Looking Back with the Outgoing Board Chairman

On June 30, Harold Yellin wrapped up a very successful two-year term as Chairman of the SMF Board of Directors. We checked with Harold on July 1 to seek some reflection on his tenure at the helm of the SMF Board, and here are some of his comments:

When and why did you develop an interest in SMF?

That’s a tough question to answer. I moved back to Savannah in 1982, so I was here when the festival first took root in Savannah and I was here when Rob Gibson (SMF Executive and Artistic Director) arrived in 2002. Still, my practice and my family kept me busy and the SMF was just one of those organizations that I knew was doing great things in Savannah, but I did not have time to enjoy. I cannot point to any one concert or any one event, but about 7 years ago, Peggy and I started attending concerts and we were hooked. I cannot imagine Savannah without its music festival.

What have been some of your musical highlights over the years?

There are so many. I loved the Mariza concert from several years ago, and I have heard many other concertgoers who still rave about that concert. The Roby Lakatos Ensemble was amazing. I never tire hearing any concert with Daniel Hope, Marcus Roberts or Béla Fleck. In fact, the concert with Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn may have been one of my favorite concerts this year. On one hand, I loved listening to Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and on the other hand, listening to Chris Thile play solo was extraordinary. Of course, each year there is always a new group or artist that just leaves you speechless. There are way too many to name, but I do love Ruthie Foster, Lake Street Dive, Cherryholmes and this year, Lau was off the charts. This question is just not fair–I’ll stop, but I could go on for a few more pages.

How have the last two years been different from other board tenures and leadership positions that you’ve held in Savannah?

This organization is the product of an incredible number of past and present board members, donors and volunteers who believed that our organization could be and should be a world class musical event. We have also benefited from having Rob Gibson at the helm of the Savannah Music Festival for the last twelve years. Every year, Rob brings extraordinary music to our community. Very few festivals in the world can deliver the diversity of music that we present in a city as beautiful as ours. So, maybe that’s our formula for success: people who believe in our mission; an Executive and Artistic Director who consistently delivers world class music; and a beautiful city that serves as host for our festival. The Savannah Music Festival is one of my favorite non-profit organizations in Savannah. It has great leadership, it has a great staff of dedicated professionals, it has a great board of directors, and it remains fiscally responsible. At the risk of sounding corny, I genuinely believe this organization makes Savannah a better place to live.

How do you envision the organization’s future?

Rob Gibson preaches that we need to be recognized as an institution and I could not agree more with Rob. In the next 25 years, I want people to think of our festival in the same way that people think of Spoleto or the Monterey Jazz Festival. I want our festival to be part of the cultural fabric of Savannah. When you think of Savannah, I want you to also think of the Savannah Music Festival.


A Word from Incoming Board Chairman Ron Whitaker

Susan and I became infatuated with the Savannah Music Festival nearly ten years ago and have purchased festival passes every year since. This has introduced us to numerous music genres that we had not yet experienced, nor appreciated.

I am now honored and humbled to follow several great Chairpersons and to work with the finest staff, leadership and board in American musical arts.

For more information, see a listing of all of SMF’s staff here