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The iPalpiti Festival will not return to Encinitas after alleged mistreatment of program organizers and musicians by city staff and newly-appointed arts administrator Collette Murphy Stefanko. Photo via Facebook/iPalpiti Artists International
The iPalpiti Festival will not return to Encinitas after alleged mistreatment of program organizers and musicians by city staff and newly-appointed arts administrator Collette Murphy. Photo via Facebook/iPalpiti Artists International
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iPalpiti to leave Encinitas after ‘mistreatment’ by city’s arts administrator

ENCINITAS —The iPalpiti Festival, an international classical music event, is leaving the city of Encinitas and suspending the popular Music by the Sea event from membership in the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music Presenters due to alleged mistreatment of program organizers and musicians by the city’s staff and newly-appointed arts administrator. 

Director Laura Schmieder informed city leaders the iPalpiti Artists International nonprofit is officially terminating its 10-year run citing a number of grievances in a Sept. 1 letter addressed to Mayor Catherine Blakespear, City Manager Pamela Antil, Arts and Culture Manager Travis Karlen and Encinitas Friends of the Arts. 

“As much as it has been a joyful experience for nine years, after this 10th ‘celebration,’ iPalpiti made the decision not to return to Encinitas,” Schmieder wrote. 

Schmieder opened her letter by calling attention to the nine “joyful” years of including the city in the annual event, which held its 25th event the weekend of July 14 at the Encinitas Library.

However, Schmeider said that a change in leadership and “unwelcome” treatment by staff as “a summer camp nuisance” led to the decision to leave. 

In the letter, Schmieder accused Collette Murphy, the city’s new arts administrator, of mistreating organizers and musicians, altering the artists’ lineup and skewing contest winners.

“Never before musicians felt more unwelcomed, with zero understanding of artistic accommodations,” Schmieder wrote.

Murphy took over the city’s top arts spot following the sudden departure of longtime arts director Jim Gilliam amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2012, Gilliam, a member of the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music Presenters who regularly attended the Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA), founded the city’s Music by the Sea series, which featured performances by award-winning musicians at the Encinitas Library.

“…with Jim Gilliam’s knowledge and appreciation of music and performing arts, he has sought — and succeeded — to establish a professional, year-round concert series,” Schmeider said. 

As part of her role as chair of the BHNA and Southern California consortium, Schmieder helped curate the artist and performance lineups for the upcoming concert seasons. According to Schmeider, after the current season’s list was finalized, Murphy “arbitrarily” unselected “legitimate winners” and replaced others with “artists of her own choice.”

Schmeider also alleges Murphy requested changing January’s performer based solely on her “personal dislike of the artist.”

“To this day, (Murphy) did not take the time or courtesy to consult with me,” Schmeider wrote. “By her disregard of the audition committee decision, ad changing the artists to ‘her’ liking, Music by the Sea is suspended from the membership in the Consortium.”

Schmieder is also stepping back from her direction of Music by the Sea.

“I have been in the professional classical field for over 40 years, as faculty of renowned institutions and festivals, as artistic director in numerous endeavors, consultant and adjudicator but I no longer can associate my name with Music by the Sea,” Schmeider wrote. 

The city of Encinitas and Schmeider did not respond for comment in time for publication, but a response is anticipated.  

CORRECTION: The Music by the Sea event was suspended from membership in the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music Presenters. However, the event will continue as planned with pianist Brian Woods on Sept. 23. More information can be found at https://encinitasca.gov/Concerts

6 comments

Tim Adams September 11, 2022 at 6:54 pm

That’s too bad this was a great event. The iPalpiti festival will be missed.

JohnEldon September 10, 2022 at 3:20 pm

This is a serious development and major, preventable embarrassment for Encinitas, and it reflects extremely badly on judgment at City Hall. iPalpiti is a prestigious international music organization whose mission is to pass our rich heritage of music to each succeeding generation. It has been the incubator for top-rated musicians such as Svetlana Smolina, who has performed several times in Encinitas. As noted, under Jim Gilliam the city had a great relationship with iPalpiti. Is Murphy Stefanko as completely clueless and incompetent as this incident indicates? I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the Schmieders and every iPalpiti musician I have ever had the pleasure of hearing perform.

Bnksd1 September 9, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Another typical hack chosen by this Mayor and City Council.

Encinitas Lover September 9, 2022 at 1:30 pm

If City Council, Blakespear, Kranz, Lyndes, can’t control their upper level management, then they need to go. This has been a repeating theme for years. So many great events and organizations that have done so much for this community have had problems with City of Encinitas staff. Usually the recurring names are the same as Jennifer Bishop posted above ^^, Jennifer Campbell, Crystal Roff and Jace Swwarm. I recommend Council get rid of these staffers, because this has happened too many times. If Jim Gilliam former Arts Administrator was still with Encinitas, this would have never happened. However this is what happens when you have a Parks Dept that is now in charge of an Arts Dept. Nice move Kranz and Blakespear!

Jennifer Bishop September 9, 2022 at 1:15 pm

“Schmieder opened her letter by calling attention to the nine “joyful” years of including the city in the annual event, which held its 25th event the weekend of July 14 at the Encinitas Library.

However, Schmeider said that a change in leadership and “unwelcome” treatment by staff as “a summer camp nuisance” led to the decision to leave.

In the letter, Schmieder accused Collette Murphy Stefanko, the city’s new arts administrator, of mistreating organizers and musicians, altering the artists’ lineup and skewing contest winners.

“Never before musicians felt more unwelcomed, with zero understanding of artistic accommodations,” Schmieder wrote.

Jennifer Bishop September 9, 2022 at 12:59 pm

Doesn’t surprise me, Blakespear and certain administrative staff members have always had problems with community events. Some of our Parks and Cultural Arts Department, especially Jennifer Campbell and Crystal Roff, don’t seem to get along with others. There’s a whole list of events over the last 10 years that have run into major issues with our council and Parks Dept. I’m looking forward to seeing a new city council this next year.

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