Ed Harsh to Embark on New Endeavor
It’s in the nature of what we do that we trade the safety of the status quo for the exciting possibility of the future. New Music USA is much more than any one individual. As an institution, even as an idea, it has so much potential and so many ways in which it can move forward and grow in the world.
New Music USA is announcing today my decision to step down as president and CEO this fall. Leading New Music USA has truly been one of the peak experiences of my life, and I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the nearly eleven years I’ve been president (counting back to my taking over leadership of Meet The Composer in 2007, four years before its merger with the American Music Center). I’d like to take the opportunity here to add a little personal perspective on why I think this is a great moment of opportunity for New Music USA, and for me too.
New Music USA has reached a very high level of achievement and function. Its programs are serving its mission well and with innovation. There are a bunch of great indicators of its readiness for next steps. It’s financially stable, with an outstanding staff committed to the new music cause and a wise and supportive board. And it’s fortunate in having an extended collection of supporters and constituents who have proven time and again their belief in the organization’s work and who will continue to live that belief out.
So this is an excellent moment to transition to a new CEO to start the next chapter of the New Music USA story in a dynamic and fast-changing world. Yes, transitions to new leadership can feel uneasy and uncertain. Those feelings are familiar to anyone who deals in The New—artists, for instance! It’s in the nature of what we do that we trade the safety (illusory, by the way) of the status quo for the exciting possibility of the future. I’m eager to work with everyone in the New Music USA family to minimize the uneasiness and maximize the opportunity.
I think it’s worth making a general point here too, about the relationship of institutional to individual identity. That is, it’s important for the one not to get too closely mixed up with the other. New Music USA is much more than any one individual. As an institution, even as an idea, it has so much potential and so many ways in which it can move forward and grow in the world. I’d like to think the same is true of me, too.
So what’s next for New Music USA? Most importantly, during the transition we’ll continue delivering the same great assemblage of programs and services to our field as we have in the past. At the same time, we’re going to work positively and productively together toward the future, energized by the exciting potential of new leadership partnering with board and staff to carry the organization into the years ahead.
And what’s next for me? Well, after doing everything I can to support my board and staff colleagues throughout the transition, I’m going to embark on a couple of new adventures. For one, I’m going to write a book. Challenged by the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election and its potential meaning for artists in our culture, I’m going to examine Kurt Weill as a model and test case for the way individual and artistic values play out in artists’ decisions at times of complexity and crisis. I’m grateful to Kim Kowalke, president of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, for offering me an opportunity, concurrent with my personal writing project, to work as a member of the foundation’s staff to help advance the performance and visibility of Weill’s music around the world.
In writing this post, I want to take the opportunity as well to express my very real gratitude to all those who have served on the boards of Meet The Composer and New Music USA during my tenure. They have given me unflinching support and allowed me to do all that I was able in order to make both organizations the best and most effective they could be. Above all, I can hardly find words enough to honor my staff colleagues over the years. A more dedicated, talented, brilliant group of new music partisans you will never find anywhere. Everything we’ve done we’ve done together. They deserve all the gratitude and support imaginable from those who care about the new music cause.