Death of Boston fixer

Death of Boston fixer


norman lebrecht

October 18, 2019

The former Tanglewood administrator Richard Ortner has died of cancer at 71.

As the last head of the Boston Conservatory, he negotiated its merger with Berklee. He retired in 2017.





  • Larry says:

    Norman, perhaps you are unaware that the term “fixer” has a different meaning on this side of The Pond.

    ” In American usage, to describe a person as a fixer implies that their methods may be of questionable legality.[2] A fixer who disposes of bodies or other evidence of crime is often called a cleaner. In sports, a fixer is someone who makes (usually illegal) arrangements to fix, i.e., manipulate or pre-arrange, the outcome of a sporting contest.”

    • Anon says:

      I loathe speaking ill of the dead, but it’s actually an appropriate term here. The merger he negotiated between Berklee and BCM was very controversial. Not illegal, but questionable ethically. It was financially motivated and I’m sure he profited from it.

      • drummerman says:

        Please don’t make those kind of charges without proof.

        • Anon says:

          Let’ s just say, then, that the merger was not universally well received. How would it be anything other than financially motivated? Berklee is the corporate conglomerate of music schools. They’ve bought up the entire area in Boston where they’re located. Boston Conservatory was prime real estate right next door, a small vulnerable conservatory which couldn’t compete with Berklee’s corporate mentality. Instead of standing up for Boston Conservatory and defending it against the giant Berklee, Ortner caved in and allowed the distinguished, historic conservatory to literally be bought out. He retired as head of Boston Conservatory almost immediately afterward. Put the pieces together: it’s logical that he benefited from the merger. What other conclusion could you draw from that?

          The merger completely devalued the degrees of classical artists holding degrees from Boston Conservatory. Now all of a sudden it’s a Berklee subsidiary. Berklee’s reputation in the classical world is not exactly stellar. Richard Ortner sold BCM graduates out. He devalued their degrees, their education. He sold out what they’d earned and paid for financial convenience. He did this against the wishes of alums who protested. He knew exactly how it would affect them. Then he retired and washed his hands of it.

          I knew Richard Ortner long before he was head of BCM. Decades. He was a sensitive and caring administrator at Tanglewood and was a positive presence for many young artists starting out in Boston. But I also knew him well enough not to be surprised by his tour de force merger of BCM with Berklee. He was indeed a “fixer”.

    • Karl says:

      Has NL ever seen Ray Donovan?

  • Skippy says:

    Haven’t crossed paths with Richard in years, but the man I knew during his Tanglewood days was as lovely as they come. RIP.