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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: June 5, 2006 Archive

Now THIS took guts!

Posted at 12:37 PM on June 5, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

I wonder what his first rehearsal was like after he sent this letter to the Seattle Weekly


Start Search for Maestro
I am writing in response to Roger Downey's recent article ("Schwarz Surprise," May 17) regarding the announcement of a new contract for Seattle Symphony Music Director Gerard Schwarz. Mr. Downey's article is an accurate depiction of the orchestra's reaction to Maestro Schwarz's new contract and the history of events within the symphony. The vast majority of Seattle Symphony musicians are shell-shocked and dismayed: They recognize the need for change.

The issue is not Maestro Schwarz personally. If anything, I'm biased in his favor. He's a friend, was my teacher at Juilliard, and he hired me for this job. He has brought a lot to the organization and is enormously popular with our major donors. However, it is time for fresh artistic leadership for the symphony, as well as new challenges for Gerry. Everyone loses when music directors stay too long. Orchestras become artistically stagnant, as do music directors. Judging from our attendance these past few seasons, so do audiences. This is why the average tenure for music directors in modern orchestras is in the seven-to-10-year range, not the 25-plus this contract represents for Maestro Schwarz. We are fortunate to have so many new, younger musicians who have raised the bar on performance quality and brought fresh musical and professional approaches to the organization, but that is not enough.

Simply put, we need a new music director to take us to the next higher artistic level.

I believe that the contract extension was an appropriate decision for the board to have made, but it is time for public acknowledgment that this will be Gerry's final contract here and a music director search committee should be formed immediately. Finding the ideal next music director can take substantial time, with so many leading conductors under long-term contracts elsewhere and booked years in advance, but that search should reignite the musical excitement that has become less consistent at Benaroya Hall recently. Seattle needs to see all potential music directors in performance here, and that won't happen without the board's commitment to change and their dedication to a smooth transition.

With that commitment from the board and from Gerry, we can spend the next five years looking to the future with excitement and celebrating the considerable good that Maestro Schwarz has brought to the symphony.

Geoffrey Bergler
Trumpet, Seattle Symphony

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