Janelle McCoy, the controversial executive director of the Oregon Bach Festival at the University of Oregon, is to be laid off and her job eliminated at the end of this summer’s fest, it was announced Friday afternoon.
The announcement, emailed to UO faculty and signed by Sabrina Madison-Cannon, the dean of the School of Music and Dance, says McCoy’s job, with its $170,000 annual salary, is to be cut in order for OBF to meet a $250,000 budget cut imposed by the university.
In 2017 McCoy led the move to fire OBF Artistic Director Matthew Halls, a popular and charismatic British musician and scholar who had been brought in to succeed founding Artistic Director Helmuth Rilling. Halls’ dismissal drew unflattering news coverage around the world for the UO.
The university has never clearly explained the basis for Halls’ firing, but a story in Eugene Weekly made it clear that he and McCoy did not get along in the months leading up to his dismissal. Because Halls was hired as an independent contractor to lead OBF he had little or no recourse when he was let go.
Madison-Cannon is away from her office and unavailable for comment, according to her email autoresponse. We’ve also reached out to McCoy and will update this post with any comment.
This year’s festival opens for a three-week run June 28 and runs through July 13.
Here is the dean’s email:
I wanted to be the first to share with you the news that we’ve made the difficult decision to eliminate the executive director position at Oregon Bach Festival, due to university-wide budget reductions that were announced earlier this year.
As many of you know, university administrators asked the School of Music and Dance to reduce OBF’s budget by $250,000 (which amounts to around 9 percent of the festival’s overall budget for 2019), as part of a campus-wide initiative to trim $12 million in total university costs.
As dean, I was faced with a tough choice. I carefully weighed our options, and ultimately arrived at the conclusion that this was a necessary step in order for us to preserve as many critical OBF staff positions as possible and ensure the festival’s ongoing success.
We are saddened that Janelle McCoy will be leaving, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of her accomplishments as executive director. Since she started at the university, Janelle has been a prudent fiscal manager of the festival. Prior to her first year, OBF was operating with a deficit. The festival broke even within six months of her arrival, and has posted surpluses of up to six figures ever since. Cash reserves more than doubled during her tenure to over $1 million, and the festival’s total endowments grew to $15.6 million. Under her leadership, the 2018 Oregon Bach Festival featured eight sell-out concerts, and reached its yearly ticket sale revenue goal 10 days before opening night.
Janelle attracted musicians and projects to the festival that highlighted inclusion and fostered engagement across campus and the community. Her world premiere 2019 Bach in Motion collaboration between OBF, the University of Oregon Department of Dance and non-profit DanceAbility International was among the first projects to receive a grant from the UO Department of Equity and Inclusion, as well as state and national funding. Her 2018 commission from composer Richard Danielpour went on to be performed in Los Angeles and recorded by the Buffalo Philharmonic. Projects that Janelle has already planned for OBF’s 50th anniversary season in 2020 include a residency with Conspirare (Considering Matthew Shepard) and a commission by Paola Prestini (Hindsight), which will engage the community in discussions about hate crimes and the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women equal voting rights.
We are grateful to Janelle for her service, and thankful for the many memorable seasons of music that she played an important part in helping to create. I’m glad that she has agreed to stay on in her role throughout the 2019 festival. And we hope that you will join us next week, as we raise the curtain on another exciting season, and bid Janelle a fond farewell as a community united by our love of music.
Phyllis and Andrew Berwick Dean and Professor of Dance