On September 19, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra signed their new music director, David Robertson, to a contract extension going through 2010. As part of the artistic growth required in Robertson’s agreement, the SLSO management has made a commitment to a continuing series of small ensemble concerts featuring new music or crossover venues, to continued annual returns to Carnegie Hall, and to an expanded educational presence both locally and nationally
The Atlanta Symphony made news recently with the announcement that their classical ticket sales grew 6% during the 2005-06 season. Even more impressively, single ticket sales for classical programs jumped 25%. Delegate Michael Moore reports that the ASO began early contract negotiations in October, since CEO Vulgamore is going on Sabbatical in January. The ASO has just recorded two CDs with Music Director Robert Spano that includes music of Vaughan Williams and Jennifer Higdon. The orchestra is also planning a two-week tour of Florida in late February 2007.
The Minnesota Orchestra‘s latest Beethoven symphony-cycle recording on the BIS label has just been released. For this recording of the Ninth Symphony, the orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä were joined by soloists Helena Juntunen, Katarina Karnéus, Daniel Norman, Neal Davies, and the Minnesota Chorale. Reviews of all three releases continue to be excellent.
The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ratified a new two-year agreement the day before the old contract expired. Delegate Mary Plaine reports that they are starting the 2006–07 season with Music Director Designate Marin Alsop, a new board chairman, and a new executive director. The BSO still has staff and orchestra vacancies they are hoping to fill soon. The musicians are currently examining different health insurance options to replace their existing plan, which will expire at the end of the year. Although they still have financial challenges to overcome, the atmosphere in the orchestra is very positive. Mary finishes by saying, “This past year has been just an amazing ride!”
Fidelity Investments and the Houston Symphony launched Inspire the Future, a new program designed to increase youth involvement in music education programs. The two organizations launched the program with a donation of nearly $60,000 in musical instruments to three local Houston-area schools. In the coming months, Inspire the Future will also honor individuals who have selflessly and passionately dedicated themselves to promoting music studies. Matthew VanBesien, Houston Symphony’s executive director/CEO, welcomed the program as an extension of the Symphony’s community outreach endeavors aimed at inspiring young people to maximize their future potential.
The Colorado Symphony just ratified a three-year contract with raises in base salary of 6%, 3%, and 3%. Delegate Martin Sher reports that the new contract contains significant gains in working conditions, especially with respect to scheduling, but that it also comes with a controversial change in health care. Musicians with more than one dependent on the health plan will not realize any significant salary increase during the three-year period. This was a divisive issue, but the negotiating team felt this was the best way to get the orchestra’s health care coverage on the right track.
Good news from San Francisco, where both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera received large donations. The San Francisco Opera received a $35 million gift from longtime patron Jeannik Méquet Littlefield. Of that, $10 million will go for annual operating expenses, with the rest going to the Opera’s $90 million endowment. Also new at the SFO is podcasting. The SFO podcasts will include informative lectures, previews, and insights all available online.
San Francisco philanthropist Richard Goldman gave the San Francisco Symphony a $10 million challenge grant aimed at increasing the company’s current $180 million endowment. The Goldman Foundation, of which Richard Goldman is president, will add $500,000 to every million-dollar contribution, allowing donors of that sizable amount to name a chair in the orchestra’s string section. The SFSO also just released a recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony through iTunes.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra welcomes its composer-in-residence Kevin Puts with a performance of his Symphony No. 3, “Vespertine,” written in the eclectic style of Icelandic pop vocalist Björk. The FWSO has commissioned a new violin concerto from Puts, which will be premiered with on April 20. The FWSO also just released a recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. It is bilingual—with Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya narrating the Spanish version and Michael York doing the English.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is planning an endowment campaign to increase the size of their $68.5 million endowment. The orchestra is also raising money to remodel Music Hall. The CSO has just released a recording of music by Britten and Elgar. This is the tenth recording of Paavo Jarvi and the CSO since 2001. The orchestra is also planning a tour of California in April 2007, performing five concerts, including a concert at the new hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has commissioned two new works through the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund. One of the works is a trombone concerto by Swedish trombonist, conductor, and composer Christian Lindberg. Titled Chick’a’Bone Checkout, it received its world premiere during CSO performances in September 2006 under the direction of Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Written especially for CSO trombonist Charles Vernon, the piece features its soloist playing alto, tenor, and bass trombones. The other new work will be From All Sides by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Mark-Anthony Turnage. It will be premiered in January 2007 with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting.
The musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra have just signed a three-year contract which raises their base salary 13.6%. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is trying to reach younger audiences through a few new programs. One program is the Online Conservatory where visitors can explore online the pieces the BSO are performing. The BSO is also trying to make it easier for college student to attend their performances by introducing the BSO College Card.
The New York City Ballet has appointed a new music director, Fayçal Karoui. Mr. Karoui will join NYCB on December 1, 2006, succeeding Andrea Quinn who, after five years with NYCB, returned to her native England at the conclusion of the 2006 spring season. The NYCB returns to Chicago for seven performances from October 17-21, 2006 at the Harris Theater.
The Phoenix Symphony announced a balanced budget for the year and set a new sales record of more than $55,000 on their first day of single ticket sales. These indicators, along with excellent artistic offerings, are setting the stage for a great season, said Maryellen Gleason, president and CEO of the Symphony.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has announced that it will continue it’s partnership with XM satellite radio. Additionally, a separate series of DSO concerts will be broadcast on traditional radio stations nationwide. Twenty-six weeks of DSO concert programs will begin airing in October. The DSO has also announced the launch of their new MySpace Web page (www.myspace.com/ detroitsymphonyorchestra). The Web page offers a younger generation the chance to learn more about the DSO through a medium they are especially familiar with, the Internet. The page is also geared to youths who participate in DSO educational programs.
The North Carolina Symphony opened its 75th anniversary season by receiving the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s “Lifetime Achievement Award for the Performing Arts.” The orchestra shared the honor and the stage with Chapel Hill native James Taylor at a ceremony held in the beautifully renovated Memorial Hall on the UNC campus.
Delegate Jeff Solomon reports that the Alabama Symphony have enjoyed a very successful first three weeks with their new music director, Justin Brown. The ASO is due to have contract negotiations this year, but they have not yet begun.
The Dallas Symphony is currently in its first year without a music director. However, the orchestra has seen a number of promising guest conductors though and is now narrowing the search. The DSO has seen a third year in the black and has just released two new recordings: Brahms second piano concerto, and a complete set of Ives’s four symphonies, both with their former music director, Andrew Litton. The orchestra saw a 23% increase in health care premiums over last year’s numbers, but due to the design changes made to last year’s plan, the increase did not force the orchestra to make further changes or to pay anything out of pocket.
The Nashville Symphony opened the Schermerhorn Symphony Center during the weekend of September 9 and 10. Thirty-five NSO supporters contributed a million dollars or more to help fund its construction. That weekend there were both a gala performance (dinner, dancing, and floor conversion included), and the hall’s first pops concert, with Christian artist and longtime Nashville Symphony advocate Amy Grant. The hall’s performance platform is to be named the Amy Grant Performance Platform in recognition of the enormous support she has provided to the NSO—going back to 1993, when a pair of benefit concerts raised enough money to wipe out the debt left over from the orchestra’s 1988 bankruptcy. Those concerts were the beginning of a continuing relationship with Ms. Grant, Michael W. Smith (whose own contributions allowed for the purchase of the orchestra’s Hamburg Steinway piano), and Vince Gill. Leonard Slatkin, recently appointed to a three-year term as NSO’s music advisor, conducted the gala performance.