Is Pittsburgh the next orchestra to hit the skids?

Is Pittsburgh the next orchestra to hit the skids?


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2011

Louisville… Philadelphia… Dallas… the list of US symphony orchestras that are gathering on the precipice of bankruptcy grows longer by the week.

Could Pittsburgh be next? Its president and chief executive,¬†Lawrence Tamburri, walked out of a trustees’ meeting on Monday, saying it was ‘a good time for me to leave’. Right now. Without delay or explanation. That usually means trouble in store.

Tamburri, who had been in charge for seven years, was responsible for hiring the well-liked music director Manfred Honeck and for putting in place an economy plan to stop the constant drain of deficits – $2 million in each of the last two seasons. Honeck, a former Vienna Philharmonic player, told me this summer that as soon as he heard the musicians were being asked to take a pay cut he volunteered the same reduction in his own salary. And when one of his principal players was being lured to Los Angeles, he made damn sure that Pittsburgh matched the deal.

That kind of leadership is rare in US orchestras and, from what I can tell after several phone conversations, the mood in Heinz Hall remains both artistically and organisationally upbeat. Jim Wilkinson, who stepped into Tamburri’s shoes, is a vice-chairman of the board and a steady hand on the tiller. Financially, there is no immediate pressure.

So, why did the prez quit? No-one seems quite sure. Tamburri is a private man with a strong family life. It may just be that he assessed his priorities and decided that now, when there is no crisis and the plan seems to be working, was ‘a good time’ for him to leave. It sometimes happens that way.



  • I do hope not!! I heard them at the Proms and they were fab. Would be such a loss to the international music scene.

  • Andrew says:

    At least he has the integrity to step down when lines are crossed by his trustees. The job of the trustees is not to second guess the President, it is to raise money. Few US orchestra boards grasp this. The President tells the board what he needs and why but they are not on the board to derail what management is doing. His hiring of Honeck was accomplished brilliantly with the full inclusion of the players (the heart of the organization) during the process. Losing him is a major blunder.

  • dave_the_musician says:

    Your article says essentially that things are probably going to be fine. And what does CrossEyedPianist take away? That Pittsburgh is in serious danger of folding.