William Lederer is the newest executive director of Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — William Lederer got a special gift for his 29th birthday.

The day before, April 15 of this year, he was offered the job of executive director of the Chocolate Church Arts Center. He had just moved to Brunswick from Baltimore, Maryland, earlier that month.

“It was a good birthday present,” Lederer said Sept. 11 in an interview at the 1847 former Gothic church, which stands in all its brown-colored glory over Washington Street.

He started on June 4, replacing interim director Dennis St. Pierre, who in turn took the place of permanent director Jennifer DeChant.

In taking over one of Bath’s landmarks, Lederer said he is getting a sense of what already works well, and what can be improved.

“It’s not an easy place to understand if you haven’t spent a lot of time here,” he said. For instance, the complex technology that goes into operating the stage.

Lederer sees the Chocolate Church having a stronger educational presence, too.

“Music and art tend to be the first thing to go in school budgets, sadly enough,” he said.

The 275-seat center recently kicked off its 2019-20 season with “Camelot,” and a band of Maine performers will offer their take on “The Last Waltz” on Saturday, Sept. 28. A full list is posted at chocolatechurcharts.org/2019-2020-events.

“We want to continue to offer what our audiences like to come and see here, and at the same time we want to explore how we can get new people in the door here,” Lederer said.

He praised DeChant with turning the center’s fiscal woes around in recent years. Its annual operating budget is about $250,000.

“Like most nonprofits, it is constantly in the back of your mind, but we are certainly not in any immediate danger of going anywhere,” Lederer said. “Which is not to say that we don’t still need a lot of support from the business community,” as well as from individuals and grants.

Amanda McDaniel, director of the Main Street Bath downtown revitalization organization, on Sept. 18 called the Chocolate Church “an integral part” of Bath’s cultural community.

“It has humbly brought forward musicians, performances and concerts that Bath and surrounding areas would have no access to otherwise,” she said. “They bring diverse, thoughtful, playful and unique artists that speak to a wide demographic, from families with young children to retirees.”

A musical background

Lederer was a full-time musician prior to his time with the Chocolate Church, teaching guitar, playing in wedding bands, and writing commercial music for companies like Home Depot, as well as his own songs.

Before that, he was special assistant to the president of at Goucher College, his Baltimore-area alma mater. “That’s where I got my administrative knowledge,” Lederer said.

Looking for work after moving to Maine to be closer to family, “I wanted to stay involved in the music and the arts, but I was a little bit over the full-time musician lifestyle,” he said. Seeing an ad for the Chocolate Church executive director position, he was drawn to the building’s name and, upon visiting the structure, its vibe.

“As soon as I stepped into the building, was when I really, really wanted to be here,” Lederer said.

And so did the center’s board of trustees. Lederer rose to the top of more than 30 applicants from across the country, according to DeChant, who serves on that panel.

We were looking for a person with the energy, commitment and creative problem solving to guide the Chocolate Church Arts Center to the next level,” she said Sept. 18. Lederer “brings those aspects and more to the position. He knows that the sustainability of the organization relies on collaborations, fiscal management and community support. William is off to a great start by meeting with funders, volunteers and stakeholders.”

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