There’s a new captain at the helm of the Key City Theatre, and he brings decades of experience in the arts.
Gerard Gibbs moved into his office as managing director of Cranbrook’s theatre on Wednesday, January 2, two days after he arrived in town.
Gibbs is just beginning to settle in, and he is keen to meet the locals, he told The Townsman.
“First I want to get to know people in the community, what they would like to see, and go from there.”
Born in the U.S., Gibbs ran the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod, Alberta, from 2002 to 2010.
“In Fort Macleod, it took two years to fit in, get to know people and say, ‘What if we were to try this?'” Gibbs explained.
A successful oboist as well as a presenter, Gibbs studied performance at Wayne State University and Indiana University’s music schools.
He has played with orchestras in Minnesota, Washington and Alberta, performing throughout western Canada and the United States.
Gibbs’s first managing role was for the symphony orchestra in Duluth, Minnesota, before he took the Fort Macleod position, recommended by fellow performers in western Canada.
During that tenure, he began working with prominent Israeli violist Rivka Golani, who splits her time between Canada and the United Kingdom.
After performing with Golani in Edmonton, Gibbs brought her to perform in Fort Macleod, sparking a creative partnership that continues today.
In 2010, Gibbs moved to London to work as the classical conductor for the Monteverdi Choir, headed by well-known conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner. He returned to the U.S. after a year, taking a position with the Akron, Ohio Symphony Orchestra.
But he was keen to return to western Canada, so when he heard of the opening in Cranbrook, Gibbs jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to get back into the Canadian, specifically the western Canadian, scene. I’m at heart a western person. I love the mountains,” he said.
While Gibbs says performing is his first passion, presenting music and the arts is also a joy to him.
“I really enjoy the presenting part of this type of this job. I am very happy to come back to that. The orchestra world is very challenging right now,” said Gibbs. “I can use my skills and knowledge and apply that with flexibility to do things that will make the Key City more successful in presenting the performing arts.”
Gibbs was familiar with Cranbrook through his work in Fort Macleod, and he has even performed in an orchestra for Bruce Dunn, the former conductor of the Symphony of the Kootenays.
He is excited to see the new direction the symphony will take, after nearly being forced to fold last year due to low attendance at concerts.
“I would like to see what their plans are and work with them,” said Gibbs.
He hopes to see the Key City find a particular field of the performing arts to excel in and not fall into a common trap for small theatres.
“Typically, they do a bit of everything and don’t excel in anything. I’d like to find something we can excel in so that we establish a reputation, not just locally but on a widespread basis,” said Gibbs.
“The arts is about striving for excellence, not just the lowest common denominator.”