Cliburn Foundation names new president and CEO

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Cliburn Foundation had planned an international search for its new leader, someone who could put an end to a long period of turmoil and turnover. As it turns out, the search wasn’t necessary.

On Tuesday, the Cliburn board voted to promote the interim executive director, Jacques Marquis, to the roles of president and chief executive of the foundation, parent to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Marquis inherited Cliburn leadership last November, after the abrupt resignation of Alann Sampson.

In the five months since, the 48-year-old French Canadian had won raves with his musical knowledge, administrative ability and general good nature.

“It’s been a while getting here, but we’re very excited,” said Carla Thompson, chairwoman of the Cliburn board. “He has both the musical knowledge and competition management experience. I can’t imagine coming up with another person who has that skill set. And the passion. He really shares the vision of the Cliburn.”

Marquis came to the Cliburn last September as a consultant, and was immediately considered a candidate to succeed Sampson. She was a longtime board chairwoman who was expected to run the Cliburn through the 2013 piano competition, which begins in May.

When Sampson resigned, international screening auditions for the competition were only two months away.

The auditions that began in Hong Kong in January and ended in Fort Worth six weeks later went off without a hitch, leading to the selection of 30 young musicians for what is considered one of the world’s leading piano competitions. As the auditions continued, and Marquis began to put his imprint on the foundation, it became apparent to many that the Cliburn already had the right person.

“I’m very happy about it,” said one of the audition jurors, Veda Kaplinsky, the head of the piano department at the Juilliard School. “We spent six weeks on the road with him, and he’s done nothing but reaffirm our faith. He dealt with every situation professionally, calmly, fairly.

“I can’t find anything negative to say about the professional or the person, and you get to know a person pretty well when you travel with him for six weeks.”

Marquis is a trained pianist himself. He has worked administratively in Canadian cultural organizations for nearly two decades, and for 10 years ran music competitions in his native Montreal. In Fort Worth, he drives a Ford F-150 pickup. Marquis is an avid hockey fan.

“I am very pleased,” he said. “The Cliburn is owned by the people of Fort Worth. I think competitions are special in classical music. I love the piano. I knew when I entered the Cliburn that this was a challenge, and I like to live up to challenges.”

Since his move to Fort Worth, Marquis has lived apart from his wife, Canadian television producer Catherine Dupont, and their six children, who have remained in Montreal. Dupont and five of the children have visited Fort Worth, where the family now plans to make its home.

“I want to establish my life in Fort Worth,” Marquis said. “I like the people. I like the city. I like the cultural aspects. It’s a work in progress.

“Catherine is looking around. It’s a big step. The kids have a very big interest in coming here, learning English. It’s an adventure for them.”

Cliburn officials now hope that their own unpleasant adventure of recent years is over.

“Everybody was really upbeat,” Thompson said of Tuesday’s board meeting, when Marquis’ promotion was ratified. “His exuberance and his energy are contagious. You can see that among the volunteers and with the board.

“Everyone who gets to know him will understand why we’re so excited about our decision.”

Tim Madigan, (817) 390-7544

Twitter: @tsmadigan

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