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December 20, 2007  |  Disharmony at SSO  |  5618 hit(s)

If you have any contacts at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, or if you follow the gossip side of the cultural scene in Seattle, you certainly know that things have not been smooth in the relationship between the orchestra members and Gerard Schwarz, the music director. Just how not smooth, however, might be a surprise. The New York Times had an article on Sunday that recounts just how bad things have become:
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra has carried disharmony to new heights, lurching from crisis to crisis. There have been allegations of vandalism aimed at players, including a dented French horn and a razor blade planted in a mailbox; a players’ survey that condemned the conductor only to be deep-sixed by management; and lawsuits filed by players accusing the conductor of mental if not physical abuse.

It is a cautionary tale of how the relationship between performers and a long-term leader can go awry and how, in an artistic hothouse, a tangle of emotion and politics can veer out of control and take on a life of its own.
It's a tricky situtation. The problems are affecting morale and relationships all through the orchestra. At the same time, tho, Schwarz has basically put the orchestra on the map, and the board is presumably loath to mess with a formula that, from the perspective of fame, audience loyalty, and $$$, has been extremely successful.