He had the vision, broad musical tastes and technical know-how as well as the confidence, patience and stamina to pull off a festival featuring 24 hours of live music on several stages in one site in downtown Minneapolis.
For six years, Reid McLean masterminded the popular “Day of Music” fest at Orchestra Hall in the early ’00s.
“It was a huge undertaking. He was the creative force behind it,” said Beth Kellar-Long, Minnesota Orchestra’s vice president of administration. “He was there for all 24 hours the first year. For the following ones, he realized he couldn’t do it all. Because he knew all sides of it, he was able to delegate.”
McLean, a behind-the-scenes force in the Minnesota music scene for several decades, died June 6 of pancreatic cancer. He was 69.
After earning a degree in English with a minor in rock-band production from Macalester College, the Milwaukee native worked as a booking agent for local bands at Marsh Productions in Minneapolis. A keyboardist and flutist, he also played in several groups and went on to manage local artists and help present music at the old Guthrie Theater.
Armed with a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Minnesota, McLean worked his way to Orchestra Hall, where he wore many hats for 14 years. He handled marketing, booked nonclassical acts, spearheaded a campaign for the Minnesota Orchestra to build an amphitheater in Brooklyn Park (the project was never developed) and organized the “Day of Music” and other special events.
“He had a vision for these shows like ‘Songs of the Century’ and a Sinatra concert; he selected the songs and how the show would flow,” said singer and friend Cookie Coleman. “He wanted to be a producer and that was as close as he got to it.”
McLean had an eclectic taste in music, with a deep appreciation for jazz, classical, Brazilian music and different styles of rock. The Byrds were his favorite group, and the late-period Replacements were his favorite live Twin Cities band. He served on the development committee of the American Composers Forum, which supports new music.
“Music was everything to Reid. He listened to music more than anybody I know,” said longtime friend Bob Hest, an artist and music business insider who saw McLean two days before he died. “He was still buying CDs right up to the end. He had a sound system rigged up in his bedroom so he could listen to music in hospice.”
In 2006, McLean returned to Macalester College, working in fundraising and helping to launch an entrepreneurship program. He retired in December.
“He raised millions of dollars in new scholarship money for students. He was passionate about that,” said Christine Solso, his longtime associate who retired this month as Macalester’s assistant VP for development. “His knowledge of music, books and movies was kind of encyclopedic. He was low-key, with a dry wit and made great observations. It was always fun to be in a meeting with Reid.”
McLean and his wife, attorney Brigid McDonough, were active in social justice issues and devoted to their nieces and nephews.
“Reid took them to visit colleges. Who does that?” Coleman said.
“They were very, very involved in their nieces’ and nephews’ education,” Hest said, “and they paid for some of it.”
McLean’s wife died in January of a brain tumor. He is survived by his mother, two sisters, a brother and many nieces and nephews.
A virtual memorial gathering will be at 10 a.m. Friday; e-mail email@example.com for the link.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719 • Twitter: @JonBream