Donald Runnicles will quit festival in support of sacked musicians

Donald Runnicles will quit festival in support of sacked musicians


norman lebrecht

November 30, 2019

The veteran Scottish conductor has said he will not return to the rocky Grand Teton Music Festival unless its management reinstates the three musicians it sacked this month.

Runnicles has written to the festival’s executive committee and board of directors saying that unless there is ‘an imminent resolution of the dismissal of Kristen Linfante, Jennifer Ross and Juan de Gomar, ‘it is well nigh impossible for me to imagine my role at the helm of the 2020 Grand Teton Music Festival.’

The Festival had claimed it sacked the musicians for ‘disruptive’ conduct.



  • Couperin says:

    Perhaps they wanted to cut his pay?

    • Shimi says:

      Are you implying that they fired 3 musicians to force Runnicles to do this so they can cut his pay? That’s some seriously twisted logic my friend

      • Couperin says:

        In the original post about this fiasco, a commenter noted that Runnicles makes about 100 times that of the musicians. So I’m just cynically wondering if, in addition to the firings and the apparent shift of focus from the orchestra to guest artists, they also tried to cut his fee. Just my own pondering.

        • Shimi says:

          So basically you’re saying that if you were the person in charge your thinking process would be as such: “Runnicles makes far too much money and I want to cut it so I am going to completely screw over 3 innocent musicians by firing them so he can resign because that would be the right thing for HIM to do and he’s a bastard with no morals if he doesn’t….” bit of Donald Trump thinking isn’t it?

        • Bruce says:

          I don’t know anything about Runnicles’ personal financial situation (or his attitude toward money), but I will hazard a guess that he’s doing well enough financially that he doesn’t have to worry about losing the income from a summer festival.

          He might even be able to find other work if his schedule was freed up.

          It seems more likely to me that this is actually a gesture of solidarity with the musicians (and possibly a protest against the new direction the festival is taking, although that is not mentioned in the original post).

          Conductors do occasionally engage in this kind of behavior, e.g. Vanska during the Minnesota lockout.

  • Michael says:

    Thank you Donald Runnicles!

  • MUSO says:

    this is a very principled stand by someone who clearly loves the festival and the musicians. i know 2 of those who were sacked and they are excellent players. good luck, 2020 will be a mess regardless of the outcome. it takes ages to repair this kind of damage….

    • Chris says:

      It occurs to me that fairly middle-of-the-road administrators can often be replaced, whereas top quality players and conductors may not be so readily replaced.

  • Jennifer says:

    Let’s be real: I am sure the CEO didn’t make this decision in a bubble. And, biting the hand that feeds you in very public forums is not okay. This is how the normal world works. It’s not good for morale, raising money and/or general good will to make great music together.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    When I have played with him I enjoyed. It was a bit weird at the beginning, because it is not ver common to see a left-handed conductor, but musically he is first class and he is clear showing what we need to see to play what he wants.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    The GTMF has been one of my hallowed traditions for 30+ years – from the Ling Tung days. Many, many memorable concerts. A Mahler 3rd with Mehta still rings in my memory. I can’t believe the directors would screw up this great festival. Given the competition – and it’s fierce – from Vail and Aspen, they can’t afford to make any missteps.

    • Jennifer says:

      Yes, but does that mean contracted musicians are at liberty to go out and speak ill will of the organization in a public forum? This is a non-profit and as you say the competition is fierce—so why fuel the fire?

  • Karl says:

    A wonderful conductor who is loved at DO Berlin.