He’s living proof that America’s Got Talent – and he definitely has The Voice! He is Allan Naplan, executive and producing director of Arizona Musicfest, the unique concert experience based at various venues in and around North Scottsdale.
Prior to his current position, and following his professional singing career, Allen served in senior management roles with the Minnesota, Madison, Pittsburgh and Houston opera companies. As an operatic baritone, he had performed with companies nationwide including the Santa Fe, Ithaca, Tulsa, Virginia and Nashville operas.
A Massachusetts native, Allen grew up surrounded by the sounds of music. His mother was the music teacher at the local Jewish day school and his father, an educator, ran the children’s services. “There was no question where I was headed,” he acknowledges. “Our home was immersed in Judaism and the arts.” He grew up in the Jewish musical tradition and the classics. “I gravitated toward it – and it has become my lifelong work and passion.“
Allen remembers attending one of Leonard Bernstein’s last performances at Tanglewood. “The experience defined my future. There was no question as to where I was headed!”
At the Ithaca College School of Music Allan earned degrees in both vocal performance and music education, combining his talent and craft to create an impressive amount of Jewish music, with more than one million copies of his work sold since 1994.
These include “An American Anthem,” introduced at the 10th anniversary 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial in New York City and his choral works have been performed at The White House, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, and in the 2002 Academy Award-nominated documentary, “SING!” He is a two-time winner of the Guild of Temple Musicians “Young Composers Award.”
In 2013, Allan and his wife, Christina, and their sons, Jonah and Elliot, moved to the Valley, where he had been “head-hunted” to accept the prestigious post with Musicfest. This was a transition from “just opera,” he notes, “to running a whole multi-musical operation,” involving “a lot of on-the-job training.”
When Allan took on the post, Musicfest already had a 22-year history here in the Valley, but it had a considerably smaller presence, with some 7,000 attendees per season. That number has since nearly tripled with Allan running the show. He explains that the artistic level “always was high, but we needed to increase marketing efforts and concentrate on improving the patron experience.”
To that end, he has concentrated on several challenging aspects. “We had the opportunity,” he explains, “to raise the standards across the board by significantly professionalizing the staff, adding venues including the Musical Instrument Museum, the Pinnacle Presbyterian Church and La Casa de Cristo, and upgrading the ticketing procedure.”
Allan’s efforts have paid off. Musicfest is experiencing an annual 20% growth in ticket sales, and he believes “The trajectory is huge. We barely are scratching the surface Valleywide. We anticipate lots of future growth.”
The 2018 Arizona Musicfest runs from Jan. 26 to March 16 and features Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune, Michael Feinstein, Pink Martini and much more.
Segments of Festival Orchestra Week, Feb. 18-25, Allan notes, will have special resonance for Jewish audience members. For instance, on Feb. 23 Maestro Robert Moody leads the Festival Orchestra in George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” featuring Israeli-American jazz star Tamir Hendelman. Also on the program are selections from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” and “West Side Story.” On Feb. 25 the orchestra honors the centennial of Bernstein with his monumental “Chichester Psalms.”
This busy artist/entrepreneur says that he enjoys “a wonderful relationship” with Temple Chai, where he serves as a cantorial soloist at monthly Shabbat services. Temple life is a constant for him, Allan says, along with spending time with Christina, a paralegal now retired from the opera world, and their boys. A Naplan family tradition, he shares with a smile, is that he and Christina often sing their sons to sleep.