June 1, 2023–Deb Rouse has been named Executive Director of the Kerrville Folk Festival Foundation by the Board of Directors, assuming full duties in July, 2023.
Rouse feels ready, both professionally and personally, to step into the role of Executive Director of the “beloved” 50-year-old institution with an international reputation.
“I believe my skills and attributes, combined with my deep passion for the festival and the community it provides, will serve the Festival and the Foundation well,” Rouse said.
Professionally, Rouse holds a law degree from South Texas College of Law and undergraduate degrees in Materials Science Engineering/Managerial Studies from Rice University. After working as an attorney, Rouse joined Dispute Resolution Management, Inc. for 20 years. She was promoted to President, Chair of the Board, and partial owner of the company prior to retiring in 2019.
Personally, the Kerrville Folk Festival is a family tradition. Her parents, Liz and Bruce Rouse, began attending the Festival in 1975, with their daughter Deb in tow. After a hiatus for her career, Deb and her husband, Lindsey Lee, have been involved in every Festival since 2002.
Rouse considers all fest-goers as “my chosen family.”
“I love being the KFF ‘carny,’” she said. “I am good at talking with strangers and getting out in public. I plan to be evangelizing on what the festival is about. No matter who you are, you will find your tribe on the ranch.”
While recognizing the contributions of her predecessors, Rouse has some ambitious goals. A starting list includes:
-To explore sponsorship opportunities with Texas-based companies
-To work with local businesses to support their hometown festival
-To expand community awareness about the festival
-To collaborate more with local and area arts and music organizations
“It’s no secret we need to build back attendance,” she said. “Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people, not just our fan base, got out of the habit of going out to hear live music. We need to build that back, not just for KFF but for all of the Texas music community.”
While the KFF brings in fans from around the world, there are still many in Kerr County who do not participate, or who harbor outdated impressions of the event. She sees a need “to strengthen our relationship with the City of Kerrville.”
“This is our home, and where we live. Our event brings business to Kerrville, and we need to give back, by such initiatives as Music at the Mansion and supporting performing songwriters playing at the Trailhead at Schreiner University. We also want to bring our music to the schools in Kerrville, expand our Music Camp for Teens, and offer support for students who participate in our festival.”
Beyond her hard skills, Rouse considers her personal style as her real strength. Those touches include planning and organizing, streamlining processes, and “training up” staff and volunteers to maintain continuity.
“I’m a believer in personal outreach,” she said. “During this year’s event, I was at Land Rush asking people what their issues were. I went out to the camps to check in on what is working and what we can do better. Those things are all important to me. As I said, this is my chosen family; I want to hear from them.”
Rouse takes over from Mary Muse, who has held the position since 2015. Rouse, who formally began on April 15, has been shadowing Muse throughout the 2023 festival. Muse, who will step away at the end of June, is “delighted” in the new leadership.
“Not only is she immensely qualified, Deb is steeped in the culture; she knows the community; the community knows her,” Muse said. “All the feedback from the community has been nothing but positive. So we’re really happy.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I would not have considered this position if Mary Muse had not done a phenomenal job of stabilizing the management, the finances, and the staffing, and creating the processes to keep it on track,” Rouse said.
Rouse’s commitment to the festival is so deep, she and her husband have moved their RV onto Quiet Valley Ranch and are living there for the time being.
“I am also asking the festival community to step up a little bit,” Rouse said. “If I ask about something, I want to hear from them, because I have faith in them. I will make missteps, and I will own those, apologize for them, and ask everyone to accept that with grace. Besides, Mary is just a phone call away!”
Does Muse have any final words of advice to the new director?
“Hone your skills in delegating.”
More information about the Festival is online at www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org.