Kathleen van Bergen, a woman adept at filling large shoes, will step into those of Myra Janco Daniels as the chief executive officer of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Sept. 1.
Van Bergen comes from the Schubert Club in St. Paul, Minn., where she has been artistic and managing director since 2008. The Schubert Club, the oldest arts organization in Minnesota, presents concerts, offers educational/research opportunities and owns a museum of keyboards and historic musical documents. Van Bergen was offered her position there after an 18-month search following the death of Bruce Carlson, who had been the organization’s executive for 38 years.
“No one else could have done this except her,” said Diane Gorder, board president of the Schubert Club for the past two years. “If you look at her background, it’s stellar. Yet she’s a humble person. She treats everyone with dignity and respect.”
Gorder pointed out that van Bergen is also an achiever, and during her three years with the club, she renovated and expanded its museum and worked with Gorder to reformulate the club’s structure and bylaws so everyone on the board would have a role on its committees. During van Bergen’s tenure, the Schubert Club also developed new branding, with a new logo and a new slogan, and effected a merger with the nonprofit “Music in the Parks” series for top-flight chamber music.
Gorder called van Bergen an “excellent listener, very inclusive” and a collaborator who could work with other arts organizations. Yet she was an executive with the ability to balance the budget each year.
At the Schubert Club, van Bergen also contracted for concert and recital appearances for major stars such as Susan Graham, Yefim Bronfman and Andre Watts.
“It’s with mixed emotions that we see her moving on,” Gorder said. “We feel happy for her. We’ll miss her. But we know she’ll make a difference — a positive difference there.”
Van Bergen, 34, brings a strong musical management background to the position, serving for three years with the Philadelphia Orchestra, where she was vice president of artistic planning, and for five years with the St. Louis Symphony, where she was vice president and director of artistic administration.
A native of Andover, N.J., van Bergen holds a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music and an executive master of business administration degree from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. But she says her musical skills are more practiced now as a listener.
“I only play in the privacy of my own home,” she said with a laugh.
Reached at her St. Paul office, van Bergen said she has been to the Phil twice during her work with both the St. Louis Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra, which have played tour dates here.
“I’m familiar with your hall, but I haven’t heard the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra yet,” she said. “I have heard of them — and their outstanding talent — many times.”
“It’s a real honor to attempt to fill the shoes of Myra Daniels, who has built up this tremendous organization,” van Bergen said.
She was particularly impressed with its breadth.
“I was attracted to the variety of genres and activities in this center,” she said. “It’s a rare center that offers as much as this one does.”
There is a scale difference: the Schubert Club’s operating budget is $1.6 million, while the Phil’s is closer to $26 million. The Philharmonic Center is also home to the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and the Naples Patty and Jay Baker Museum of art. Among van Bergen’s first challenges are that both of them have high-profile positions here yet to be filled, a museum director and a music director.
The Phil’s search committee called van Bergen’s hiring “an exciting time for this organization” in a statement that was part of the Wednesday evening announcement:
“We recognize the outstanding job that Myra Daniels has done over the years in building and running this organization. This truly is the House that Myra Built. We are encouraged by Kathleen van Bergen taking over now as president and chief executive officer, carrying on the work that Myra has done.”
Daniels, reached by telephone Wednesday, said she will probably leave office Sept. 1 or 2, nearly 30 years since she began soliciting building funds for the center that now stands on Pelican Bay Boulevard.
“I don’t have that planned yet,” she said of her future. “I have some ideas, but I haven’t sorted them out.”
Daniels added she hopes those plans will include staying in Naples.
“I love my home and I love my cats and I love my orchestra,” she said..
“You will like this lady,” she said of van Bergen.
In turn, she predicted, van Bergen will like the Phil.
“She’s inheriting one of the finest staffs I know, and the board is a very good board, with very involved people,” Daniels said. “I have no regrets about what she’s being left.”