Randy Conti, best known as longtime co-founder and director at the New York Conservatory for the Arts in nearby West Hurley and part of the pair who’ve brought the Woodstock Playhouse back to life as a summer stock and year round destination, describes his new tenure as president of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & the Arts in terms of happenstance…and his love for putting on a production.
“I’m looking at each project the Chamber takes on as a theatrical event,” he says. “Which means they have to be planned well enough in advance to work well.”
Conti added that although this summer season’s Chamber events such as the Concerts on the Green and second Friday Woodstock Nights events were “a little rushed” in their preparations, the stages have been set for both greater success next year, as well as the advent of new projects and programs.
As for getting so deeply involved in the often-troubled or moribund Chamber, Conti said it was all about “need” and “the right timing.”
But before speaking about himself, the venerable yet eternally youthful producer talked about all the chamber has been up to since he took over the leadership mantel from local banker Nick Altomare this past spring.
“The Woodstock Nights will continue into October and then there’s the big Open House in early December,” Conti said. “We have some new board members meeting twice a month, plus some very active committees, and we’ve started getting things planned out for next year including new signage — more joint projects with Jeremy (Wilber), Bill (McKenna) and the town bridging the government and business communities; more beautification, and some new ideas for advertising and marketing.”
Conti spoke about a billboard deal they have in Orange County, donated and shifting sites, and how the Chamber is figuring out how to better its website, including the creation of a much more comprehensive and manageable calendar of events.
The latter, he added, has as much to do with outreach as web design.
“We need to be getting on everybody’s radar so that when they send their info to the local papers or radio stations, they always include the Chamber,” Conti said. “That also means figuring out how we can reach people, in the business and other communities, so they actually read what’s being sent them.”
He said the Chamber has set up a new Constant Contact system and is weighing how many times to eblast its information before becoming annoyingly redundant.
“People have to open the mail, and then they have to read it” Conti said. “They say you need to send at least three times to achieve that, but how to do that subtly and well?”
Cooperation with the county
In addition to meeting twice a month just now, with the most regular time being the first Friday morning of each month at the Playhouse, the Chamber is about to start holding early morning get-togethers over coffee, care of board member Jaime Barthel. There, ideas from those who are not yet members will be solicited, and worked with.
Just as important, Conti added, were the results of a meeting he held with Ulster County Executive Mike Hein that resulted in the county making its marketing team at Focus Media available to the Chamber. And then more emphasis on Woodstock in all the county’s own marketing efforts.
“It’s all just a beginning just now,” the Chamber president adds.
Did he ever see himself in such a role?
“I’ve been on arts boards over the years but never saw myself on a chamber of commerce,” he answers. “But when we took over the Playhouse I felt it was right to be involved and then they asked me to be on the board. I saw little by little that it was very important to invest oneself in it all to actually make things happen. And then when it was time for Nick to step down I got asked to step up.”
How did Conti fit the Chamber in to his already busy schedule running NYCA, the Playhouse, and both teaching and directing several plays at once?
“I give it my mornings,” he replies. “I really do believe we can make a difference and grow, here, and we all do work so well together.”
He pauses, mulling some of the misconceptions even he had about what the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & the Arts did and didn’t do back before he became so integral to it. “We’re hoping now to pull the town’s arts organizations into what we do,” he continues. “This adventure was there for me and I took it, just as we took on the Playhouse when it presented itself to us. There’s a lot of things in life I never saw myself doing.”
He pauses again.
“We’re going to do this all well,” he adds.++