Monday, November 5, 2007

Another change at the top for the Niagara Symphony

Well, here we go again...after a lengthy search about this time last year for a new Executive Director, the Niagara Symphony is about to embark on another search. It has been a tumultuous year for our local symphony orchestra, as shortly after the season ended last spring, new Executive Director Denise Stone went public with the dire financial straits of the orchestra. In short, if they couldn't raise $ 500,000 in about five weeks, the 60th anniversary season would not get underway in the fall. There was a mobilization of fundraising forces resulting in a partial goal achieved: enough to cover the new season had been raised, thereby putting the symphony on a more sound financial footing. They didn't raise all they had hoped to raise, but had staved off closure of the orchestra - at least for now.

Just after this 60th anniversary season got underway, Denise announced she was leaving the symphony effective the end of this week, and once again Candice Turner-Smith would become Interim Executive Director. No doubt the stress of the past several months has taken its toll on Stone, as she prepares for a new challenge as Emergency Services co-ordinator for the City of St. Catharines. This is likely a good fit for Denise, as she was head of the Red Cross locally before taking the top job with the Niagara Symphony. So where does that leave the orchestra? It would be premature to say they are back in good financial territory, although the dark days of the last few months appear to be history. But once again they are faced with uncertainty at the top, and one wonders what phychological effect that might have on the musicians, not to mention the patrons who support them. I am sure the lengthy search process now underway will produce another bumper crop of qualified candidates; I only hope this will be the final search for some time. Stability at the top is crucial for the musical - and financial - health of this organization. Symphony Board President Patricia Hodge stated Ms. Stone "successfully led the organization through significant challenges and the NSA is in a stronger position thanks to her leadership." Hodge goes on to say: "These are exciting times for the orchestra, and we will be looking for a leader to continue to enhance our strategic plan, to further develop community partnerships and increase our audience base." We wish the board well in their search, and Denise Stone in her new responsibilities with the city.

On a different but related note, the next Masterworks concert of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra's season comes up this Saturday night, November 10th at the Great Hall of Hamilton Place. Titled "Lest We Forget", the Remembrance Day concert, beginning at 7:30 pm, includes the Egmont Overture and Incidental Music by Beethoven, as well as the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra by the late Canadian composer Oscar Morawetz, and the lovely Mathis der Maler symphony by Paul Hindemith. Should be a nice evening of music with the HPO, and once again I will be in the lobby before, after and at intermission of the show with a table of musical treasures for sale through A Web of Fine Music. If you are going, please stop by and say hello - I'd love to see you!

Mike Saunders
November 5th, 2007.