PEORIA -- The Peoria Journal Star is reporting that the Peoria Symphony Orchestra Board voted 16-7 not to reconsider offering its music director/conductor of a decade, David Commanday, another contract next year.
The board met today, Feb. 19, at Lakeview Museum in a non-public meeting. About a dozen Commanday supporters waited in the museum foyer for nearly an hour until the leaders of the ad-hoc group, Sara and Gary James, were allowed to address the board under new business.
The couple presented the board with petitions gathered in the last two weeks, and plan to present more. They now have more than 800 signatures calling for Commanday to be retained. The Central Illinois Youth Symphony members also had signed a petition, and it went to the board.
The board listened to the couple for less than three minutes, then went into a closed session again where presumably the vote took place.
Commanday's supporters waiting in the foyer included season ticket holders and donors to the orchestra. They included Robert Gilmore, who later announced he was pulling his donation to the symphony, according to the Journal Star.
They also expressed concern over a letter to the editor in today's Journal Star which mentioned symphony board malfeasance.
In addition, the secrecy of the meeting behind closed doors is troubling. This board handles thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds, namely grants from the Illinois Arts Council, yet is not required to hold public meetings.
Gary James said he will soon release a statement, which will be posted here in full when it arrives. Stay tuned.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here's the statement:
Save Our Symphony Committee Statement to the PSQ Board
In the mission and purpose statement of the Peoria Symphony, it is understood that its purpose is to serve our community. It is evident that the community does not support the actions of the board.
On behalf of the Save Our Symphony committee, consisting among others of Bob Gilmore, Bill Marshall, Ameel Rashid, Bud and Midge Novotny, Esther Cohen, Nancy Sommer, and Donna Haerr, representing the interests of Symphony goers, season ticket holders, donors, sponsors, and the community at large, we present over 730 signatures gathered over the past few days, with more to come, voicing their strong support for renewing the contract of David Commanday as Music Director and Conductor of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra.
Included are the members of the Youth Symphony Orchestra and their parents. Conversely, they are saying that they strongly disagree with the Board's actions. The overwhelming support of the audience and players of the symphony demonstrates that Mr. Commanday is fulfilling the mission and purpose of the PSO with outstanding results.
Most organizations would have spent tens of thousands of dollars in market research to learn what you now know: the passionate public support for and loyalty to your "branding": Mr. Commanday.
Perhaps you remember what happened when Coca-Cola tried a change in direction by removing Coke from its offerings, replacing it with New Coke. They quickly saw the immediate decline in revenue and heard the public out-cry. They reversed themselves and brought back Classic Coke to stay. And remember the Edsel?
We are asking you to reconsider your decision and direction in the same way for the health and future of the Symphony and Peoria.
After analyzing the statements from all the parties, along with conversations with board members, the issue that seems to be at the root of this maelstrom is the change in board governance. According to industry experts, including the League of Symphony Orchestras, and the PSO's own policies, the full authority over the music/artistic direction of the Symphony rests solely with the Music Director.
The Board is understood to be in partnership with the Music Director, but only in the role of limited partners. For the good of the Symphony, we ask that the entire board take a step back, reexamine its actions, with full disclosure, with a view point of reconciliation and restoration.
The fact the players are considering unionization in order to protect themselves against the vagaries of board action should serve as a clear warning to the board of the consequences of their actions.
You are also aware that sponsors, donors and subscription ticket holders are withdrawing their support. The future of the Symphony is in jeopardy!
The petition signers humbly ask the board if this is the legacy they wish to leave.
GENERAL STATEMENT TO THE PRESS:
As stated to the Board: After analyzing the statements from all parties, conversations with Board members, etc. the issue seems not centered with Mr. Commanday or the Players or a disenchanted public with the PSO music program. It seems squarely centered with the mis-governance of the PSO Board and how it has handled the PSO’s future and funding.
Reviewing the actions of the Board:
1. Termination of the Music Director before having a solid idea, plan or direction.
2. Termination of the Music Director/Conductor with no real financially sound transition approach that is acceptable to all the parties involved with the PSO and which is normally done within the symphony industry. Peoria would have no consistency in music program, quality, promotion and conducting for possibly 1 to 2 years.
3. Overstepping the authority and responsibility of the Music Director/Conductor and side stepping associated PSO policy regarding artistic interaction.
4. Inconsistent, non-transparent and non-inclusive management actions resulting in Players taking action to ensure they are dealt with fairly, consistently, openly and with integrity.
5. Not heeding warnings from their Music Director that the direction and actions being performed will have harmful effects for the PSO now and future.
6. Lack of appropriate level of openness and responsiveness with PSO Directors thus hindering effective and efficient knowledge based decision making which harms the PSO.
7. Misleading and vague statements make to the public.
These types of actions placed in jeopardy not just the PSO but the youth symphony (our future), the support and peoples trust, and the cultural wellbeing of Peoria. -30-