US orchestra chief balances budget, gets married, resumes rehearsal

US orchestra chief balances budget, gets married, resumes rehearsal


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2020

Quite a week for Marie-Helene Bernard, president of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra.

First she posts: On October 3, 2020, I married the love if my life, Douglas Copeland. It was a magical day.


Then she posts a balanced budget: The SLSO detailed the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on its 19/20 season: the SLSO had to cancel or postpone 59 performances between March and August. The resulting financial impact on the SLSO was a loss of $3.2 million in earned revenue for FY20. Despite thissignificant impact, the SLSO finished the 2020 fiscal year (ending August 31, 2020) with a balanced budget.

And finally, when most US orchestras are silent, it was back to work: It feels great to be making music in Powell Hall again with Music Director Stéphane Denève! Rehearsals began today for the first in-person concerts at the hall this fall. Stéphane conducts works by Beethoven and New York-based composer Jessie Montgomery.


  • David J Hyslop says:

    Congratulations to Marie- Helene. She interned with me years ago here with the Minnesota Orchestra and I placed her in the Canton Symphony CEO position years later in my consulting firm role. She has done a fine job in St. Louis and has been great about keeping former CEO’s of that Orchestra ,like me, and former music directors , like Leonard Slatkin connected to the SLSO organization.

    Best to her and Doug.

  • drummerman says:

    Mazel Tov for all three accomplishments.

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    Marie-Hélène was the CEO of Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society when I was singing there. Not least among her many accomplishments was her talent for making everybody she spoke with feel that they had been heard, from music director to chorister. I wish her every happiness!

  • Kevin Case says:

    “…most US orchestras are silent”
    This is not at all true. The vast majority of ICSOM orchestras in the U.S. are performing right now. Some are playing for small, distanced audiences; many are presenting digital concerts; others are bringing chamber music to their communities in outdoor settings or new venues.
    This is because for the past several months, musicians and managements have worked collaboratively to find creative ways to present music in the face of the challenges presented by the pandemic, in as safe a manner as possible. It has taken many hours of painstaking research, discussion and negotiation over contract terms.
    There are only a handful or orchestras that are “silent” — and that is because the managements of those orchestras have lacked leadership, vision, and will.
    None of this has come without sacrifice, of course. Musicians have been wiling to modify contract terms — including by taking substantial pay cuts and offering to perform various types of “alternative” work — to help their organizations through this crisis. Missing from the above statement by Ms. Bernard was any mention of the significant financial concessions made by the St. Louis musicians, without which the “balanced budget” she touts would have been impossible.

  • Papageno says:

    I’m bothered by all this rushing to present works black and women classical composers. I heard some of Clara Schumann’s works recently and were not impressed. Stop this political-correct madness!

    • Bill says:

      I have a simple approach: I look at which pieces are to be performed when buying tickets. If either the repertoire or performers seems unlikely to satisfy, I move on to the next possibility. It’s not unlike my approach to choosing a recording to listen to, a book to read, or even a bite to eat.

      I suspect very few could reliably identify the gender or skin color of the composer of an unknown work by listening to it. I know I can’t. I am pretty good at deciding if I like the music I hear, however!

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Congrats. I do not know Ms. Bernard but by all the comments, it would seem that she is a wonderful administrator. Having a happy personal life is as important as having a successful career. She seems to have both.