Within the span of a week, two of the larger budget orchestras announced new music directors. First, the Pittsburgh Symphony hired Manfred Honeck, a 48-year-old Austrian conductor and shortly thereafter the Dallas Symphony hired Jaap van Zweden, a 46-year-old Dutch conductor…
In both cases, there has not been any immediate outcry from stakeholders over the announcements so, for the time being at least, the majority of both organizations must feel satisfied with the way the search process was implemented.
It is tough to miss the fact that both groups hired middle-age, European white guys in the face of popular top-down trends in the business pushing in the other direction. For example, regardless of all the talk about experimenting with new artistic leadership models, Pittsburgh apparently had no difficulty abandoning those experiments in favor of Honeck.
Face time doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in either group as Pittsburgh’s Honeck will eventually assume 10 weeks worth of conducting duties and Dallas’s van Zweden will eventually reach 15 weeks. Furthermore, both conductors will continue to actively work in Europe and not reside in their respective orchestra’s city.
All of this makes recent events in San Antonio even more puzzling, where that organization failed to renew their music director’s contract because he would not reside in San Antonio even though he only resides three hours away in Houston (more details on that situation here, here, and here).
The only unknown issues related to the appointments in Pittsburgh and Dallas is the sort of expectations from board executives and administrators with regard to fundraising and audience development responsibilities. For example, when Baltimore was recently looking for a new music director the former board chair and former president & CEO publicly stated that they felt that those issues were every bit as important as artistic ability.
Nevertheless, in the initial media articles and press releases, any fundraising and/or audience development expectations for each conductor are mentioned in passing or not at all. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the impact of these two appointments will trickle down through the rest of the business.