WILKES-BARRE — Will Beekman said Monday that he values opera as much as Elvis Costello.
And so begins a new era at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square.
John Nackley, chairman of the Board of Directors at the Kirby Center, announced Monday the promotion of Beekman to managing director.
In his new role, Beekman will assume the managing responsibilities left vacant by Marilyn Santarelli, who will retire after 15 years at the Kirby.
Beekman, 35, of Duryea, he feels privileged to be a part of the Kirby Center organization in any capacity.
“But to have an opportunity like this is icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s one thing to believe in yourself, but it’s really nice when others believe in you too. I thank the board of directors for having that faith in me.”
Beekman and his wife, Katie, are parents of Hannah, 7 months. He said the promotion came as an early Christmas present for him and his family.
“I want to provide the necessary leadership that will ensure a focus on our mission and on the long-term stability of this organization,” Beekman said. “Of course, there will be challenges ahead, but we have an incredible staff in place, and Marilyn Santarelli’s efforts over the past 15 years have left us in great shape. I’m thankful for that.”
Beekman joined the Kirby Center in April 2010 as director of sales and marketing, and most recently served as the venue’s director of programming.
“Right now, nobody else is doing programming, so it will remain a focus of mine,” Beekman said. “But we’ll see how it all shakes down in the New Year.”
Prior to his arrival, the Tobyhanna native spent eight years in the live events industry, working with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center.
The Kirby is in the midst of its 27th season as Wilkes-Barre’s premier performing arts center, and continues to foster the development of the arts and arts education throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“The Kirby Center is a vital part of our community, and it is the intent of our board and management to ensure the long-term stability and commitment to our mission,” Nackley said. “We are very confident Will Beekman can provide the leadership to support this effort.”
Beekman said he intends to inject some new thoughts — new blood — into the organization.
“The focus will always be on our mission,” he said. “This is a very special place to work.”
Santarelli, 63, of Dallas, announced in August she will leave the position at the end of the year.
When her resignation was announced, the Kirby released a list of accomplishments during Santarelli’s tenure:
• The center’s endowment doubled from $1 million to $2 million.
• The center has been instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre and continues as a force in economic development.
• Staff at the center has grown to 16 full-time employees, 20 part-timers and 100 volunteers. A range of up to 40 local union stage hands are employed at each show.
• It is estimated the center annually impacts the local economy by $5 million.
According to the most recent IRS Form 990 covering the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, Santarelli was paid $105,000 annually. Beekman’s salary was not announced.