Thursday, May 21, 2009

Changes at PBO

No, Nic McGegan is not stepping down. But Peter Pastreich is joining the orchestra as executive director. Here's what the PBO press release had to say about him:
Peter Pastreich served as executive director of the San Francisco Symphony during its period of most dramatic growth, from April 1978 to April 1999 – a tenure of 21 years marked by numerous historic accomplishments and working partnerships with music directors Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbert Blomstedt and Edo De Waart. He represented the San Francisco Symphony in the planning and construction of Davies Symphony Hall, which opened in September 1980, and in the successful acoustical and architectural renovation of the hall in 1992. Under his leadership, the orchestra dramatically increased its budget, income from ticket sales and endowment, resulting in an unprecedented sixteen consecutive years of balanced budgets. Highlights of his tenure include the founding of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, the launch of the Symphony’s acclaimed Adventures in Music education program, numerous recording contracts and the release of forty recordings, syndicated radio broadcasts on over 450 stations across the country, and a significant touring program throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
What the long quotation above doesn't mention is the nine-week strike that took place toward the end of Pastreich's tenure at SFS.

Here's what Joshua Kosman said about the 1996-97 strike after it finally ended:
Not even Willie Brown could make sense of this dispute -- after two negotiating sessions, the mayor told The Chronicle that he couldn't figure out what the issues were and was washing his hands of the mess.

That's because the health package, the pension payments and all the rest of it were merely symptoms of a deeper problem.

What really caused the strike -- and what will cause another one three years from now if it isn't addressed immediately -- is the atmosphere of distrust and lack of communication that has grown between the musicians and management, particularly Executive Director Peter Pastreich.

Both sides know it, too. Throughout the strike, musicians' spokesman Paul Shinoff repeatedly said that the real story behind the strike wasn't the ostensible contract issues so much as management's lordly attitude toward orchestra members. In a radio commercial during the strike, the musicians compared management's style to that of 17th century aristocrats.

Read the whole thing here. And, if you're not already concerned, a 2005 item in San Francisco Classical Voice details what happened when Pastreich, who was consulting with the troubled Honolulu Symphony, suggested himself as interim president: three board members and the CEO resigned. He wasn't appointed.

Now, it's not likely that PBO, a much smaller organization than SFS, with a shorter season and different labor arrangements, will run into these kinds of issues. But you never know. I just hope there's no rerun at PBO of what happened at SFS.

1 comment:

Steve Dinion said...

As musician representatives who worked closely with Peter Pastreich during his consultancy for the Honolulu Symphony in 2004-05 (one as orchestra committee chair, another as symphony board representative, the third as union business agent), we feel an obligation to respond to and correct the misinformation that has been put forward about his time here.

Mr. Pastreich spent most of a season investigating, then searching for and helping implement solutions to some of the deep dysfunction undermining the HSO. The Musicians already had a high opinion of his skills from his previous work here; during his 2004-05 consultancy, our respect for his honesty, commitment and ability only grew. His recommendations - which did not include his being offered any position with the organization - seemed to us exactly what was needed, at long last, to improve the HSO’s situation. So, when the Symphony's executive director left suddenly (not at Mr. Pastreich's instigation) and the board's executive committee unanimously asked him to step in as interim, we wholeheartedly concurred.

Unfortunately, key board leadership had an unexplained change of heart and withdrew their support for what the executive committee had decided, so Mr. Pastreich felt he could no longer accept the position and ended his consultancy. It was as a result of his leaving (and not the other way around, as mis-reported by the SF Classical View) that several key board members (including the State's former First Lady, the head of one of the largest banks in the State, and the publisher of the major newspaper) then resigned. These board members (some of the most important community leaders the Symphony has ever had on its board) had wanted to help the HSO meet its challenges and appeared to welcome Mr. Pastreich's experience, vision, and insight. Once support for Mr. Pastreich was withdrawn, however, we musicians could easily see why they would want nothing more to do with a board that would refuse a great opportunity when it was offered.

It's sad to us that such a well-documented and, for us, quite painful story about a pivotal time in the Honolulu Symphony's history could be so twisted around and portrayed as fact. The truth is that Mr. Pastreich's involvement led to one of the most hopeful moments in the HSO's recent history, and we continue to have the greatest respect, affection and gratitude for Mr. Pastreich and what he tried to achieve here.

-Ken Hafner (trumpet), Steve Flanter (viola), Steve Dinion (percussion)