Newslets are compiled with the help of ICSOM delegates and ICSOM Members at Large from sources that include direct submissions, member orchestra websites, and topical news items. The editor encourages input and submissions.
Atlanta Symphony delegate Michael Moore reports that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors and Players’ Association jointly announced the ratification of a new four-year contract on November 21, 2006. The new agreement will commence August 26, 2007 and extend through the 2010-2011 season. This collective bargaining agreement, reached nine months in advance of the current contract’s expiration with only 35 days of negotiation, exemplifies the institution’s continuing culture of cooperation and shared aspirations to advance the ASO.
Charlotte Symphony’s music director, Christof Perick, will step down in the spring of 2009, and the group is forming a committee to choose his successor. Perick will return for two seasons with the new title of Laureate Conductor.
His departure will open up one of the most prominent jobs in the city’s cultural scene: leader of its largest performing arts group. Perick, who took charge of the orchestra in September 2001, shuttles between Charlotte and work in other cities—especially in his native Germany, where he has two other jobs. According to the Charlotte Observer, the conductor search group is likely to put a priority on finding someone who can spend time promoting the orchestra across the region.
After an absence of several years, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will begin syndication of 39 national radio broadcasts as part of a comprehensive media strategy that includes the launch of a new in-house recording label for compact discs and digital downloads. Delegate Rachel Goldstein reports that broadcasts are scheduled to begin in March 2007.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that a task force aiming to renovate Cincinnati’s Music Hall is now active. Music Hall was built in 1878 for the choral concerts of the Cincinnati May Festival. Today it also serves the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (including its Cincinnati Pops Orchestra), the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Ballet. The Music Hall Working Group consists of representatives of the main tenants, as well as the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, and the Cincinnati Arts Association, which manages the Hall on behalf of the city, which owns Music Hall.
According to the article, the project was originally prompted by concerns that the massive 3400-seat hall is only half full on many symphony nights. With all the hall’s tenants wanting to make the Over-the-Rhine landmark a more glamorous destination, officials are brainstorming a menu of ideas, including possibly adding a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and donor lounge, fixing up aging symphony offices, more secure parking, and improving backstage technology. Maintaining the hall’s excellent acoustics will be a major concern.
On September 28, 2006, the musicians of the Colorado Symphony ratified a three-year agreement that continues through August 31, 2009. A significant change to this contract regards health insurance. The orchestra’s management had not made any contributions toward dependent health insurance since 1989, but with this contract they will contribute increasing percentages of dependent coverage. Other changes include paid parental leave, scheduling and working condition improvements, and salary and EMG increases. Also, the librarian has been added to the bargaining unit.
The Dallas Symphony is experimenting with a new concert format. Friday Casual Classics is a series of six concerts spaced throughout the season. Each concert begins at 7:30 PM and comprises a condensed version of the week’s program. The concert is slightly shortened to one and a half with no intermission. The orchestra wears all black for the series instead of the usual evening formalwear. The audience is also encouraged to dress down in a come-as-you-are fashion. Each of these concerts is introduced by a few minutes of talk describing the music. Delegate James Nickel says that the audience response to the series has been very positive. Meanwhile, the DSO narrows its search for a new music director and has added five new members on one-year contracts.
From the Houston Symphony, we have a report of interest from delegate Eric Arbiter:
As a longtime photographer (of 40 years or so), one of my long-held dream projects has been to do all the portraits of Houston Symphony musicians. I have photographed many of the individuals over the years. The HSO musicians were planning do a series of portraits funded by our internal musician’s organization, Musicians of the Houston Symphony (MOTHS). That organization generally performs chamber music in home settings to raise funds to funnel back into the Houston Symphony. Some projects funded in the past include significant donations to restore our flood-decimated music library, donations to the orchestra’s capital campaign, and raising funds for Red Cross for hurricane relief.
When management told us they were considering re-doing all of the musicians’ portraits, I mentioned a similar MOTHS plan that was already in progress. After they confirmed that my portfolio of past work was the type of portraiture they had in mind, management and MOTHS decided to partner the program.
I plan to take at least a year to photograph the musicians, giving at least an hour for each individual portrait session. Since I have known most of the musicians for years, I hope that familiarity and trust will translate to portraits which may be more revealing of each musician’s personality than if a portrait were done by a photographer the musicians may not know. Plus, I am committed to work until we achieve satisfying results, since I don’t want any of my colleagues annoyed at me for a less that excellent portrait! The portrait sessions are already under way.
The portraits will be used in conjunction with musician bios on the web, on our large screens in the concert hall before the concerts and during intermission, as prints in the foyer, and on some new large flat panel TV screen in the lobby. Prints also will be made available for purchase for the musicians. We may also present musician’s portraits as thank-yous to each musician’s sponsor.
At the Metropolitan Opera, a special 100-minute English-language adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute inaugurated a first-ever series of family holiday matinees. Directed by Julie Taymor (award-winning director and costume designer of The Lion King), it features a new translation by poet J.D. McClatchy. With its trademark stage magic and puppetry, the spectacle that has charmed sold-out houses since the staging’s 2004 premiere included in its cast many of the stars of the acclaimed full production, including Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Matthew Polenzani as Tamino. Music Director James Levine conducted the first four of six performances, December 29 through January 4, including New Year’s Day.
According to a press release issued by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Andreas Delfs will leave his post at the end of the 2008–09 season. By accepting a one-year extension of his contract, he will remain as music director for the MSO’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2008–09.
Delfs will conduct eight subscription programs next season and seven in his final year, along with several weeks of regional and state-wide concerts. Delfs will further serve as Music Director Laureate for three years, with at least one subscription program weekend in Milwaukee each season.
In late-breaking news, the Honolulu Symphony announced that Delfs will serve as its principal conductor commencing with the 2007–08 season.
Nine emerging composers from across the country participated in the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which ran from November 26 through December 2, 2006. The composers, ranging in age from 24 to 39, were selected through a competitive submission and judging process of 143 qualifying scores from 37 states. Aaron Jay Kernis, the orchestra’s new-music advisor, headed the panel of judges and co-directed the Institute along with Beth Cowart, the orchestra’s artistic planning associate. The nine composers who participated were Garrett Byrnes, Anna Clyne, Kurt Erickson, Stephen Gorbos, Missy Mazzoli, Ashley Nail, Alejandro Rutty, Dan Visconti, and Gregg Wramage.
The Minnesota Orchestra and the American Composers Forum present the Composer Institute every season in cooperation with the American Music Center and University of Minnesota School of Music. This is the sixth season of the full Composer Institute and the twelfth of the new music mentoring program. This year for the first time the Institute culminated in a performance conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä.
The Institute, which is unique in the nation, nurtures the participants’ musical acumen and broadens their career management skills, assisting in their growth as artists and community leaders. Past participants have said that the Composer Institute was the single most important experience of their musical educations. Many have gone on to secure important awards, positions, commissions, and performances.
The intensive week includes instrumental workshops with orchestra musicians for the invited composers and local auditors, and numerous seminars with leading music industry professionals on topics ranging from copyright law and commissioning to grant writing and publishing. Featured seminar speakers this year included Henry Fogel (ASOL), Ralph Jackson (BMI), copyist Bill Holab, and music attorney James Kendrick, among others.
Thanks go to Minnesota Orchestra delegate and librarian Paul Gunther for reporting those details. Paul, who is also an ICSOM Governing Board Member at Large, also took special note of the Colorado Symphony’s inclusion of a fellow librarian in its bargaining unit, a move he says “speaks volumes to this orchestra’s acuity and perception of its position as a twenty-first century orchestra.”
North Carolina Symphony Music Director Grant Llewellyn has signed a contract extension that will lengthen his tenure with the orchestra through 2012. Since Llewellyn’s hiring in 2004, which followed a three-year search process led by current ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge, attendance for the orchestra has increased by nearly one-fourth. Delegate Elizabeth Lunsford says that during that time, the orchestra has also grown with the addition of three full-time members and that three more new positions will be added next season.
The Pittsburgh Symphony recently announced a transformational $29.5 million gift from Dick Simmons and the R.P. Simmons Family. According to an article in the November 18th issue of Business Wire, the gift is designed as a catalyst for a major endowment campaign, to ensure the financial stability of the orchestra, to encourage support from the community, and to foster financial discipline by the entire Pittsburgh Symphony family.
Artistic Advisor Sir Andrew Davis commented, “This gift is testimony to the Pittsburgh Symphony as a world-class orchestra. Any city would envy a similar investment in its orchestra. This is undeniable evidence that the first-rate leadership in Pittsburgh knows what it takes and is willing to pay the price for artistic excellence.”
PSO Concertmaster Andrès Cárdenes said, “In times of organization-wide sacrifice, this generous gift from Dick and his family could not be more welcome. I think I can speak for all my colleagues in the Orchestra when I say we are humbled, inspired, and relieved to know that our work is valued so greatly.”
According to the American Symphony Orchestra League, this gift ranks fifth among very few private-sector investments of this magnitude in the orchestral world, many of which were made for capital projects or in much larger cities. With the forthcoming campaign based around this gift, the PSO has developed a bold and aggressive plan to eliminate an operational deficit, increase the size of the endowment while reducing the draw, continue its world-class artistic excellence, and make needed improvements to Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts. Concurrently, the PSO has just announced an $80 million fundraising campaign, the largest effort in the Orchestra’s history, a third larger than the $60 million raised in 1993, the most recent previous effort.
On November 7th, 2006, the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony learned that Music Director Larry Rachleff’s contract had not been renewed by the executive committee of its board. In keeping with the board’s bylaws, the executive committee acted on behalf of the full board but without their knowledge. The reason proffered by the executive committee for the decision is that they believe that the role of the SASO’s music director has changed since Rachleff was hired and that, among other non-artistic duties, it now requires residency in San Antonio. The orchestra committee and the orchestra’s three elected musician board representatives worked for several weeks to reverse the decision. The most public action taken was the orchestration of a standing ovation for Rachleff onstage at the start of our November 9th concert, which was mirrored by the audience.
Despite many strong arguments against this decision, the protest of the musicians, massive public outcry, and calls for mediation from both musicians and board members, the decision will not be reversed. Delegate Emily Watkins reports that the full board is moving forward with the formation of a music director search committee. The musicians have been promised up to 50% representation on this committee (more than the one-third representation specified by our CBA). ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge made a well-timed visit to the San Antonio Symphony on November 29 and 30, 2006, meeting with the orchestra, CEO David Green, and the orchestra committee. Many orchestra members were energized by the visit and expressed their appreciation.