The Savannah Music Festival has accepted the resignation of longtime Executive and Artistic Director Rob Gibson, according to a news release issued Thursday morning by the SMF Board Chairman David Neises.
“I’ll be honest, I have only good things to say about the Savannah Music Festival,” Gibson told the Savannah Morning News. “I had a great 16-year run. I would probably best summarize it to say that it was an honor and pleasure to spend 16 years leading the team at the Savannah Music Festival while connecting artists and audiences in meaningful ways. I believe a solid foundation as been established. I wish them much continued success."
When asked what’s next for him, Gibson preferred not to comment on his future publicly.
Neises spoke highly of Gibson's accomplishments during his tenure.
“I’d say, the pace has been fast,” Neises told Savannah Morning News. “Perhaps, with all that he has accomplished at SMF, Rob seeks new challenges. He’s spoken to me about a couple of exciting projects and there one’s that he would not have had time to tackle amidst the demanding schedule of running the festival year-round. He’s a great programmer, but he’s also a great builder. I think maybe, he yearns for another building challenge and I’ll tell you this, there will be worldwide demand for a person with Rob’s talents and accomplishments.
The abrupt announcement came ahead of the SMF’s 30th annual festival season, set for March and April. Marketing and Managing Director Ryan McMaken has been promoted to interim executive and artistic director.
“Ryan’s very talented,” Neises said. “I have a huge amount of confidence in him. We’ve also elevated other senior people on our staff. We have the entire classical program, or 90 some percent, already programmed. We have many other elements programmed or well underway. We also have three associate artistic directors, each specializing in a different genre, and they will be helping us, as they always do. I don’t anticipate any kind of decrease in quality or anything else in either our festival or our education programs.
“I think it was unexpected for all of us,” Neises continued. “I just want to stress what an incredible job he has done for the last 16 years in building this festival and education programs and making them as prominent as they are. He’s a programming genius.”
Under Gibson’s leadership, SMF developed three landmark music education programs for which it expends nearly half a million dollars annually. The largest of these is Musical Explorers, as well as Swing Central Jazz and the Acoustic Music Seminar.
The festival will begin a national search for its next executive director as soon as possible.
“Just as Rob is going on to a new chapter and we wish him well, we’re going on to a new chapter,” Neises added. “This is our 30th anniversary. We are very optimistic. We’re going ahead full speed. We will conduct a national search for our new executive and artistic director. We’ll be using a boutique firm that specializes in cultural recruitment. That will proceed with all due speed.”
The 30th annual festival season runs from March 28 through April 13, 2019, and includes more than 100 performances throughout Savannah’s historic district. For more information, go to savannahmusicfestival.org.