Where was Voldemort when Philadelphia hit the wall?

Where was Voldemort when Philadelphia hit the wall?


norman lebrecht

October 06, 2016

We’re hearing that Allison Vulgamore, president and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, was nowhere to be seen while talks with the musicians were heading for crisis.

In fact, she’d left the business of negotiating to deputies and kept postponing meetings with the player.

Negotiations did not start until late August when the musicians were in Saratoga Springs. The only deal her eam put on the table was a 5-year contract with percentage increases of 0, 0, 1, 1, 1.

Vulgarmore’s deps had no power to improve on that. So the musicians went on strike.

Panic ensued.

In less than two days, Vulgamore came up with an offer of of 2 percent in year one, and 2.5 percent rises in each of years two and three. The musicians quickly accepted by a 73 to 11 vote. It was a respectable offer. They would have accepted it months ago.


There was never any need for a strike. It was caused by bad management.





  • NYMike says:

    Philadelphia Orchestra musicians have been plagued by bad management and a do-nothing board for quite a few years. Previous CEO Undercofler has said as much when talking about the current situation. He left after only two years in the job after he had to cancel a European tour.

  • Nick says:

    Now all it needs is for Ms. Vulgamore to be fired. Dereliction of duty in such an important issue is unforgivable.

    • MWnyc says:

      I understand that her father died recently. If she was away during part of the contract negotiations, that may be why.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Her father passed away earlier in August, before the negotiations ever started.
        I understand that losing somebody one cares for isn’t easy and that time to mourn is needed. It is however a reality that depending on the nature and responsibilities of ones employment, ones time to mourn and make necessary arrangements is limited (certainly not in the range of a month or more).

  • Larry says:

    I’m not saying this is right or wrong, or taking sides here, but it is not at all uncommon for staff members other than the CEO to handle the bulk of contract negotiations. This is true for many industries, as well.

  • Doug says:

    Last I heard Voldemort was in Riddle House. That J.K. Rowling sure seems to know a lot about the classical music “industry”.

  • John in ATL says:

    Having been a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra board throughout Allison Vulgamore’s twelve-year tenure as its CEO, I can enthusiastically testify to her skills and commitment during here time here, where one of her greatest accomplishments was building a sense of solidarity between the board and musicians. When she left for Philadelphia she knew she would be stepping into an extremely challenging situation, and I remarked then that such a great orchestra in such dire straits had made the best possible choice for their new CEO. Of course, I have no direct knowledge of how she’s done her job in Philadelphia, but I suspect that she is far from deserving the opprobrium now being heaped upon her.

    • Ben says:

      Time for your medication, buddy. She almost burnt the organization into ground, then jumped ship to Philadelphia.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Well in John’s defense, even Voldemort was exceptionally skilled (it’s just what he used all that skill for…)

      • John in ATL says:

        “She almost burnt the organization into ground…”
        Not so. The ASO was in good shape when she left, and we were very sorry to see her go. Her successor at the ASO was at the helm when we had two musician lockouts within four years.

        • Musician says:

          Good shape except for all the dept that accrued under her watch? Romanstein is a clown but let’s face it, he inherited a mess. Verizon was an irresponsible gamble that backfired into a disaster. Promoting Don Fox to CFO was also questionable at best. Using bankruptcy to get out of the pension obligation in Philly resulted in Deborah Borda calling her out in the NYTimes saying “It’s an abrogation of responsibility.” How often to you hear of orchestra presidents calling out others in the press? That’s right, never! Of course she got a huge raise when she moved on to Philly. The ASO musicians are now getting payed much less and lost their summer season/weeks. It amaze me how these orchestra execs keep getting promoted after doing a below average job at best.

  • Ben says:

    Love the Voldemort comment!

    She’s not all bad. She is actually a very nice person to talk to. But her leadership skills are seriously lacking in managing this world-class institution. Perhaps managing an ensemble in an money-no-subject situation is more appropriate for her (e.g., Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston)

    BTW Didn’t Eschenbach made an comment about the Philadelphia board (“amateurish”) when he was the director? Perhaps the whole board needs to be un-rooted too.