstrable knowledge, understanding and passion for diverse musical offerings that are or could be available to the region;
- Demonstrated leadership skills in inspiring, empowering and developing current and future staff and contractors to achieve strategic organizational goals;
- Demonstrated effectiveness in representing organizational vision, mission, goals and outcomes to a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders in a variety of venues;
- Excellent verbal, written and computer skills in order to effectively communicate and work with individuals at varied levels and backgrounds, and the ability to utilize multiple media to communicate;
- Strong change management skills to build effective community- and organization-wide systems and structures.
Requirements of Applicants
- A master’s degree from an accredited college or university in a field related to VMF mission and services [educational qualifications may be waived depending on work history]
- Five years of experience in a senior level of nonprofit administration (with knowledge and experience in the performing arts field) including fundraising, outreach, planning, budgeting and fiscal management, with a minimum of three years of experience at an executive level
- Valid driver’s license, safe driving record, current vehicle insurance, and ability to use personal vehicle for VMF business
- Knowledge of Microsoft Suite and Google Suite is required; knowledge of fundraising software
- High level of integrity, honesty, dependability, accountability, creativity and confidentiality in performance of duties
- Willingness to travel within VMF’s service area, and beyond for conferences, etc.
- Must be able to pass criminal background check
Work is performed typically in an office environment and a variety of settings among diverse stakeholders and audiences. Remote work will be considered, as appropriate. Frequent use of electronic media will be required. The ED will frequently work outside normal working hours and will drive for work with donors, collaborators and other stakeholders in the community. While performing the duties of this job, the ED is regularly required to sit, speak, hear, stand and walk. The ED is frequently required to use hands on a keyboard. Specific vision abilities required include close vision and ability to adjust focus. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.
Salary: $100,000-$110,000 DOE plus partially paid medical and dental coverage, reimbursement of approved expenses, and other standard employee benefits (as outlined in the employment handbook), such as PTO, sick leave and holidays.
Interested persons should prepare a detailed, specific cover letter to remit along with a current resume HERE:
Resumes without cover letters not considered.
Ventura Music Festival is an Equal Opportunity Employer
VMH actively works to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for our staff, volunteers, and participants. VMF recognizes the importance of employing people who reflect the diverse backgrounds and life experiences of our audiences and performers in order to create a welcoming program. We strongly encourage applications from all qualified individuals, regardless of age, ancestry, color, disability (mental and physical), gender, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, military or veteran status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religious creed, sex and sexual orientation. VMF is committed to a barrier-free recruitment process and work environment.