April 3, 2023–After eight years at its helm, and more than three decades as one of its biggest fans, Mary Muse is stepping down as Executive Director of the Kerrville Folk Festival (KFF) following this year’s event, effective June 30, 2023.
“For Bill and me both, we are ready to retire and enjoy life.” Muse said. “This job is the most rewarding work I have ever done, and also the most challenging and time consuming. We are both ready to re-claim our time as our own.”
The long-running, internationally-recognized festival has played a significant role in Muse’s personal life. She met her husband, songwriter Bill Muse, at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1992.
“The festival has always been so meaningful to us,” she said. “It literally changed our lives.”
After they were married, Bill and Mary began touring as professional musicians. That lead to producing music for festivals and venues in Texas and Colorado. In 2000, Bill was selected as a Finalist in the Grassy Hill New Folk Songwriting Contest at the KFF. At that time the couple decided “it was time to get off the road.”
Both accepted positions at The University of Montana, where Bill developed and oversaw the university’s budget and institutional research. Mary became Marketing Manager, and later Executive Director, for the University’s Event Center. Her duties included hosting and ticketing university sports, large-scale productions, and more than 100 concert performances. The box office function grew to ticket sales of 3 million tickets a year during her time there.
“It was truly an intense job, but I loved it,” she said. “It really showed me the basics of working in that industry, dealing with agents, managers, and entertainment.”
The Muses’ time as touring musicians and producing other festivals, coupled with her time at The University of Montana prepared her well for her future role as Executive Director of the KFF.
Muse lists her greatest accomplishments during her tenure at Quiet Valley Ranch as putting together a business model that was better aligned with its nonprofit structure: building a fund balance to help ensure that the festival will continue, and setting up the community to realize it’s goal of assuring their children and grandchildren can enjoy KFF.
Val Stinson, Chair, Kerrville Folk Festival Foundation Board of Directors, cited Muse’s leadership in navigating through the Covid lockdown, while securing additional funding to keep the Foundation on solid footing.
“It has been an honor, a pleasure, and my privilege to work with Mary over the years,” Stinson said. “Her commitment to the Festival and Foundation is unsurpassed.”
Muse steps away with a trove of personal memories.
“This festival is an amazing thing, for which I have a great reverence. I am so grateful to the late Rod Kennedy and Nancy Lee for starting the festival and buying the ranch. A community took root around the festival for which we are very thankful. There is so much camaraderie; we often refer to one another as our chosen family.”
While her direct leadership ends following this year’s event, Muse plans to stay involved in the festival.
“My love for the Kerrville Folk Festival goes all the way back to attending for the first time and discovering this world of performing songwriters,” she said. “The thing I am most excited about is coming back, sitting at camp, putting up my feet, visiting with my friends, and not caring that three hours have passed!”