BFM Board of Directors Approves Plan to Choose New Artistic Director

Successor to Founder Michael Palmer to Lead Debut Season in 2023

Search Committee Named, Will Begin Work May 2020

For immediate release: Bellingham, WA.– The BFM Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve a plan to choose a successor to founder Michael Palmer at its regular meeting, April 15, 2020.

The plan lays out a three year timetable that includes a gala farewell season for Palmer in 2021; a 2022 audition season during which as many as five finalists will rehearse and perform a single program and meet with the BFM family; and the new Artistic Director’s debut season in 2023. In 2024 and beyond, Palmer will be accorded laureate status and all that title entails.

Also approved by the Board was the creation of the Search Committee, which will begin its work in May 2020. The group is composed of members of the BFM orchestra, other musicians and music industry professionals, board members, donors, community members, and WWU family. They will have full authority to conduct the search; to draft the conductor profile; screen the applicants through interviews, videotapes, recommendations, and in person listening; and make final recommendation to the board.

The following have agreed to serve:
Erika Block, Ellen Pfeifer, Daniel Feller, Audrey Kelley, and BFM Orchestra Principal musicians Christina Smith, Steven Thomas, Charles Butler. Board vice-chair, Sherry Nelson, will serve in an ex officio capacity.

Although the Search Committee will have the authority to precisely specify the qualifications of the new Artistic Director, the Board decision stressed the importance of choosing a musician of outstanding quality. “The BFM Orchestra is composed of outstanding musicians from across North America and are accustomed to playing under the finest conductors,” said Board Chair Barry Hembree. “Our successor should be selected from candidates within this echelon, those who are gifted, experienced, and well positioned in the field. The candidate list should also be limited to conductors with current U.S. resident status.”

To maximize time and obtain an optimal candidate list, the Search Committee is directed to conduct a private search rather than a broadcast search, according to the approved plan. It should rely on BFM musicians’ and others’ familiarity with the field and their recommendations.

The Board also approved a draft budget compiled by Treasurer Mary Pat Thuma that allocates funds to cover the costs of the search.

The search process will necessarily rely heavily on the input of the Festival Orchestra musicians, Hembree emphasized. “We want them to be excited, energized, and inspired by the new leader on the podium which, in turn, will excite, energize and inspire our audiences.” The selection process will be conducted in as public and transparent a way as possible, Hembree continued, with the hope that the public will be fascinated and engaged in the search.