December 1, 2012

Moving Forward with the RPO


Understanding the Board of Director’s Decision on Arild Remmereit
From Elizabeth F. Rice, Chairperson of the Board

On November 28, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors decided that 2012–13 will be Arild Remmereit’s final season as music director of the RPO.

The RPO is currently working out the details of an agreement with Mr. Remmereit, and discussing such matters would be grossly unfair to everyone involved; it would also be a distinct violation of the RPO’s own human-resources policy. The RPO does not make a habit of airing its personnel matters in public, and we are saddened and dismayed by people who feel compelled to report rumor and innuendo. 

Understandably, there is significant interest in knowing why the RPO Board of Directors voted to terminate Arild Remmereit’s contract at the end of the 2012–13 season; while the RPO will not identify specific reasons, it is important to provide a reliable description of the background that led to this most difficult decision, and the lengthy process through which the board arrived at it.

The Background

Shortly after the RPO appointed Mr. Remmereit to be music director–designate in summer 2010, tensions developed between him and members of the RPO staff, board, and orchestra. At the time, board members provided Mr. Remmereit with constructive suggestions to assist in easing the tensions. By the end of Mr. Remmereit’s first season in 2011–12, the situation had only grown worse, despite several efforts by the board to mitigate the situation; the orchestra and staff were suffering, and the matter became of serious concern to the board.

In April 2012, after repeated attempts to repair the relationship between Mr. Remmereit and the RPO, the board commissioned Craviso & Associates to identify the underlying problems. As research for the report, Craviso & Associates interviewed Mr. Remmereit as well as people involved with the RPO at all levels. 

The Process

In June 2012, the board agreed upon and communicated specific expectations for Mr. Remmereit to meet in the wake of the Craviso & Associates report so that the relationship between him and the RPO could be repaired. The board developed a protocol for monitoring his progress, provided Mr. Remmereit with a clear means for communicating with the board, and assigned him an advisor to help ensure success. Mr. Remmereit voluntarily agreed to meet these expectations and to follow the protocol.

After five months, the board reviewed Mr. Remmereit’s progress—a process that included input from the staff, his advisor, and board members, and a survey of orchestra musicians—and determined that he had not made sufficient effort to meet the agreed upon expectations and work toward repairing his relationship with the RPO. It was only at this point that the board, after serious consideration of the consequences, took this matter to a vote on November 28, and decided to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract.

Factors Considered

The decision to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract was made through thoughtful deliberation, and with a number of factors being considered, including the following:
  • the input and reaction of the musicians
  • the input and reaction of other RPO artistic leaders: Jeff Tyzik, Michael Butterman, and Christopher Seaman
  • the ability to sustain our operations with competent and capable personnel
  • the impact on major sponsors and patrons of the RPO
  • the reaction of the general public
  • the effect on year-end donations  
After months of trying to remedy the situation, and assessing all of the above, the vast majority of the board agreed that the best option for the long-term future of the RPO was to release Mr. Remmereit from the contract, as the contract permits it to do. Our assessment of these factors has proven to be accurate and we are very comfortable with our decision.

Moving Forward

The RPO is more than any one individual. While a music director is the public face of an orchestra, just as important are the musicians who make the music. Our musicians have proven time and again that they can play at the highest artistic level with many different conductors and music directors.

The RPO has a vibrant pops program and a world-class principal pops conductor in Jeff Tyzik. It presents educational programs under the capable baton of Michael Butterman, and performs many free community concerts that reach 30,000 people each season.

Mr. Remmereit’s departure does not signal a loss of focus on innovative programming. We will be engaging many talented guest conductors in the future as we begin a search for a new music director. We are confident we can find someone who will bring passion and energy to the position. The RPO’s commitment to education, the community, and artistic excellence in music making remains constant. We hope you'll continue to support our remarkable musicians as so many have done over 90 the past years.

17 comments:

Powers said...

So, sounds like to me you wanted a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy, and instead you got someone who wanted to do things his own way. Instead of listening to him, you said "No, we're the boss," and when he understandably chafed at that, you gave him the boot.

I'm curious how the board is confident that their "assessment of these factors has proven to be accurate" just four days after the announcement, especially when many of the factors are long-term ones.

Mark Berry said...

That's an interesting interpretation, and thanks for taking the time to read the post. Mark Berry, RPO communications VP here.

As Ms. Rice mentions, it's unfair and against policy as we negotiate to discuss specific reasons for the decision--and for why the board is confident that they made the right choice.

Anonymous said...

This recent turn of events is quite unfortunate. The Board made the right selection at the right time with our conductor. It takes years to develop strong relationships, especially when change is at hand. I believe this decision must be reconsidered with our community and the future of the RPO in mind. Relationship is the key, and it always takes two.

Mark Berry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Berry said...

Anonymous (if that's your real name), you are right. It does take time to build relationships; they can also erode over time. The tensions between Mr. Remmereit and many people across the entire organization did not ease, and Mr. Remmereit showed no ability to do his part to make things better. Mark Berry, RPO communications VP here.

AEC said...

The first part of this comment, due to character limitations, will appear after this one. •My comments surrounded by•

The Process

In June 2012, the board agreed upon and communicated specific expectations for Mr. Remmereit to meet in the wake of the Craviso & Associates report so that the relationship between him and the RPO •- again, do you honestly mean between Maestro Remmereit and the entire organisation?• could be repaired. The board developed a protocol for monitoring his progress, provided Mr. Remmereit with a clear means for communicating with the board, and assigned him an advisor to help ensure success. Mr. Remmereit voluntarily agreed to meet these expectations and to follow the protocol.

After five months, the board reviewed Mr. Remmereit’s progress—a process that included input from the staff, his advisor, and board members, and a survey of orchestra musicians—and determined that he had not made sufficient effort to meet the agreed upon expectations and work toward repairing his relationship with the •(and again, too broad and disingenuous)• RPO. It was only at this point that the board, after serious consideration of the consequences, took this matter to a vote on November 28, and decided to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract.

Factors Considered

The decision to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract was made through thoughtful deliberation, and with a number of factors being considered, including the following:

the input and reaction of the musicians •( many of whom were reluctant to return your survey) - what about the results of their own previous survey?•
the input and reaction of other RPO artistic leaders: Jeff Tyzik, Michael Butterman, and Christopher Seaman •(Why drag Maestro Seaman into this? He has spent next to no time here since he left - just a few days around his birthday)•
the ability to sustain our operations with competent and capable personnel    •(surely you can't still say that Maestro Remmereit is the cause of that revolving door)•
the impact on major sponsors and patrons of the RPO
the reaction of the general public •( as you will see - those in the community who care about the RPO are greatly impressed by him, his talent and outreach)•
the effect on year-end donations •( Being down $1,100,000 due to Betty Strasenburgh's outrage at this act is just the beginning, according to others' comments)•
After months of trying to remedy the situation, and assessing all of the above, the vast majority of the board agreed that the best option for the long-term future of the RPO was to release Mr. Remmereit from the contract, as the contract permits it to do. Our assessment of these factors has proven to be accurate •- there has been no time to assess you accuracy - it does not include the public outcry -• and we are very comfortable with our decision.

AEC said...

The first part of this comment, due to character limitations, will appear after this one. •My comments surrounded by•

Moving Forward

The RPO is more than any one individual. •Yes. It is certainly more than one administrator.• While a music director is the public face of an orchestra, just as important are the musicians who make the music. Our musicians have proven time and again that they can play at the highest artistic level with many different conductors and music directors. •Absolutely true - but Arild has brought musical variety, talent and challenge to the Philharmonic concerts - a welcome change for many orchestra members as well as the public -•

The RPO has a vibrant pops program and a world-class principal pops conductor in Jeff Tyzik. It presents educational programs under the capable baton of Michael Butterman, and performs many free community concerts that reach 30,000 people each season.   • And while the orchestra members do that, they are continually hammered for financial concessions, which would reduce their modest salaries even more.*

Mr. Remmereit’s departure does not signal a loss of focus on innovative programming. •The attempt to take his ideas and dump him is not appreciated by the public.• We will be engaging many talented guest conductors in the future as we begin a search for a new music director. •What will be the cost of yet another search and hiring guest conductors as compared to working with the conductor that you hired? Isn't this even more important to an orchestra which now bears as much as an $1,800,000 deficit?• We are confident we can find someone who will bring passion and energy to the position. •You already have. To expect these characteristics in a musical lapdog is preposterous.• The RPO’s commitment to education, the community, and artistic excellence in music making remains constant. •This seems questionable.• We hope you'll continue to support our remarkable musicians as so many have done over 90 the past years. •The music and musicians are definitely worth supporting. This destructive management approach is not.•

AEC said...


A Tawdry Affair -• my comments are surrounded by•
This is actually part one. The first and second remarks, above are parts 2 and3. My apology- I was limited by character count.


Understanding the Board of Director’s Decision on Arild Remmereit
From Elizabeth F. Rice, Chairperson of the Board


On November 28, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors decided that 2012–13 will be Arild Remmereit’s final season as music director of the RPO.

The RPO is currently working out the details of an agreement with Mr. Remmereit, and discussing such matters would be grossly unfair to everyone involved; it would also be a distinct violation of the RPO’s own human-resources policy. The RPO does not make a habit of airing its personnel matters in public, then why are you doing it? and we are saddened and dismayed by people who feel compelled to report rumor and innuendo.

Understandably, there is significant interest in knowing why the RPO Board of Directors voted to terminate Arild Remmereit’s contract at the end of the 2012–13 season; while the RPO will not identify specific reasons, it is important to provide a reliable description of the background that led to this most difficult decision, and the lengthy process through which the board arrived at it.

The Background

Shortly after the RPO appointed Mr. Remmereit to be music director–designate in summer 2010, tensions developed between him and members of the RPO staff - and would that primary staff member be Mr. Owens? , board, and orchestra. At the time, board members provided Mr. Remmereit with constructive suggestions to assist in easing the tensions. By the end of Mr. Remmereit’s first season in 2011–12, the situation had only grown worse, despite several efforts by the board to mitigate the situation; the orchestra and staff were suffering - please take a look at the parade of staff members who left, were laid off, or have been forced out during Mr. Owens tenure. You may find that it's an unprecedented array of talented and dedicated people, all of whom cared deeply about the RPO's welfare. Now there's staff suffering -, and the matter became of serious concern to the board.

In April 2012, after repeated attempts to repair the relationship between Mr. Remmereit and the (or is it primarily between Maestro Remmereit and Mr. Owens, as reported in the media and confirmed by Ms. Rice?) RPO, the board commissioned Craviso & Associates to identify the underlying problems. As research for the report, Craviso & Associates interviewed Mr. Remmereit as well as people involved with the RPO at all levels.

AEC said...

Mr. Barry,
You needn't comment on the above. I realize your job is to produce this verbiage. Please don't insult the concerned music lovers who comment by defending it.

Mark Berry said...

Mr. C, thanks for letting me off the hook! :)

Frustrated Patron said...

I still suspect the real issue is among the Board of Directors. The search committee was given one task but the institution is going in another. When the Board President and Ms. Betty get their act together some process to heal the pain in the audience will be needed. Many organizations seek out a "savior" to solve their problems only to later turn on them and make them the sacrificial lamb. We'll never know the truth till the next Music Director is hired and survives more than the first contract term.

Anonymous said...

From "The Process": "The board developed a protocol for monitoring his progress ... determined that he had not made sufficient effort to meet the agreed upon expectations and work toward repairing his relationship with the RPO."

So the board comes up with "a protocol" -- does Mr. Remmereit have any input into this "protocol"? -- and assigns him "an advisor" of the board's choosing to "monitor" him.

No wonder the poor man said he was in a hostile work environment. He was treated like a naughty child at school, not like a professional. Any adult in any job deserves to be treated with more respect than this.

My husband and I have subscribed to the RPO since about 1995. I will be VERY unhappy if Mr. Remmereit is not reinstated. This entire situation is outrageous.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Mr. Remmereit and his family that no one warned him that trying to bring renewal to Rochester is like having a snow cone in Hell. Here the old boy network reigns supreme, mafia style. The impression is that Mr. Remmereit is a focused, driven person; such people may not be easy to work with, but they are also the ones who can achieve greatness. Mr. Remmereit probably has no time for the self aggrandizers and mutual backslappers which typically make up this kind of board, forgetting that they feed him. To assert their power, they therefore run the artist which is priceless out of town and keep the bean counter which is a dime a dozen. This is another proof of this being a community which does not know what to keep or remember and what to discard or forget, and therefore has a great future behind it.

Anonymous said...

NONE of us know the details of this termination. Not one of you, with your speculation and negative feeling toward an orchestra that has given so much and asked so little, can say that you were in the rehearsals and meetings with him. We don't know him personally, all we know is his pretty face on the bilboards and the somewhat competent concerts he has conducted (and yes that is a fact, ask most of the musicians who saved his behind on many occasions during performances).

Yes, we all have the right to know eventually what the story is behind his termination, but for now how about we leave the rumors behind and act like responsible adults.

Anonymous said...

The outrage in the community seems misplaced to me. Everyone talking about the board like they are some sort of evil entity. The board is a group of volunteers who are charged with overseeing the health of the RPO. You may think they made the right or the wrong decision in this case, but to assume that they have some sort of malicious intent is ridiculous. They give their best to the RPO and they certainly only want the best for the Orchestra.

Ed said...

(quoting)

“No wonder the poor man said he was in a hostile work environment. He was treated like a naughty child at school, not like a professional. Any adult in any job deserves to be treated with more respect than this.”

(end quote [emphasis added])

This is a perfectly constructed argument, that works whether the “poor” man in question is behaving as an adult professional, or a naughty child.

And if you believe that artists of the highest caliber could never behave as a naughty child, one name should come to mind: Kathleen Battle.

It happens.

JimWNY said...

The Board statement says "discussing such matters would be grossly unfair to everyone involved," which seems to indicate the finances/staffing/turmoil/upset that many of us plainly see is not really our business.

We agree with the comment Dec.5: "The board is a group of volunteers who are charged with overseeing the health of the RPO....They certainly only want the best for the Orchestra."

The Board seems to be serving/protecting the interests with which they're familiar and they seem to imply they've already appropriately considered community interests that matter (if any). To the extent anyone desires imaginative programming, we're told we'll get numerous innovative/skilled guest conductors.

So, the Board declines to shed much light on our distress. The Board & Mr. Berry tell us finances are not part of the problem, which, if true, should relieve many minds. However, I find it hard to believe finances are not a major concern, since money & managerial ability are the banes of most not-for-profits.

Eventually, the truth will emerge, as it always does. As Frustrated Patron noted on Dec.2: "We'll never know the truth till the next Music Director is hired and survives more than the first contract term." Many of us continue to support the musicians by our words, but the only other thing we can do is await future programming from the Board & see if it engenders the feeling of community most of us felt in 2011 and most of 2012. It's frustrating to have ideas from the public shut out.

Mr. Barry,
You needn't comment on the above. We realize your job is to produce this verbiage. Please don't insult the concerned music lovers who comment by defending it.