On Wednesday night, Kristen Phillips was on her way to play a Bach Prelude from Book II of the Well Tempered Clavier in a workshop at the Hartt School. Aside from the music, she was rehearsing telling her managers and staff at Lincoln Financial Services about her new job as executive director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
"I had to concentrate," said the financial executive about her recital. "I had a lot to think about."
Phillips, 40, is fulfilling a lifelong dream to run a nonprofit business. In her new job, which she will begin by April 21, she'll be taking care of the business balance sheet so the musicians can pay full attention to their sheet music.
Phillips joined Lincoln in 2002, doing strategic planning and product development in life insurance and annuities. She previously worked as a vice president with AIG/American General in Houston, and followed her old boss to Connecticut.
"I always knew my second career would be in the nonprofit world," Phillips said. "I just thought it would be later."
She replaces Charles H. Owens, who left in October to become president and CEO of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra after eight years with the HSO. She joined the HSO board in 2004.
The appointment of Phillips, whose starting salary is $135,000 a year in her new job, was approved by the HSO board Wednesday afternoon.
Kenneth Jacobson, president of the HSO board, has been acting executive director since Owens left.
Jacobson and the board hired consultant Tom Morris last fall to help the HSO find a way out of its $1.3 million deficit. Morris, former executive director of the Cleveland Symphony and general manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, defined ways that the HSO could cut costs and get on a more stable financial path.
"We're down to about $500,000," says Jacobson about the deficit. "We'll be launching a capital campaign soon."
The annual budget for the HSO is $6.6 million for the fiscal year ending May 31 and will go down to $6 million for the year ending May 31, 2009.
Phillips was aware that the HSO would be looking to replace Owens.
"The thought that I would be right for the job didn't strike me immediately," she said. "But Ken talked to me at Rick Coffey's 60th birthday party in January about the changes the organization was making." Richard Coffey is director of Concora, a professional singing group, and Hartford Chorale, a volunteer singing group which counts Phillips as a participant and board member.
The original plan was to do a nationwide search, "but we also thought about looking for local talent," Jacobson said, once Morris helped the group find a way for more secure financial ground.
Phillips has a master's degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University.
She is married to Matt Schreck, an attorney. They live in West Hartford, where she practices on a rebuilt 1911 Steinway grand piano.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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