Peter Witte, dean of the conservatory of music and dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, sent the following heartfelt letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They failed to publish it. We do so instead. Read, and weep.
With a reported $600,000 distance on a roughly $40M budget, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s management and musicians are in accord on 98.5% of their next contract, a statistical agreement.
These next steps are delicate because they are about the ASO’s identity as much as its finances.
In 1973, Robert Shaw hired my father. Today, my Dad helps anchor one of America’s storied horn sections. Most importantly, he is part of a generation of Atlantans who helped to grow the ASO into an internationally regarded and locally committed band.
I consider the ASO family. In the front office and on stage are my friends, colleagues, mentors, and heroes. During my time as Chair of the Department of Music at Kennesaw State University, I was blessed to work with twelve ASO musicians who served on KSU’s faculty, and with the gifted ASO managers who partnered with us to get thousands of KSU students to the ASO every year.
For many, the ASO is Atlanta’s finest team. From Bartow to Berlin, the ASO exemplifies Atlanta’s Olympian spirit. Like its home city, the ASO is greater than its current challenges.
Atlanta has made great strides toward becoming a destination city, rubbing shoulders with Chicago, London, Barcelona, and Los Angeles. The ASO family led the way, recording for Telarc and Deutsche Grammophon, performing in Vienna and Vinings, making a difference from Ebenezer to Ojai.
For more than six decades, past and current boards, administrators, and musicians flexed and pushed to advance Atlanta’s finest team, making new opportunities and negotiating obstacles.
More than it fights about these last dollars, I hope the entire ASO family will treasure its relationships, among musicians and managers, with sister organizations in the Woodruff Arts Center, and in the city it celebrates.
To her community, and for her leaders, music director, staff, and musicians, the ASO is more than a job. It is a calling.
Especially now, Robert Shaw’s choral salutation is a gentle reminder.
The ASO is Dear People.
Peter Witte, Dean
Conservatory of Music and Dance
University of Missouri-Kansas City