[Editor’s notes – This story has been updated. The musicians who spoke out during the series of town hall meetings did so while they were in roles representing the orchestra’s musicians.
– KHOL invited a representative from the GTMF Players’ Committee for an interview after recieving comments that challenged some of Todd’s statements. That representative declined the interview.]
How does cancel culture manifest in insular communities? Could the answer help explain a musician-led fiasco at Grand Teton Music Festival that threatened the whole operation?
In November, festival management terminated three of its longtime musicians. Such a move might not turn heads in a big city. But in Jackson Hole, it became the stuff of controversy, especially after some festival musicians spoke out.
They threatened they wouldn’t return unless the three musicians were reinstated. Then GTMF’s music director, Donald Runnicles, said he too wouldn’t come back. Some former board members also protested.
Festival President and CEO Andrew Palmer Todd said it’s not uncommon for the festival to terminate two to four musicians each year. Sometimes it’s for administrative reasons, sometimes musical. He cited personnel issues this time. (Editor’s note: Todd hosts a show on KHOL featuring GTMF orchestra performances. As the former executive director of Aspen Public Radio, he also sits on an advisory-only community board open to all residents that offers feedback on KHOL programs.)
But, musicians pushed back. In a press release, the GTMF Players’ Committee, which represents orchestra musicians, pointed to a series of town hall meetings. According to the press release, during those meetings the three musicians, who were in roles representing orchestra musicians, cited concerns with the festival’s direction. They worried it was focusing too heavily on one-off performances with guest artists.
For his part, Todd rejected that narrative. He told KHOL his work expanding GTMF’s programming “raised the profile of the entire festival while keeping a focus on the orchestra.”
The Players’ Committee wouldn’t back down. The group launched a petition that drew 1,893 signatures demanding the musicians’ reinstatement.
So the festival’s board of directors met to discuss. They decided to reinstate the musicians. However, the board did not give in to the musicians’ other demand. They wanted Todd removed from his position. With news that Todd would stay, the GTMF Players’ Committee again claimed most musicians would not return unless Todd was fired.
Amid those cries, Todd tendered his resignation last week. He will stay for the next few months to aid the transition when a new leader comes on.
While we have heard a lot from some of the festival’s longtime musicians, on social media and in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, we haven’t heard as much from Todd.
In a KHOL exclusive, Todd discussed what he thinks was missing from the conversation.