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Concertmaster cuts the orchestra out of his will

The bitter lockouts of musicians in Minnesota and St Paul are reaping unforseen consequences – a weeping for generations. This has just come in from veteran concertmaster Romuald Tecco:

romuald tecco

Mr. Dobson West                                                                      January 2, 2013
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
408 St. Peter Street
St. Paul, MN 55102

Dear Mr. West,

During my 26 year tenure as concertmaster of the SPCO from 1972 to 1998, I have been witness to good managers and Boards, to some excellent ones and then to some not-so-good. Along the way we had some rough times, some good and many very good ones. What is happening now to that splendid, unparalleled group of peerless musicians, due to your and the Board’s leadership, is a disgrace and a shame. A lockout should not be used as blackmail and the changes you are seeking are certainly not a solution for an orchestra as unique as this.

I will make this short and to the point. Because of my fondness for the SPCO and my lifelong interest in contemporary music, I had earmarked in my will that upon my death and that of my partner, the sum of $350,000 (three hundred fifty thousand) go to the orchestra to create a fund to commission a new piece by an emerging young American composer either every other year or when income money from that fund was judged sufficient. Should I and my partner die tomorrow, I certainly would not want that gift to reward the kind of institution you are now leading and are trying your best to bastardize. In that light, it is with deep regret that I am striking that provision out of my will. I might reinstate it if and when I am satisfied with the way this sad situation is resolved either by your administration or a next one.

Sincerely,

 

Romuald Tecco

CC: Governor Mark Dayton
Mayor Chris Coleman
Musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

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Comments

  1. Bravo. Standing up for his colleagues, deeply beleaguered that they are.

  2. The whole situation is horrid. Hopefully today’s new round of negotiations will be a step in the right direction.

  3. It’s like having to cut a beloved child out of your will because s/he destroyed everything you had built. I feel for Romuald Tecco and those who followed him.

    This is a courageous move; letting government know why is also crucial.

    This action is currently being repeated by patrons in Western New York who are fighting with their wallets to reinstate Maestro Arild Remmereit, and demand the removal of Board Members and the CEO at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in Rochester, NY.

    Please view and share this new FB page!

    RPO Community Supporters
    This page is a Community Page concerning the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. We are not affiliated with the RPO management or musicians.

  4. Mr. Tecco has studied his history well. The phrase, “Grab ‘em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow” has been various attributed to everyone from Teddy Roosevelt down to one or more of the Viet Nam era generals.

    Truisms with such provenance tend to, well, be true.

    The boys leading the management of the SPCO best be buying baseball cups, I’d say.

  5. Wow! Another punch to the solar plexus. That should score points…. if it is widely publicized (and the posts in Slipped Disc may have been a help in this way). Will management fire Tecco, or try to ease him out, notwithstanding that the Governor also received his message, or will the Executive Director get his walking papers and be put on the next bus back to Belfast? Or, will they finally settle down and negotiate in good faith for a fair deal and get back to the business of making music.

    While she can’t do much at the State level, mired as she in a disfunctional Congress, still, one asks: where is Michelle Bachman as a voice of ‘moral authority’ when Minnesotans need her? (Is she in a helicopter with Palin, looking at nearby Russia, and taking potshots with their AK-47s at wolves, reindeer, and Social Security-Medicare (aka ‘deadbeat welfare’ ) recipients otherwise ready to be pushed over the next fiscal cliff?)

    • Leslie Shank says:

      Romuald Tecco is the former concertmaster, so he can speak freely without worry of being fired.

    • There is no “executive director” or CEO of the SPCO – the Chair/Board President has assumed that role. The CFO left in Dec. 2011; the CEO in March 2012, and there has been no search for any replacements. All part of the Grand Plan.

      The Minnesota Orchestra’s CEO, Michael Henson, is from Britain and was previously at Belfast. But cut out of the same cloth.

    • Culture is “elitist”, doncha know?

      • Nuvakwahu says:

        Years ago, Eduardo Mata said to me that he thought orchestras were for those who were ‘elite’ in spirit. I’ve never forgotten it.

  6. This is very sad, and totally justified. Of course it would be silly to give money to such dysfunctional leaders.

  7. Lynn Malnekoff says:

    Maybe that’s just the kick in the pants they need!

  8. rpabassist@yahoo.com says:

    Bravo to Romuald Tecco. Who in their right mind would give money to this dysfunctional outfit.?

  9. Tecco is a class act. Those two paragraphs pack a wallop. Death and the Maiden on wheels.

  10. One of the reasons the music world is so dysfunctional is that both musicians and managers are really unprofessional sometimes. “… trying your best to bastardize” is some kind of language to use in a professional document cc’ing the governor and the mayor. I’m amazed at people’s lack of respect sometimes.

    • From Merriam-Webster online:

      bas-tard-ize (transitive verb)

      1: To reduce from a higher to a lower state or condition
      2: To modify especially by introducing disparate or discordant elements

      Synonyms: debase, cheapen, degrade, demean, demoralize, lessen

      Hmmmm, seems correct to me.

      • THANK YOU….one should at least know the meaning of the word before judging it unprofessional.

    • The disrespect is all on the part of management. The musicians have been extremely professional and adult.

  11. Music First!!

  12. That deserves a standing ovation.

  13. bryan aaker says:

    As dramatic a move as Romuald was on stage…I think the larger issue is not being discussed during this strike. The shrinking audience for Classics in the music world. The SPCO is not as affected as the Minnesota Orchestra because it has the freedom to play more new commissions inside its regular schedule then the Minnesota Orchestra. When I attend performances by either body I search the audiences for listeners younger than 50 and they are clearly in a minority. I believe both organizations need to spend more time in outreach and less time arguing with each other. Best of luck to both sides of this situation.

  14. What an agonizing decision for Mr. Tecco to have to make.

    His letter charts a path of ruthless honesty. Both sides must settle for nothing less.

  15. I’m wondering, isn’t Mayor Coleman running for re-electiion this year? AND doesn’t he sit on the Board of Directors for the SPCO? What leadership, or lack of leadership, have we seen here?

  16. Rachel Sokolow says:

    How incredibly sad to read this letter, for it’s a true loss for everyone involved. Might I propose a solution: redirect those funds in exactly the same way to a Youth Orchestra that you believe in or perhaps participated in during your young days as a musician.

    I work for the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Portland, OR, and I can assure you that it would be an extraordinary privilege for a Youth Orchestra to be privy to a fund dedicated to commissioning and recording new works.

    Just a thought!

  17. beverly jensen says:

    Go Tecco!

  18. Slightly odd, though?
    1, depriving of money an institution that says the reason for the lockout is that it doesn’t have enough money to pay the players what they are asking for… is no way to resolve the core problem of a lack of funds, rather the opposite!
    2. if his intention was to ring-fence the donation to be used for the commission of new works by the orchestra, then surely he can add that they should be commissioned by the musical director / leader / etc. and not by the board, thereby leaving the gift and achieving his aim, no matter who is in charge? (and why not leave the gift but just say it’s going to a different institution to achieve the same aim?)

    The removal seems to achieve nothing practical save for an excuse to write a petulant letter. It wasn’t money that would have directly helped the players anyway, and can easily be given for the same purpose outside the band!

    • Tecco’s money would be a restricted gift – not for operational purposes. The two cannot be mingled. And right now there is no musical director; the acting CEO is also the president and czar of the board, which is another big issue.

      I hardly find this letter “petulant”. It’s a huge political statement, and a brave one. Perhaps you should educate yourself about what is really going on with the SPCO.

      • OK, so you and others are happy to state that these funds would be securely ring-fenced, and couldn’t be used for anything else?
        But rather a lot of people on here who would agree with you seem to think that when a large sum has been ring-fenced for building projects – say, $50m for a new foyer – that this shouldn’t be used for that and should be re-directed to the players. You can’t have it both ways.
        If you believe in ringf-encing, then that only makes this letter all the more daft. Why would Mr. Tecco care about the management? He can easily state how the funds are to be managed and commissions sought, if he wishes. So removing the bequest completely fails to benefit music, and simply provides a reason to write such a letter.

        • The issue is that many donors gave for the building projects, expecting to see the Minnesota ORCHESTRA play in the remodeled ORCHESTRA Hall. They are feeling pretty suckered. And there are going to be hearings in the State Legislature as to how the MOA deliberately manipulated years of finances in order to 1) look good enough to get significant state money and 2) then declare a financial emergency after the money was secured so that they could then blame it all on musician salaries.

          Mr. Tecco wants the new music to be played BY THE ST. PAUL CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. Management wants to basically destroy that orchestra.

          Do you get it now?

    • “Petulant”, no. “Agonized”, yes.

  19. Its a shame that this is happening in orchestras, people are forgetting what is important. Music! I support his decision to do this. The board members are out of touch, these kind of board members are a shame to the orchestra!

    • So if ‘music’ is the important thing, why would you applaud this decision?
      Makes no sense to me. These funds could easily be given / promised to any other institution to allow the same commissions to be made, yet Mr. Tecco doesn’t make this suggestion.
      If ‘music’ is important you should deplore the decision to deprive music of funding, wherever it is, whoever by, no?

  20. It really IS a cold Omaha here in the Twin Cities without the Saint Paul Chamber and Minnesota Orchestras. There has been no leadership from our politicians or corporate “leaders” to resolve these dual lockouts. I am embarassed for our state.

    • Philip Pan, Concertmaster, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra says:

      “Anon”, your comments are naive and ill-informed. Like any benefactor, Mr. Tecco wishes his donation to be used to truly benefit the receiving institution, not go to waste or perhaps be used for further harm. The current management of the SPCO has proven that it cannot be trusted to manage its funds in a responsible manner consistent with the orchestra’s mission. Even earmarked funds that allegedly must go towards specific purposes can easily be laundered, misused and even made to mysteriously “disappear” should such a cooking of the books favor management’s strategies.

      As concertmaster of a professional symphony orchestra, I applaud Mr. Tecco’s decision and hope it is well publicized in order to bring more attention to the atrocities being committed by SPCO’s sorry excuse for fiscal leadership.

      • Right. So if you take that view, why would he give any money to the organisation, even with a management he likes – knowing as you do that it could “easily” be mis-appropriated later on by a different management when times change?
        Mr. Tecco does not wish his funds to directly benefit the receiving organisation – that much is abundantly clear from his letter. He wishes the money to be used to commission new works. He does not say it can be used to cover the costs of the SPCO performing the works, indeed nothing he says suggests the funds would be at all useful to the SPCO, save for the chance they might commission a great work of music and bask in the reflected glory. If anything, leaving the money is likely to cost the orchestra money – they would have to administer the funds and the commissioning process, and probably feel a responsibility to perform the works thus written, even if atrocious. Does that really help the orchestra?

        Clearly, Mr. Tecco’s funds, used as he wishes, would stand a chance of benefitting “music”. But for that, there is no need for them to be given to SPCO. He could easily give them elsewhere if he wishes. But he makes no mention of such – just that they would have been offered to PSC, and are now withdrawn until he changes his mind which he might do. Surely if he cared – really cared – about music he would simply say he was offering the fund to an institution better managed who he believes will take better care of them.

        As a question – if SPCO met all players demands, Mr. Tecco gave them the money, and then in a few years they go completely bust because they are spending more than their income… is that good fiscal leadership? Does that help advance the cause of music, or make good use of Mr. Tecco’s funding? I suggest not, and therefore if costs need to be brought into line, that must happen. Is it possible that the current board are suffering from having to implement a “short sharp shock” only because previous boards have let the good times run on too long?

        • It’s more a case of the players meeting all of the Board demands, which are demoralizing, unrealistic, and meant to basically destroy the orchestra as we know it. Is it good fiscal leadership to insist upon ticket prices so low that they are unsustainable, even if many ticketholders want them raised in order to help the orchestra. What exactly is the board doing to “advance the cause of music”?

          You seem to have drunk the koolaid that this is all because of unreasonable, demanding musicians who have unsustainable demands. It is instead the path charted by Dobby and Co. that is unsustainable and unrealistic. Please tell me how balanced budgets from 17 of the past 18 years indicate that the board “let the good times run on too long” – and why, all of a sudden, there is an immediate problem which must be dealt with NOW, without any input from all stakeholders (i.e. the audience)?

          • Sarah,
            Well put.
            This same kind of drama is playing out right now in Western New York, as a controlling CEO and remnants of a Board try to dismiss our wonderful Music Director, Arild Remmereit. The stakeholders you so astutely mention – the audience (and patrons) have gathered over 1,100 signatures on a petition asking for Maestro Remmereit’s reinstatement. Having zeroed in on management as the source of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s woes, another petition has begun, demanding the firing of the CEO, and replacement of the Board of Directors.

          • Sarah,
            I ask the questions, only because I don’t have the answers. I am not intimately familiar with the situation in this particular orchestra, and I hope that by asking I might learn more.
            I would only comments that just because pervious years have seen ‘balanced’ budgets, this does not suggest that there was any planning for the future included, or adequate funds set aside for capital expenditure and so on.
            Ticket prices are an interesting one – if low ticket prices bring in large audiences then possibly it is good fiscal leadership. It is also fair to say that many orchestras who run education programmes do so at a loss – that’s not strictly good fiscal leadership, but is is furthering the cause of music. These two need a careful balance to be struck, and I’m sure you and I would agree that ratcheting ticket prices up to a level where a 70%-full hall covers the entire cost of putting on the concert would be totally unworkable. Most tickets, then, are priced “too low” and are somehow subsidised, be that by private donors, taxpayer-funds, commercial sponsorship, or whatever.

            I can only imagine that the board feel they are “advancing the cause of music” by looking to set i motion a plan and a structure which would keep the orchestra in good health for many years to come. I’m not saying they’ve got it right, but it seems naive to broadly accuse them of wanting to destroy the orchestra.

          • Anonymous, it’s not naive. They want to cut the orchestra by 24% – that is in addition to slashing salaries and removing any sort of control, artistic or otherwise, from the orchestra members. Evidence is mounting that certain board members have been planning this for several years.

            Go to http://musiciansspco.org and http://www.sospco.org to find out more.

        • Philip Pan, Concertmaster, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra says:

          Anon, all I can suggest further to you is that you re-read Mr. Tecco’s letter and remember that he gave his heart and soul to the SPCO for 26 years. If you maintain your stated opinions, then I have nothing more to say to you except to ask why you hide behind anonymity. Are you a member of the SPCO management or board? Of course, I do not expect an honest answer.

          • Mr. Pan,
            I believe you have correctly identified a “mole” from the management side, and a troll at that.

          • Philip, I’m not really representing my own views. It irritates me, however, that the immediate reaction in this forum is that anything a musician does must be good and well-minded, and anything management does must be bad and wrong. It this “them and us” attitude that leads to flare-ups of a smaller nature right up to these bigger situations in orchestras all over the world, and I find reading people react here without seeming to consider the other side or really think too hard about it irksome. If players and management took time to think things through and acknowledge the skill and hard work that they all bring together to make an orchestra work, we’d have far more harmonious relations within orchestras, and I suspect better concerts too.

            But I’ll carry on in the same vein, to answer your post: I have re-read Mr. Tecco’s letter, and I can see nothing he is doing which benefits the orchestra, nor benefits music. Sure, he’s been there for 26 years, and it is probably fair to say the orchestra has paid him a hefty sum each year to do so. I don’t know Mr. Tecco’s playing personally, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it is top notch . Is his letter not merely stoking the fire, and cementing his relationship with his player chums, rather than helping advance negotiations?
            If we admire Mr. Tecco for standing up for his players, why do contributors here not also admire Karel Chicon for the same reasons?

          • Anon, the boards of both orchestras thought the musicians would curl up and die within a week of being locked out. That hasn’t happened – instead, because of audience engagement and publicity extremely adverse to management (and not to mention legislative notice), they are in a stronger position than they were two months ago. Management failed to deliver a “quick kill”.

            In contrast, the musicians have been articulate, intelligent, appreciative, and – above all – PLAYING – giving we audience members what we want (although in much smaller doses than we would like). Management has only ticked off many thousands of people – people who will have nothing to do with them, their buildings, and their “musical offerings” should they succeed in destroying these two fine orchestras. Talk about revenue issues in that case!!!

    • Sorry – but why would you expect politicians to interfere with an orchestra?
      If you ask them enough to interfere I have no doubt they will – and that way lies total interference, which is hardly the freedom an arts institution needs.

  21. Dear Mr. Tecco,

    Standing up for what you believe is seldom easy, and still less so when it is with people you will have to confront face to face. Your courage in taking a stand directly against policies of people you see on the job is praiseworthy.

    Your action might have a more positive effect if you made a provision that the same concern for new work were being given to a different organization, which you feel could be counted on. The comparison between organizations would then be a positive message, in that it would be negative toward whomsoever you are displeased with, while not abandoning a positive concern of your own. As it is, striking your bequest will hurt composers, as well as those whom, or that organization which you believe, with possible reason, are unworthy. In fact, though I admit I do not know the circumstances of your concern, the view from here is that it will hurt composers most. I hope that is not what you feel matters most to you.

    It is just a pity to hear of musical commissioning that is the casualty of poor orchestra management. As you probably realized when making the bequest to begin with, poor orchestra management already has a reduction in commissioning as one of its first and chief casualties. Your bequest, which had such an important expression of solidarity with composer colleagues, and which would steer programming in a direction you think important, now further orphans a faction whom you previously considered worthy. And it sounds from your letter as though you do not believe they are the offending party.

    Please consider finding an organization you think worthy, and transfer your bequest, instead of denying it altogether. It would perhaps be an even stronger thing to say to the St. Paul Orchestra administration.

  22. I’d just like to know why this Aon person is taken seriously?
    If he/she will not identify themselves, why should I or anyone else care about what they say?
    Frank/Princeton

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