The Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts has a new boss.

Now, David Pratt faces one of the biggest challenges of an impressive career -- finding a replacement for music director Michael Christie.

The Lafayette-based Colorado Music Festival informed its constituents Thursday it had hired Pratt, who served the past three years as executive director of the Savannah Philharmonic in Georgia.

Pratt succeeds Catherine Underhill, who resigned after 11 years as executive director to return to her hometown, Syracuse, N.Y., to become managing director of the town's fledgling Symphoria. Underhill took over the CMF in Christie's third season in 2003, and her most notable achievement was overseeing the 2009 merger of the Colorado Music Festival with the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts.

A native of Australia, Pratt officially will take over the CMF on Jan. 30, at which time his biggest task will be replacing Christie, the innovative music director who finished his last full season with CMF when the 2013 festival ended in August. Christie has accepted the position of music director at the Minnesota Opera. He is expected to oversee a few concerts during the 2014 season as the CMF searches for his successor.

Pratt has more than 15 years of experience serving as a manager in the performing arts, film and entertainment industries in the United States and Australia.

"We are thrilled to engage a professional of David's caliber," said Gretchen Minekime, CMF & CMA board member and chair of the search committee. "Certainly David's credentials and experience are impressive and in tight alignment with the qualities we sought in an executive director, but more importantly, he embodies an extraordinary passion for the work of CMF & CMA. We're so looking forward to the organization's next chapter under his leadership."

Pratt also is excited about his new challenge.

"I'm looking forward to making a huge contribution to CMF & CMA and leading a team of passionate and committed individuals," he said. "It's an exciting time as the organization transitions to a new music director and a new stage in its growth. In this role I get to combine my experience and passion for both music and education in one of the most beautiful cities in America."

Still, it was a choice with which he struggled.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Pratt told the Savannah Morning News. "I really mulled it over for several weeks.

"What it came down to is that it's such a great career opportunity for me. I'm going to a new experience where I can use these things I've learned in Savannah in a new place."

And, apparently, a place with better resources.

"He just got a job that was too good to pass up," Melissa Emery, chair of the Savannah Philharmonic board of directors, told the Morning News. "They have a much bigger operation and staff. They have over 20 people on their staff. It's a big step up."

Pratt, who joined the Savannah Philharmonic in 2010, is credited with huge increases in earned income and contributions. And, as Christie did with the CMF, Pratt helped increase the number of subscribers.

"I feel that I leave the organization in very good shape," Pratt told the Morning News. "I wouldn't leave unless that was the case."

The Colorado Music Festival, founded in 1976, presents summer classical music concerts at Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium using professional musicians from around the world. The CMF says it entertains more than 20,000 each season. The 2014 season is scheduled for June 28-Aug. 8.