Birdfoot’s Executive Director announces retirement

Message from Birdfoot’s Board of Directors & Board President Mark Growdon:

After twelve years, in which time Birdfoot grew from an idea into a visionary chamber music festival with strong local roots and international recognition, co-founder and Executive Director Dr. Tracey Sherry has announced that she will be retiring from this position in Summer 2022.

On behalf of the festival’s entire community, the Board would like to celebrate and express gratitude and thanks for Tracey’s energy, dedication, and leadership for over a decade. Although trained as a biologist with a Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology—”leading a National Geographic research expedition to an uninhabited tropical island was good preparation for running a music festival”, she says—Tracey turned her skills and talent to the arts in New Orleans, beginning with her role as a founder of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra in 1994, for which she later chaired a successful endowment campaign. She then went on to co-found the New Orleans String Project.

As a founder of Birdfoot, Tracey brought nearly twenty years of non-profit experience to the festival. With this background, she laid the groundwork for Birdfoot’s operational systems, governance, marketing, development, production, and many other aspects of Birdfoot’s strategic and day-to-day operations. Under Tracey’s leadership, Birdfoot Festival presented ten international festivals of growing ambition, hosted Artist Residencies, received the 2017 Big Easy Arts Education Award for its Young Artist Program, and grew into an anticipated annual event.

Reflecting on her twelve years with Birdfoot, Tracey said, “Building a musical community around chamber music in New Orleans over the past twelve years has been a joy. Hard work to be sure, but completely worth it when musicians and audiences come together during the festival each year.

It’s been an incredible privilege working side-by-side with Birdfoot’s incredible team — its staff, board, supporters, volunteers, audiences, and, of course, artists — to bring each festival to life.

Most of all, I’ll cherish memories of exhilarating performances: Those moments when artists and audiences connected at a visceral level, moved to their very core by a shared musical conversation.

I simply can’t wait to hear what Birdfoot does in its second decade!”

Birdfoot Board member Kurt Weigle said, “Tracey will be greatly missed. Without her there would be no Birdfoot Festival. Her vision, determination and skill have played a major role in making Birdfoot the artistic and community-building success that it has become. We wish her all the best in her retirement.”

Birdfoot President, Mark Growdon said, “On a personal note, I cannot imagine a better person to have founded this organization with and worked with over these years. Tracey has helped me to grow as a board member and leader and supported me on too many occasions to count. It is wonderful to have been able to build something as amazing as Birdfoot Festival with people I also consider as friends.”

Artistic Director Jenna Sherry said, “It has been such a privilege to work so closely with Tracey, who as well as being Birdfoot’s Executive Director, is also my mother, as a partner in the project of building and running Birdfoot. I have learned so much from her knowledge of non-profit management, her meticulous attention to detail, her creativity in the face of challenges, and her countless other talents. There may be few mother-daughter teams in the history books, but I feel sure that we follow in the footsteps of many others and I will always treasure the experience of having worked together in a professional capacity and having shared the adventure of Birdfoot’s first 12 years.”

Violinist Clara Kim, a frequent Birdfoot collaborator since the festival’s first season, contributed this appreciation of Tracey: “Beyond the countless hours of tireless work, there is a thrill and a passion that Tracey contributed to Birdfoot… She never seemed to hesitate to roll up her sleeves to get something done, and completed even the most tedious tasks with a crazily joyful abandon. Despite such a prominent role, Tracey never wanted the spotlight for herself. Instead, she praised and thanked the festival’s artists profusely, and she was continually in awe of the music and touched by it.

Tracey was someone I laughed and cried with, danced with, and could be real with; these are the connections and memories that she was so effortlessly able to build as the foundation for Birdfoot, not just for me but for so many who are now part of the festival family.

As she gets ready to close this chapter of her career, I can only imagine Tracey will bring the same dedication, fire, and delight into new projects and experiences. But I also believe that Birdfoot will continue to grow from the many seeds she has already lovingly planted.”

In honor of Tracey and her immense contributions to the festival and community, Birdfoot’s Board of Directors would like to invite donations in her honor. The Board believes it speaks for the entire New Orleans community in recognizing Tracey’s contributions to the arts in New Orleans and saying that Tracey’s presence and talents will be deeply missed.

There will be a celebration to recognize Tracey’s achievements and pass the torch when the festival reconvenes.

Birdfoot will shortly launch a search for the festival’s next Executive Director.