Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts
By Henry C. Mayer

This is the first of several updates on what's going on with your Louisville Orchestra. Other articles will introduce you to its new Music Director, Max Bragado-Darman, its principal Visiting Conductor, Uriel Segal, and the Director of Education, Lee Warren.

It seemed appropriate to begin by visiting with Harry K. Herren, the Orchestra Board's Chairperson. Here is what he had to say during a pleasant and enlightening visit. Herren is a leading member of the local bar.

"Your orchestra's board is on top of the issues which concern it. And they are being solved.

Our chief needs are rebuilding the administrative staff and operating on a budget. The Board and players have agreed to extend the present contract for one more year.

Henry Fogel has had a vital role in making this happen. Henry has helped us also to see aspects of our situation in a different light." (See the June 1995 issue of Louisville Music News for an interview with Fogel.)

"The extension of the contract can let our newly hired Executive Director Gregg William Gustafson get on top of the situation and be in an informed position when we negotiate the new contract next year."

A search committee headed by Steve Salman, a local attorney, offered the job to Gustafson after screening more than two dozen candidates. Said Salman, "We had an impressive group of candidates."

Gustafson is optimistic. He commented, "This is a great orchestra with a great future. I look forward to the challenges of getting the budget balanced, selling more tickets and bringing outstanding performances to the citizens of Louisville."

Maestro Bragado-Darman was recently a guest conductor at Gustafson's previous employer, the Savannah Symphony. He described Gustafson as "a dynamic leader with the experience, vision and imagination to lead this orchestra into the 21st century."

Board Chairperson Herren concurred with Bragado-Darman. He also pointed out that for the past ten years, ticket sales for the Orchestra's MasterWorks Series have been what he called "flat." Asked about the possible marketing of the Orchestra's first edition recordings, he smiled, "I am leaving that decision to Mr. Gustafson."

It has been pointed out that the Orchestra has financial limitations. If this is the case, LMN inquired of Herren, how could the Orchestra afford to hire both Bragado-Darman and Segal?

"Max will be our full-time Music Director as soon as he completes some previously existing commitments. We secured Segal thanks to the anonymous generosity of a Board member. He will conduct two concerts for us during our next two seasons," Herren said.

He emphasized that the Board is "a hard-working aggregation of fifty-five persons, including twenty women, an impressive number of lifetime members and four college presidents."

The challenges facing the orchestra include ten or more problems which all symphonic groups face in this country. A lucid commentary on these aspects of making music in "Facing the Music" by Linda Sanders in the current issue of Civilization magazine.

According to Sanders, the plummeting knowledge of classical conductors and instrumentalists among potential audiences is a serious drawback. Other difficulties include (but are not limited to) the effects of technology and the transformation of American musical tastes. By contrast, operatic interest is up.

The classical repertoire has changed very little compared to audiences, and for an orchestra which has etched its name by presenting contemporary classical music, the response to the latter has not been encouraging. Sanders pointed out that there have been "some significant adjustments in audience development and programming."

Will the Louisville Orchestra provide leadership in making these adjustments? We will have to wait and see.