Ironically, the national outreach that began in January landed USF administrators in their own back yard when they hired native Utahan Zachary Murray who took the reins on May 16.
Media and Public Relations Manager Nikki Allen Koontz said that it was important that the right applicant possess an understanding of the arts and a background in accounting. Knowledge of the Utah Shakespeare Festival and its goals were also major defining factor in regards to choosing the appropriate person to take on such a significant role in the 53-year-old, Tony award winning, festival.
“The position was created with the goal of helping with the long-term financial planning and stability of the festival,” Koontz said.
A press release reported that Murray would be working closely with Executive Director R. Scott Phillips, and Artistic Directors David Ivers and Brian Vaughn, to help achieve the goals and best support the festival’s vision and mission.
It went on to say that preserving the artistic integrity of the world-renowned festival was paramount when considering how to move forward in a business capacity and determining exactly how to go about growing the festival for future generations.
With a duel master’s degree in business administration and accounting from SUU, and his previous knowledge of USF and the Southern Utah region, Phillips said that he believed Murray would be a fantastic addition to the team.
“He’s uniquely qualified, because of his experience working in the financial arena and passion for the arts,” Phillips said. “Coming from an accounting background with Southern Utah University, in Cedar City, Zachary will be able to assist me in making financially viable choices for the growth and expansion of the Festival for years to come.”
Murray said that throughout the interview process he noticed the university flying in applicants from as far away as New York to interview them and show them around campus. He said it was a bit unnerving to watch his competition come and go for months on end, but he knew in the end that if he were meant to have the job, things would work out in his favor.
“One of the things that were specifically mentioned in the job description was that they wanted someone who had a theater background, and that, I don’t have,” he said. “So that made me somewhat nervous, but having been on campus and being somewhat familiar with the festival and their finances, I felt like I still had a really good chance at it.”
While Murray said he is still getting into the swing of things, he said he is excited to come on board at such a monumental time in the festivals history. He said that right now his focus is on learning the ins-and-outs of the festival’s networking relationships.
“A big thing going on right now obviously is the new center for the arts that is going to begin construction this summer,” he said. “We are going to know who gets awarded the bid within the next month or so, and then we will know who the contractor is d then they should be getting started in July.”
Murray said he was thankful he had experience working with parts of the project in his SUU position as the plant and auxiliary accountant in the controller’s office, because he already has a working knowledge of the finances in regards to the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Center for the Arts project, which will make the transition smoother.
The press release reported that USF leaders felt confident that Murray’s role in the festival will have a positive impact on the future of the festival as a whole.
“Murray brings a wealth of knowledge and professional experience to the position,” it reported. “His time with SUU has given him a solid foundation in merging business with higher education practices, and now he plans to incorporate his expertise into supporting and enhancing the preforming arts.”