Savannah Music Festival

Executive Director, Savannah, GA


The Savannah Music Festival 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.

Savannah Music Festival (SMF) is recognized as one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world. Now in its 33rd season, the internationally acclaimed organization brings high-quality artists from around the world to perform in Savannah's oak-lined 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.

SMF is Georgia's largest musical arts event presenting a diverse selection of classical, jazz, American, and international roots music. The 17-day festival, typically presented in late March/April each spring, features more than 80 performances including commissioned works, original productions, cross-genre collaborations, and free artistic lectures and Q&As. Performances are staged at venues throughout Savannah, but particularly within the city's Historic Landmark District including historic sites and cultural institutions, local houses of worship, and traditional state-of-the-art performance spaces, such as the 2,500-seat Johnny Mercer Theatre, The Charles H. Morris Center, SMF's premier club-style venue, Lucas Theatre for the Arts, with seating for over 1,200 patrons, and Savannah College of Art and Design's Trustees Theater and the Trustees' Garden.

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 the region. Developed in partnership with Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, Musical Explorers is a comprehensive program reaching nearly 11,000 K-2 students and more than 300 teachers, which connects elementary students to diverse musical communities whether they are learning in person or online. A free program, Musical Explorers builds basic music skills as students learn songs from different cultures and reflect on their own communities. Exciting semester-ending concerts allow students to meet the professional musicians that have guided them on their musical journeys.

SMF Jazz Academy is a year-long, after-school jazz program that aims to empower the whole student by instilling lifelong skills of academic, social, and musical achievement. SMF Jazz Academy is completely free to all Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) students in grades five through 12 and open to all music levels. Unique in Savannah and the region, the Academy is designed to fill a gap in local music education programs.

SMF records festival performances for distribution on Savannah Music Festival LIVE, a nationally broadcast public radio series that has been licensed by over 100 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.

With its performances and education programming, SMF serves more than 40,000 music enthusiasts annually. In 2019, SMF attracted patrons from more than 40 states. While 60 percent of festival patrons who attend are from Savannah and the surrounding area, 40 percent of festival patrons visit the festival from out of town. SMF contributes approximately $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 is part of a rich and diverse cultural community which includes the 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.

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. SMF's anticipated budget for fiscal year 2022 is $3.5 million.


The Executive Director will provide leadership, vision, and financial stability for SMF, and serve as the festival's chief administrative officer. Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will be responsible and accountable for SMF's strategic direction, operations and general management, including the development, finance, planning, and human resources functions, leading to the organization's future growth and long-range sustainability.

Under a shared and equal co-leadership structure, the Executive Director will work in tandem with SMF's Artistic Director, and together, maintain an environment that fosters creativity and allows artists to do their best work. A supportive and collaborative partner, the Executive Director will provide sound fiscal guidance, support and planning, and ensure that operational and financial resources are in place to help realize the festival's creative and strategic aspirations. Additionally, this person will give priority to enhancing SMF's brand, marketing, and audience engagement strategies, while balancing it's artistic, educational, and programmatic ambitions.

The Executive Director will take a lead role in fundraising and actively pursue philanthropic support from individuals, businesses and corporations, local and national foundations, and government agencies, and ensure excellent stewardship of all gifts. Additionally, this person will be the primary spokesperson and visible representative of SMF throughout the community, and an active and full participant in the life of Savannah and the Lowcountry.

The Executive Director will foster a creative and collaborative culture internally, 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.


The Executive Director will embrace the Savannah Music Festival's legacy and culture, and have the following priorities:

  • Lead SMF in its triennial review and implementation of its strategic planning; refine organizational goals and objectives consistent with its mission and values; balance earned and contributed revenue; ensure that organizational policies, scheduling, systems, controls, and procedures are in place, adhered to, and regularly reviewed for effectiveness;

  • Direct and provide leadership to SMF's Director of Development and the development team; cultivate new and existing donors 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;

  • Oversee the effective use of human, financial, and technological resources; guide financial planning, including budget development, monitoring, and reporting; review and manage contracts, 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;

  • In collaboration with the Artistic Director and his team, oversee SMF's marketing and brand; enhance its visibility; purposefully broaden and diversify the festival's audience base through intentional and targeted outreach, education, and programming; raise awareness through traditional and digital platforms; strengthen institutional messaging, pricing analysis, and profitability;

  • Gain the support of SMF's engaged Board; communicate and establish strong working relationships and find ways to encourage the Board's best efforts; keep Board members well informed and up to date on the festival's operations and fiscal standing; support Board members in their efforts to be proactive in fundraising activities;
  • Help lead and encourage SMF's ongoing work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and access; support the ongoing dialogue and need for meaningful action plans; actively participate in and encourage behaviors among staff members that exemplify respect;

  • Develop collaborative working relationships with key members of the local civic, business, and cultural communities in Savannah and the region.


The Executive Director will have the temperament, creativity, and drive necessary to affect institutional growth and change. Additionally, this person will be or have:

  • Demonstrated success in senior management leadership in presenting music, ideally with festival experience; knowledge of, interest, and engagement with a range of music genres; a proven collaborator with a broad and current network; committed to education and developing audiences for both traditional and challenging work;

  • An enthusiastic and accomplished fundraiser with individuals, foundations, government, and corporate sponsors, with the ability to develop and execute a development plan and connect with untapped philanthropic resources, identify potential partnerships, engage donors, and build constituency and support;

  • The ability to coalesce others around a vision for SMF, its goals, and their successful achievement; financial acumen, with the ability to oversee and deliver a balanced budget; business acumen, a pragmatic risk taker with the ability to be decisive, make tough decisions, and bring clarity to SMF's plans and initiatives;

  • Demonstrated commitment to the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to the success of SMF; as well as an understanding of how these values contribute to the strength and sustainability of the festival, SMF staff, Board members, volunteers, and the entire community;

  • A record of success in directing and working closely with a small, yet engaged and committed staff; able to set goals and expectations and then delegate; a commitment to transparency and accountability for the end product with both Board and staff;

  • An articulate and inspiring speaker, able to communicate clearly and persuasively, both in writing and verbally; comfort with both formal and extemporaneous presentations to a variety of audiences; experience in a range of communication skills, including digital media, social media, and public relations;
  • Strong organizational skills with proven ability to focus, prioritize, and execute; with the ability to manage financial operations and programs in a fiscally sustainable way;

  • A bachelor's degree, and equivalent professional experience in nonprofit arts administration;

The Executive Director should also have or be:

  • A team player with an engaging personality and professional demeanor; a compelling public presence and an entrepreneurial spirit; a track record of coalescing others around objectives and their successful implementation;

  • Warm, engaging, collaborative, and strong interpersonal and leadership skills; demonstration of cultural competency that encourages healthy relationships with all stakeholders;

  • Eager to make Savannah home and become an engaged and visible presence in the community and its social scene; able to embrace, champion, and relate to a diverse constituency.

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.

Applications, nominations, and contact information should be sent to Mark Tarnacki at: SMF@PhillipsOppenheim.com.

Savannah Music Festival in the Age of COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, SMF made significant changes to ensure operational stability, including a 42 percent overhead reduction that has continued through FY21. 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. In addition to reducing costs, SMF has been proactive with revenue streams to meet financial obligations and build a cash reserve. Through consistent and transparent communication, SMF is keeping individual donors and other supporters informed on the status of the organization and asks for their continued support.