After a considerable search, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra has hired Dan Kepl as its new general manager to shepherd its staff and orchestra into their 30th anniversary season.
Kepl, a well-known and respected figure in Santa Barbara music circles, is a gifted musician and a talented musical entrepreneur.
He is already on the job, as is the other new member of the SBCO management team, Rachel White Galvin, now director of artistic operations. Galvin, an Oklahoma native, is also a professional musician.
As general manager, Kepl “will serve as liaison between staff and the board of directors and will be directly responsible for the day-to-day administrative operations of the organization, implementing the long-term organizational, public relations and marketing goals of the orchestra. He will oversee all aspects of the concert season and outreach programs.”
Kepl first made his mark in the Santa Barbara musical community in 1965, when he was 17. In that year, he founded the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and served as the ensemble’s first music director/conductor. Kepl was the first conducting major at the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied under Lawrence Leighton Smith (music director of the Music Academy of the West from 1985-90).
During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Kepl was in Seattle, conducting the Seattle Festival Ballet and the Oregon Light Opera. For four years, from 1979-82, he sponsored summer residencies in Seattle by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. When he returned to Santa Barbara in 1982, he followed in the footsteps of Hector Berlioz (1803-69) and served, until 1992, as classical music critic for the Santa Barbara News-Press. In 2003, he founded the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival and kept it going — on an imaginary shoestring — though four summer seasons of American chamber music.
It was a commendable decision of the orchestra board to hire a professional musician as the ensemble’s general manager. Top-level management skills and world-class musical insight are seldom found in the same person, as they are in Kepl. For another, maestros tend to be jealous of their prerogatives and are likely to be uneasy by the presence of another conductor, with his own reputation, on their support staff. Fortunately, Heiichiro Ohyama is as rare a maestro as Kepl will prove as a manager.
It is the music that matters, after all, and Kepl has devoted his life to getting music to audience. The mission has not changed.
Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.