The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education Q&A: Richard Mumford retires today as the Concert Manager and Director of Public Relations at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. He talks about his duties and his future plans.

August 10, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

You may not know him by sight, but chances are almost certain that if you attend concerts in Mills Hall (below) or other concert venues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, you have seen Richard  “Rick” Mumford.

For the past 13 years, Mumford has been the Concert Manager and Director of Public Relations for the school, where more than 300 concerts and events are presented each season.

Mumford recently spoke via email to The Ear about his duties and his plans for the future.

When and why are you retiring, and what are your future plans?

I’m retiring on Friday, August 10.  I’ve held this position for 13 years — longer than any other in my career.  It seemed like the right time to take a breather for a few months or more and decide what I’d like to do next.

In the meantime, I expect I’ll be playing the organ from time to time (my previous and sometimes concurrent vocation), taking advantage of the freedom to travel a bit more and pursuing other activities at home and in town.

What should the public know about what your duties involved?

I’m a generalist at heart, and this position tested that calling to the utmost!  No two days were alike, which made it more interesting.

I handled communications for the school with the public, the media, campus offices, and alumni; was the point of contact for guest artists, once they had been invited by a faculty member; and oversaw the production of brochures, advertisements, the alumni magazine and all printed programs for the Faculty Concert Series and Guest Artist Series.

I worked closely with other staff at the school and related departments in my capacity as concert manager.  And I worked with affiliated groups such as Opera Props and the School of Music Alumni Association and collaborated with the Wisconsin Alumni Association, UW Foundation, University Communications and UW Arts Institute.

What was the best or most enjoyable part of your job?

I enjoy working with designers and others on publication projects.  I like communicating with the guest artists that are scheduled to perform, to try to give them the assurance that, in spite of being part of a huge campus, the school wants them to be pleased with logistical and promotional arrangements.

I have been enormously privileged to have a long succession of highly capable and motivated graduate students to assist the concert office in its day-to-day operations.

And of course, there’s the music—to be able to hear world-class musicians (the faculty) and the excellent student ensembles in concert is a joy. (Below is the Pro Arte String Quartet playing last year in Mills Hall at the UW.)

What was the most difficult part of the job?

Probably keeping track of details!  With so many “moving parts,” there are bound to be changes to personnel, programs, halls, etc., that need to be corrected as soon and as widely as possible.

I’m in constant fear that through an oversight, something will appear in print or online with an inaccurate date, time or name.  I try to be zealous about this, and it has probably cost me some of the sparse remaining hair on my head.

Who will take over your duties at the School of Music for the coming season?

We are waiting for official confirmation of an interim public relations and concert manager who should begin work in a couple of weeks if the position is approved.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

A few things.

One, the audiences who attend the school’s concerts are fantastic! They are engaged, attentive and supportive of the school’s mission.

Two, the school’s alumni are a true resource, providing continuity through their help recruiting new students and by keeping in touch with their alma mater. Their achievements make the university’s reputation shine even more brightly.

Three, if anyone has a spare million or two, the school could use it to marvelous effect to help build its new facility!  But in truth, smaller gifts are the lifeblood of the university as well.  (This is not my jurisdiction exactly, but I think I can risk going out on a limb at this point!)  Scholarships, graduate assistantships and fellowships, research and travel support, residencies by guest artists and scholars, Mills Music Library  (below), Summer Music Clinic — all benefit tremendously by the good will and good works of our donors.

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