In what will undoubtedly help smooth over remaining wrinkles from their recent contentious labor negotiations, the Detroit Symphony announced that Leonard Slatkin has been appointment as their new Music Director. In a move which demonstrates just how anxious the conductor and ensemble are to work together, Slatkin becomes Music Director designate immediately and takes over the reigns full-time beginning next season…
The Detroit Free Press published a very good article by Mark Stryker today that provides an in-depth overview of Slatkin’s position and what strikes me the most is that Detroit is bucking the trend of hiring a younger conductor to serve as music director. Ultimately, this will likely pay off for the organization as one of Slatkin’s historical strengths is his enthusiasm and experience as a builder, which something of a lost art in this day and age.
More to the point, this appointment goes to show that an organization’s budget size has no impact on the need to adopt a "builder’s mentality" and Slatkin, 63, is taking an unusual route by demonstrating a willingness to roll up his sleeves and get dirty along with the rest of the institution in the business of not just maintaining an already accomplished institution better, but realizing hidden potential. In fact, Slatkin could have taken the all too common route of accepting a guest conductor position in one or two orchestras (on opposite sides of the Atlantic) along with as many guest conducting appearances and recording projects he wanted and cumulatively rake in more than what he will likely earn by accepting the Detroit position (although don’t think for a moment that income level is going to force him into what professional orchestra musicians the "hot dog and macaroni" cycle).
In the end, it is good to see all of the stakeholders in Detroit are so happy with the decision. In a perfect world, that love fest will last far beyond the honeymoon stage and the relationship will mature into a partnership of mutual respect and status that the rest of the business can look toward as a benchmark for success.
Click here to read Leonard Slatkin’s contribution to the 2007 Take A Friend To Orchestra initiative here at Adaptistration.