Orchestras do not run into trouble overnight (unless, as in London, someone’s cleaned out the bank account).
Crisis, when it hits, has usually been brewing for several years while the board and chief executive benignly ignored it. The troubles of the Minnesota Orchestra date back to the presidency of the Englishman Tony Woodcock, who was replaced in 2007 by a fellow-Brit, Michael Henson.
Both had previously run the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which is presently the UK ensemble in deepest trouble. There may be no causal link to be drawn here; we are merely relating the history.
Woodcock went on to become President and CEO of the New England Conservatory, a job that was previously offered to Allison Vulgamore, who had been trying since 2005 to bale out of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra where she dug a financial hole that is now approaching $20 million. Vulgamore turned down the NEC offer to accept a more prestigious presidency from the Philadelphia Orchestra, which she steered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and narrowly out again. Woodcock’s tenure at NEC has been marred by multiple discredits.
Still in the same loop, Stanley Romanstein, Vulgamore’s successor in Atlanta spent the previous decade…. where?
In Minnesota, as President and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center where (his c.v tells us) the best thing he did was to focus ’the Center’s mission around clear, measurable objectives, consistent with the agency’s history and mandate.’ You have to wonder which of the other local bumblers put him up for the Atlanta job.
If ever there was a time for symphony boards to seek fresh talent, it is now.