Two musicians join search for Chicago manager

Two musicians join search for Chicago manager


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2014

Our friend Andrew Patner reports that two musicians have been co-opted onto the small group that is searching for a successor to Deborah Rutter at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


deborah rutter2

This is a welcome and progressive development, engineered by board chairman Jay Henderson, a vice chair of accounting giant PricewaterhouseCooper LLP. It is very much a sign of the times.

Little over a decade ago, leading US orchestras appointed a music director without bothering to consult the musicians. Today, especially in the wake of the Minnesota disaster, sensible organisations have become aware that musicians must have a say in all senior appointments.



  • Thanks, Norman! This follows the success of the CSO music director search process devised by former board chair William H. Strong and Deborah Rutter in 2004 with trustees, senior staff members, and musicians in roughly equal measure. It netted Bernard Haitink as principal conductor, formalized an interim relationship with Pierre Boulez, and then tapped Riccardo Muti as top man. Good that a similar idea will now be tried with the chief administrative role.

  • Bob Opper says:

    The Philadelphia Orchestra story was indeed very tragic and the management there has had a very strained and contentious relationship with the musicians until this day. It all stems from an old fashioned and archaic view of how an orchestra is run and managed in today’s world.

    Philadelphia was extremely unfortunate in that they had simultaneously both bad administrative management and very bad music management in the failed and disastrous tenure of Christoph Eschenbach, who both disappointed audiences and musicians alike. The Eschenbach disaster contributed to a great extent to the subsequent collapse and filing for bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Hopefully orchestras, both management and musicians, along with their boards, today seethings differently and are alert to not allowing a similar fiasco to happen again. The Eschenbach disaster in Philadelphia was a wake-up call to all orchestras how not to fall into the same tragic circumstances.

    • NYMike says:

      While the Eschenbach/Philadelphia era was indeed a disaster, the Philly board’s desire to remove its pension fund liability led to a manipulated bankruptcy even though its endowment and Academy of Music ownership were still intact.

      • Leoz says:

        I for one am encouraged by the resolution of Philly’s bankruptcy – the orchestra managed to shed some of it’s long-term liabilities without suffering the work stoppages seen in other major orchestras. The boards of these institutions are much maligned but it should be noted that they have a fiduciary duty to their organizations. The eroding financial positions of these orchestras – Minnesota, Philadelphia, Detroit a few years back – are not merely leverage for management in labor negations but actual cause for concern as regards institutional health. Cannibalizing an endowment isn’t a balance-sheet panacea.

  • James says:

    The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra appointed musicians to its search committee over a decade ago. There were four musicians on the committee during the search which resulted in the hiring of then Music Director Paavo Järvi in 2001. Again, in the most recent conductor search there were musician representatives present. The orchestra members elect two musicians to serve on the Board of Directors. The past decade has seen an increase in the management’s solicitation of the musicians’ input on matters (artistic or otherwise) concerning the Orchestra. Rather than waiting until a crisis happens, there are regular meetings between the management and musicians to bring everyone up to date on the state of the Orchestra. The opening up of the lines of communication between the different branches of the organization has paid off in terms of keeping the ship afloat during rough seas.