NAPLES — The guard quietly changed at the Naples Philharmonic Center on Thursday with the arrival of Kathleen van Bergen, chosen successor to founder-director CEO Myra Janco Daniels, who has retired after 22 years.
Operations of its $19.5 million concert hall/black box theater, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, a continuing education building and the 10-year-old, 30,000-square-foot art museum are now van Bergen’s.
Van Bergen, former artistic and executive director of the Schubert Club in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., will also inherit the challenge of selecting a new museum director and a new music director here. Michael Culver, the museum’s fourth director, resigned a little over a year ago; in mid-December, the center announced it would not renew the contract of music director Jorge Mester, which expires at the end of the coming season.
The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra marks its own milestone — 30 years as an orchestra — this season, and the center enters its 23rd season with singer-actress Audra McDonald starring in a gala Nov. 5. (A special four-page section inserted in today’s Daily News, “The Fabulous Phil,” contains a timeline history of the Philharmonic Center and the orchestra.)
Daniels will be the honoree of a special weekend Jan. 14 and 15, dubbed “Thank You, Myra” days, with activities at both ends of the spectrum: a high-ticket gala with former guest conductor Keith Lockhart and a free open house.
There is relief on one pressure point for the new director. Board member Alan Hilfiker has been named chairman of the board, which Daniels led during her tenure. Hilfiker, a Naples attorney, will conduct the meetings, as he said briefly Thursday morning, “in a way that upholds the high standards and excellence set by Myra Daniels.”
It wasn’t totally quiet Thursday at the Phil. Employees and Daniels surprised van Bergen with a cake and a rendition of “Happy Birthday”; the new director’s 35th birthday coincided with her first day on the job. Most of that day was spent meeting staff and conferring with Daniels. Van Bergen did not respond to requests for interviews and only released a statement:
“The past few months have been filled with great anticipation as I transition my life to Naples. It is a tremendous honor to succeed Myra Daniels, and I feel a great responsibility to build on what she has created for this community.”
In the meantime, Daniels will be retained as a consultant for the next several months, “whenever they need me,” she said.
But, she added, “I’m ready for a rest. I think I’m going to sleep for five days. Then I’ll start deciding what I want to do next.
“I’m about to enjoy a long-misplaced retirement,” said Daniels, who is 86. “It’s been hard, but it’s been a wonderful ride.”