Phillips Oppenheim

Director, Kalamazoo, MI


Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and Awards Director

The Gilmore's mission is to promote and develop world-class keyboard musical experiences that inspire present and future artists and audiences


The Gilmore was established in 1989 by the Trustees of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to honor the memory of Irving Gilmore, a local businessman and philanthropist. Because of Mr. Gilmore's life-long passion for music and the piano, the Foundation's Trustees created one of the most unique and significant award programs for pianists anywhere in the world, the Gilmore Artist Award, and established a music festival that focuses on music for the keyboard. Nearly 30 years later, The Gilmore has earned an international reputation for excellence, and is recognized as a leading arts organization in Michigan. Each of the following programs support The Gilmore's mission:

GILMORE ARTIST AWARD: This Award recognizes extraordinary piano artistry with a monetary prize of $300,000 conferred every four years to an international pianist of any age and nationality. Often thought of as the music world's version of the MacArthur Foundation "genius grants," the Gilmore Artist Award is made through a non-competitive, confidential process. Since 1991, seven pianists have been recognized as Gilmore Artists. A new Gilmore Artist will be named in early 2018.

GILMORE YOUNG ARTIST AWARD: The Gilmore Young Artist Award recognizes the most promising of the new generation of U.S. pianists, age 22 and younger, and is presented every two years to two pianists. The nomination and selection process mirrors that of the Gilmore Artist Award. Each Gilmore Young Artist receives a $15,000 stipend to further his or her musical career and educational development, and up to $10,000 for the commissioning of a new work. Thirty-two pianists have been named Gilmore Young Artists since the Award's inception in 1991. Two new Gilmore Young Artists are expected to be announced in the fall of 2017.

GILMORE KEYBOARD FESTIVAL: Presented biennially over three weeks in April and May, the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival is internationally recognized as America's most prestigious piano music festival. Nearly 100 Festival events presented over three weeks in seven cities showcase the most notable and accomplished pianists and keyboard musicians in the world along with artists just emerging on the international stage. Festival events are presented in 12 separate venues in Kalamazoo, including the city's acoustical jewel, Chenery Auditorium. Festival events are also presented in nearby Grand Rapids, East Lansing, Vicksburg and Battle Creek. From classical to jazz in presentations from solo recital to musical theater, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival continually achieves acclaim for presenting music of the highest artistic caliber. The fourteenth Festival will be presented April 25 through May 12, 2018.

COMMISSIONS: The creation of new music for the keyboard is an important part of The Gilmore's overall mission. In addition to commissioning new works for the Gilmore Artist and Gilmore Young Artists as part of their Awards, nearly every biennial Festival includes the premiere of newly commissioned work. More than 50 works have been commissioned from internationally renowned composers, among them Oliver Knussen, Frederick Rzewski, Elliott Carter, Michel Legrand, Nico Muhly, Timo Andres, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau.

MUSIC EDUCATION: The Gilmore partners with universities, school systems and organizations to deliver year-round music education programs for youth and adults that not only develop basic keyboard skills, but also foster a lifelong appreciation of music. Programs include Gilmore Piano Labs that provide in-school piano and music lessons for over 300 youth; a weeklong summer piano camp; an annual KeysFest that provides master classes for 120 area piano students; and during each Festival, a collaboration with Western Michigan University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; Gilmore Family Concerts; pre-concert talks and a program that engages clients of area social service agencies in learning about and attending Festival concerts.

The Gilmore operates on a two-year budget of approximately $5 million and enjoys broad support from the West Michigan communities it serves. In addition to the bedrock of annual support from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, more than 40 businesses and corporations provide nearly $500,000 in sponsorships for each Gilmore Keyboard Festival. It is also supported by local foundations, hundreds of individuals, the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts and annual distributions from a growing $5.5 million endowment. The Gilmore has a permanent staff of 13 which doubles during the Festival and could not exist without the support of more than 300 volunteers. The Gilmore is governed by a dedicated 25-member Board of Trustees.


Kalamazoo blends energy and innovation with friendliness and a humble attitude. Hallmarks of the community are public, private and non-profit collaborations and a long tradition of transformative, yet quiet support from local philanthropists. With a city population of 76,000 and metropolitan statistical area population of 335,000, Kalamazoo is located just 35 miles from the shores of Lake Michigan, halfway between Chicago and Detroit. Among the renowned companies founded in Kalamazoo are Stryker Corporation, Upjohn Company (now Pfizer), Gibson Guitars, Checker Cab, and Bell's Brewery. Today, a wide variety of industries and businesses call Kalamazoo home, including major players in the biotech, medical device, and craft beer industries. Kalamazoo also boasts two nationally recognized healthcare systems, diverse and affordable housing, and award winning water and water reclamation systems.

FOUNDATION FOR EXCELLENCE: In 2016, the visionary Foundation for Excellence was conceived when two local philanthropists pledged $70 million over three years to the City of Kalamazoo to stabilize the budget, lower taxes and fund aspirational projects. Their goal is to build a $500 million endowment by the end of 2019 that will permanently fund these initiatives.

THE KALAMAZOO PROMISE: In the fall of 2005, a small group of anonymous donors interested in the economic strength and quality of life in the city of Kalamazoo made an amazing gift: every Kalamazoo Public School graduate is provided the opportunity to access post-secondary education in Michigan with a scholarship that covers up to 100% of tuition and mandatory fees.

HIGHER EDUCATION: With 24,000 students, an outstanding School of Music, and the Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, Western Michigan University is ranked among U.S. News and World Report's top national universities and one of only four public universities in the state to be named in the top tier. Kalamazoo College ranks among the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges and draws 1,450 students from 40 states and 34 countries. Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) is a two year junior college with approximately 10,000 students seeking certificates or associate degrees offered in more than 20 areas of study.

ARTS AND CULTURE: Home to more than 80 arts organizations and institutions, Kalamazoo County boasts a dynamic arts and culture scene that includes myriad events, classes, performances and festivals. The Gilmore benefits from important collaborations with a number of regional music-presenting organizations, among them the Western Michigan University School of Music, Fontana Chamber Arts, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and the Lansing, Battle Creek and Grand Rapids orchestras. These organizations and many others contribute to a thriving regional music scene.

The Gilmore's collaborations extend to other arts organizations as well. In 2015, The Gilmore formed a partnership with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and the Air Zoo to raise funds for the purchase and implementation of the Tessitura ticketing and CRM system. This same group, with the addition of several other local arts organizations, is now working to establish a digital arts magazine with a print component that will offer previews and reviews of cultural events that were formerly only covered by local news media.

RECREATION: Kalamazoo County features 83 lakes with public access, making the area not only lush and green, but also a haven for water sports enthusiasts. The Kal Haven Trail provides a safe and scenic 33-mile route for hikers and cyclists to travel from Kalamazoo to the shores of Lake Michigan, and there are more than two dozen golf courses within an hour of Kalamazoo. Farmers markets, orchards, antique shops and outdoor Festivals offer a variety of leisure time options for residents and visitors.


The Director of The Gilmore will be a creative, visionary and innovative leader who inspires and engages Board and staff, embodies the organization's commitment to excellence and serves as a visible and enthusiastic ambassador for the arts in Kalamazoo.

Reporting to the President of the Board, the Director serves as artistic director and chief executive and is responsible for The Gilmore's overall management including: artistic and educational programs and operations; financial and human resources; and future growth and development. The Director, working closely with dedicated Board members and staff, ensures The Gilmore's current and long-term financial health through a combination of creative and proactive fundraising and earned revenue pursuits.

The Director will ensure that The Gilmore is financially and operationally sustainable today and into the future, seek new ways to develop and engage audiences, and retain a first-rate staff and engaged Board in order to fulfill the Gilmore's mission to further the development of world-class keyboard musicians and composers.


Key responsibilities for the incoming Director include:

  • Provide overarching artistic and operational leadership at the highest level for the biennial Gilmore Festival, annual Rising Stars recital series, biennial Piano Masters concert series and year-round music education programs;
  • Serve as chief representative of the Gilmore Festival and Awards in the global music world, assuring that the reputation of both is maintained and enhanced worldwide among artists, artist managers, composers and presenters; burnish The Gilmore's tradition of excellence;
  • Nurture and invigorate The Gilmore's exceptionally loyal community, drawing in new generations and broader audiences from near and far; carefully evaluate The Gilmore's programming track record and bring a fresh perspective to developing high-quality, innovative and marketable programming which serves and attracts both new and existing constituencies and generates revenue;
  • Enhance and further develop The Gilmore's education and audience engagement efforts throughout the region;
  • Continue to build The Gilmore's brand, locally, nationally, and internationally, through traditional and digital platforms;
  • Develop collaborative relationships with members of The Gilmore Board and inspire them to invest their best ideas, efforts, resources and contacts; identify, recruit and engage new Board members;
  • Recruit and lead Artistic Advisory Committees of international scope to select recipients of the Gilmore Artist and Gilmore Young Artist Awards;
  • Mentor and nurture the careers of Gilmore Artists and Gilmore Young Artists;
  • Direct the commissioning of music involving the keyboard for the biennial Festival and the recipients of the Gilmore Artist and Gilmore Young Artist Awards;
  • Support and inspire areas of potential growth and work with the Board of Trustees to set the stage for next-level achievements, building on the goals identified in the 2015-2018 "Strategic Map;"
  • Build and steward relationships with the local donor community, especially the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation; proactively identify and cultivate new sources of support locally and nationally, if not internationally;
  • Supervise, recruit as needed, and retain a highly qualified and motivated professional staff; unify and empower the team; delegate and hold individuals accountable for specific and collective performance; maintain morale and provide direction;
  • Build relationships with other presenters and educational and cultural leaders in Southwest Michigan and beyond that may lead to beneficial partnerships for The Gilmore;
  • Establish a tone at the top that demonstrates and fosters high integrity and strong stewardship of The Gilmore's reputation and resources.


The Director will be an experienced artistic leader and administrator with a deep commitment to music broadly, and keyboard music specifically, and who will excite and generate support from current and potential audiences, artists, and donors. He or she will also ideally have or be:

  • Executive experience as a music presenter with a reputation for quality, excellence and innovation; a familiarity with presenting diverse musical programming, ranging from classical to contemporary; experience with and a commitment to music education;
  • Extensive contacts and relationships in the international music community of artists, artist managers, composers and presenters; experience, relationships, and gravitas needed to recruit and inspire effective members of the Artistic Advisory Committee;
  • Experience and knowledge needed to mentor and nurture the careers of Gilmore Artists and Gilmore Young Artists;
  • A proven record of sound financial, staff and operational management, including extensive experience negotiating contracts;
  • Strong interpersonal and leadership skills, with the ability to make decisions thoughtfully, thoroughly and decisively;
  • A team builder and collaborator with a successful record of engaging, partnering and building alliances with a wide range of stakeholders; willing to serve as a resource for the local arts community;
  • Demonstrated success as an enthusiastic and accomplished fundraiser with individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors; able to develop and maintain strong relationships with the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and other major donors;
  • A commitment to managing, mentoring, delegating and empowering a dedicated, loyal, and collegial staff;
  • The ability to attract and engage new and diverse audiences; creative marketing savvy; comfortable with technology and emerging digital platforms;
  • Experience energizing and engaging a board;
  • A good listener with excellent communication skills internally and externally;
  • A pragmatic risk taker with an entrepreneurial spirit; a track record of coalescing others around objectives and their successful implementation;
  • Committed to demonstrating and maintaining the highest ethical standards;
  • A sense of humor and humility.

Please send applications or nominations to Becky Klein and Mark Tarnacki at

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