2006-09-21 / About Town

Oscar, the Grand Lady, and the music

By Sam Bari

This summer was significant for Jamestown resident Diane Hurley, CEO of Newport Grand. She spent time with an important man in her life, her twoand a-half-year-old grandson Oscar Benson Birmingham. She took Oscar cruising on the Grand Lady, her new 55-foot Fleming Pilothouse motor yacht. Diane, as she likes to be called, also added a new title to her long list of accomplishments - board president of the Newport Music Festival.

When Joan Malkovich approached Diane five years ago and asked if she would allow her name to be placed into nomination, Diane accepted and was voted onto the Newport Music Festival board of directors. After 25-year Board President Mrs. Herbert Swope passed away in 2005, Diane's fellow board members unanimously elected her to the presidential position at their annual meeting last April. Her official title is seventh president of the Rhode Island Arts Foundation, .

"I've been attending the festival for over 30 years, since the 1970s," Diane said. "My mother was an aficionado of classical music and opera. She also served on the board for several years in the early '80s. This year, which is the festival's 38th season, we attended many of the programs together," Diane said.

"The Newport Music Festival is presented in the European tradition of 17 days of chamber music," Diane continued. "This year, we presented 45 artists performing an unprecedented 67 concerts, record number for 17 days. Ten different venues in the Newport Mansions provided spectacular settings for these intimate performances.

"The participants in the festival are like a family on several levels. The artists change their roles from day to day. One day they are soloists, the next they could be accompanists. The general director, Dr. Mark P. Malkovich III, selects the music and the performers. The patrons and attendees interact with the performers at parties and social functions throughout the festival. The support staff arranges everything from scheduling to catering. They are equally as important as the artists. Without strong organization, staging, and support, the performances could not happen," Diane said.

"My job is to oversee the board and interact with the executive director. As president, I have set a goal to inspire more local participation and attendance to this internationally acclaimed jewel of Rhode Island. We have been here for 38 seasons and I see people coming from all over the world. I think it is time to focus our efforts on making the festival more accessible and attractive to the community. We want Rhode Islanders to be involved," Diane added.

Among her duties as president, Diane is responsible for the fiscal well-being of the festival, "to keep it in the black," she said. The festival is supported by ticket sales, grants, and private donations. Diane is a key fund-raiser and is personally involved in the fundraising programs that assures the continued success of the worldrenowned classical music event.

Besides being CEO of the Newport Grand gaming facility for over 15 years, Diane maintains her position as board member of the Rhode Island March of Dimes, the RI Hospitality and Tourism Association, the Touro Synagogue Foundation, the Big Sisters Fund of Rhode Island, and the Attractions' Council of Newport County's executive committee.

When asked how she manages to dedicate so much time, effort, and expertise to charitable and community projects with her responsibilities as CEO of the Newport Grand, she modestly said, "We have a wonderful team."

Diane is also heavily involved in Save Our State, a non-partisan organization of interested individuals, groups, and companies that stand united to oppose the proposal to amend our state constitution to allow Harrah's Operating Company, an out-of-state gambling corporation, to establish a destination resort gambling casino in West Warwick.

Diane has two grown and married children, Kimberly and Nash, and one grandchild. She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and has lived in Jamestown for 9 years.

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