Orchestra casts off 356 years of experience

Orchestra casts off 356 years of experience


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2017

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Florida is retiring nine players who have notched up three and a half centuries of playing time between them.

They are: Philip Pan, concertmaster since 1984; violinists Lois Elfenbein Gosa, Jeanne Majors, Glynda Newton and Lela LaBarbera; flute and piccolo player Deborah Heller; oboe and English horn player Claudia Minch; principal viola Merryn Ledbetter Corsat; and principal clarinet Peter Wright.

Jacksonville, whose music director Courtney Lewis is in his second season, is an orchestra in a hurry.


  • Clovis Marques says:

    In the photo, previous music director Fabio Mechetti, presently with the Filarmônica de Minas Gerais, Brazil

    • Jeanne Majors says:

      CLOVIS MARQUES…. I don’t know what photo you are looking at, but I am one of the retirees from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and the director in the picture I see in the Florida Times-Union and on this page on slippedisc.com is Courtney Lewis…NOT Fabio!

    • Jeanne Majors says:

      I am not sure what photo you are looking at, but the photo in the Florida Times-Union article (seen when you click on the title) and on Slipped Disc is of Courtney Lewis….not Fabio!
      I am responsible for 50 of those 356 years of playing violin in the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra!

  • Rockefeller says:

    “Retiring?” What kind of pension or settlement are these veteran players receiving for this so called “retirement”?

    Jacksonville is not a particularly wealthy orchestra & even a big budget orch. would be hard-pressed to offer golden parachutes to such a large group of players. Looking at the pics of a few of them, they certainly don’t look anywhere near 67, which is when Social Security kicks in.

    Unless they got really good deals, they should consider filing for age discrimination, as 8 “retired” musicians did with Phoenix Symph. in 2009. http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/blogs/michael-christie-and-the-ongoing-rumble-in-the-phoenix-symphony-6503427

    Here’s the thing: this type of situation will come back to haunt this new Music Director. It always does. I’ve never heard of “Courtney Lewis” until now, but he is furthermore on my radar. I’m sure other players are also taking note. We musicians talk. I hope Mr. Lewis is very happy in Jacksonville because no orch. in the world whose players feel they’re going to be “retired” by him if he’s hired as MD is going to want him.

    I see the guy is not even from the US. He gets a good break in the US and promptly wreaks havoc on veteran players in the job he is so fortunate to have landed here. That shows a tremendous lack of respect for the orch., for the years of experience of these veteran players. It also shows that he is insecure enough as a conductor to think that an en masse “retirement” will improve the orch. and make him look like a better conductor. A good conductor would work with what he has.

    I’d be very interested to know what the terms of the “retirement” were for these players. If it wasn’t mutually amenable, the players should sue for age discrimination. And every working musician should be wary of this “Courtney Lewis” from the Royal Northern College of Music in Great Britain.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Re:Rockefeller…dumbest comment of the year, so far. Colleges graduate (or students graduate from college) and in this case an orchestra retired the players(or the players retired)…same thing. This is semantics and Is a nuance in the English language…perhaps antiquated or more of a Brittish approach to the language (?).
    Re: your other dumb comments… all businesses in the United States that employ union workers agree to terms relating to their salary, benefits and retirement. Until you see their respective agreements….you are kinda talking “out of your tuchas”

    • Rockefeller says:

      Ignorant response. Age discrimination is an enormous issue for prof. orch players. “Retiring”, esp. when a large group of players spontaneously “retire” like this is a euphamism for “music director wants new younger players”.

      Do you really think that eveyone in this group simultaneously completed their contracts and/or hit 67 at exactly the same time? What a coincidence that this spontaneous “retirement” happened at the onset of a new music director’s tenure. Read between the lines. If happens over and over again in many orchestras. There are horror stories about
      “retiring” older musicians that would make your toes curl. This is NOT a well regulated profession as far as taking care retirement and older players. .

      I can see you don’t work as a prof. orch. musician. It doesn’t function like big business or companies who take care of their employees. Case in point – just look at the motivation behind the Phila Orch. bankruptcy a few yrs ago. A major US orch. declaring bankruptcy so that they could be relieved of their financial obligation to their own musicians’ pension funds. A glaring example of how orchestra managements, and the music directors they often have to listen to, have very little concern for the retirement or well being of their older players.

      So thanks for your input, but you are not on the inside. It’s idealistic to think that orchestras look out for their older employees as a regular business would. They historically do not. Jacksonville reeks of this type of situation.