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Do Music Directors Have to Leave?

Today I saw a post on Facebook about Music Directors leaving their posts after a few years and “nobody seems to care.” The days when Ormandy spent 40 years in Philadelphia,  Szell’s long tenure in Cleveland, Karajan’s in Berlin, etc.  appear to be over.  While these are amazing accomplishments, Ormandy and Szell were part of an autocratic era where their “rule”  could not be questioned. If their players got upset with them, they had to suppress their reactions or face termination. And in the case of Karajan, he insisted from his 1st contract that it be “for life” in order to make him completely immune to what ANYONE thought of him.

In today’s more humane conductor/orchestra era, if a Music Director wants to remain in good communication with his players and see the affinity grow over time, all concerned have to handle the “little” upsets and harmful acts that occur regularly as they happen, whether intentionally committed or not. If they are not addressed and the upsets regularly blown off, they will grow until affinity and communication seriously deteriorates. The 1st “solution” is for the MD to get out of town for a long enough period to let the upsets die down (one factor in why MDs like to guest conduct other orchestras!). Eventually it gets so bad that they simply “have to move on.”

Just like in any long term interpersonal relationship, if it began with high affinity, interest and communication–why does it degenerate over time? The answer is that it doesn’t have to. And the best guarantee that it won’t is to clean up the little upsets and harmful acts as they occur. Of course, for this to work there has to be a high level of trust between all concerned. There can be no fear of negative repercussion as a result of honesty.

The ideal scene is a for a Music Director and orchestra to start with a fine relationship and see that it grows from there on out.



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Paul Polivnick
Contact Paul at 727-298-8182

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February 2018
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