An agent's place is in the wrong
September 29, 2010 by Norman Lebrecht
What follows is a sorry little story about a successful classical artist who dumps his agent.
Not altogether uncommon, except that it takes place in the holier-than-how world of organ playing and the agent who gets dumped is the torch bearer for one of America’s most famous organ legends, Virgil Fox.
The artist who does the dumping is almost equally famous in organ circles. His name is Cameron Carpenter and he’s a star-spangled hero who is as likely to be found on a pop stage as in a cathedral. Take a look at his website – http://www.cameroncarpenter.com/index.html -and at the pic below.
You can see why Carpenter might like to move on from the Virgil Fox Legacy. However, it’s not what you do that colours your posterity; it’s how you do it. The account of Carpenter’s getaway is given here in an email to fans and followers by his former agent. Read it, and weep.
Photo by Marine Penvern
I think that it might be a bit pretentious for me to paraphrase HRM
Queen Elizabeth when she described her previous year as an “annus
horribilis,” but the summer has been pretty much of a “carpe aestatem
horribilis” for me, Marshall Yaeger, and the Virgil Fox Legacy.
It began, on the Friday before Memorial Day, with a fall I had on
Central Park West after leaving my doctor’s office. I went right back
to the doctor, and discovered that I had fractured my left shoulder.
Fortunately, it did not require surgery, but it did require
painkillers, which I don’t take well to. I still kept all of my
appointments and responsibilities for Cameron Carpenter during the next
months, but by the end of July something was seriously wrong with our
Eventually, he advised us that we would no longer be his manager
(actually, I was actively trying to find him a new, strong classical
management; it’s time), and he also advised us that he would not play
the Boston 30th Anniversary Virgil Fox Legacy memorial concert on
Saturday, October 9. We considered other fine artists, but none have
the predictable following that he does – especially from advance
publicity, which is hard to get (and he usually gets it). Also, he did
not communicate with us for several weeks, during which time he pulled
his publicist out of the project – even though she had been sent a
We decided (demoralized as we were, I must add) that we should not
pursue the concert for fear we actually might lose money – which we
certainly could not do since Cameron had moved to Berlin in August and
stuck us with $53,000 in debts from his “Cameron Live!” recording
project and new website. And he stopped paying Anchor the agreed upon
commission of 10%, despite the fact that I have worked with Susan
Slaymaker, his booking director, on this coming season ending May 2011.
His excuse for October 9 was that we had no written contract, but I had
produced a dozen concerts for him in four years, and there was never a
written contract; only oral, which we definitely had for October 9 in
Boston. We had discussed the program, and he had expressed interest in
participating in the discussion session that would compare him to
Virgil. (Maybe that’s what made him cancel!) He was also going to play
the world premiere of his new composition, Aria Op. 1. (That, also,
might have been a good reason to cancel!)
I am now getting inquiries about the availability of tickets for the
concert, so thought I needed to inform the whole VFL list.
We will eventually have to close Anchor-International Foundation
because of its debts on behalf of Cameron (a $30,000 loan to Anchor
reverts to Cameron if Anchor is no longer in existence). However, that
will not change the presence of the amazing www.VirgilFoxLegacy website
that Len Levasseur designed and Marshall and I – and many of you –
contributed to over the years.
I was proud to have managed both Virgil and Cameron over a period of
nearly 50 years, but one major difference obviously existed between
Virgil and Cameron: Virgil was good for his word, even when major
managements enticed him after our success on his behalf with “Heavy
Organ.” Also, I had no written contract with Virgil for 17 years.
This is not meant to denigrate Cameron’s extraordinary talent, or to in
any way wish ill for him and his career. But since October 9 was to
feature a discussion about Virgil vs. Cameron, it has been
I may make this my last Virgil Fox Legacy posting; there comes an end
to everything, and I now must create a new (non-organ) business, or
find a job. It has been wonderful to be in touch with all of you over
the years, and we have had a wonderful, talented artist on whom to
focus; an inspiration to us all, and to all virtuoso musicians.
One last thing. www.SeeMusicDVD.com is still a website where you can
order Virgil Fox books and records and other recordings. We have some
of the recordings still available, and I think we should mark them down
and make some people happy with them rather than throw them away (which
we would otherwise have to do in order to clear our storage space).
Therefore, slashed prices are indicated on www.SeeMusicDVD.com,
generally 50% off or more, plus postage. If you’re interested, please
order before the end of October, when we will close this website.
Many thanks for your support over the years, and best personal regards.
P.S. Today is Marshall’s and my 50th anniversary!
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