Catching Up On Some Conductor News

Although Leonard Slatkin’s appointment received a good bit of attention here soon after its announcement, two other recent announcements are worth noting…

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The first is Neeme Järvi, who has extended his contract as Music Director for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for an additional season. Currently, his contract requires him to conduct 10 weeks of programs but that number will be reduced to six weeks for the term of his one season extension.

According to Dee Billia, NJSO Senior Director of Communication, there are no other changes in the scope of his work beyond the number of weeks he’ll work with the orchestra.

“Maestro Järvi has indicated that he wants to cutback on performances as he is feeling overworked,” Dee wrote in a recent email. “He also spends a lot of time conducting in Europe and the constant travel must be wearing.”

At the same time, the reduction in the number of weeks Järvi will work with the orchestra is not an indication of future scheduling for their classical concert series. According to Dee, programming and scheduling information won’t be made available until the following year.

Regardless, even though he’ll be appearing with the orchestra for fewer concerts than this season Järvi’s continuation is a piece of good news for an organization that is a veteran at navigating rough waters.

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The other Music Director appointment comes from the Nashville Symphony which announced that Giancarlo Guerrero will become Music Director beginning with the 2009/10 season. A frequent guest with the ensemble for the past few years, Guerrero is currently Music Director of the Eugene Symphony as well appearing as guest conductor at dozens of orchestras this season.

Guerrero’s arrival coincides with the conclusion of current Artistic Advisor Leonard Slatkin’s tenure. Slatkin assumed that position shortly after the sudden and unexpected passing of long time Music Director Kenneth Schermerhorn, the Symphony Center’s namesake.

Landing the Music Director position at the Nashville Symphony will be a large boost to Guerrero’s career as the organization is riding a wave of enormous financial and institutional gains during a time when many of their peers are losing ground or holding steady. Ultimately, his tenure will be a defining moment for the entire organization.

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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1 thought on “Catching Up On Some Conductor News”

  1. One interesting and common feature about the recent appointments of conductors appears to be the “lightning strikes” factor, according to the respective press reports. Slatkin hadn’t conducted the DSO in 20 years, but there was a spark in his guest gig earlier this year. Likewise, with van Zweden in Dallas, his debut was also a sudden jolt. With Honeck in Pittsburgh, his first appearance went very well, as did the (unexpected) second appearance. This is even to be the case from across the pond, with Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham SO, where he hadn’t even conducted them in a public concert prior to his appointment, but only in a private concert and a recording session.

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