iPalpiti announces decision to leave Encinitas due to dispute with city official, letter says

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(Karen Billing)

The iPalpiti Festival, which brings classical music to multiple venues throughout the region, will discontinue its annual performances in Encinitas due to a conflict with the city’s arts administrator, the festival’s director announced in a letter to the mayor.

iPalpiti Director Laura Schmieder said in the letter, dated Sept. 1, that the 10th season in Encinitas over the summer had been “nothing but a struggle from the start.”

“The artists and festival directors felt most unwelcome, treated as a summer camp nuisance,” she wrote. “The challenges were presented at each step.”

Schmieder also announced that Music by the Sea, a city of Encinitas program, is suspended from membership in the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music Presenters after a dispute over the artists who would be selected to participate.

The letter said Collette Murphy Stefanko, who replaced James Gilliam as the city’s arts administrator in the last year, had “zero understanding of artistic accommodations.”

In a phone interview, Stefanko said she fulfilled the terms of the agreement between both sides.

“In following those rules, there was no mistreatment,” she said. “It just may not have resulted in getting everything they wanted, and just because someone doesn’t get everything they want does not mean they were mistreated.”

She added that she was “disappointed they did not acknowledge the extras that were afforded to them outside the agreement.”

Asked about the sticking points between the two sides, Stefanko said she needed to be “cautious” about discussing the specifics as the city conducts its own inquiry into the situation.

“I can just say unequivocally there was no mistreatment,” Stefanko said.

Reached by phone, Schmieder, who is also a founder of iPalpiti, said it was “B.S.” that the terms of the contract were upheld, but declined to comment further. She instead forwarded emails to the Encinitas Advocate that she received from people who told her how disappointed they were in the festival’s decision to leave Encinitas.

iPalpiti celebrated 25 years in 2022. In addition to the Encinitas shows, its festival dates earlier this summer included performances throughout Los Angeles. Over the years, iPalpiti has also gone on tour in New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Austria, Israel and other places around the world.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who is finishing her third and final term as mayor, said via email that she’s “hopeful they will reconsider.”

“We’re in close dialogue and I hope the city can resolve the problems they’ve encountered,” she said.

Naimeh Woodward, president of the Encinitas Friends of the Arts, said she was “sad to learn about the iPalpiti’s decision to stop offering this delightful festival in our community.”

“I have attended the majority of the concerts from the very beginning and spent many hours volunteering while hosting some of these young talented laureates at our home,” she said. “There is something magical about hearing these talented musicians practice and then perform so brilliantly.”