Big Changes In Store For Baltimore: Glicker Resigns

James Glicker, president & CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, has resigned from his position at the BSO according to a press release issued by the organization.

James Glicker’s resignation brings about the end of his tumultuous one-and-a-half year tenure running the BSO. In a press release announcing the event, the BSO credits Mr. Glicker with,

“…[reshaping] the creative direction of the BSO with new series such as Holiday Spectacular, Explorer, Pops Rocks and the Chamber Orchestra – program additions that have created community excitement and contributed to the first increase in BSO subscriptions in fifteen years.”

There was no mention, however, of outgoing Music Director Yuri Temirkanov, Darin Atwater (scroll down for information on Darin), composer-in-residence & Conductor/Artistic Director of Soulful Symphony (a partner orchestra comprised of African/American musicians) or the BSO musicians for their contributions to the BSO’s creative direction.

In the wake of Mr. Glicker’s resignation, BSO board member W. Gar Richlin will serve as an interim president & CEO beginning Friday, January 20, 2006. The BSO board announced that the organization will immediately begin a search for a replacement president & CEO.

When asked about Mr. Richlin’s appointment, Jane Marvine, chair of the BSO Players’ Committee, said,

“This is a challenging time for orchestras around the country and in spite of that the BSO has made important gains over the past several years, such as the opening of the Strathmore Hall. The musicians have great respect and admiration for Gar Richlin as a business professional and a classical music lover. We look forward to working with him.”

Along with listing Mr. Glicker’s accomplishments since arriving at the BSO, the press release included the following statement from Mr. Glicker,

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made at the BSO and feel the timing is right for me to move on to other interests. I accepted this position with a goal of making the BSO more accessible to the citizens of Maryland, and we’ve accomplished a great deal toward this end.”

Unfortunately, the press lease neglected to mention the enormous amount of strife within the organization surrounding Mr. Glicker’s brief tenure which included a loss of several high profile board members and waging a bitter PR war against the BSO musicians over the process to select their new music director. During that struggle, the musicians charged Mr. Glicker with breaking promises made during previous collective bargaining agreement negotiations which provided the musicians with an influential role regarding the search process.

Furthermore, Mr. Glicker’s influence has contributed to a staggering number of turnovers among senior managers, proposing a dubious plan to sell Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (the plan was later scrapped), as well as a having little impact on improving the organization’s $12 million accumulated deficit.

Additional troubles include the recent decision to eliminate several performances from a selection of BSO at Strathmore concert events due to an overly optimistic marketing strategy (the details of which were examined in an Adaptistration article from 11/15/05). Since Mr. Glicker’s arrival, the BSO has been heavily dominated by marketing philosophy and that philosophy was crafted in great part by Mr. Glicker, a career marketing professional with experience in businesses such as yogurt and internet retail.

The problems in the BSO’s near future are numerous; for example, the organization needs to repair the extensive damage between musicians and the executive leadership, stabilize a chaotic administrative environment, redevelop their Board of Directors, wade into new rounds of collective bargaining negotiations, and increase their audience base to suitable levels.

Fortunately, their core strengths are equally numerous; they have a superb collection of musicians finely tuned over the past two decades by conductors such as David Zinman and Yuri Temirkanov, the organization has grown well beyond what “conventional wisdom” might dictate for a blue color town in the shadow of larger neighbors, and they own one of the best sounding, dedicated concert halls in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Baltimore’s fortunes can be turned around; all they need is the right executive leader.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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