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Ravinia names Jeffrey P. Haydon new president and CEO

Haydon brings more than two decades of cultural arts management/programming experience to his new post.

Patrons arrive at Ravinia’s main gate for a summer concert.
Patrons arrive at Ravinia’s main gate for a summer evening concert.
Sun-Times file

The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park has hired Jeffrey P. Haydon as president and CEO, it was announced early Friday morning.

Haydon will replace Welz Kauffman, who announced last fall he would be stepping down this September after serving as president and CEO for 20 years.

“Ravinia’s reputation for presenting outstanding performances by the world’s greatest artists means that we can attract top talent not just to our stages but also to our staff and leadership,” said Ravinia chairman Don Civgin via statement about Haydon’s appointment. “Jeff’s successful career in the arts reflects Ravinia’s values and shows he can lead an organization through growth and change.”

Jeffrey P. Haydon
Jeffrey P. Haydon
Caramoor/YouTube

Haydon brings more than two decades of cultural arts management/programming experience to his new post. He currently serves as the CEO of New York’s Caramoor Center for Music and Arts, a position he has held since 2012. He also served as executive director of the Ojai Music Festival, and according to Friday’s statement, has previously worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Aspen Music Festival.

“I am honored to be asked to lead the Ravinia Festival,” Haydon said via statement. “Ravinia’s international artistic reputation, legendary live-music experience, beautiful park, training of the next generation of artists, and local community impact with children provide an ideal opportunity to further inspire the world through music. I look forward to returning to Chicago to join the Ravinia Family.”

Haydon becomes the fourth person to serve as president and CEO of Ravinia — the country’s oldest music festival — following pianist Edward Gordon (1974-1989), Zarin Mehta (1990-2000) and Kauffman.

A California native, Haydon earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and a minor in music from the University of Puget Sound.

In addition to serving as the summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia features more than 120 diverse concerts each year between June and September, attracting more than 600,000 patrons annually.

The entire 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the shut-down becoming the first one since the Great Depression forced the now 116-year-old festival to close its doors from 1932 to 1935.