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The US orchestra where manager and maestro can only speak through a mediator

Wretched news from the Rochester Philharmonic, where the local newspaper reports all kind of shenanigans, none of them comic.

The orchestra ran smoothly for eight decades on the benefice of the photography magnate George Eastman and, until rceently, under the beign conductorship of the British musician, Christopher Seaman. But a change of guard has yielded nothing but grief. Chief executive Charles Owens and Norwegian music director Arild Remmereit are no longer on speaking terms. The board had to call in a Manhattan labour relations mediator to effect communication between them.

A leading donor has withdrawn a pledge of a million bucks.

The deficit has crept up to $700,000.

Kodak is no longer a force in the land.

It all sounds dreadful. Stuart Low on the local newspaper has done a terrific job, over a considerable time, investigating the story. Read his report here.

Arild Remmereit, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director, and CEO Charles Owens acknowledge the crowd at a press conference in 2010 announcing Remmereit’s appointment. / ANNETTE LEIN / file photo/Democrat and Chronicle


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  1. Nothing’s new under the sun. I have personal experience of two other orchestras where that used to be the case. Many times it is not clearly defined who has the ultimate say in artistic decisions and that easily leads to power play between managers and conductors.

  2. Paul D. Sullivan, Arlington/Boston US says:


    Thanks for posting the article which I just read, and find it interesting and sad. I was prompted to go to the RPO’s website took look at their current season, which seems quite varied and exciting (including woman composers!). Far more so than here in in Boston with the BSO mostly playing repeats from the same few big male composers.
    I wish the RPO the best of luck in ironing out their problems.

  3. Live There says:

    This CEO/president has gutted and turned over the administrative staff twice in his tenure; morale is rock bottom. The only balanced budgets during his time in Rochester have been balanced on the backs of underpaid musicians who have become used to promises broken, and contracts torn up. Understandably, orchestra morale is low, tension is high.

    The Maestro begins his second season amid this tension, but with strong community support for his musical choices, and his dedication to his new home. He is garnering great popularity and excitement, and the orchestra itself continues to be a jewel in the crown of the entire region.

  4. Agreed with Sasha: nothing new under the sun, BUT still noteworthy. Stress, especially financial stress, leads to confrontation over a variety of orchestra issues……including small community orchestras in Australia where finances for culture are even tinier (than the U.S), and sadly government subsidies are shrinking as we speak.

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