Joan McLean Braun (Rebekah West)

Author: Sabine Kortals Stein

“A Boulder treasure”

Celebrating the illustrious career of CU Presents Executive Director Joan McLean Braun

Boulder native and CU Boulder alumna Joan McLean Braun (BM ’81 and MBA ’93) has achieved an extraordinary 30-year career at her alma mater, much to the delight and deep appreciation of campus and community audiences alike.

“As executive director of CU Presents since 2001, Joan took the helm when CU Presents was still CU Concerts at the College of Music,” recalls Dean John Davis. “From the beginning—back when I directed the college’s jazz studies program in the early 2000s—Joan took the time to really listen and understand the goals, needs and performance activities of the program which opened the gates for me to achieve what I envisioned.

“She extended the same can-do, open-minded approach to all academic areas in the College of Music, quickly recognizing that she needed to closely partner with our departments and studios to develop the infrastructure of a sustainable performing arts entity that also supports our academic mission.”

Since then, Braun—who further serves as the college’s assistant dean for concerts and communications—has led the expansion of CU Presents to become what it is today: The home of all performing arts on the CU Boulder campus with hundreds of concerts, recitals, plays and other events each year, including the popular Holiday Festival and uniquely innovative Faculty Tuesdays series, as well as the much-lauded Artists Series and Takács Quartet series, the nationally acclaimed Colorado Shakespeare Festival and more.

“Joan has done a wonderful job of building and sustaining CU Presents over its long history,” says CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “Her dedicated work connecting the community with all that the College of Music offers has elevated the college’s reputation and strengthened the university’s relationships with the community.

“Joan’s efforts have been deeply appreciated and have laid the foundation for future success for CU performers, scholars and artists.”

Indeed, under Braun’s artistic vision—and thanks to the collaborative relationships she’s established on campus and with other Colorado arts presenters and artists’ agents worldwide—our audiences have experienced the College of Music’s many outstanding ensembles and opera/musical theatre productions, as well as CU Boulder Theatre & Dance performances and groundbreaking acts by award-winning, world-renowned icons.

“The Artist Series has been and remains an extremely prestigious and important series,” says Toby Tumarkin, executive vice president and global head of artists and attractions with IMG Artists. “Under the leadership of Joan Braun, CU Presents has continued to bring new stars from around the globe while maintaining its traditional audiences, subtly and successfully adapting to a changing arts landscape.

“Consistently an anchor for artists and touring projects in the region and a crucial lynchpin to help to bring shows to the West Coast, Joan Braun’s work at CU Presents is a powerful example of important and thoughtful arts presenting.”

But Braun—who will retire at the end of the 2023-’24 season—is quick to deflect such well-earned respect and admiration. “I have the good fortune of a brilliant team,” she says, also crediting a strong, synergistic collaboration with College of Music Dean Emeritus Daniel Sher over more than two decades. “The way I see it, my role is to empower my senior team, and to ensure they understand what I’ve learned and how I do things—especially artist management and meeting the needs of our community. That’s how we can best support the next director of CU Presents.”

Among her dedicated staff are longtime colleague Laima Haley who directs CU Presents’ marketing and public relations; CU Presents’ Operations Director Andrew Metzroth who oversees Tessitura ticketing operations; Senior House Manager Rojana Savoye; and Macky Auditorium Director Rudy Betancourt. “Boulder’s cultural scene would not have achieved its world-class reputation without Joan’s vision for what is possible, steadfast leadership and resilience in the face of challenges,” says Betancourt. “She has been a trusted mentor and a dear friend not only to me but to many at CU Presents, the College of Music and—closer to my heart—Macky Auditorium.

“Her service to the university and the surrounding area has become an unmatched legacy.”

And it’s precisely Braun’s remarkable legacy that inspires our invitation for donations to the Artist Series endowment in her honor, with the goal of reaching $1 million this season.

“I’m so gratified knowing that the endowment ensures and protects the Artist Series and the overall health of CU Presents—long after I’m retired and into the future,” says Braun. “In the arts, we’re quite vulnerable to events beyond our control—like the recent pandemic or the floods in 2013 when, understandably, a lot fewer people were able to come to our performances.

“For myriad reasons, when earned revenues fall short, the endowment provides crucial funding—hopefully in perpetuity.”

“Managing a performing arts venue is an affair of the heart and mind. On one hand are the myriad logistics: Contracts, communications, transportation, finances. On the other: Human connection, the gift of beauty and meaning. At best, these all play together in a poetic rhythm, organic and natural, to create a unity that seems like it was inevitable. But it only happens when someone has the vision to see the whole in all of its parts. For the Artist Series and CU Presents, that person is Joan who for 30 years has brought us together for encounters with beauty and meaning through music and dance. She is truly a Boulder treasure.”

Daryl James Artist Series Advisory Board member + former chair