California Symphony founding Music Director Barry Jekowsky says that yesterday’s announcement by Michael Soza, president of the Board of Directors, that “Jekowsky will leave the organization to pursue other interests,” came as a complete surprise. Not only had the board failed to notify him of any departure, Jekowsky was never told that that such an action was even being considered, although the conduct of a few Executive Board members led him to believe that something was awry.
Only seven out of 25 board members were in attendance during Tuesday's executive session at which the decision was allegedly made. Indeed, according to various board members who were not present, no notice had been given that Jekowsky’s employment was being reviewed, much less in jeopardy.
Upon hearing of the announcement, Michael Wiener, one of the California Symphony’s most active board members, stated in a letter to Soza that “it is with great dismay and disbelief that I heard about the Board's decision to terminate its relationship with Barry Jekowsky…. When was the decision to terminate Barry introduced, by whom, in what forum, and what discussions were entertained before bringing the matter to the entire Board for a vote? At what point was the consideration to hire a guest conductor made? Was that before or after the board was asked to terminate Barry? There are clearly many other questions that emanate from these. Please provide me some background to permit a rational understanding of the value of this decision, both for the California Symphony and Barry Jekowsky.”
According to Jekowsky, several weeks ago the Symphony Executive Board presented him with a written contract proposal and a demand that it be negotiated within days, even though the Music Director had been asking to negotiate a written agreement for the past eight years. He requested, and was refused, an opportunity to discuss the terms with Soza, Jekowsky says; instead, Soza left a voicemail message that a guest conductor had been hired for the first concert, only two weeks away.
"While I am sad at the recent turn of events, I am profoundly grateful to have been a part of the California Symphony’s unique legacy,” Jekowsky says. “Twenty-four years ago, I had a vision of an orchestra that would celebrate American music, nurture the next generation of American composers, showcase extraordinarily-gifted young musicians, and help redefine the classical experience to appeal to a broader audience. For nearly a quarter of a century, I have been lucky enough to live my dream of making that happen. But it would not have been possible without the dedication of our talented musicians, who are the very fiber of the California Symphony; the scores of volunteers and donors who kept the lights on during tough economic times like these; an amazing staff and the many board members, past and present, who absolutely made it happen.”
So, just to get this straight: the California Symphony's music director and founder learned that he was leaving to pursue other interests when he read it in a press release and only 7 of the 25 members of the organization's Board of Directors were present when the decision was made to tell him he was leaving. Which was done by press release. Oh, there was that voicemail message telling him he wasn't conducting the first concert, and also that contract...uh...negotiation.
I mean, I would find something to say, but, honestly, I'm speechless. Fortunately, the Board's behavior speaks for itself.
Update: As I predicted yesterday, the California Symphony web site no longer has the photo of Barry Jekowsky or his bio posted. It no longer has much of anything. Click any link and you'll see the text "We are currently updating our web site, and will publish the new content shortly." You can't even buy tickets at the moment, even though the first concert of the season is in ten days.