The Vermont Mozart Festival

The Vermont Mozart Festival has played regular summer concerts at a number of area venues over the years, including Shelburne Farms, above. The festival’s entire 2019 season has been cancelled following the abrupt resignation of director Michael Dabroski on June 16.

Michael Dabroski

Former Vermont Mozart Festival Director Michael Dabroski, who resigned on June 16 and is currently out of the country.

The former director of the Vermont Mozart Festival issued a statement Monday addressing his departure from the festival and the cancellation of all of its scheduled summer performances.

In a two-page written statement indicating that he was writing from Havana, Cuba, Michael Dabroski said that he has “received no financial compensation for professional services performed since February,” and was paid “very little compensation prior to February 2019 with no guarantee of payment to produce the fourth summer edition of Vermont Mozart Festival” this summer. “Therefore, ‘no pay, no play.’”

Dabroski resurrected the Mozart festival in 2015 after the original ended a more than 30-year run in 2010. He claims in his statement Monday that he was paid for only five months of his three and a half years with the festival.   

Dabroski resigned June 16 in a letter to the festival’s board of directors, just one month before the 16-date summer concert series was to begin.

“You don’t spend what you don’t have,” replied Gene Richards, who is working with the festival’s board as a volunteer since Dabroski’s departure. Richards is the director of aviation at Burlington International Airport and has served on boards for various nonprofit and community organizations.

Richards commented after Dabroski sent his statement, saying it was only last October when the board agreed to begin paying Dabroski a salary.  He disputes Dabroski’s claim about February saying bank records show Dabroski was paid in March and April. When Dabroski left in June, the festival’s bank account had just $2,000, Richards said.

Richards is assisting the festival’s board with public communications and next steps as it navigates refunding ticket holders and assessing the organization’s financial situation.

Upon resigning, Dabroski notified performance venues in Stowe, Shelburne, Charlotte and Burlington at that time that the concerts were off. However, it was just last week that the festival posted messages on its website and Facebook page that announced to the public that the performances were cancelled.

“The Board of Directors did not communicate with ticket holders despite having the relevant information to do so,” Dabroski contends in his statement.

Richards maintains that the festival organization was left with no staff when Debroski resigned – its marketing manager left in late April – and volunteer board members did not have information to access business records, the website, or social media accounts.

Richards said he brought in an information technology specialist to help with those details and they now are slowly combing through records.

“It wasn’t done easily,” he said.

In his statement, Dabroski claims he “voluntarily provided the Vermont Mozart Festival Board of Directors with organized notes and electronic files … to facilitate the transition – including business accounts, contracts, accounts payable, and bank statements.”

Richards acknowledged that Dabroski had access to all of those details but questions whether anyone left behind was familiar enough to navigate through accounts and records without Dabroski’s help.

“He’s absolutely right – everything having to do with the day-to-day management was done by him personally and I see great concern with that,” Richards said. “There are practices that are questionable and need to be looked into. I’ve been quite surprised by what I’ve reviewed so far. I was a little shocked and disappointed.”

Dabroski’s statement also listed other grievances that led to his departure and the festival’s cancellation, like fundraising events this spring that went awry, including plans for a gala as well as basketball and golf tournaments. The situation was compounded, Dabroski noted in his statement, when the organization’s marketing manager resigned in late April.

“His responsibilities included all social media management, graphic design, printing and publicity and it was impossible to replace so close to the opening of the July festival,” Dabroski wrote.

Finally, Dabroski said part of the summer festival was to be the collaboration with musicians from Cuba “but all fellowship development in Cuba was unsupported by the Board of Directors, making this event impossible to coordinate in good faith,” he wrote. 

Richards said the first priority for festival officials now is refunding ticketholders. Next will be a financial review to understand where the organization stands regarding its bank balances, fundraising revenue and expenses it has paid.

Having Dabroski’s help to decipher records would be very helpful, Richards suggested.

“He hasn’t communicated with anybody,” Richards said. “I would love to spend a couple of hours with him asking him questions.”

It’s unclear whether Dabroski plans to return to Vermont any time soon. In his statement, he noted that he is a professional violinist and conductor and that he had “travelled to Cuba in June to pursue music opportunities.” His new work involves developing “Mozart string quartet projects at the pleasure of the Austrian Ambassador to Cuba” and serving as “an artistic advisor to the premiere Cuban music conservatory, Lyceum Mozartiano de la Habana.”

“Here Mr. Dabroski is able to use music as diplomacy, a long-held value of his,” he noted in his statement.

Refund information: Vermont Mozart Festival ticket holders should send an email to the festival using the addressinfo@vermontmozartvestival.org and provide their name and address and the number of tickets they purchased. Festival organizers will match messages with their purchase records in order to provide refunds.

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