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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 45

July 17, 2006 at 3:54 AM

The Seattle Symphony Survey, Redux

Of course, word has leaked out about the results of the supposedly private survey the Seattle Symphony musicians union created, circulated and tabulated for itself. On Friday, July 14, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced that it had obtained a copy of the results and reported on the findings: “A survey of Seattle Symphony musicians conducted by their union is, on the face of it, a devastating attack on conductor Gerard Schwarz and the leadership of the orchestra's board of trustees, but its conclusions are in question.”

According to the paper, the survey results consist of a 16-page report that tabulated musicians’ answers to six questions. The comments, mostly addressing the leadership of Music Director Gerard Schwarz and the board, were overwhelmingly negative. The union claims an 80 percent response rate, though some musicians said privately that they never received the survey.

The musicians criticized the board for renewing Schwarz’s contract through 2011 without consulting them. Some musicians also criticized the players themselves: "We lack clean ensemble, accurate intonation, we are rarely together, we don't share a sense of style and common vision." Others cited "low morale" and "lack of discipline." Other musicians credited Schwarz for bringing about long-term improvement in the orchestra but said his approach had grown stale.

After the board commissioned an independent review of the survey’s methodology and findings, which were roundly criticized for their essay-only format and internal tabulation, the musicians countered that the survey’s main purpose was to persuade the board not to renew Schwarz’s contract past 2011. By that measure, perhaps the survey will be successful. Considering that 2011 will mark his 28th year with the orchestra, the argument that perhaps a change is in order does not seem unreasonable.

But it is deeply concerning that open enmity that exists between members of the orchestra, those who are perceived as “friends” of the conductor and those who are not: “Those considered to be friends of Schwarz say they have had their instruments and cars vandalized, their mailboxes rifled,” reports the paper. “Inevitably, each side also has strong criticism of the musicianship on the other side of the aisle.”

One can hardly imagine a more stress-filled workplace. Perhaps the survey will improve the musicians’ work environment by allowing for the open airing of differences. It is more likely, however, that tensions will increase as a result of this well-intentioned document. Everyone loses in the presence of such divisiveness.

Read the entire article here:

Other News

Violinist Michelle Makarski released her latest solo recording, featuring unaccompanied works of Tartini and others, last March, reports the Interlochen alumni newsletter. Makarski, a resident of New York, is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and teaches masterclasses and workshops in the U.S. and abroad.

The Juilliard School has announced several new faculty members for 2006-07, including Steven Tenenbom, viola, and Albert Laszlo, double bass.

Violinist Augusto Diemecke has been named string specialist for the Youth Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. He is associate concertmaster of the youth orchestra's parent organization, Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Philip Bauman, music director of Indiana's LaPorte County Symphony has renewed his contract for three years, beginning with the 2007-08 season.

Cellist Sarah Chelgren has been named the conductor of Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies’ Sinfonia group. An alumna of the group, Chelgren is orchestra director at Robbinsdale Cooper High School and is completing her master's degree at Northwestern University. She holds a bachelor's degree in music education from St. Olaf College.

Karen Lynne Deal has signed a new three-year contract extending her tenure as music director and conductor of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

Mary Woodmansee Green has renewed her contract as music director and conductor of Pennsylvania's Kennett Symphony of Chester County. She also serves as music director of the Hilton Head (S.C.) Orchestra.

Christopher Zimmerman will step down as music director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas in June 2007. The orchestra's board of directors will begin a search for his successor; each finalist will conduct one concert during the 2007-08 season.

7/12/06 – The New Jersey legislature has cut arts funding by a total of 15 percent for the coming fiscal year, reports the Newark Star-Ledger: "In the late-night frenzy to craft a budget deal this week, lawmakers cut the budget of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts an additional 5 percent, to $19.1 million." The paper adds: "Gov. Jon Corzine originally proposed a 10 percent cut to the grants budget of the arts council ... That number remained firm until the final hours of negotiations, when lawmakers cut another $1.3 million." According to the paper, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will receive $1 million from the Arts Council.

7/8/06 – The reviews are in for Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead, a young person’s piece commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony from Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) and composer Nathaniel Stookey. San Francisco Classical Voice gave the work a mostly favorable review, noting that the capacity audience heartily approved, as judged by their laughter and applause. Formatted in a murder mystery style, the work introduces all the instruments while also “solving” a composer’s murder. It turns out that, rather than being the culprits, conductors and orchestras keep the composers alive by performing their music. The reviewer in particular enjoyed Snicket’s characterization of violinists: “The violins are divided into two sections: The firsts, who have the trickiest parts, and the seconds, who are always more fun at parties."

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