ASPEN - In his 16 years at Jazz Aspen Snowmass, concluding with a six-year stretch as the nonprofit organization's chief operating officer, Marc Breslin was hamstrung by the 10 or so nights each year that Jazz Aspen staged its festivals. Now, in his new position as general manager of the Belly Up music club, Breslin will be looking at a far bigger calendar to fill.
"I get more latitude to throw in a bunch of different things," said Breslin, whose hiring by Belly Up was announced last week. "I've never had that palette in front of me of 365 days. The horizons are unbelievable."
Breslin was laid off by Jazz Aspen in October as the organization engaged in cost-cutting measures. Two weeks ago, he was having a typical music-focused conversation with Belly Up owner Michael Goldberg. Breslin wasn't seeking a job; for years, he and Goldberg have spoken every few days about music-related topics. But the talk turned unexpectedly to the idea of Breslin replacing Kim Kuliga, general manager since the club's opening. Breslin saw it as a solid fit: Not only had he been a key executive at Jazz Aspen, but he had worked in the hospitality industry, helping run the Italian restaurant Abetone's in Aspen for five years and having a family history with New York City nightclubs.
"People have been saying they've never seen me so excited," Breslin said. "And I see it that way. I think change is very healthy. And everything I've done at Jazz Aspen fits right in here."
Breslin will have a hand in all of the club's day-to-day operations, including marketing and staff management. But Breslin's primary focus seems to be expanding Belly Up's prominence - a high bar to clear, considering that the 450-seat venue regularly plays host to acts that have graduated beyond the small-club level. (On Friday, Belly Up opened a two-night stand by alternative-rock icons Jane's Addiction and followed Sunday and Monday with a two-night stand by Lyle Lovett, plus a late-night show Sunday by dubstep star Flux Pavilion.)
"The brand is doing great as it is; it's an asset to the community. But like any business, you can always make it better," Breslin said of Belly Up. "We want to try to continue building Aspen as a music town along with being a skiing town and having the fantastic summer activities. And I think it's going in that direction."
Breslin thinks that Goldberg is the ideal ally in making music an even bigger part of Aspen's social makeup.
"To be with someone who's trying to expand the business, trying to bring the best talent available to Aspen and doing that 24/7 - that's the kind of person I want to have my wagon hooked up to," said Breslin, who had worked with Belly Up on ticketing and co-presenting concerts.
At Jazz Aspen, Breslin often led the push to bring in younger and edgier acts. He said it was too early to tell what impact he would have on the kinds of acts booked at Belly Up. But he was eager to give his input and to help fill a full year's worth of calendar slots.
"Belly Up's been great. But you can always do better," he said.