Schwarz under fire: should we boycott auditions?

December 17, 2007 at 11:21 PM · Has anyone seen this? I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was this bad:

Would it keep you from auditioning? I think people should refuse to audition for Seattle until Schwarz goes. Do you think it would help in the long run?


December 17, 2007 at 11:40 PM · Schwarz apparently thinks of himself as an old-fashioned type of maestro a la Reiner. Pity he doesn't have the talent to back it up. Who would willingly want to work for such a man?

December 18, 2007 at 01:10 AM · Recently, I've had dealings with the principal chairs in string sections of a number of major symphonies, plus a concertmaster or two. What impressed me most about the ones I met, apart from their musical abilities, was their grace and social skills, along with their energy. What great people to be around, and to work with!

In a highly competitive environment such as a symphony, there's bound to be jealousy and discord, but the leaders have to be able to transcend the pettiness and bring people to work together. I have no idea where the fault lies here, whether it's a fractious group feeding on each other's energy, or a truly heavy handed boor of a conductor, but good leadership deals with this sort of thing quietly and effectively before it gets out of hand. Somebody obviously dropped the ball here.

December 18, 2007 at 04:01 AM · I suspect that if you boycott the auditions then there may be only 55 candidates for a slot instead of the usual 60.

I am sure the audition committee will be relieved.

December 18, 2007 at 04:25 AM · I have had experience with Mr. Schwarz. He was the conductor of a festival in Madeira a number of years ago and I was principal 2nd violin. He took an immediate dislike to me simply because in my resume he noticed that I had performed on the Baroque violin and he despised period instrument performance. Although I made every effort to adjust to his style of music making as a good freelancer should do and could easily do so since I was a seasoned professional, he took exception to everything I was doing. At the end of the festival I went up to him and said as a good freelancer should say, "I enjoyed working with you." His response was to say: "I'll make sure that you never work again in New York City".

I, of course never was hired by him again, but actually had quite a good career thereafter in NYC. Granted, I was not hired by any contractor in NY who worked for him, but there were plenty of other opportunities.

This man was at that time and continues to be a person who doesn't put the best interests and feelings of the musicians first. When one is playing in a situation like this, I would think that the first response would be, "how do I get out of this gracefully." I would not recommend auditioning for a position in his orchestra. By the way, my experience with him was about 30 years ago, so he has obviously not changed much in his demeanor towards his fellow musicians. Bruce

December 18, 2007 at 04:38 AM · I've heard of, and been through even worse horror stories than this Bruce, but not in music. Some of the ones I've heard of were in music, and went beyond our sometimes high strung natures significantly.

My 'true' condolences to any who has.... When I do write my book, I will let everyone know.

December 18, 2007 at 05:15 AM · Bruce, thanks for your personal input on the conductor. I wonder whether there is any way to fire the conductor and replace him with someone better.

December 18, 2007 at 12:13 PM · The protections musicians have negotiated through the years now force them to endure someone they don't like. How does one move easily from orchestra to orchestra? Schwarz apparently is a great fund raiser and knows how to schmooz the rich very well. He stays in as conductor and he has difficulty firing musicians he doesn't like because of union rules and they have difficulty leaving because the market for their services has been locked up by union rules.

Tough luck!

December 18, 2007 at 04:11 PM · This guy has good friends on the SSO board. His contract was renewed (read the article) over the objections of many, including a large majority of the symphony players. I have no doubt that the horrific stories are true; I've been around the edges of this scene for many years.

It is not sour grapes, but a love of music, that also makes me add: his conducting is horrid. I had to walk out on a performance of Mozart's 'Jupiter' that had ABSOLUTELY NO dynamics whatsoever. Maybe it was some kind of a workers'-strike/slowdown, a labor action, but for whatever reason, this kind of "music making" must not be allowed to stand. I don't know Schwartz and so have no personal axe to grind at all.

December 18, 2007 at 08:20 PM · I've also played under him in a festival. We did Shosty 10 and I was sitting second chair and he kept sweating on me. Gross. Let me tell you, he did not exude any musical inspiration whatsoever and the orchestra was not crazy about him either saying he was too "professional." (translation: boring.) I don't think he was invited back.

December 18, 2007 at 08:33 PM · Perhaps his survival as a conductor is rather than confuse the powers that be with the facts he just bedazzles them with Bull ****.

December 18, 2007 at 09:10 PM · One of the most grueling things you can put yourself through is the preparation for and the actual experience of an orchestral audition. Let's say best comes to best, and you win the audition - fantastic! But that's only the beginning. It often entails moving to another state, city, or even country, on your own, or with a family - which makes things all the more complicated. You often can't be sure if you'll like your new general environment, let alone the orchestral one. Maybe it's the Maestro or your stand partner(s) that will be major problems, despite your best efforts. And after pulling up stakes, you're often on a one-year probation - so even if you're happy, they may not be happy with you!

So yes, if you're aware of any red flags in a particular situation, do pay heed. But do it for your own sake. I agree with Corwin, that any boycotting efforts would come to a drop in the bucket, and scarcely be noticed. Just maybe the SSO board, friends or not, will finally decide that this captain is sinking the ship, and enough is enough.

Speaking of harmony-less in Seattle, does anyone know what happened to Gennady Fillimanov (in terms of his presence here)? I have a theory but I'm not sure.

December 19, 2007 at 02:03 AM · The length of this Maestro's noose has shortened--considerably.

Soon the floor will drop.

December 19, 2007 at 02:24 AM · joe,

You said "The length of this Maestro's noose has shortened--considerably.Soon the floor will drop."Judging by his longevity in the business this will not occur in the near future.

December 19, 2007 at 02:34 AM · "The current court case was brought by Mr. Kaman, a violinist in the orchestra since 1981. He charged that the orchestra had discriminated against him because of a disability: severe anxiety disorder, a condition made worse by what he calls systematic harassment. Mr. Schwarz, the complaint alleges, repeatedly denounced Mr. Kaman for talking during rehearsals, accused him of slumping in his chair and threatened to fire him."

The poor dear :-| Welcome to sue-happy America.

December 19, 2007 at 03:52 AM · Kaman has been known to dislike Schwartz for over 20 years. So this one has been brewing for a long time. The fact that I know this means that it's pretty common knowledge, at least amongst those who've lived in Seattle.

While it makes for good press, I'll bet it's far from a clearcut case.

December 19, 2007 at 04:35 AM · In my younger years, I met Schwartz more than once. I have witnessed firsthand his unbelievable ability to charm, schmooze, raise money, etc. He can be incredibly charming when he wants to be, and he knows it. He has rich, powerful, loyal allies in Seattle. I don't think he's going anywhere, but we'll see.

He is (as Bruce can attest) a Jekyll/Hyde type. If he likes you, you're set. If he doesn't...

The situation in Seattle is goddamn ridiculous, but, as everyone knows, financially things are okay. This is weird beyond belief.

December 19, 2007 at 04:37 AM · I too was wondering about Gennady since he plays in the SSO and I was wondering what he thought of this brouhaha. (Or is it a hullabaloo?)

December 19, 2007 at 05:57 PM · Corwin Slack=realist ^o^

Orchestra jobs are hard to get, hard to keep, and hard to stomach when you're faced with a fiefdom like Schwartz has evidently constructed for himself in Seattle.

The guy certainly sounds like a major tool, and you have my sympathies. You have to exorcise these people early on, or you're stuck with them.

At some point, in some orchestras, you have to ask yourself whether the job is worth the grief. Most of us are underpaid, overworked, and barely hanging on in today's pop-culture climate. My personal decision was that the pay wasn't worth the grief. It's not a decision you can make for someone else, though.

December 19, 2007 at 06:22 PM · In the USA, the supply of orchestra jobs that pay a middle class wage, with benefits, is smaller than the demand. Therefore a boycott would be useless.

December 20, 2007 at 12:26 AM · I would certainly not advocate a boycott of auditions for Seattle Symphony, despite my negative experience with Maestro Schwarz. If you audition and win you may find your musical experience the best thing since sliced bread. I understand that Jun Iwasaki, the brother of a current student of mine has recently been appointed concertmaster. I wish him best of luck in his new position and hope that he has a musical affinity to the conductor's approach.

December 20, 2007 at 12:58 AM · What do any of you really know about the Seattle Symphony? My guess: very little.

So why is no-one siding with Gerry Schwartz? Because he is a conductor. And conductors are evil. And we are all violinists. We are good.

The problem with Schwartz mainly is that he has been in Seattle for so long. The musicians in Chicago loathe Barenboim as much or more than Schwartz.

The problem with most orchestras is that musicians have very little say in their working environment. The conductor calls all the shots and the musicians execute. Or disagree, or don't execute, or both.

After 25 years, any orchestra member would hate their conductor. Does that mean we should hang said conductor by their fingernails? Well, I guess, according to the majority of you, yes.

One should aspire to play in an orchestra without a conductor - like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Everyone loves playing in the Orpheus. Really.

December 20, 2007 at 01:20 AM · Bruce, I thought Jun was the new concertmaster of Oregon Symphony.

December 20, 2007 at 03:34 AM ·

About Mr. Schwarz; he raises a ton of money and has powerful contacts. He's played a large part in making the Seattle orchestra highly relevant. I couldn't comment about his abilities as a conductor since I only have 1 recording and have not seen Seattle in concert yet.

December 20, 2007 at 01:48 AM · Terry,

I think you're right. this situation is certainly not unique. I've been in some VERY bitter situations. In my first job, the orchestra had just recovered from a lockout, and the orchestra was divided into 2 warring factions. When I came in, I inadvertently made enemies just by making friends. I've never played under Schwarz--maybe he's a great conductor. But this new practice of appointing 4 concertmasters seems intended only to diffuse power and prevent anyone from challenging him.

If I were at the level where I thought I could be a contender for concertmaster (I'm not), I think that I would avoid that situation.

I find it hard to believe that anyone of national prominence would want to put themselves in that position.

December 20, 2007 at 02:53 AM · Amy,

I stand corrected. Jun Iwasaki was appointed as concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony. Whew, I am relieved. Bruce

December 20, 2007 at 03:06 AM · They're going to rotate four concertmasters. One of them is a teacher at Yale, one responded here to a linked article about him saying how wrong and laughable the article was, instead of coolly and professionally giving the correct information...

Looking at pictures of Schwartz, I don't see a stupid or evil man. I see someone who runs a tight ship in the style of some CEOs. If that came up against a company that wanted to be a democracy, there'd be problems.

December 20, 2007 at 03:27 AM · Terry Hsu wrote: "conductors are evil. And we are all violinists. We are good."

Amen. Tell it like it is!! They are indeed mightily evil, and we are indeed mightily good!!

December 20, 2007 at 03:48 AM · Hi Nate. It disappeared soon after. It wasn't terrible, just didn't make the best of an opportunity in my opinion. Can't remember the name.

December 20, 2007 at 09:18 AM · I had a read of the full article. Very interesting. I have a couple of thoughts, but bear in mind that this is from someone who has heard neither Conductor or Symphony, so is basing his assumptions solely on the reporting of the article, however factual or biased it may be.

To me, it does seem to be a case of power gone to the head. And unfortunately for the orchestra, he's got himself in such a position where anything he says goes. If a player dares object to something, he then questions their playing ability. It's very hard to come back from that, because even if another conductor or many conductors praise that players ability, Schwartz can always then say that his style is not right for the orchestra.

He also has the board on edge. They dare not remove him, because he is so friendly with the donors. In today's market place, the donors are everything, and if they were to remove him, they risk financial problems. He knows this, and is thus able to push his desires much further than any other musical director might be able to.

To me, I think everyone involved in the orchestra - musicians, management, conductors - should read Barry Green's book The Mastery of Music, in particular, the chapter on Tolerance. There's some good words in there that might be tasty food for thought.

December 20, 2007 at 09:50 AM · hmm-we shall see about that.

December 20, 2007 at 05:07 PM · Unfortunately, we don't always get to choose our troubles in life.

I don't know anything about Gerard Schwarz (personally or musically), nor about the Seattle situation. In my work, I have occasion to evaluate CEOs and executives for companies.

I, too, have seen many situations like this (professionally and personally) in other fields, and have also worked for people like the type which the article describes. I think I've (finally) developed more of a philosophical attitude towards this type of thing over the years.

The way I see things now, sometimes it requires an iron-willed talent to get an organization or a program off the ground. Such people usually have larger-than-life weaknesses that are side-by-side with their larger-than-life strengths. There are such leaders I've personally known who I detested and fought at the time, but as I look back I now appreciate that it was their special talents and bulldog determination that got things off the ground.

The tendency is either to admire their strengths and overlook their weaknesses, or try to get rid of them for their weaknesses but overlook how their strengths make the organization a reality. It isn't easy to admire and appreciate their strengths while confronting, attacking, or learning to live with their weaknesses.

And the people who do the actual work - in this case the musicians - are always in the middle of it. If you're going to choose to be in a situation like this, know what you're getting into and find a way to constructively cope with it.

Nehru once said, "Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt represents determinism. The way you play it is free will."


PS. Fritz Reiner was certainly a character like this. What amazes me (and I heard him conduct the CSO many, many times) was the clear articulation and distinctness of every individual part (which is also evident in his recordings), the chamber-music-like ensemble playing, and the sheer warmth he managed to coax out of so many musicians who hated him to the core. How did he do it?

December 20, 2007 at 07:25 PM · Sander has made some excellent points. It's so true about larger-than-life strengths and weaknesses often going together. Add to that the bi-polar speculation from an earlier post, and we get a picture I can relate to from other personal experience. I also loved Nehru's observation.

Years ago - I think it was during Mehta's tenure - the NY times came out with an article about unease in the NY Philharmonic - but it was nothing compared to this! I pretty clearly remember one quote in that article from a muscian: "In every orginization there are some people satisfied with everything, some people satisfied with nothing, and the majority in the middle." It is tempting to think of ourselves as orchestra players, as all good and true - and of the conductor as Satan. But not every orchestra member is so good, personally or musically. And I have known many - well some - conductors who are good. Even some who are competant and nice at the same time! (I know that this seems to fly in the face of the 'uncertainty principle' in quantum physics!) But I just re-read the Seattle article. We're not talking about 2 or 3 disgruntled members. Fifteen sign a declaration suporting that violinist. (Probably many more less brave would have wanted to.) In the RLP 40 out of 65 did not want Schwartz back as music director. Back in Seattle, that survey was 61 to 8 against him.

Well, the SSO has been dealt a difficult hand. We'll see how it plays out.

December 20, 2007 at 02:00 PM · Even though Schwarz can be a real bastard, the SSO job is a great position to win. Boycotting their audition seems a little futile in some ways. A few years back, a friend of mine in my studio won a position with the SSO and loves it. He mentioned to me the extra money they make by doing movie soundtracks and he just stays out of the drama. He now owns five houses in the Seattle metro area and he met his wife in the symphony. So not all is bad I guess...

David Robertson of St. Louis Symphony seems to be a great man and is a great musician. His youthful approach coupled with a true sincerity to the music and the musicians maybe the future of conducting...

December 20, 2007 at 05:35 PM · Amy,

I stand corrected. Jun Iwasaki was appointed as concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony. Whew, I am relieved. Bruce


Bruce, Amy,

Carlos Kalmar is the conductor of the Oregon Symphony. The musicians there love him. Jun is in a good spot. :)


December 20, 2007 at 09:39 PM · Sander Marcus wrote: "the sheer warmth he managed to coax out of so many musicians who hated him to the core. How did he do it?"

Rather than asking: "How did he (Reiner) do it?" I would prefer to ask: "How did they do it?", thus attributing the warm sound to the people who actually produced the warm sound, rather than to the silent man standing in front of them. Perhaps the answer might be that although they hated him, they loved music.

December 20, 2007 at 09:52 PM · Oh,I just love reading all these differing viewpoints---what an education !

December 21, 2007 at 02:13 AM · This paragraph from the article is the most disturbing to me:

"The Cerminaro and Meecham affairs are cited as examples of Mr. Schwarz’s willingness to use his influence to sway the board and control its membership. Donald Thulean, a former board member and now music adviser to the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association, based in Davenport, Iowa, said he was convinced that his disagreements with Mr. Schwarz had led to his departure in 2005. “I’m quite sure he has an influence on people who are invited on the board and who at the end of their terms are not invited to return,” Mr. Thulean said. “He values loyalty very highly.”

Conductors--just like corporate CEOs--should NOT be controlling who is on the board. The board, after all, serves to hold the president accountable. Such conflict of interest is reflected in ridiculous CEO salaries because the CEOs put their buddies on the compensation committees et Viola--zillion dollar compensation, even if the CEO runs the company into the ground.

December 21, 2007 at 02:58 AM · wait...what did happen to gennady?

December 21, 2007 at 12:28 PM · Oliver:

Great point. Of course it's the musicians who do it! I should have said, "How did he do it? AND how did they do it?"

But the conductor isn't just someone with a stick who beats time; if it was, all you'd need is a metronomic machine to conduct.

Somehow, the leadership provided by Reiner has an exceptional emotional quality to it (not only on his many recordings with other orchestras, but the live ones with the CSO I've heard). This issue of his difficult personality is touched on rather lightly in the biography of him (which I read a few years ago, and I can't remember the name of the author, but it was mostly dry, dry reading).

Merry Christmas.


December 21, 2007 at 11:54 AM · "Conductors--just like corporate CEOs--should NOT be controlling who is on the board"

Scott I agree. But the world seems to run on not what should but what it can. Unfortunate this may be, I don't see how the situation will improve if the survival of classical music depends heavily on charitable contributions. Generally speaking, can musicians stay autonomous when they are economically dependent?


December 21, 2007 at 01:35 PM · name the movie and the actor:

"I have an M.D. from Harvard. I am board certified in cardiothoracic medicine and trauma surgery. I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you: When someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn't miscarry, or that their daughter doesn't bleed to death, or that their mother doesn't suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they're praying to? Now, go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis! And you go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle, but if you're looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November seventeenth, and he doesn't like to be second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something -- I am God!"

December 21, 2007 at 01:45 PM · When I was a kid, my mother was the private secretary to (at that time) one of the world's leading pediatric neurologists and an expert on childrens' neuromuscular diseases. His name was Dr. Meyer Perlstein, and he had a wonderful sense of humor. He once said to me, "If you're time's not up, not even a doctor can kill you."

:) Sandy

December 21, 2007 at 01:48 PM · Malice_____1993

Alec Baldwin........

December 21, 2007 at 01:43 PM · I don't know. But I'd definitely like a second opinion!

OK - a violinist dies and goes to Heaven. St. Peter meets him at the gate and says: "I've got great news. You've made it into the Heaven Philharmonic, where I'm the personell manager.

"Fantastic", says the new arrival

-OK, the rehearsal will start soon. Take your seat on the last stand of the 2nd violin section.

-Wait a minute...I'm rather disappointed. On Earth I was assiant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony.

-Is that so? Well, do you know who plays in the HPO?


-Paganini and Heifetz are co-concertmasters. The section also includes Ernst, Spohr, Viuextemps, Wieniawski, Sarasate, Ysaye, Grumiaux, Oistrakh, etc., etc.

-OMG! I'm sorry. I'm thrilled to sit anywhere in this incredible orchestra! Tell me, who is the Music Director? No wait - I bet I can guess: it's Toscanini, right?

-Wrong. Toscanini is just an assistant conductor here.

-Really! Maybe Furtwangler?



-Not even close.

-I've got it - Nikich?

-No. he's also just an assistant. Give up?


-For the Heaven Philharmonic there can be only one Music Director; it's God, Himself!

-Wow!!!That's so exciting!! But tell me, just between us. How is God as a conductor?

-He's OK - only He thinks He's Von Karajan!

December 21, 2007 at 03:06 PM · Esa-Pekka Salonen, Carlos Kalmar and David Robertson are examples of very outstanding conductors, fundraisers and artistic leaders. They do have very high artistic standards and believe that the standards are better achieved by fixing problems rather than being arrogant and condescending. They are wonderful and genuine human beings who are there to serve the music NOT to play the power game.

I had the fortune of doing business many times with Carlos Kalmar. I invited the Oregon Symphony to perform in Tacoma,WA on numerous occasions. When he and I first met each other, it was instant friendship. He's doing some great work with the Oregon Symphony and he has elevated their artistic programming, playing and fundraising. If you're a presenter, he's one of those people you want to reinvite as many times as you can. If you're a musician or donor, you want to help out and do your best for the organization because he's very genuine and makes people feel so comfortable around him.

As for Gerry Schwarz, he's getting a taste of his own medicine. His wife is even worse!!!!! Very long time ago, I did a brief internship in Arts Management with Seattle Symphony. One of the guest artists who was a good friend introduced me to Gerry's wife. I was yelled at by my boss and fired for saying hello to the conductor's wife. Apparently, she told my boss "How DARE a little peon even come up and say hi to me?????" In addition, I have nightmare stories of working with him as a presenter (which I will not disclose on a public forum). He is one of those backstabbing, arrogant SOB's who is not welcome in very many places. The only reason he survived was because he's an outstanding fundraiser. In addition, I have a friend in the Met Opera Orchestra who is an old friend of Gerry Schwarz and went to see a rehearsal many many years ago of Gerry and Joshua Bell with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. At the time, Josh Bell was very young. According to my friend, Josh Bell was insulted and treated so awfully by Gerry. As Josh's success and fame grew larger, it was interesting to see how Gerry changed his tune and invited him many many times to Seattle Symphony.

I have many more stories and incidents about Gerry but decline to disclose them at this time.

December 21, 2007 at 07:36 PM · What a pity that Bell didn't see fit to give him a dose of his own medicine after he had become a name. But maybe he couldn't afford to do so or doesn't want to afford it, after all a fee is a fee.

December 21, 2007 at 09:02 PM · I'm not sure if all of these conductor comments are just jokes, but honestly, Schwarz is really the exception, not the rule, here. I would never want to play under somebody like him, but I've been lucky enough to play under many of the best conductors in the world, like Simon Rattle, James Levine, David Robertson, Gustavo Dudamel etc. I'm not listing those to name-drop, I'm only naming them because all 4 of them were as nice as can be and also jaw-droppingly fantastic musicians and communicators. Conductors, by nature, get a bad rap as soon as they walk out on stage. I was once told(by my conducting I admit I'm biased in favor of conductors) that 25 percent of the orchestra automatically loves you for some reason, %25 hates you immediately and your job is to persuade the 50 in the middle of what you're after. I'm not saying any of this to defend Schwarz, but I will say this: The first thing that came to my head when I read that article is that he is a bad cliched stereotype of the dictator conductor. I hope this gets resolved.

December 22, 2007 at 04:57 PM · I was going to ask the same question...

December 22, 2007 at 04:36 PM · Sung-Duk,

I too have heard not so flattering comments about Schwartz. But I've also heard not so flattering comments about Kaman. And I think it might not be a straightforward case against Schwartz. As you know, these things have to be fully documented and as inappropriate as Schwartz may have been, Kaman may not have built the strongest case for himself either.

Since the instances I speak of are essentially hearsay, I choose not to repeat them.

When I was on the board of the Seattle Youth Symphony I also got to know Don Thulean a little bit. If he says that Schwartz was not the kindest to him I'm inclined to believe him. Don seemed like a pretty decent guy.

I think any conductor can make a good impression on an orchestra for a month. Schwartz once conducted the UW Symphony and I played in it when I was in college. Everyone was so flattered that he was conducting, that everyone was "on", ringers (like me) came in to play, and the group sounded great. We played Stravinsky's Petroushka and Rachmaninoff piano concerto #2. It was a very enjoyable experience.

December 22, 2007 at 06:38 PM · Hey, I just noticed how far from the required Neutral Point of View his Wikipedia article is. ;-)

December 22, 2007 at 11:30 PM · Nate and Andrew,

She has played with him in the past, but I'm not sure how recently. I probably would have heard if she had had a bad experience though. Also, I have to admit I wouldn't be at liberty to tell you guys what she said even if she did have something juicy to say. Sorry...

December 23, 2007 at 03:34 AM · Who is your sister, Josh? If I am not being rude.

December 23, 2007 at 04:14 AM · Jasmine,

No worries! My sister is Alisa Weilerstein. She's a great cellist...

December 24, 2007 at 12:49 PM · I wonder who his dominatrix is? The stories she/he could tell.

December 24, 2007 at 05:24 PM · Hi Josh!

I remember you and your sister from CIM prep. I played with your mom once or twice, I believe. How is NEC treating you?

December 28, 2007 at 10:13 PM · I have noticed Gennady on,as well as various other sites such as, and I have seen his as well.

Perhaps this subject is too sensitive for some orchestra members to discuss in public?

December 28, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Whoaaa Carol, don't let him steal your heart away,

I'm gonna learn to dance if it take me all night and dayyyyy

December 29, 2007 at 05:31 AM · I think it would be irresponsible to make judgments either for or against Schwartz until you have experienced first hand what is being discussed. That being said, I'm not sure I would want to audition for an orchestra with such a public internal battle going on, whether it be the fault of the director or of the musicians.


December 29, 2007 at 12:44 PM · I agree that what we see is not all there is. My cousin Sandy who was a flautist with Seattle says little about this except that not everything is evident.

December 29, 2007 at 02:39 PM · After having been in this biz a long time I have noticed a couple things which are pertinent here. Even into the 60s it was rather accepted that conductors ruled by fear and the kinds of stories we hear of Schwartz and a few others were the rule rather than the exception. Having trained in the 60's early 70s with Mehli Mehta (who was wonderful and a could be a terror too) I was pretty well prepared I think.

I joined the Baltimore Symphony in 74 when Commissiona was MD and he had a foot in that old camp for sure although I will say I loved his music making and personally never had a problem with him. But there were those who really feared him and I saw him be pretty nasty sometimes. Soon after I left there to come here (Toronto) he came to guest conduct and he couldn't have been nicer. Over the years since I have learned that conductors generally treat a guest orch differently (usually better) than their own orch. Schwartz guested here a couple of times many years ago and he was nice to us. Musically I found him just okay though, not great. Unless he's had some kind of huge artistic epiphany in the years since I would theorize his success in Seattle has more to do with his schmoozing-money raising ability than his actual conducting. But then this is a very common theme in many places and in situations like this it is practically impossible to get rid of someone who is the "face" of a group and has established relationships with big donors. Who is going to raise the money to run things if he goes? Unless people are prepared to take the fallout, ie paycuts, I would be careful with slaying that Golden Goose. And there is a wonderful Russian saying which goes "Never wish for a new Czar" - at least with the old one everybody knows what they are dealing with.

On the question of boycotting the audition, the admin there could probably care less about filling vacancies. The longer they go without filling them the more $$ they save.

All orchestras have their issues, the best thing to do in any of them is to take the high road, stay focused on the music and try and stay out of the politics. Reality is, jobs are hard to get so if you manage to get one try and make it work and get yourself a good life outside the orch so if things are unpleasant there at least it's not the focus of your world.

December 29, 2007 at 03:52 PM · Being in Spokane, it's just a hop, skip and a jump over to Seattle. I am going to take the audition next week and if I win I win and if I don't, I don't. For me, taking the audition means one more notch on the bedpost, so to speak. One more chance to refine my playing under pressure in hopes that it prepares me to win some kind of Real Job (tm).

I'm in a position that if I do win that I can try out the job for a year before I fully accept it so I can decide for myself if it's worth the drama or not. All I do know is that I'm at a near breaking point regarding the level of difficulty for the audition list and I get physically ill when I think about practicing it One More Time.

I give myself about 5 more years of this and then I'm going to go back to school to switch careers.

December 29, 2007 at 04:02 PM · Jason, let us know how it goes, a blow by blow description so to speak.

Good luck to you.

December 30, 2007 at 09:21 PM · I came across some interesting new articles in regards to the NY Times piece:

[link title="Letters to the Editor"][/link]'old+news'/

December 30, 2007 at 09:32 PM · I came across some interesting new articles in regards to the NY Times piece:

Letters to the Editor

Seattle Symphony discord continues

The Seattle Symphony describes the NYT expose as 'old news'

Look for comments below the stories (Crosscut and Seattle PI only).

December 31, 2007 at 04:12 PM · Seattle is still woefully provincial. When it is shown that The Emperor has no clothes, we go straight into deep denial. Seattle gives standing ovations to just about anything that moves. The SSO suffered, for many years, under another mediocre conductor, Milton Katims, who was a justly-famous and superb violist, an associate of Toscanini, but a very lackluster conductor. I knew many members of the symphony at the time, including my violin teacher, and they were all angry, depressed, and close to open rebellion. The community loved Katims, "Uncle Miltie" we called him. He had no clothes and he eventually was removed. Then we had years under Rainier Meidl. A long snooze.

And now we are saddled with the most lackluster, uninspired conductor of them all, Schwarz. All politics and horror stories aside, I cannot listen to the SSO any more. It's boring, lacks dynamics and passion, and stylistic appropriateness. Besides the Mozart I walked out of, I had occasion to hear Pinky Zuckerman play the Brahms with this outfit. He worked valiantly, but everything about that marvellous concerto was thrown away without thought.

How can we ignore the (well publicized at the time) fact that Schwarz completely wore out his welcome in NYC with Mostly Mozart, as well as his other endeavors? Seattle has a sterling reputation as a theater town and as a center rock-n-roll creativity. But when it comes to the upper-crust world of fund raising for the SSO, our rich citizens have far too much money and not nearly enough taste and musical perception.

December 31, 2007 at 04:55 PM · Scott's posting is very correct! :)

December 31, 2007 at 06:07 PM · Building on Kevin's comment, the situation in Seattle is unpleasant, but let's face it: Orchestra jobs are woefully difficult to come by. How much good does it do to boycott an orchestra audition on principle or shy away from conflict if there is a salary to be had?

I don't mean to sound overly capitalist about this, but I can imagine myself 6 years down the road, having graduated from conservatory, and thinking "gee, I'm eating raman and living in my parents' basement - who cares if the orchestral climate's ugly? I need a job."

December 31, 2007 at 09:40 PM · Scott, I also heard another concert with Pinchas Zukerman conducting and playing Beethoven concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

I don't know if you heard that concert, but the orchestra and of course Mr.Zukerman sounded sublime.

December 31, 2007 at 09:53 PM · In my opinion, the SSO sounds better with either guest conductors, or when they travel.

December 31, 2007 at 09:50 PM · Ian,

Unfortunately, you're right. The state of the job market for musicians is such that an unpleasant job is better than no job at all. So many fine musicians will doubtless audition for spots in Seattle.

However, the question is whether the truly elite will consider it a destination job or a steppingstone. Will the Glenn Dicterows and

Andres Cardenases of the world want to play there? If not, then perhaps Schwarz, who has raised the level of the orchestra, has reached his limit, and thus the orchestra's as well. Maybe Seattle now needs a Tilson-Thomas or Jarvi who can take it the rest of the way.

December 31, 2007 at 10:10 PM · Carol said:

"Scott, I also heard another concert with Pinchas Zukerman conducting and playing Beethoven concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

I don't know if you heard that concert, but the orchestra and of course Mr.Zukerman sounded sublime."

No; I'm kicking myself for not going to hear that.

To the others still talking about boycotting audtitions: no, that's not going to do any good. The real issue here should not be boycotting, but rather, what CAN we do about bad conductors? Anything? Well, we can speak out, the more and louder the better. And the issue of "The Emperor has no clothes" is a universal one, not just about the overheated microcosm of Seattle.

December 31, 2007 at 11:10 PM · AMEN to that!

Happy New Year all!!!

January 1, 2008 at 01:14 PM · Another Schwarz writeup.... He really is a piece of work!!,5143,695239666,00.html

Other conductors who have appeared here recently and who would make wonderful music directors are Andrew Litton, Thierry Fischer, Stefan Sanderling and Gerard Schwarz, although Schwarz has always had troubled relationships with his orchestras and his tenure here would probably be short term.

January 2, 2008 at 06:47 AM · Maybe someone should put together a list of the email addresses for all the major SSO financial supporters. Then,


They may have absolutely no taste, but no one likes being a goose once they are aware of it.

January 8, 2008 at 06:23 PM · Made the semifinals, but no new job for me.

January 8, 2008 at 06:31 PM · Good for you to make semi-finals! There is always a next time.


January 10, 2008 at 08:18 PM · I heard through the grapevine that the competition was fierce and there were a great many applicants.

2 were chosen (both girls!).

As far as the other issues regarding Seattle Symphony and the latest national exposure, Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Music Director Gerard Schwarz is putting to rest any speculation that he will step down after an unflattering story about the symphony and Schwarz was published by The New York Times.

"Schwarz's comments were echoed by Susan Hutchison, chair of the Seattle Symphony board."

"There is no truth in any rumor that he is going anywhere," she said. "We are very happy with the way things are going."

I wonder, who (really) is the chairman of the Board?

January 10, 2008 at 08:47 PM · Carol,

Unfortunately, orchestra boards (and their presidents) across the country know or care little about music. The people on them treat the orchestras as their playthings, and they bow to the conductors as some sort of god. They treat the musicians as occupying a social space somewhere between their nannies and the valet parking attendants they hire for their shindigs. They honestly believe we musicians do it "because you love it" and therefore don't understand why we need to be paid at all. And finally, boards seldom, if ever, take the professional opinions of the musicians into account.

January 13, 2008 at 02:37 AM · Schwarz deserves a public flogging.

January 14, 2008 at 09:50 PM · but not by Sharon Stone...

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