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ARTS: RPO Board releases statement clarifying Remmereit decision 

UPDATED 12/3/12 with a statement of support from the Wilson Foundation.

The Board of Directors of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has released a statement detailing the process that led to its termination of music director Arild Remmereit. The full statement appears below.

In the statement, the board says the decision to end the RPO’s association with Remmereit was “most difficult,” one reached reluctantly and only after a “lengthy process.” The statement was e-mailed to RPO patrons late Saturday afternoon.

The statement says that tensions between Remmereit “and members of the RPO staff, board, and orchestra” developed soon after he joined the orchestra. The board worked with him to try to remedy the situation, the statement says, but by the end of the first season, “the situation had only grown worse.”

As part of the board’s continued efforts (which included bringing in an outside consultant), the board outlined steps Remmereit needed to take and “assigned him an advisor to help ensure success.” Remmereit agreed to the process, according to the board’s statement. Five months later, the board reviewed his progress, the statement says – “a process that included input from the staff, his advisor, and board members, and a survey of orchestra musicians” – and found that he had not met the board’s expectations.

Although it’s not referred to in the board’s statement, during that period, the board also outlined steps the RPO’s CEO and president, Charles Owens, needed to take to better the relationship between the two. While today’s statement doesn’t refer to it, Owens is said to have taken those steps to the board’s satisfaction.

On November 28, the statement says, “the vast majority of the board agreed” to end the contract with Remmereit.

The full statement appears below:

Understanding the Board of Director’s Decision on ArildRemmereit

From Elizabeth F. Rice, Chairperson of the Board

On November 28, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors decided that 2012-13 will be ArildRemmereit’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 ArildRemmereit’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.

On Sunday Deborah Wilson, chair of the Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation, released the following statement of support for the RPO board and its decision:

Generally the Elaine P. & Richard U. Wilson prefers our support of our community’s outstanding cultural organizations to be more behind the scenes but we felt it was important to write publically at this time.

Through the years our Foundation has supported many of the Rochester Area non-profit organizations. Whether it is the Seneca Park Zoo, Al Sigl Center, Geva Theatre Center, The Strong or any of other organizations we have supported, we have been proud to support them in adding to the quality of life in Rochester and the surrounding counties.

At this time, we want to share our support of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors and administration, and make clear that The Wilson Foundation will continue its financial support of the RPO.

The RPO reached a difficult decision on Wednesday but it was a necessary one. As an RPO Board member, I know that this decision was not made lightly or without due diligence. It is unfortunate that people who have not been part of the ongoing process are repeating hearsay and making false statements. The Foundation has complete faith in the administration, the Board Chair and the Board in general.

Most importantly, we support our dedicated and extremely talented musicians, the music and the organization, not a single individual.

Sincerely

Deborah Wilson

Chair

The Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation

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