Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Taps New Executive Director


The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Board of Directors has named a successor to Executive Director Clare Bisceglia, who will retire in January after 11 years in the theater’s top position.

James Burke, who formerly served as director of Arts and Cultural Programs at the City Parks Foundation, a presenter of free outdoor programming in New York City, will assume the helm on Monday, November 18, according to a release sent out by PAC officials Friday afternoon.

“I am extremely excited to build upon the amazing legacy of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center,” he said in the prepared release. “Programming arts and entertainment in neighborhoods across the five boroughs of NYC has prepared me well to serve the audiences from the East End and beyond.”

While working for the City Parks Foundation, a job he began in 2001, Mr. Burke established the renowned SummerStage and SummerStage Kids festivals, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, and youth puppet programs produced at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre and its touring component, the CityParks Puppet Mobile. He is also the founder and chair of New York Music Presenters and Festivals, a coalition that meets quarterly to collaborate and share ideas.

Mr. Burke, who graduated with high honors from Boston College and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theater, has also worked in sales, marketing and promotions for various music industry companies that include Paradigm Associated Labels, Caroline Distribution and CMJ Music Marathon.

He also has experience as a professional musician, having been a bassist, lead singer and songwriter for various pop, blues and alternative bands.

The PAC Board of Directors began the search for a replacement earlier this year.

“After an exhaustive nationwide search, we are thrilled to attract such a high-caliber executive with extensive experience in presenting diverse talent in unique locations appealing to huge audiences,” said Neil Braun, the chair of the Search Committee and President of the Board of Directors in the same release. “Building upon the success of the first 15 years, we are confident that James is the right person to lead the WHBPAC into the future.”

Mr. Burke and his wife, Jennifer Townsend, an elementary school teacher, plan to move to the Westhampton Beach area with their three children.

In the same release, PAC officials said Mr. Burke would not be available for interviews until he begins his new post.

Ms. Bisceglia did not immediately return a call seeking comment this week about her pending departure.

Alison Tocci, president of City Parks Foundation, said earlier this week that she worked closely with Mr. Burke over the last few years, adding that he will be missed by the entire staff. She described him as a “phenomenal administrator and artist” who brings years of experience, as well as a vast repertoire of knowledge, when it comes to booking both entertainment and educational programming.

“James is a true and consummate professional, and I think it’s Westhampton’s gain,” Ms. Tocci said.

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