With a background that includes upper-level work with the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Crupi brings plenty of experience to his new role as executive director of the Asheville Symphony. But as he’s climbed the ranks during his professional career, he’s also developed a better sense for what makes an effective leader.
“I think the biggest mistake an executive can make coming in is to make assumptions about what the organization or the community needs before they actually get on the ground,” Crupi says. “I had ideas coming from Greensboro to Santa Fe about what that organization needed and what the community would respond to. In some cases I was right, but in many cases, I was wrong. It took being on the ground to adapt and see where the opportunities lie.”
Founded in 1960, the Asheville Symphony employs 70 contract musicians and produces seven Masterworks Series concerts per year with a $2 million budget. As executive director of the nonprofit, Crupi succeeds David Whitehill, who currently serves as president and CEO of ArtsinStark, a nonprofit in Canton, Ohio.
After growing up in Marshalltown, Iowa, Crupi studied vocal performance, earning degrees from Notre Dame and UNC Greensboro. As an undergrad, he also spent several summers working in the production department at Des Moines Metro Opera in Indianola, Iowa, which he notes has since become “one of the preeminent regional opera companies anywhere in the country.” Though Crupi was on the administrative team and not singing, he says being part of the group’s innovative work opened his eyes to “the exciting nature of administration in the classical arts.”
Innovation similarly defined Crupi’s time in Santa Fe, during which he and his colleagues were forced to navigate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Crupi says New Mexico was hit especially hard by the health crisis, and statewide regulations limited most gatherings to 10 people. Rather than scrap its 2020 season, the orchestra pivoted to alternative programming, including a 10-concert virtual series at iconic New Mexico locations, among them artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s former homestead, Ghost Ranch.
“We were really committed to making music happen and continuing to employ our musicians,” he says.
During a decade in Greensboro, Crupi and his wife, Caroline, developed an admiration for Asheville through occasional trips west from the Triad. They’re excited to more thoroughly explore area hiking opportunities and the region’s craft beer scene, as well as meet fellow dog owners with help from their puppy, Finley.
Crupi has also kept close tabs on the Asheville Symphony and has been especially impressed with the work that the organization and Whitehill have produced since 2012. Crupi started work July 6 and, as indicated, will wait to formulate organizational plans until he has a better understanding of his surroundings. But after conversations with music director Darko Butorac and other colleagues, his mental gears are already turning.
In Santa Fe, he notes, the symphony’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion — namely, making sure to represent composers of color in each concert the company produced — received “a fantastic response.” Crupi stresses that the same approach will be used in the Asheville Symphony’s 2021-22 season and that “making sure we’re representing a broader swath of the canon and a broader swath of people in the community” is one of his and Butorac’s priorities.
“The idea of broadening your patron base, both in terms of the diversity of the base and the age of the base, is really crucial,” Crupi says. “How do we make the symphony as relevant as possible to the largest number of people in the community? Figuring out the answer to that question — that’ll be an ongoing process, even a decade from now, I’m sure. But starting to answer that question will be important for me.”