Chautauqua Institution today announced that Marty W. Merkley, vice president and director of programming, will retire from his post at the end of September 2015.

Always referring to his work at CHQ as that of "facilitator," Merkley is a beloved public figure on the grounds, responsible for much of the programming the Institution stages each summer. In his 25 years of visionary leadership, Merkley has seen the Institution through a major expansion in the breadth and quality of its artistic programming, with an emphasis on inter-arts collaboration. He joined the CHQ staff as director of programming in 1991 and was appointed a vice president in 1995.

"Marty's contributions to CHQ have been immeasurable," said Tom Becker, president of Chautauqua Institution. "For 25 years, every ounce of his talent and humanity has been used for the benefit of this institution. Our gratitude to him is immense."

Merkley has helped shepherd critical investments in CHQ's artistic programming during a period of financial hardship in arts communities across the United States. In particular, his tenure has seen the construction of two new major performance venues, Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall and Fletcher Music Hall, and millions of dollars in renovations to nearly every other artistic facility, including the School of Music campus and the world-class galleries at Strohl Art Center and Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. He has also helped guide the continued evolution of the Chautauqua Amphitheater, including a major restoration of the iconic Massey Memorial Organ.

Nearly all of the current CHQ artistic directors and School of Music leadership came on board during Merkley's time as director of programming. Through his leadership, CHQ in 2008 became just the fourth summer music festival in the U.S. to be designated an All-Steinway piano festival. Merkley's tenure has seen the first and several subsequent recordings of popular NPR programs at the Amphitheater, including Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and "From the Top," hosted by Christopher O'Riley (the latter returns June 30, 2015). At his urging, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir returned to CHQ multiple times after decades away. Merkley has also helped CHQ establish and maintain deep, meaningful relationships with some of the most brilliant young artists in the classical arts today, including pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk and violinist Augustin Hadelich.

Additionally, the CHQ community's involvement with its arts programs and artists flourished under Merkley's guidance. Of the formal community support organizations active today in all art forms, only opera's existed before his tenure, and it was his idea to introduce Social Links, a series of receptions for guest artists and conductors hosted by Chautauquans following each of the CSO's performances. Merkley also supported the establishment and ongoing expansion of Chautauqua Connections, an organization that pairs talented student artists with supportive CHQ community members.

"CHQ has afforded me many opportunities that I would have never imagined possible when I arrived here in March 1991," Merkley said. "We have worked hard, been fantastically creative and accomplished so much. For this I will always be proud and grateful."

As director of programming, Merkley oversees all performing and visual arts presentations at the Institution, both professional and pre-professional, including the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Opera, Chautauqua Dance, Chautauqua School of Music (instrumental, piano and voice), Chautauqua Theater Company, the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution, all popular entertainment scheduled in the Amphitheater and the Logan Chamber Music Series, which he founded and launched in 1993.

During the 65 days of the CHQ season, Merkley oversees some 1,000 summer faculty and staff in CHQ's arts departments, producing some 2,000 events and managing all production services provided in the Institution's 14 major performance venues.

With a background in classical music, opera, theater and dance, Merkley came to Chautauqua Institution from the New World Symphony in Miami where he was a founding member and general manager. Before that, he served as manager of the opera department of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

As part of his farewell season, Merkley will direct two performances of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana during the 2015 CHQ season, at 8:15 p.m. on July 25 and Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater.