Christoph Ptack has been on the job as executive director of the Peninsula Music Festival (PMF) for a little more than a month, but already he has realized one of his jobs will be to increase the visibility of the PMF brand.
“I was delivering some February Fest flyers around Ephraim a week or two or ago,” he said. “I stopped into a little coffee shop and was talking with the gentleman behind the counter, who had been to one concert last summer and immediately confirmed what I’d heard and certainly what I’ve seen, and that is he had absolutely no idea the orchestra was of that quality.
“To find out that there was such a large number of people from world-class organizations that come together, and have been coming together for 66 years, to put together this experience for people who live here – for the tourist population and the region – he was just absolutely floored. It’s that same tagline that I keep hearing over and over again: ‘I had no idea that that existed here.’
“The challenge for the next chapter of the organization is to really focus on increasing the visibility of the brand and really getting people to understand what they have down the street. I really think that’s something that’s easy to accomplish. Everybody, from the board to other staff members, is really excited about taking that next step and supporting that as an initiative.”
Ptack, who served for more than a decade as artistic administrator of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, joins PMF in its 67th season, replacing former executive director Sharon Grutzmacher, who retired at the end of the 2018 season after 27 years in the position.
“Christoph is somebody I knew,” Grutzmacher said. “We’ve been in contact over the years. I actually made him aware the job was available,” adding that she felt she could step away confident that the organization was in good hands.
“After 27 years and having created the job, I thought it was important to step away. Things seem to be going quite well,” she said. “Everything they need is there. It is a strong organization, with a strong board of directors. I think going forward, Christoph will have put his own mark on it.”
In addition to his professional experience and a large Rolodex of musical connections, Ptack also brings some familiarity with Door County to the job.
“I’m happy to be here. I really find a lot of beauty and warmth in the community. It’s a very welcoming place. I’ve always felt comfortable here in the 15 years of vacationing that I’ve done,” he said.
“I had the pleasure of working at a high level of artistic excellence for a long time, so I know what’s good. I know what I like. I was really, really surprised constantly by what the festival is turning out, so when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t have been more excited.
“Following in the footsteps of Sharon, who gave so much of herself and her life, it’s certainly been an honor to follow the legacy of what she set. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful staff, the board of directors who are so committed to the festival and to assuring the next chapter lives on, which is why I’m here. I’m excited to do it and am honored to do it.”
Just as the February Festival was created as a way to increase awareness of the PMF brand, Ptack said he would like to see some more one-off concerts.
“Whether it’s bringing in Ashley Brown, the original Mary Poppins on Broadway – either up here at a nontraditional space or the Door Community Auditorium, or maybe down at the Meyer Theater in Green Bay – really bringing the brand to the people in the entire area,” he said.
“I think that will certainly help in making the brand accessible and helping people to understand the crown jewel they really have in the crown that is Door County.”