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Fort Worth risks losing Van Cliburn

November 6, 2016 by norman lebrecht

24 comments.


Amid ever-more hostile statements from Amy Adkins, CEO of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the clock is ticking on an embattled organisation where there seems to be no plan B.

The musicians went on strike in September after refusing to accept pay cuts. The board has cancelled all concerts for the rest of 2016 and has slammed the door on further talks until the musicians return on their knees.

That’s where things stand.

Now, look a little further ahead.

In May 2017, the Fort Worth SO is supposed to be playing for semi-final and final contestants in the Van Cliburn Competition, founded by the city’s most famous musician.

Supposed to.

If guarantees cannot be given by January, the Cliburn will (we hear) have to look elsewhere for an orchestra.

It won’t lack for offers. And the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will have lost the jewel in its crown.

van cliburn george bush


Comments (24)

  1. Jeremy says:

    What a damn shame. As a native Texan I always looked for the Van Cliburn tapes and CDs for listening and studying. Ft. Worth used to be a small town that was just plain lucky to have a great orchestra. The city weathered thick and thin and came out the other end booming on the economic front, population front, and the artistic front. This city has EARNED a great orchestra. Now a new leadership wants to just throw it away. What a damn shame.

  2. Bruce says:

    Management would welcome that. It would be one less thing they’d have to pay the musicians for. (I don’t know if the competition provides the funding to pay the musicians, but even if they do, it burns management’s heart to pay musicians, regardless of whose money they use.)

  3. la Verita says:

    Of course the competition hires and pays for the orchestra and the concert hall.

  4. Carolyn Wright says:

    It’s time for Amy Adkins to go. She is ruining the FWSO. It’s time for new, innovative management.

    1. Leo G. Perdue says:

      Yes time for this poor leader to be replaced. How dare she risk losing the Van Cliburn competition. The woman is pathetic and should be replaced by the board.

  5. Mark says:

    One would think that Amy Adkins would be a little more flexible. After all, right next door is the Dallas Symphony. The competition would only have to move things around a bit, to accommodate the Cliburn. After all, Dallas also has SMU — which has at least one smaller hall and one quite large one — and no shortage of hotels. I’m pretty sure SMU would be amenable to hosting a good amount of the activities. The competition would not even have to change airports.

    1. Nmlhats says:

      The DSO’s regular season goes through June 3, 2017, and it typically does its parks concerts just afterwards. I doubt the DSO would be available to accompany the Cliburn semifinalists and finalists, whose schedule would conflict with the end of the DSO’s season and its Soluna Festival. Perhaps the Meadows symphony at SMU? But the Meyerson is not available, and neither is the Winspear, so you would have a venue problem if you tried to move it to Dallas. I don’t think they would want to do it at McFarlin.

      1. Nmlhats says:

        (And then the DSO has its late June residency in Vail.)

  6. Toby Brinlee says:

    Amy Adkins has not done her job and should be FIRED. She is responsible for fundraising and has done a miserable job of it. This orchestra has done nothing but take Pay cuts. What happened to establishing an endowment that all of a sudden she now talks about. Where was that 3 years ago or 6 years ago. The Fory Worth Symphony Orchestra Boatd needs to wake up and find a competant person to handle the job instead of this all talk and NO action Amy Adkins!!!

  7. Charles Cunningham says:

    Ft Worth has evidently learned nothing from the fiasco with the Dallas Cowboys. She’ll eventually be gone, but so will the Van Cliburn.

  8. Zachary Smith says:

    Time to stop blaming the messenger and focus on the real culprit here- the Board of Directors. The CEO may deserve a barbed -wire enema but she is just a front for the worthless pieces of @%!#& that are ultimately responsible for the well being of the FWSO.

  9. Nmlhats says:

    The FWSO was suposed to play for about a half dozen Texas Ballet Theater performances last month in both Dallas and Fort Worth soon after the musicians went on strike. So what happened? TBT just hired them as freelancers, playing under another name, like “Musicians of the FW Symphony.” I don’t see what would preclude the Cliburn from doing the same thing and having 60 striking FWSO members playing as “Symphonic Musicians of the Cliburn” or the “Cliburn Competition Orchestra.”

    1. Greg Hughes says:

      Good information and proposal. Let’s hope the musicians can stay together until this is resolved.

  10. Garnett Livingston says:

    CEO’s are puppets – the board runs everything.

    1. Nmlhats says:

      I find it can be a combination. Many nonprofit boards are just yes-people and yes-donors and they approve everything the CEO does without even investigating or understanding. The board at my husband’s employer let a former CEO spend money willynilly on terrible ideas and massive layoffs followed. Boards only work if they understand their oversight function and exercise it. At FWSO there seems to be plenty of blame to go around.

  11. The Cliburn says:

    OFFICIAL RESPONSE FROM THE CLIBURN:
    Rumors of Cliburn move from Fort Worth entirely false

    The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition began in Fort Worth in 1962 and has since become one of the most prominent, high-profile music competitions on the planet, while keeping its roots very firmly in its hometown.

    Its originators were a group of dedicated Fort Worth volunteers, and, though the organization is now run by a fulltime staff, the backbone of the competition is still the network of over 1,200 volunteers—primarily from Fort Worth—who give of their time, talents, and resources quadrennially and also in the interim years. They serve in vital roles to produce the competition, as well as to infuse it with the signature Texas warmth and hospitality that set the Cliburn apart amongst its peers worldwide.

    The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has performed in every Cliburn Competition since its inception as an invaluable artistic collaborator to our young pianists. With the fifteenth edition of the Competition around the corner in May and June of 2017, the Cliburn holds the hope that the FWSO will be able to resolve the current situation, that the strike will end, and that our new competitors will have the opportunity to perform with our symphony as their predecessors have before them.

    Should that not happen, the Cliburn will find a solution; but—importantly—that solution will absolutely not involve moving the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition away from Fort Worth, in 2017 or at any point in the future. To report anything that suggests otherwise is simply untrue and has no basis in reality.

    The Cliburn Competition will take place at Bass Performance Hall May 25 to June 10, 2017, and we look forward to seeing you all there.

    1. Former unappreciated donor. says:

      disappointed in this years lack of quality and respect to the artists themselves. The CEO is completely incompetent and superficial. IRS is gonna be all over her soon.

    2. Former unappreciated donor. says:

      And why were the “1200” volunteers not given more recognition??

  12. Nmlhats says:

    I knew The Cliburn would not leave FW! I wonder who started this rumor?

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      No-one suggested it would … except for the somewhat hysterical response from the competition spokesperson. We stated very clearly – read it for yourself – that, in the worst circumstances, the competition might have to look for another orchestra, not to leave town.

      Read our lips: If guarantees cannot be given by January, the Cliburn will (we hear) have to look elsewhere for an orchestra. It won’t lack for offers. And the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will have lost the jewel in its crown.
      – See more at: http://slippedisc.com/2016/11/fort-worth-risks-losing-van-cliburn/#sthash.cKRJ6Xtf.dpuf

  13. Fort Worth Alice says:

    Well. You *did* title the article “Fort Worth risks losing Van Cliburn”. It’s not hard to see how one might infer you suggested Fort Worth — the city — risks losing the Van Cliburn Competition.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      True, but I assume people read more than the headline.

      1. Bruce says:

        “…I assume people read more than the headline.”

        LOL. That’s adorable <3


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