Britt Festivals director leaves

In less than two years, Jim Fredericks staunched the financial bleeding and got the Northwest's oldest music festival back on its feet, boosting attendance and contributions.

But now the Britt Festivals' executive director is moving on to a new challenge with an international organization.

"I wasn't looking for a job, and I love living in Southern Oregon," Fredericks said Friday. "But this came under the category of a job I couldn't refuse."

Fredericks, who will continue living in Ashland, declined to name his new employer because his hiring hasn't been announced, but he characterized it as an organization in its early stages of growth.

"It will allow me to do exciting things in the world of technology," Fredericks said. "My role will be in building the organization and talent and manage a good piece of it with my skill set and background."

Britt's board president, Ken Wells, said it's hard to lose someone of Fredericks' caliber.

"He really set Britt on a solid foundation," Wells said. "We reduced the deficit in half each of the last two years, and we feel like we're on a pretty good footing."

Wells, who will relinquish his reins to Ken Trautman in a month, said the search for a new executive director will be easier than it was two years ago.

"We're confident we'll find someone and keep marching forward," Wells said. "Britt is such an attractive opportunity for people inclined toward leading an arts organization. I'm comfortable we'll find someone with the experience and passion we're looking for."

Britt's milestone 50th anniversary is next year.

"It will be a major celebration in the valley," Wells said. "We made a lot of changes to set us on the course for the next 50 years. The board and staff are rowing in the same direction, comfortable and helping each other. That's not always the case in nonprofit organizations."

Longtime Britt board member Jon Elliott said Fredericks was a rare talent and he fully expected him to be snatched away.

"I was flabbergasted he took the job because he had as many headaches in our tiny little job as somewhere five times as big," Elliott said. "We were delighted to have him and enjoyed it while we had him."

Even so, Elliott said Fredericks left at an optimal time for the organization because pop acts won't be booked until March and only a few classical deals are yet to be set.

Fredericks moved to the Rogue Valley from Fort Worth, Texas, prior to joining Britt in January 2010. He is credited with overseeing changes that strengthened its relationship with the community and re-engineering many of its operations, resulting in growing ticket sales and memberships.

Among the changes were increasing the minimum membership cost and eliminating members' vouchers for free shows, offering more reserved blankets, bringing in new food and beverage concessions, and expanding community and education programs. The recently completed 2011 season saw a 15 percent attendance gain over 2010.

Fredericks counted the addition of a new generation of fans and local showcase performers among the enhancements during his tenure.

"We're still trying to reach out to big foundations in the region and nationally, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, to recognize and work with us," he said. "We've taken steps in the evolution, building out the grounds that are under-developed, and there is still deferred maintenance. That will take a capital campaign to do that, and I'm confident we will in the next couple of years."

Fredericks emerged from a pool of 275 applicants to replace Rick Hood, who left in May 2009.

His previous job had been with the Van Cliburn Foundation, sponsor of the prestigious Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Texas, where he developed a strategic plan for the nonprofit foundation. Prior to that he had been a senior executive with Nike, Radio Shack and Coors Brewing.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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