Executive Director



The Organization
The Savannah Music Festival (SMF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting world-class celebrations of the musical arts by creating timeless and adventurous productions that stimulate arts education, foster economic growth, and unite artists and audiences in Savannah.

SMF started as Savannah OnStage International Arts Festival in 1989 with the vision of bringing high-quality artists from around the world to perform in Savannah’s Historic District. The organization operates year-round to plan and produce an annual multi-day, multi-venue music festival, off-season concerts, broadcast programs and free music education programming focused on youth.

The annual springtime festival presents a diverse selection of music genres, including classical, jazz, American, and international roots music. The festival features original productions, cross-genre collaborations, free artistic lectures and Q&As, and commissioned works that are staged at various venues throughout Savannah.

With its performances and education programming, SMF serves annually, on average, more than 40,000 music enthusiasts from many backgrounds, locations, and age ranges. In 2019, SMF attracted patrons from more than 40 states. While 60% of festival patrons attend from the Savannah and Hilton Head Island / Bluffton / Beaufort MSAs, 40% of festival patrons visit the festival from out of town. In 2019, SMF contributed $10.05 million in direct spending to the Savannah economy, with $7.65 million in visitor spending and an estimated $852,344 in state and local sales and bed tax revenue.

SMF records festival performances for distribution on Savannah Music Festival LIVE. SMF LIVE is a nationally broadcast public radio series of SMF concerts that has been licensed by over one hundred stations, including WNYC/WQXR and others through PRX (Public Radio Exchange), as well as all 19 Georgia Public Broadcasting stations. SMF also contributes concert recordings to American Public Media and NPR Music. 

SMF’s local education programs, Musical Explorers and SMF Jazz Academy, serve the Savannah community, reaching students and teachers at more than 50 public, private, and home schools in urban and rural settings across Chatham, Effingham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh (GA), Beaufort, and Jasper (SC) counties. On average, more than 80% of participants attend Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools (SCCPSS).

Developed in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Musical Explorers (ME) is a comprehensive program reaching nearly 11,000 K-2 students and more than 300 teachers annually at schools throughout the greater Savannah area. The onset of COVID-19 has only reinforced the necessity of this program, as teachers rely on the program’s digital curriculum and resources during remote teaching.

In January 2020, in response to feedback from educators, administrators, and artists, SMF launched SMF Jazz Academy (SMFJA), a free, intensive, and progressive after-school jazz education program for students grades 5 and up. Unique in Savannah and the region, SMFJA is designed to fill a gap in local music education programs and engage neighborhoods and audiences underserved by SMF. SMFJA aims to lead positive change in Savannah by providing equal access to exceptional music education in a safe and accepting learning environment for child development.

SMF is governed by a 30-member board of directors, with a full-time staff of nine; during a typical festival season, the organization expands to include about 80 contracted staff and hundreds of volunteers. In response to COVID-19, SMF made significant changes to ensure operational stability, including a 42% overhead reduction that has continued through FY21. Additionally, SMF reviews and regularly updates a range of financial scenarios based on possible outcomes. In addition to reducing costs, SMF has been proactive with revenue streams to meet financial obligations and build a cash reserve. During this period, the organization secured sizable resiliency grants and ran a successful campaign, SMF In Unison, asking patrons from the canceled 2020 festival to donate their tickets back to the organization. SMF also enacted a plan to keep individual donors and other supporters informed on the status of the organization and ask for their continued support. The plan focuses on consistent and transparent communication with SMF board members, donors, and patrons. While SMF’s annual budget has been $3.5 million on average, the organization’s approved fiscal year 2021 budget is $2.6 million.

The Community
Savannah, Georgia, founded in 1733, is Georgia’s oldest city and the state’s third largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The city’s Historic District, located on the south bank of the Savannah River and known for its live oaks draped in Spanish moss, is easily walkable thanks to a gridlike pattern of streets and squares designed by founder James Oglethorpe. History, architecture, growing dining options, and access to natural beauty are some of the many reasons residents call Savannah home.

Located on the ancestral lands of the Yamassee and Muscogee (Creek) indigenous tribes, Savannah is now a majority Black city (53.9%) with a population of 144,694 (2019 U.S. Census estimate), with its MSA approaching 400,000 residents. The city’s growth has expanded to the midtown Victorian District, eastside islands (including Tybee Island), Southside, and fast-growing areas west of Savannah, such as Pooler.

Major area industries include the Port of Savannah, manufacturing (Gulfstream Aerospace, JCB), the military (Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart), and tourism. Tourism in Savannah grew to record levels in 2019, welcoming almost 15 million visitors for the year and generating $3.1 billion in visitor spending. Cultural institutions include Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra, Savannah VOICE Festival, Savannah Jazz Festival, Savannah Stopover Music Festival, American Traditions Competition, Telfair Museums, Savannah Book Festival, among many other museums, galleries, and organizations.

The Position
Reports to: Board of Directors
Key Partnerships: Artistic Director (AD), equal co-leadership position; Managing Director (MD)

The Executive Director (ED) is the chief administrative officer of SMF and provides leadership so SMF can realize its vision, fulfill its mission, and achieve its goals for artistic success, financial stability, and community engagement. The Executive Director is responsible and accountable for major aspects of SMF’s operations, including development, financial management, strategic planning, and human resources, leading to the organization’s future growth and sustainability.

The Executive Director takes a leadership role in fundraising, providing direction and support to the fundraising efforts of the Board. The ED actively pursues philanthropic support from individuals, businesses and corporations, local and national foundations, and government agencies, and ensures excellent stewardship of all gifts.

The Executive Director works in partnership with the Artistic Director (AD) and Managing Director (MD) to create an annual festival as well as other programs and events throughout the year that allow SMF to accomplish its mission. Together, they maintain an environment that fosters creativity and allows artists to do their best work. The ED will lead, motivate, and support SMF staff, board of directors and volunteers in a manner that is inclusive and respectful while simultaneously developing realistic and achievable goals and objectives.

Together with the Artistic Director, the Executive Director is the spokesperson and visible representative of SMF throughout the community and the state as well with national professional organizations. The ED is an active and full participant in the life of Savannah and the Lowcountry.


Vision, Strategy, and Leadership

  • Lead the organization in review and implementation of three-year strategic planning.
  • Refine organizational goals and objectives consistent with the mission and values of SMF.
  • Ensure that organizational policies, scheduling, systems, controls, and procedures are in place, adhered to, and regularly reviewed for effectiveness.
  • In collaboration with the CFO, provide clear and consistent financial reporting to the SMF Board.
  • In collaboration with AD, oversee marketing strategy, community engagement, institutional messaging, pricing analysis, and profitability.
  • Maintain a strong, positive working relationship with SMF team, Board, and community.
  • Advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in the organization both internally and externally; actively participate in and encourage behaviors among staff members that exemplify respect; identify and interrupt microaggressions and other behaviors that hinder the organization’s DEI and anti-racism efforts; build diversity among Board, staff and other key stakeholders.
  • Develop a collaborative organizational culture that supports cohesive, creative, and productive relationships with strategic partners.

Development, Fundraising, and Financial Support

  • Direct SMF’s fundraising efforts and provide organizational leadership in all aspects of development, in partnership with the Development team.
  • Supervise all fundraising activities, including the monitoring and reporting of a detailed development plan and annual fundraising calendar; research and submission of all grant proposals and appeals; management of donor recognition activities; and related reporting.
  • Cultivate new and existing donors for ongoing support while seeking new prospects to ensure a robust and diversified funding base; develop and maintain relationships with foundations, corporations, government funding agencies, and other philanthropic supporters.
  • Research funding sources and trends, with foresight, to help position SMF ahead of major funding changes or trends.
  • Monitor all donor information; present statistical analysis to Board and senior leadership.
  • Develop and implement a stewardship program aimed at cultivating deeper ties with existing donors and new supporters; build community trust related to financial security.
  • Supervise and mentor the development team and periodic interns.

Human, Financial, and Technological Management

  • Oversee the effective use of human, financial, and technological resources needed to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Along with the CFO, guide financial planning, including budget development, monitoring, and reporting; contract reviews and management; audit and investments; and other financial management areas as needed.
  • Ensure that SMF’s technological infrastructure meets the needs of its internal and external constituents.

Board Development and Governance

  • Communicate and establish a strong working relationship with the Board, encouraging all members to be active participants and organizational ambassadors throughout the community.
  • Engage with board members to implement best practices, structures, and systems.
  • Partner with the Board to ensure strong fiscal health and effective governance.
  • Engage board members across the development process to be proactive in fundraising activities.
  • Work with the Board across succession planning.


The Executive Director will have a deep commitment to the performing arts and an appreciation for their value to the community. Key competencies include:


  • A proven commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, as well as an understanding of how these values contribute to the sustainability of the organization.
  • A proven collaborator with a broad and current network and interest in and experience with a range of music genres.
  • An appetite for and prior success with collaborations and partnerships.
  • A positive, entrepreneurial spirit; a track record of coalescing others around objectives and their successful implementation.
  • Committed to education and developing audiences for both traditional and challenging work; rewarded by the successes of local community engagement and connection as well as national/international critical recognition.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills:

  • Warm, engaging, and an enthusiastic and accomplished fundraiser and relationship builder.
  • Strong interpersonal and leadership skills; decisive, confident, humane.
  • Highly-developed verbal and written communication skills, including conflict resolution in high-stress environments.
  • Ability to work with those of different cultural backgrounds and perspectives, and demonstration of cultural competency that encourages healthy relationships with all stakeholders.
  • Creative marketing savvy; comfortable with technology and digital platforms.

Organizing and Time Management:

  • Strong organizational skills with proven ability to focus, prioritize, and execute.
  • Ability to manage financial operations and programs in a fiscally sustainable way.

The Executive Director should be eager to make Savannah their home and become an engaged and visible presence in the community and its social scene. SMF is committed to being a home for a wide range of artists, audiences, and ideas. As such, the Executive Director must embrace, champion, and relate to a diverse constituency.

Qualified applicants should have a bachelor’s degree, graduate degree preferred, or equivalent professional experience in nonprofit arts administration. A minimum of seven to ten years of demonstrated success in senior management leadership in the arts, music, or creative industries is required. Leading candidates will also have highly-developed skills in finance, development, relationship management, and strategic planning. Candidates should be knowledgeable about the direction of the music industry today and about the new opportunities occasioned by the pandemic over the last year.



Benefits package for the full-time, exempt position includes paid time off, and employer contribution to medical, dental, and vision care, life, short-term, and long-term disability insurance, simple IRA plan, and parking.

Savannah Music Festival is an equal opportunity employer. All aspects of employment including the decision to hire, promote, discipline, or discharge, will be based on merit, competence, performance, and business needs. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, marital status, age, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical​​​ condition, pregnancy, genetic information, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or ​expression, veteran status, or any other status protected under federal, state, or local law.



Submit resume and cover letter to edsearch@savannahmusicfestival.org.