To Those Who Care About the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra:
I am deeply concerned about the fate of the RPO. We have been through many rocky periods over the years, but recent events appear to represent an existential threat to the organization.
I am writing to shed light on what I believe may be the reason our beloved Music Director, Arild Remmereit, was fired. I have decided to address the public despite my fear of reprisal from the Musicians’ Union and RPO Management. I know that I have the support of many colleagues. I have encouraged them to speak out, but almost all of them are simply too frightened to do so. I understand this fear. I have retained an attorney to protect me.
Back when Arild was Music Director Designate, rumors started flying around the organization alleging that he had engaged in some very nasty and off-the-wall behavior. During his tenure with the RPO new rumors kept piling up. Many of my colleagues and I were confused because we had seen nothing from Arild but warmth and charm. He is an honorable and decent man. Then long-time RPO benefactress Betty Strasenburgh described an incident that shed light on the situation. She told me that in August of 2011 she invited RPO CEO Charlie Owens to her home. Arild had complained to her that Mr. Owens was working against him. Sitting at Betty’s dining room table with Eugene VanVoorhis in attendance, Mr. Owens stated about Arild, “I will have him out in one year.”
The veracity of claims by the RPO Board that Arild’s behavior over the last 16 or so months led to his termination must be evaluated in light of Mr. Owens’ August, 2011 statement that he intended to have Arild fired.
I have witnessed and heard about some pretty poor behavior from past Music Directors. One threw his baton at a musician and another told the viola section they sounded like pigs. I have seen nothing from Arild Remmereit that even comes close to these things. I can find no valid reason he was fired. It seems evident from what Mr. Owens said that he wanted to get rid of Arild from the start. What I cannot understand is why the RPO Board leadership went along with this. They must have realized what a terrible backlash there would be from the legions of fans who adore Arild. Why did they support Mr. Owens in his ruinous agenda? To me, this is the great mystery of the situation.
Until this is fully investigated and resolved, I do not foresee any healing at the RPO.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra belongs to the community. It belongs to our audiences. It belongs to the children whom we teach. It would be a tragedy if the RPO fell because of the egos and personal agendas of individuals. I hope that the many RPO supporters will make their feelings known and act now to ensure the continuing health of Rochester’s great orchestra.
RPO Principal Second Violinist since 1989
See also here.