The true and sometimes hateful soul of Aspen was left bare this week when Aspen Music Festival president and CEO Alan Fletcher resigned suddenly after a series of disputes over everything from faculty layoffs to his inability to hug Bruce Berger every time he saw him outside the Benedict Music Tent.
Why do I see this as Aspen at its worst? Because Fletcher, though shy and decidedly not warm and fuzzy, was the best thing to happen to the Music Fest since the late Robert Harth. He took an organization rent asunder by the departure of CEO Don Roth and lent it stability and grace–not to mention his artistic pedigree born of his skill as a contemporary composer. On top of that he was a terrific writer with much to say about music and its relationship to the world. He will be terribly missed, and I predict a time when patrons will look back on letting him go as a huge mistake.
In the interests of transparency, I should point out that I am not unbiased: not only is my wife in the PR department at the Festival, but the organization has also been a sponsor of my “Con Games” radio show and a customer of Post Time Media. I will use my connections on the inside to tell you only this: there were buckets of tears shed by the staff when the news came out that Fletcher was leaving. The loyalty came because he was direct, emphatic, and decisive. After the divisive Roth era, Fletcher’s willingness to make difficult decisions led to far more loyalty than outsiders might have expected.
So what were his sins of ommission and commission. In the midst of a miserable economy he trimmed the faculty and shortened the season by one week to cut costs and he did so with the full understanding and endorsement of Maestro David Zinman and the board of directors. Yet he was eviscerated for these eminently logical steps because Aspen, sick to its soul, cannot stand to change even when reality comes knocking. It was far too easy for the Jon Buschs and Bruce Bergers of the world to moan and groan because somehow their perfect world had to admit to an imperfect economic environment. The biggest bleats came from some of the faculty members who did the least work. It should also be pointed out that Fletcher and the entire staff took pay cuts that took effect, ironically, the very week he stepped down. Why don’t they criticize him for that while they’re at it. And don’t forget the tens of millions of dollars he raised for the new Cattle Creek Campus, and the many times he fended off the Mayor and City Councilors bent on political blackmail.
How idotic can you get?
What was Alan Fletcher’s other great sin? Oh right–he refused to greet certain patrons with the requisite kiss-ass ablutions. Let me point out the obvious: tens of thousands of people show up at the Music Festival’s concerts. To expect the CEO to pick some self-important prick out of the masses for stroking is absurd beyond measure. I knew Alan because he was on my radio show, but I never expected to glean a hello from him at a concert because he was far too busy running the show. To think otherwise borders on the delusional.
Indeed: the cold mean heart of Aspen chased Alan Fletcher out of town. As so often happens here, a few miniscule microscopic people with no purchase on anything call the shots because they bleat the loudest. To truly love what just went down in Aspen you would have you life wearing earplugs that render you deaf.