Author Archives: David

Failure Begins a the Top – Adaptistration

by Drew McManus,

Click here to see the article on

Today’s headline is an excerpt from a piece by San Francisco Chronicle music critic, Joshua Kosman, in an article that was published on 6/19/2011. Kosman’s article is the latest in a growing chorus of voices within the extended field that are taking a much harder look at the root of problems among performing arts organizations since the economic downturn…

"Failure Begins At The Top"Kosman’s piece begins by examining one of the more dire situations at New York City Opera and then touches on everyone’s favorite anti-crisis, the Philadelphia Orchestra. But mid way through his piece Kosman acknowledges the real elephant in the room by looking inward.

How did these venerable, well-established institutions come to such a sorry pass? The same way Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns did: through poor – and specifically shortsighted – leadership. And just like on Wall Street, the people making these decisions aren’t really the ones whose livelihoods are on the line.

In the article’s penultimate section, Kosman drills down into some specific examples of failed leadership.

No, the truth is that just like in the corporate and financial world, these failures began at the top, and go back a long way.

The history of weak management in Philadelphia is decades old, and includes mishandled decisions about recording contracts, embarrassing struggles to settle on a music director and the construction of a concert hall, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, that is widely regarded as overpriced and acoustically poor.

And just to make sure he’s covering all of the bases, Kosman also acknowledges the very real cash flow and audience development problems faced by most groups. But he goes the extra mile by acknowledging the mutually exclusive nature of this reality as compared to a history of bad management.

And it’s just as easy to make vague protestations about prevailing financial conditions and the shifting patterns of culture consumption. Those observations are accurate as far as they go – money really is tight nowadays, and the role of orchestras and opera companies in American life really is changing – but they don’t account for all the arts organizations that are doing OK.

If you’re looking for more examples of Kosman’s perspective, stop by The Iron Tongue Of Midnight where author Lisa Hirsch points out a few more scantily clad Emperor’s. If that’s not enough, she includes a handy list of related opinions from around the culture blogging community and traditional media outlets.

PR Backlash

Does this mean we should drag all executive boards and CEOs out and put them up against the wall? Of course not.

But the reality is that business practices and poor leadership are just as much to blame as the economic downturn for some of the larger powder kegs that have blown up since the economic downturn.

But that’s not how League of American Orchestras president Jesse Rosen sees it. Rosen took issue with one of the more poignant articles in recent weeks written by John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts president Michael Kaiser.

On 6/6/2011 Kaiser posted an article at his Huffington Post column that takes issue with the blame game when it comes to artist stakeholders and instead, encourages organizations to look inward before laying down a beat on the drums of labor war.

It is impossible to blame unions for the lack of revenue for arts organizations when so many are doing such a poor job of managing themselves.

Rosen to Kaiser: How Dare You!Rosen to Kaiser: How Dare You! 

Rosen’s video response (0:22 – 1:00) was to deny the value of accountability and openly scold Kaiser for even mentioning the notion.

Ultimately, any group experiencing extreme difficulties will have an enormously difficult time improving their situation if they fail to investigate whether or not the problems are the result of bad business decisions and a lack of accountability. Unfortunately, the League has yet to adopt measures to help members do exactly that and as any good doctor, engineer, investigator, or IT professional will tell you, willful shortcuts in the diagnostic process is an invitation to misery and disaster.

To that end, what’s missing in this business are processes those other professions have relied on to implement meaningful oversight. In the medical field, they call them autopsies and given the uptick in institutional corpses right now, it would make sense to examine those cases with an eye toward identifying items suitable for inclusion in institutional oversight processes throughout the field.

Anything less is an invitation to make things worse before they can get better.

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2010-11 Season Giving Levels and Donor Benefits

Overture: $100-249

• Recognition once annually in a DSO Honor Roll
• Personalized DSO Donor card
• 10% off all purchases at the Shop @ The Max
• Invitation to DSO Open Rehearsals

Serenade: $250-499

• All previous benefits, plus:
• An invitation for two to attend the annual
Donor Appreciation Event
• Opportunity to purchase single tickets during Ticket
Priority Week, one week before the general public

Concerto: $500-999

• All previous benefits, plus:
• Two complimentary tickets to a Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Ensembles concert

Encore: $1,000-2,499

• All previous benefits, plus:
• Invitation to a backstage tour
• Season listing in Performance magazine

Symphony Society

Donors celebrated at $2,500, $5,000, $7,500, and $10,000+

• All previous benefits, plus:
• DSO Concierge – priority access to DSO concerts and events
• An invitation for four to attend the annual Donor Appreciation Event
• Two single-use valet parking passes
• Two complimentary passes (admit 2 each) to the Herman & Sharon Frankel Donor Lounge
• Listing on the Annual Fund donor wall
• Invitation to travel with the DSO on national and international Patron Tours

*The opportunity to be nominated as a Governing Member, including an invitation to attend and vote at the DSO Annual Meeting with a donation of $2,500
* Membership to the Herman & Sharon Frankel Donor Lounge with a donation of $3,000
* Complimentary unlimited valet parking at Orchestra Hall with a donation of $7,500

Donors celebrated at the $15,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000+

• All previous benefits, plus:
• Personalized, signed DSO recording
• Opportunity to sit on-stage during a DSO rehearsal
• Invitation to the Annual Maestro’s Circle dinner
• Opportunity to dedicate a concert in your name or in honor/memory of a friend or family member


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Pittsburgh Symphony agrees to new contract with musicians

Staff Blogs – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Sunday, 12 June 2011 14:56
Written by Andrew Druckenbrod

Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc. and orchestra members of Local 60-471 of the American Federation of Musicians have reached an agreement for a new three-year contract nearly three months ahead of schedule.

The current three-year pact was set to expire Sept. 4 and the new contract, ratified Saturday night, takes effect Sept. 5 and runs through Sept. 1, 2014.

The agreement calls for a 9.7 percent wage cut in musicians base salary the first year: in 2011-12 the annual base salary will be $100,110, down from $110,764 in this season. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s fiscal year runs from September to August.

The musician’s base salary will remain the same in the second year of the contract. The final year will be a “wage-opener,” for which PSO musicians and management will examine the possibility of an increase in salary. The musicians also agreed to contribute $100,000 to the orchestra’s annual fund in the first and second years of the new contract.

In the past 18 months, several major American orchestras have faced financial turmoil. In April, the Philadelphia Orchestra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra ended a bitter six-month strike. In January of 2010, Cleveland Orchestra musicians staged a one-day strike.

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Anne Parsons signs new contract

Anne Parsons signs new contract, will remain CEO of Detroit Symphony through 2014

Crain’s Detroit Business

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has renewed the contract of President and CEO Anne Parsons through 2014.

Parsons, 52, agreed to continue at her current pay rate, which reflected compensation and benefits adjustments made to her contract in early 2009 as part of cost-cutting efforts, the DSO said in a release.

According to its tax filing, in 2009 the DSO paid Parsons $299,679 in base pay, after a 10 percent cut, and total compensation of $414,541 with benefits. One of those reported benefits is living in a Grosse Pointe home owned by the DSO.

Parsons joined the DSO in April 2004 as president and executive director. She was named president and CEO last year. Before that, she held general manager and orchestra manager positions with the New York City Ballet, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and worked for two years with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

In 2008, Parsons led the search for a new music director, bringing Leonard Slatkin to Detroit.

During Parsons’ tenure at the DSO, the organization has raised more than $74 million, attracting new or increased support from many donors. During that same period, donations from the board of directors have tripled, the DSO said.

As the DSO’s top executive, Parsons became a polarizing figure during the DSO musicians’ recent strike.

She became the face of mismanagement alleged by the striking musicians and of DSO management’s efforts to permanently restructure the fixed costs of one of the top orchestras in the world. Throughout the six-month strike, however, the DSO board supported Parsons.

“Anne has everything the DSO needs at this critical point in its history, and we are honored that she has decided to continue to lead the organization toward its collective pursuit of a viable and successful future,” DSO Chairman Stanley Frankel said in a release.

“Not only is she an industry veteran of 30-plus years with proven expertise in navigating challenging economic climates, she (is) a crusader for the arts with deep connections within the national funding community.”

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Reactions to Anne Parson’s new three year contract.

Recently several columns have been published that are strongly critical of the DSO Board of Director’s decision to extend Anne Parsons’ contract for 3 years. These columns are from outsiders with no connection to the organization.  The first is from John Guinn, a longtime arts critic in Detroit, the next is from David Zoltan who writes about arts management from an insiders view, and the last is by Shannon Jones who writes for the World Socialist Web Site.

Our members from around the metro area and around the continent have contacted us with questions about the issues raised in these columns, so in the interest of transparency and open communication, we are posting them here and invite comments and input from all interested parties.


On the Contract Extension of DSO President Anne Parsons
by johnrockneguinn – June 10, 2011

The apparently blue skies that opened up with the ending of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike turned grey and stormy with the recent revelation that the orchestra’s board had offered DSO President Anne Parsons a three-year extension of her contract.

In March, shortly before the orchestra’s nearly six-month strike ended, the board approved the extension of Parson’s lucrative contract. That wrong-headed decision, preceded by the sad news that Emmanuelle Boisvert, the orchestra’s longtime concertmaster, was departing to join the Dallas Symphony, makes the DSO’s weather forecast gloomy indeed.

Clearly, Parsons’ contract extension is a collective slap in the orchestra’s face, an arrogant confirmation by the board that her campaign to severely alter the orchestra’s artistic purpose and vision will continue.

But it is vital to remember that the blame for the ongoing struggle for our orchestra’s future lies not with the inept Parsons but with the board and its autocratic chair, Stanley Frankel, who issued a lavish statement supporting her.

As long as Frankel and those misguided DSO board members who agree with him continue to exert power within the organization, the future of the orchestra as a viable  artistic force remains in serious jeopardy.

So the storm clouds continue to gather. Don’t expect to hear any thunder, though. The entire DSO percussion section has already departed for more secure artistic futures.


Internal loyalty
by David Zoltan

Anne Parsons is the kind of arts manager that gives the rest of us a bad name. The president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been in the news quite a bit over the past year. The latest news to feature her is perhaps one of the most telling, however.

In March, while the fight was still raging between Parsons and the musicians over a 23% pay cut for the musicians as well as some other issues surrounding outreach and community involvement, Parsons got her contract extension with the DSO board wrapped up and then kept under wraps, waiting until after breaking the strike and the spring concert series to announce her contract extension. And who could blame her considering that announcing the fact that she was being brought back for exactly the same pay would have given the musicians even more resolve to wait out Parsons and the board?

Parsons reportedly makes close to $300,000 per year along with a long list of fringe benefits, not the least of which is the house she lives in. I haven’t looked deeply into top-tier orchestra management salaries of late, but that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, for better or worse. So by pure market value of experienced top-level management, I’m sure that it’s reasonable for the level of management talent we’re discussing. Of course, the argument that Detroit would lose its status as a first class orchestra if it made such drastic cuts was summarily dismissed by management, so why would the market for management talent be different? But this isn’t purely a factor of economics.

Parsons already has an image as a union-breaker given her role in the strike and her intransigence in negotiating, even when top politicians and mediators came in to try to help put an end to the long dispute. The loss of Emmanuelle Boisvert, the long-time concertmaster of the DSO, to Dallas where she will be willingly taking a demotion to associate concertmaster, as well as the loss of other musicians towards the end of the strike, showed the lack of trust and confidence already prevalent among the musicians.

So now, how can these musicians that finally bowed to time and accepted that huge 23% cut in pay possibly feel to this latest slap in the face that Parsons will force them to take hugely painful cuts without bothering to take any of her own?

Would $69,000 make everything at the DSO better? Of course not. But one of the constant refrains before and throughout the strike from Parsons was the need for more outreach and community programming, a fact I strongly supported. $69,000 would certainly make an impact on expanding such programs. I could still think of many interesting things to do with $69,000 that would help reach out to new audiences.

More important though is the sense of shared sacrifice that was asked of the musicians that Parsons abandons completely here. After all, if the average musician was making just over $100,000 (about a third of what Parsons makes), each individual musician’s share of about $23,000 that they sacrificed won’t make or break the orchestra either. It’s the shared sacrifice together that makes it possible for the orchestra to realign itself, but it’s not one that Parsons contributes to in any real sense.

This is why artists rail against arts management so often. This is where the accusations that we’re exploiting their work to make money for ourselves comes from. Parsons shows with such a simple misstep that she doesn’t believe in supporting artists, just institutions. This makes it just a little bit harder on the rest of us that are working to ensure that starving artists are a thing of the past to earn the trust of the artists we work so hard to support.

This comes down to my favorite topic on this blog, loyalty. This move shows a complete lack of leadership on Parsons’ part, and in the aftermath of the strike, she needs to be rebuilding loyalty if the rest of her programming has a real chance to help rebuild the audience base and expand into new audiences. She needs willing and enthusiastic collaboration with the musicians that decide to stick it out.

Let’s assume for a moment that her salary is deserved for those “deep connections within the national funding community” among other things. Fundraising is going to be a critical part of rebuilding the orchestra’s position in Detroit and the world stage. There’s still a chance for her to lead here, to make a very substantial commmitment to the orchestra and its musicians.

So I call on Parsons to donate 23% of her salary back to the orchestra as long as the musicians also must sacrifice for the health of the organization. Parsons is already a donor, as I’d hope all arts managers would be to the organizations they love and support, but at a more modest 3-7% level according to the article.

This is a chance for her to make a powerful statement to the musicians, to donors spooked by the strike, to those national funders to which she has deep connections that she believes in the orchestra, in the city, and in the long-term strength of the organization and its mission. This would allow her to match action to her words. And as it would be a voluntary effort, it may even mean more, in the end, than had the DSO board done its fiduciary and moral responsibility and reduced her salary through negotiations.


Detroit Symphony renews contract of Anne Parsons
By Shannon Jones – 7 June 2011

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra board of directors has agreed to a three-year contract extension for DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons. Parsons oversaw the imposition of drastic concessions on musicians in the agreement ending the recently concluded six-month strike.

Parson’s contract renewal was agreed to late last March, but management delayed making public its decision until the conclusion of the strike-shortened 2010-2011 concert season and the announcement of the 2011-2012 season.

The decision to retain Parsons is an expression of the contempt of orchestra management for DSO musicians and the broader musical community in Detroit, as it continues its plan to impose a for-profit business model at the expense of artistic excellence.

Parsons received $299,679 base salary in 2009 and $93,000 in “other compensation,” including a house, pension, health care and a car allowance. For their part, DSO musicians took a more than 23 percent cut in pay under terms of the agreement ratified in April at the conclusion of the strike. The cuts dropped the DSO, long considered one of the best orchestras in the United States, out of the top 10 in terms of pay.

Linton Bodwin, a DSO bassist and chairman of the orchestra committee, told the WSWS that the decision by management to retain Parsons was “puzzling based on what has happened over the last five years, that she would be rewarded. We had hoped for a clean start at the top. It wasn’t a great surprise, but it wasn’t great news. It boils down to a few people making a decision to continue carrying out their philosophy.”

Musicians struck on October 4 last year against concession demands, including a more than 30 percent pay cut and changes in work rules that would turn orchestra members into little more than servants at the beck and call of management. Musicians turned out to the community, organizing well-attended support concerts that kept the dispute in the public eye.

As important as the economic issues were in the strike, perhaps more significant was the determination of the musicians to defend the DSO as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. However, the efforts of the musicians could not overcome the impact of the isolation from the official labor movement, which refused to organize any serious support for the strike in the Detroit area. In April, musicians were finally forced to agree to a contract with deep pay cuts.

The DSO strike drew national attention as orchestras across the United States struggled with declining corporate donations and ticket sales in the wake of the financial crash. The end of the DSO strike was followed within days by an announcement from the Philadelphia Orchestra that it was declaring bankruptcy and would seek to abrogate its contract with musicians.

Since the end of the strike, the orchestra has lost several of its most talented musicians, including Emmanuelle Boisvert, DSO concertmaster for the past 23 years. Boisvert joined the DSO at the age of 25, the first female to win the concertmaster position at a major US orchestra. Her departure is an implicit rebuke to DSO management. She is leaving to take a lesser associate concertmaster position with the Dallas Symphony. On previous occasions Boisvert had indicated her intention to remain with the DSO until the end of her musical career.

The DSO has suffered other major losses, including Philip Dikeman, acting principal flute since 2010; violinist Lilit Danielyan, an 11-year DSO veteran; and the entire percussion section.

Concerning the departure of Boisvert, Bodwin indicated that the highly talented violinist had been the target of personal attacks on the DSO Inc. Facebook page during the strike, which at least in part influenced her decision to leave for Dallas. He added, “We are sorry to see her go. I hope she will be better off where she is going. It is a gamble, because she is leaving some of her family behind.”

Reflecting on the mood of orchestra members, Bodwin added, “It is still an unsettled situation. I think the musicians are unified as a group and are not prone to letting themselves be divided. Unfortunately, we still have to be in a reactive position.

“I have to say that the reception we have been getting at concerts is like we are heroes. I think the public is standing with the musicians.”

DSO musicians gave thanks to supporters of their strike, including the World Socialist Web Site, at a post-concert party held backstage at Orchestra Hall on June 4. Musicians expressed their appreciation to this reporter for the honest coverage and analysis of the strike, which stood in sharp contrast to that provided by the corporate media. Many musicians indicated that they felt their struggle was part of a broader defense of art and culture and expressed determination to continue to oppose the agenda of DSO management.


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Are Unions To Blame?

by Michael Kaiser
President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Click here for the Article on the Huffington Post

A recent article I read suggested that labor unions are a primary cause for today’s financial problems in the arts. I could not disagree more.

It is absolutely true that when income falls precipitously, as it has for many arts organizations, costs must be realigned. And it is also true that unions, in protecting their workers, fight tooth and nail to maintain their members’ standard of living and work environment. That is why there are unions in the first place.

But the key issue is: why has revenue fallen so far for so many arts organizations?

It is not the fault of union members that we are selling fewer tickets or raising less funds. We can blame a terrible economy, lack of arts education in our schools, substantially lower government grants at every level and new forms of entertainment that compete for the time and resources of our audiences for much of the reduction in resources available for arts organizations. A recent study, for example, found that contributions for the arts fell much farther during the recession than had previously been expected.

But this is not the entire story.

For while many arts organizations are cutting budgets and reducing their service to their communities in response to falling revenue, many others are doing very well, thank you.

They may have to work harder for the resources they require for growth but they are still growing. These are the organizations that are smart about building revenue. They produce important art, they market this art and their institutions aggressively, and they are especially good at making people feel welcome as members of their extended families.

I have been surprised (and dismayed) to see how many arts organizations handle their donors, manage their special events and treat their board members. One arts manager I met told me that her organization never communicates with its donors except for writing them once a year and asking for their annual contribution! I recently went to a board member event for one organization where the board members were left to fend for themselves as the staff members sat and drank and ate! Another arts executive told me on several occasions how he “hates his board members and wishes they would go away!”

And then they are surprised when their levels of contributions fall.

It is impossible to blame unions for the lack of revenue for arts organizations when so many are doing such a poor job of managing themselves.

In any event, cutting wages is not a long term strategy for success, nor does it ensure that the mission of an organization will be pursued with vigor. (And you can only cut for so long before there is nothing left to cut.) The only way to assure success for any not for profit is to build a sustained and growing revenue producing capability.

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Ballet Renaissance, musings by Phil

Dear SOS friends,

On Sunday, Hanna and I enjoyed a performance by Ballet Renaissance (see students and instructors, “Ballet with Bach,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts auditorium. With at least three DSO musicians leaving Detroit to join the Dallas Symphony, it may be of interest to you to know that a gifted ballerina and ballet teacher, Brianna Furnish, came from Dallas to study (at Wayne State) and live and work in Detroit some years ago, and she has put down roots here; fourteen years ago she founded Ballet Renaissance, a non-profit organization “committed to establishing quality, affordable professional ballet training and performance opportunities in the heart of Detroit” (from the group’s mission statement). In 2006, a Polish-born professional ballet dancer named Radoslaw (Radek) Kokoszka, joined Brianna as Co-Director of Ballet Ren. I learned about Brianna and her organization from her father, a good friend and college classmate of mine (at Cornell College of Iowa) whom I have kept in touch with over the decades; he is a retired professor (of theology) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (He and his wife came up from Dallas last weekend to visit briefly, and to attend this performance, and we had the pleasure of lunch with them at the DIA Cafe beforehand.)

What is special about Ballet Renaissance, and about Sunday’s performance? (1) Brianna and Radek teach students of all ages, girls and boys (although there are many more girls), all economic and racial backgrounds, from the ages of four on up to adults, and they all get a chance to perform at least a couple of times a year. They now hold many of their classes at the Detroit Opera House. (2) At the end of a performance, all the groups who have participated are invited back to the stage, and each child or young person or adult is identified by name and presented with a red rose. The parents who work back stage are also recognized. Love, support, safety and appreciation characterize the whole process. This time, parents of both co-directors also came to the stage and were introduced and acknowledged. (3) The fact that the music of Bach was choreographed for this performance seemed to me to be both daring and appropriate; it was very satisfying, both musically and visually. (4) While much of the musical “accompaniment” was recorded, Nadine Deleury, principal cellist with the Michigan Opera Theater Orchestra, provided exquisite cello accompaniment (from Bach suites for unaccompanied cello) for certain of the dances, and a young woman named Klara Eikoff–just finishing her freshman year in high school–sang a beautiful Bach aria for another. (5) Two other groups, the Madame Cadillac Dance Theatre of Detroit, which has been celebrating Detroit’s French roots since 1981, and a group of guest dancers from the Detroit High School for Fine and Performing Arts, also performed and added to the interest of the afternoon’s program.

I mainly wanted to alert you to the fact that, with several DSO musicians abandoning Detroit for Dallas, at least one gifted artist from Dallas has established herself in Detroit and adds importantly to the cultural and educational life here. Not only do Hanna and I support our DSO musicians, but we are pleased to support Ballet Renaissance and the important–and not well enough known–work this organization is doing.


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Civic Alumni Subs with DSO

I am thrilled to be performing this week as principal flute in the DSO with two amazing substitute musicians sitting in the flute section:

Amy Taylor, piccoloist from MIlwaukee (frequent piccolo sub with Chicago Symphony) and Josh Romatowski, former DSO Civic Member, my former student who is currently a Masters Student at the San Francisco Conservatory.

Don’t miss these concerts featuring music from Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters including “James Bond”, “Jaws”, “Superman” and “Star Wars.” This will be your last chance to hear the DSO in Orchestra Hall until October.

Jeffery Zook, DSO Piccolo/Flute

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Open Letter from Emmanuelle

This is a letter that Emmanuelle read to her colleagues when she announced her decision to join the Dallas Symphony. She has graciously allowed us to publish it here for our members, who are so very saddened by this news.

If you would like to send Emma a farewell message you can write to her at:

or by clicking HERE.

We will forward the messages to Emmanuelle and publish them on this site.

All of us here at SOS wish Emmanuelle the very best in this new and exciting chapter of her life!



Dear DSO musicians,

My soul and every fiber of my being belongs here, on this stage, amongst you, part of you, part of your past, present and future. I would like to acknowledge a debt of gratitude, to everyone who nurtured my path and still does so everyday toward becoming a more skilled orchestral musician.
To every musician who has been here 30, 40 and plus years, and to all the ones who have already departed, I wish to thank you for fostering, encouraging, and teaching me. I thank you for the vast wealth of knowledge and the traditions that this orchestra, and only this orchestra could have passed along. I would like to particularly thank Geoff Applegate for whom I would not have become the orchestral player I am now, he surely has to be the best principal second violinist in the world!
I wish to thank also former Concertmaster Gordon Staples who helped support a smooth transition into my first year, offering guidance every steps of the way. Next to thank are my wonderful stand partners, first the calm, skilled and talented Joe Goldman, again very patient and supportive during the “green” years of my life, I wish to apologize to him for everything I did not know. Then the sweet and passionate John Hughes, followed by the magnificent Laura Rowe, whom I have always called “my rock”, so steadfast and calm, I miss you here very much. Also Hai-Xin Wu who through his refined musicianship thought me how to play Mozart symphonies and piano concertos, and then last but not least, the ultra-talented, god-gifted Kim Kaloyanides Kennedy, who gives so much of herself, in order to continually blend, match, support, and elevate me. As I have worked with other orchestras lately, having to now do the “blending” with players around me, I realize that I haven’t thank you enough Kim for all these years of sublime partnership.

Next, I wish to express gratitude to the musicians of Save Orchestra Hall movement of the 70′s and 80′s, without whom we would not be here today, on the stage of this magnificent Orchestra Hall. It has been a revelation for me to finally view the 70′s video, posted on our MDSO website, of the musicians walking in a circle as the wrecking ball lurks somewhere near. I had heard the story many times, but had never visualized it before.
I would also like to offer a lifetime of gratitude to all past NCs who had vision, strength, courage, talent and dedication, to believe in and uphold this great orchestra. You taught be how to be a dedicated member of AFM.
I would also like to thank past and present members of management and Board who have continually showed kindness and understanding.
Not least is Norris, whom I consider a brother, for whom the fifth paragraph of the press release is dedicated. He and I joined the DSO the same month of the same year. I thank you, Norris and all your team, for protecting and keeping me safe, not only here but also during some of our touring. I will miss you.
Comes to mind next are the smooth, skilled, tireless, and fantastically devoted stage crew, Frank, Larry, Matt and Micky, as well as the extras, who deserve more than our thanks for seamlessly handling all of us, I don’t know of any other orchestras with a stage crew as magnificent as you guys!

To conclude, I wish both of our DSOs fantastic years of great symphonic music and much longevity during these turbulent times.
Music is always timeless,
Best wishes always,

Our readers respond:

A magnificent letter from a magnificent musician – and person. Thank you for these many wonderful years.
~ Carole Keller

Ms. Boisvert: I am deeply saddened (and shocked!) that you are leaving out beloved DSO. However things change in one’s life and I realize that you are doing what is best for you and your amazing career. Congratulations and best wishes for your new life in Dallas!
~ Rita Kerr

Has it really been 23 years since she replaced Gordon Staples? Wow, time flies when the music is great. Thank you, Ms. Boisvert, for your leadership of the DSO and all the beautiful music you have given us. I’m so glad I heard your performance of the Beethoven Romances last week. Best wishes to you and your family in Dallas
~ Joan Berndt

A beautiful letter that embodies what it is to be a high-level orchestral musician …
~ Suzanne Bilyeu

I had the great fortune of speaking one-on-one with Emmanuelle during the intermission at last Saturday’s concert. Pure charm and grace. I have always been stirred by Emmanuelle’s emotion conveyed through her craft. My heart is broken again… by another departure from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I commend Ms Boisvert for the difficult decision that was before her but applaud her decision to continue to share her remarkable gift in a more conducive atmosphere. We will miss you Emmanuelle.
~ Brian Patek

We will certainly miss you – the radiance in your playing and your radiant face when you play. Congratulations! Dallas’ gain is truly our loss.
~ Jenn K

A tearful good-bye. We cannot thank you enough for your singularly beautiful music, your presence and your integrity. To us the Detroit Symphony will not be the same without you. We wish you all the best!
~Phil and Hanna Clampitt

What a blow to all music lovers in Michigan to see you go, Ms. Boisvert. From your impeccable musical roots at Curtis and with Cleveland to your masterful presentation of the solo literature, we looked forward each year to hearing and watching you perform at Orchestra Hall. It is sadly telling, it seems, that you have not expressed any feelings about your current MD, only about ones past. Could there be more to this story than disappointment solely with orchestra management? Whatever the case, your professionalism was fully on display this past Sunday when you so passionately collaborated with M. Slatkin in the two Beethoven Romances. We will be sad to see you leave but equally proud to have had you in our musical lives. Ave atque vale!
~Robert Glassman and Jennie Lieberman

Dear Friends,

I cannot adequately express my thanks to Emmanuelle Boisvert, departing concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, for her artistry and good will.

For example, I recall a performance by the Detroit Symphony of Verdi’s “Requiem” some years ago. Ms. Boisvert’s setting forth of the violin solo in that work was far the best that I have heard in decades of concert-going.

May Ms. Boisvert’s association with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra bring her self-fulfillment and happiness.

Further, I cannot adequately voice my concern about the situation that has occasioned Ms. Boisvert’s departure from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

May the orchestra survive the overwhelming loss of Ms. Boisvert and other distinguished musicians.

May the orchestra’s board and management sincerely express thanks to Ms. Boisvert for her meritorious service and demonstrate to the orchestra and the community that supports it an honest commitment to the secure future of this world-renowned ensemble.
~James Toy MSW


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Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Click here for the website of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra!

The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the fourth-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros and collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the 12th Music Director of the DSO during the 2008-09 season. The DSO offers a year-round performance schedule that includes classical, pops, jazz, young people’s concerts and festivals. The DSO makes its home in historic Orchestra Hall, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, and actively pursues a mission to impact and serve the community through music.

The number to the DSO Box Office is 313-576-5111

Click HERE to go directly to the DSO Calendar of Events


Join the SOS Core Group at DSO concerts:

Please consider joining us! We gather near the Top of the Grand Stairway before the concerts, during intermission and afterward to meet with you, enjoy a cocktail and discuss ways in which SOS can support classical music in Detroit! Added bonus – DSO Musicians tend to hang around us!

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Join the SOS Core Group at the Following Concerts!

The SOS Core Group will be attending the following DSO concerts. Please consider joining us, we are eager to meet you face to face!

We will gather before the concerts, during intermission and afterward to meet with you have some fun and discuss ways in which SOS can support classical music in Detroit!

Added bonus – DSO Musicians tend to hang around us!

Get your tickets soon, these concerts are filling up quickly. Follow the links to purchase your tickets online, or call the DSO Box Office at 313-576-5111

Hollywood Blockbusters
Friday June 3, 8:00 PM
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Spring Season at Orchestra Hall comes to a spectacular conclusion as Jeff Tyzik leads music from Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters! Five decades of hits! “James Bond”, “Jaws”, “Superman” and “Star Wars”. The best musical moments from Hollywood’s hottest hits!

19th Annual Salute to America
June 30 – July 1,2,3 – 6:00 pm
Celebrate America with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Greenfield Village for an evening of music under the stars. Bring your picnic and hear musical Americana, topped off with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and a fireworks finale! DSO subscribers and members of The Henry Ford receive discount admission.

DSO at the Ford House
July 8,9 – 8:30 pm
The DSO performs at the historic Ford House – join us for two magical evenings of music on the lakeside lawn, with the backdrop of the magnificent Ford House literally setting the stage. Each performance will be followed by a thrilling fireworks finale.

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Lilit Danielyan Says Good-Bye

lilitcopyLilit Danielyan, an eleven-year veteran of the Detroit Symphony’s violin section is saying good-bye after winning an audition to join the Dallas Symphony. She will be joining DSO’s Concertmaster, Emmanuelle Boisvert, and Principal Timpanist, Brian Jones, who previously announced their departures for Dallas.

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, in 1975, Lilit’s talent for music was recognized at a very early age. When she was just 12, she made her professional debut with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Saint-Saens’s Violin Concerto No. 3 and, as a student, won numerous awards including Second Prize at the Soviet Youth Violin Competition in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1989 and First Prize at the International Mozart Competition in Belgium in 1991. Following an intense period of study in London and the United States, Lilit joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2000.

A Message from Lilit Danielyan:

Music is the universal language of the heart. Music, in all its variety, speaks to and is understood intuitively by every person on this planet. As a member of Detroit Symphony’s violin section, I helped each week to bring music to life on the magnificent stage of Orchestra Hall. It is this music that gathers our beloved audiences together, no matter their nationality or mother tongue, to listen, enjoy and experience a deep inner resonance as our music touches them in a way that the spoken word cannot.

Please know that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is doing its very best to keep the heart of Detroit alive at home, through its many performances, and away, when on tour or being broadcast.

Dear Audience Members, You have been wonderful in your support of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Please be there to help the musicians of the DSO continue their work of bringing spectacular classical music performances in the spirit of beauty, harmony, kindness and goodness to Michigan and the world.

My Dear Colleagues, Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many years of friendship and wonderful memories. I will cherish them. Although I have decided to move to Dallas to continue my career, I am ever so proud to have been part of this orchestra performing alongside each of you, where I was privileged to share my gift of making music at the highest possible level.

We, in turn, wish Lilit God’s speed as she and her husband, Grigor Poghosyan, and their two children, Shackay and Arman, embark on a new voyage. We will surely miss you all.

—The Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

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DSO Concertmaster Resigns

Read the article on John Guinn’s Blog

DSO Concertmaster Resigns

by johnrockneguinn on May 26, 2011

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert’s departure to become associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony is a major blow to our orchestra, its patrons and the cultural health of southeastern lower Michigan.

Do the faulty DSO managers, along with those dangerously naive board members who continue to support them, realize just how serious Boisvert’s departure is?

For this is not simply the case of a gifted violinist flitting about from one ensemble to another. Boisvert has been Detroit’s concertmaster for 23 years. She came on board at the ripe young age of 25, the first female to hold the concertmaster’s position in a major American orchestra.

She leaves for a lesser position in Dallas trailing a glorious legacy. Not only has her solo work been consistently superb, her intense artistic personality has had a major impact on the unique sonic character of Detroit’s orchestra.

Boisvert has said that she had planned to stay in Detroit for her entire career. What lured her to Dallas, she says, is simple: the Dallas orchestra’s commitment to classical music, the intrinsic respect offered to the musicians and the emphasis placed on communication and teamwork at all levels.

What a sad indictment of the current workings of the Detroit orchestra’s board and management! What a severe wound to the struggling, post-strike musicians who are trying to maintain the health and character of their ensemble!

In a statement sent to DSO board and staff members today, executive director Anne Parsons wrote that the information about Boisvert’s departure “was released to the press directly by the Orchestra, with some of us learning about Emmanuelle’s decision at this morning’s Executive Committee meeting, from her musician peers who sit on that committee.”

Wonder why.

The fact is, orchestra is losing its major individual lynchpin. Adieu, Emmanuelle! We will miss you mightily!

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Plus ça change…

By Frank Almond
non divisi


By now most everyone has heard about the latest developments in Detroit. My first reaction was one of shock and surprise; the surprise lessened considerably after I thought it through a little more. In fact, I found myself wondering why she hadn’t bailed out sooner. But nobody should misconstrue what’s happened- a major loss for the orchestra at a precarious time, and a definitive vote of no confidence from one of its most prominent and visible musicians.

I don’t know Emmanuelle Boisvert very well, only peripherally during our time as “co-concertmasters” in Seattle, more recently through some informal email exchanges, and of course from her excellent reputation. On the surface, it might seem odd that the CM from Detroit would up and leave after 23 years for an associate position in Dallas, a group with a traditionally smaller budget and perhaps less historical cachet. But I also played in Dallas several times this year as CM (the orchestra had many guests this season), and there are a lot or compelling things happening there. Attention Mr. Woodcock/Teachout/ other Chicken Little charter members: the Dallas Symphony has it going on.

As I can attest, and as Ms. Boisvert noted in her eloquent statement, the Dallas orchestra currently functions in an atmosphere of respect, ambition, financial stability, and an upward artistic trajectory. Jaap van Zweden has big plans, and despite some recent leadership changes on the admin side, things are moving in a notably positive direction. Contrast this with the catastrophic events in Detroit over the last year coupled with their current habitual inertia and the Board’s evident refusal to make the necessary leadership adjustments at the top, and a large middle finger is not unexpected from any musician.

Consider the colossally tepid statement from the Detroit board chair, Stanley Frankel:

“The DSO learned of this disappointing loss just this morning. We thank Emmanuelle Boisvert for her many years of dedicated service and artistic excellence and wish her much happiness and success in her future endeavors with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Retaining and attracting top talent remains a priority for the DSO at every level and under the leadership of our Music Director Leonard Slatkin, the DSO will continue to achieve tremendous artistic success while building a sustainable and viable business model going forward.”

Huh? 23 years as Concertmaster, and that’s it? Incidentally, the silence from Executive Director Anne Parsons was notable, as was the absence of a comment from Music Director Leonard Slatkin (in my opinion he’s about the only beacon of hope left around there).

I have news for Mr. Frankel, the Board, Ms. Parsons, and other subscribers to the absurd notion that top musicians can be easily and quickly replaced without substantially damaging the brand name and artistic quality: that won’t happen.

A great ensemble (or business, or team) is dependent on well-developed and sophisticated working relationships that can take years to refine. Further, musicians who stay for decades develop deep roots in the community, which benefits everyone. At this point Detroit has very little chance of attracting anything close to experienced “top talent”, especially for the position of Concertmaster. Of course there are legions of kids coming out of music schools who will play beautifully. Over a period of years (yes, years), some will be hired to replace departing musicians from this season. With rare exceptions they will be stand-ins; proxies for experienced artists that made the orchestra what it was for all those years before the strike.

My sense is that Ms. Boisvert will not be the last veteran musician to depart Detroit over the next several months; time will tell. Beyond the strike-ending settlement, I suppose one can hope that the Board will eventually realize what other changes are necessary to stop both the hemorrhaging of talent and the Detroit Symphony’s race to the bottom.

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Drew McManus – Reading Between The Lines In Detroit

Reading Between The Lines In Detroit
May 26, 2011 | Drew McManus


Following the news that Detroit Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert decided to leave her position for an associate concertmaster position at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony issues a brief statement from board chair, Stanley Frankel. Frankel’s statement could perhaps best be described as profoundly indifferent…

“The DSO learned of this disappointing loss just this morning. We thank Emmanuelle Boisvert for her many years of dedicated service and artistic excellence and wish her much happiness and success in her future endeavors with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Retaining and attracting top talent remains a priority for the DSO at every level and under the leadership of our Music Director Leonard Slatkin, the DSO will continue to achieve tremendous artistic success while building a sustainable and viable business model going forward.”

The obligatory “retraining top talent remains a priority” phrase certainly has a hollow ring to it in light of the fact that losing a concertmaster, the primary artistic member next to the music director, to an orchestra with a traditionally smaller budget is an intense event. Make no mistake, this is a profound blow to the Detroit Symphony. It delivers exponentially more punch when said concertmaster left for a position that is considered a step down.

If you run Frankel’s message through a spin filter, it might come across something like this: So long as Leonard sticks around we don’t care who leaves and the more high price salaries we can get rid of, the better. Don’t expect a bon voyage party and don’t bother cleaning out your locker, we’ll send* your things along to your new address.

If there is any doubt behind Boisvert’s motivation, it will be washed away with the following passage from her press statement.

“This winter I performed with the Dallas Symphony on several occasions and marveled at their organization’s commitment to classical music, the intrinsic respect offered to musicians by the administration and esteemed Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, and the emphasis they place on communication and teamwork at all levels. I had planned to stay in Detroit for my entire career, but Dallas presented me with an opportunity I simply couldn’t refuse.”

In case you didn’t catch the message in the Grand Canyon size gaps between the lines, then allow me: I’m leaving because I can’t stand working for our current board and administrative executive leadership. Sticking around to make things better from the inside out is neither sustainable nor viable. I don’t care that my new gig is a step down in status (and perhaps pay), but the thought of working for this leadership team is so impalpable I took the first reasonable offer to come my way from a group that isn’t a fire to the frying pan that is the new Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In case anyone was wondering whether or not Detroit Symphony musicians were capable of getting out of Dodge post-haste in the face of the “oversupply of musicians” and/or “lack of openings” arguments, Boisvert’s defection should pretty much put a railroad spike size nail into that coffin.

*C.O.D, parcel post.

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Detroit – Emmanuelle Boisvert, Concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for twenty-three years, will be moving to another DSO to continue her career. Emmanuelle has accepted an Associate Concertmaster position with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra beginning September 2011.
Ms. Boisvert joined the Detroit Symphony at the age of 25, becoming the first woman to win the concertmaster position at a major American orchestra and, for more than two decades, has led DSO musicians with consummate professionalism and dedication. During Emmanuelle’s tenure, the violin section maintained and intensified its deep sonority and virtuosity, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra matured into one the most respected major orchestras in the United States.
“When I arrived Detroit in 1988,” said Emmanuelle, “ I was quite young – just beginning my career, really. After graduating from Curtis, I freelanced in Philadelphia and subsequently joined the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Christoph von Dohnanyi. Two years later the Detroit Symphony and its Music Director Gunter Herbig presented me with the performance opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to lead a great orchestra. To this day, I remain grateful for their decision to place such trust in me.”
She continued, “It has been a privilege for me to work with my colleagues and to make spectacular music both live and recorded with Maestro Neeme Javi in our magnificent home — Orchestra Hall. I have been the fortunate recipient, through veteran musicians in the orchestra, of the wisdom of such DSO Music Directors as Paul Paray and Antal Dorati. I have also enjoyed sharing the duties of selecting new, amazingly talented musicians for the orchestra with the goal of ensuring highest quality in classical music performances for Detroit and Michigan for many years to come.”
“On the personal side,” she said, “The great City of Detroit and it residents have taught me to be patient, loving, kindhearted, devoted, strong, and tenacious – the qualities also possessed by my three children, who were all born in Detroit.”
“This winter I performed with the Dallas Symphony on several occasions and marveled at their organization’s commitment to classical music, the intrinsic respect offered to musicians by the administration and esteemed Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, and the emphasis they place on communication and teamwork at all levels. I had planned to stay in Detroit for my entire career, but Dallas presented me with an opportunity I simply couldn’t refuse. Making the decision to leave Detroit has been heart wrenching,” said Emmanuelle.
Geoffrey Applegate, DSO’s Principal Second Violin, added, “Emma will be distraught at leaving her colleagues. We are a very close-knit team on-stage and our success is due in large part to our intricate working relationship. This Friday will mark Emma’s final performance as Concertmaster with us in Orchestra Hall and we will make it a very special concert for her — she has been the heart of our orchestra for a long time and we will miss her terribly. We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.”
Emmanuelle will be joining Brian Jones, DSO’s Principal Timpanist, who also is departing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the end of this season.


CONTACT: Linton Bodwin, MDSO Committee Chairman 248-227-3367 (cell) or 248-642-3384 (home),

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Hyla versicolor vs Detroit Symphony Orchestra!

A few summers ago, one of the DSO evening concerts Hanna and I attended at Meadow Brook lingers in my memory because of an unusual event. My memory of this concert is selective. I recall that Thomas Wilkins conducted, and that the weather was problematic. We had purchased lawn tickets. The rainstorm held off during most of the first half of the concert, which as I recall featured a piano soloist (who, or what he played, I can’t remember). Then the thunder and lightning and rain came, and many of us scurried as quickly as we could from the lawn to seats inside the pavilion–there were plenty of unoccupied seats there–where, with a roof over our heads, we stayed relatively dry. By the time intermission ended, the worst of the storm had passed. Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, which deserves more performances than it usually gets, was scheduled for the second half. Shortly after the first movement began, the very loud trill of a tree frog (the frog is quite small, but it has a very loud voice), up in the rafters of the pavilion, began accompanying the music of Dvorak coming from the orchestra! After the first movement ended, Maestro Wilkins turned to the audience and remarked: “And he didn’t even buy a ticket!” Laughter and applause. The frog eventually lost interest, apparently, and maybe moved on, but the delightful music of Dvorak continued. I like to think that Dvorak himself, had he been present, would have enjoyed the spectacle of having his 8th Symphony accompanied by a frog!

That’s not quite all of the story. A generally favorable review of the concert, by Mark Stryker, appeared in the Detroit Free Press a couple of days later. But what I (as a biologist) knew to be a gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor*, I think; there is a closely related species that it can be confused with) was, to Mr. Stryker’s ears, “a pigeon.” His great knowledge and love of classical music was not accompanied by an equal knowledge of the music of the natural world. I was sufficiently exercised by the error that I wrote a letter to the Free Press to point it out. Sadly, they never printed my letter. Most of those who heard the concert probably believe, to this day–if they read the review and didn’t know better–that the creature who joined in with the music of Dvorak that night at Meadow Brook was a pigeon. Now all of you who read this will know the TRUTH!


* Try Google to learn more about the gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor.

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Karl Paulnack Welcome address

Below is an excerpt from a welcome address given to parents of incoming students at the Boston Conservatory on September 1, 2004, by Dr. Karl Paulnack, director of Music Division.

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re wasting your SAT scores!” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works…

Click HERE for a link to the entire article on The Boston

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Ignite The Soul!

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Who says kids don’t appreciate classical music?

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