Norton Center assistant director resigns

Says Centre College venue headed in different direction

rcopley@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2010 

Debra Hoskins started working at the Norton Center in 1992. She says she and former director George Foreman pushed each other to draw bigger and bigger names to the venue.

KIRK SCHLEA

Debra Hoskins, the assistant managing director who helped build the Norton Center for the Arts into one of Kentucky's premier performing arts venues, has resigned from the Centre College facility.

Hoskins' resignation comes a year after longtime Norton Center director George Foreman left to become the director of the performing arts facilities at the University of Georgia. He was succeeded by Steven A. Hoffman, who came to Centre from the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., though Hoskins was also a candidate for the top job.

In an interview last week, Hoskins said being passed over for the top post was not her reason for leaving the center.

"Things feel like they are going in a different direction, and it felt like it was time to move on," said Hoskins, who started at the Norton Center in 1992. "If you are going to make a career change, you need to do it when you are still young and smart enough to make the right moves."

Hoskins said she did not have any immediate plans but is evaluating some opportunities and doing some consulting.

"I am looking at every opportunity to advance my career at this point," she said.

In a news release, Centre vice president for college relations Richard Trollinger said, "Debra's service to Centre has been marked by exceptional energy and initiative. Her efforts have made possible many of the extraordinary events for which the college and its arts center have become well known."

Hoskins goes out with a bang, having been the key person in attracting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Gustavo Dudamel to the Norton Center for a gala concert during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. It was the North American debut for the classical music superstars performing together. A few days later, they performed in New York's Carnegie Hall.

"There's no question that without Debbie, it wouldn't have happened," Trollinger said. "Long after others had given up on the possibility, she kept trying and trying to make the pieces fit together, and in the end they did."

The event even prompted a Los Angeles Times story asking what Dudamel was doing in a small Kentucky town with the Vienna Philharmonic.

"Pulling that off, it can't get any bigger or better than that," Hoskins said. "I left on a very high note."

The Vienna Philharmonic was the latest in a two-decade-long string of classical and pop music superstars Hoskins and Foreman had drawn to Centre, a college of around 1,200 students in Danville, a town of around 15,000. It's a far smaller outpost than artists such as the Boston Pops, Yo-Yo Ma, the New York Philharmonic or other fine arts superstars usually visit. But getting names like that became routine under Foreman and Hoskins' watch.

"We played off each other," Hoskins said. "We had a lot of fun working to bring bigger and bigger names here and then making them want to come back."

Hoskins said she was particularly proud to have pushed Foreman to book more country music talent such as Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton at the Norton Center.

She concluded, "I've had a wonderful career booking performers at a wonderful performing arts facility."

Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217.

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