Thursday, October 30, 2008

Orchestra for Mentally Disturbed?

Is Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital looking for new patients? A few weeks ago, I found in my inbox, an invitation to audition for Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra, with notices of vacancies in every string section. Bellevue had sent 14 contracted orchestra members, over the age of 40, non-renewal notices. And these were just the string players; the first ones on the orchestra hit list. Who will be next? Is this an experiment to provoke insanity?

Rest assured, I won't be auditioning for a stay at Bellevue Psychiatric Orchestra, in any unit, and I wouldn't advise admittance for emotionally stable individuals, either. Under Executive Director Jennifer McCausland, the BPO has experienced a loss of its contractual policy guidelines which guaranteed tenure and insured an artistic hiring and dismissal process which was consistent with industry standards. Rumors are that the Aussie Mafia has joined forces with a local Kim Jong Il, a would-be dictator who possibly suffers from delusions of grandeur.

I've had my share of crazy-making instances with executive directors, most notably the one at Pacific Northwest Ballet. After receiving a disturbed, threatening letter from the pit-band conductor, I resigned the next day via email. PNB's executive director accepted my resignation immediately, without even a phone call or a meeting, though I had served the organization for twenty years as concertmaster, and in my opinion, with integrity. Yet PNB's executive director had the audacity to inform supporters that management valued, above all, open communication between employers and employees. That, he claimed, was also the case for me. Perhaps Mr. Executive Director might benefit from an injection of truth serum.

Seattle had one shining star among executive directors: Deborah R. Card. Ms. Card – I remember her all the way back to the 80's when she trained under heavy-weight Ernest Fleischmann at Los Angeles Philharmonic was obviously way ahead of the game here. She helped transform Seattle Symphony with the opening of Benaroya Hall, and substantially increased the orchestra's endowment fund, concert schedule, revenue, and subscriber base. But Deborah Card escaped from Seattle in 2003 for reasons well-known, and fled to Chicago where she became President and Chief Executor of Chicago Symphony, today's most financially successful orchestra in the United States.

You know what they say: A healthy orchestra is a happier one.
Truth Serum courtesy of Slate

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