Grand Teton musicians get back to work

Grand Teton musicians get back to work


norman lebrecht

December 19, 2019

The little home on the Wyoming prairie is peaceful once more now that the axe-wielding boss has gone.

Here’s the musicians’ summary of the storm:

Jackson Hole, WY, Dec. 18, 2019 — A month-long crisis at the Grand Teton Music Festival, involving the termination of three longtime festival musicians by President and CEO Andrew Todd, has come to a close. The musicians, each from Grammy Award-winning ensembles, had been disinvited in an unprecedented move by the CEO, for non-artistic reasons. Each was told that they were dismissed for “disruptive behavior” and “comportment” with no further explanation given.

What linked the three musicians was that each served as musician representative for their orchestral colleagues on either the GTMF Board of Directors or Players Committee, voicing the concerns of their musician colleagues. On December 3, the GTMF Board, upon considering the circumstances, chose to reinstate the three musicians that had been targeted by the CEO. While the orchestra was appreciative of the Board’s decision, the Festival Orchestra musicians continued to express grave concerns about the executive leadership of the Festival, and demanded that the person responsible for the act be held accountable. In a show of complete solidarity, all 239 festival musicians submitted a collective letter to the Board stating that they would not return to the festival in 2020 unless Andrew Todd was relieved of his duties immediately.

This strong and unified stance came on the heels of years of negative interactions with Mr. Todd, culminating in his bold move to disinvite the three longstanding musicians. The GTMF Music Director, Donald Runnicles, similarly wrote the Board that he would not return next season while Todd remained CEO; echoed by a call for Todd’s ouster by a distinguished group of past GTMF Board Chairs and Directors. On December 13 th , it was announced that Mr. Todd had submitted his letter of resignation to the Board of Directors.

The musicians are relieved that the festival will now seek new leadership, and are hopeful that the healing process can begin immediately.
We, the musicians, are deeply appreciative of the Board of Directors for its leadership and due diligence. We are thrilled to return to the festival alongside our beloved Maestro Runnicles, and we look forward to working with the board in the most positive, transparent, and collaborative manner possible.

The Grand Teton Music Festival Players’ Committee is profoundly grateful for the deep support of our treasured Jackson Hole community, our esteemed music director Donald Runnicles, and most especially the support of all our musician colleagues, allowing us to strive towards preserving the artistic integrity of our Festival, holding dear the principles upon which it was founded nearly 60 years ago.



  • Bill says:

    Jackson Hole is not on the prairie.

  • Brenda says:

    As justified as the musicians feel; there also needs to be recognition that speaking poorly about the organization (that pays you) in a public forum is not really normal or OK. Work conditions must be set so that all feel comfortable and IDEALLY that they all (board, musicians, staff) legitimately sign off that the greater good is a sum of all of their parts and that they are working together for the greater good; raising money for an incredible institution and art form that has to pay for many people. Open lines of communication. This is not Europe; every dollar raised is important! Not knowing the drama behind this story; creating a better unified voice seems like it would be a positive stance for the festival’s growth.
    This is seemingly not like the woman giving the middle finger to the barricade of cars with the current President of the USA who lost her job; it is about musicians giving the middle finger to the organization that pays them for a summer job. Seems strange!

    I realize I may be an outcast in this thought process.

    • MWnyc says:

      Most U.S. classical musicians agree with you (except orchestral players at strike time), so when they actually do it, the situation is usually very, very bad.

      And I think it’s telling that Donald Runnicles publicly said that he, too, would not return to work with CEO Andrew Todd. Runnicles did not have to do that.

    • Larry W says:

      Brenda: The unified stance taken by the Festival musicians was directed at one individual, not the GTMF organization. They were joined in the call for Andrew Todd’s removal by Music Director Donald Runnicles and several past GTMF Board Chairs and Directors. This was outlined in their letter, shown above. There was no middle finger or disrespect shown during the entire process. Such a conclusion may be the result of not understanding what and how took place.

      Since you mention the current President of the USA, let me draw a parallel to this situation. A majority of US Representatives has just voted to impeach this President. Being only the third time in history, that very public action is not really normal; but doing nothing would, in their opinion, violate their oath of office. That action is not speaking poorly of our country, but is taking a stand against abuse of executive power. It is, in fact, a love of country and the ideals on which it is based that brought about that extraordinary move.

      Musicians constantly strive for the highest artistic and therefore ethical standards. Ensembles must include empathy and compromise in their output while being guided from the podium. When working at its best, there are few human endeavors that can match it. But it is fragile and must be protected. In this particular case, that has been preserved. We are richer for it.

  • frank says:

    The Grand Teton’s website provides zero information on this summer’s programming, or else I was unable to find it. How can they expect to sell tickets without letting us know the programs?

  • Clarrieu says:

    Has any French-speaker pointed out yet that “Grand-Téton” is an unfortunate name for a classical festival, in these times of #metoo and sexual abuse?

  • PaulD says:

    In order for the musicians and their audience to get to Jackson Hole they have to drive or fly. I am surprised that our host has not called for festival to be shut down.