August 4, 2009
Dear NHMF Family
We know that many of you remain confused about our vision for the future, which is to become one of the world’s standards in classical music performance, and the vital role the current Festival Orchestra – our musicians – will play in helping us achieve this vision. We deeply appreciate the support many of you have given the Festival in this pursuit. The purpose of this letter is to:
• Explain the efforts we have made in involving our musicians in this effort and advise you of the success we have made to date in the constructive dialogue with our musicians
• Why the road we are taking is necessary to the current and future health of the Festival
• Enlist your support in these critical times
Our Dialogue with Members of the Orchestra
From the outset, it has been our intent to involve our musicians in a collaborative dialogue to help us achieve our new vision. Our first correspondence to our musicians was on July 1. The delay in correspondence from September, 2008, to June, 2009, was directly attributable to ongoing discussions between the Festival and the American Federation of Musicians. The July 1 correspondence stated our intent to dialogue with the musicians. At the first opportunity, the conclusion of our first rehearsal, we met with the members of the Orchestra to explain our vision and invite that dialogue. The musicians resisted at first: change is difficult and there was a mistaken assumption on the part of many musicians that we were seeking to replace them – we are not. But in our second week, we were advised they preferred we conduct that dialogue with the Orchestra Committee whose members were elected by the musicians. We set up meetings that same week and have conducted ongoing meetings for the past three weeks. We have conducted these discussions with an open mind, ever respectful of the concerns the musicians have raised.
This dialogue has been conducted in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation by Festival management and musicians alike. Our initial approach – to requalify the musicians through a process of auditions and essays – has given way to a more traditional approach:
• We will staff the Orchestra next season from a pool comprising our current musicians without a requirement for requalification.
• We will offer a substantial increase in compensation to musicians in recognition of the heavier workload and longer working hours that will be necessary in the new approach to music making. The new model contemplates longer rehearsals as we introduce a more creative and collaborative process in creating our musical product. It also includes mentoring distinguished students who will be recruited from the nation’s leading schools and conservatories. Given the increased costs and our limited financial resources, the number of musicians that will be employed next season will be smaller than the 2009 season complement.
• In 2010, we will conduct a fair, “in seat” evaluation of all musicians. Our new Artistic Director, whom we will name shortly and who will be a professional musician, will conduct this evaluation at the end of next season. We continue to discuss how to involve our musicians in this evaluation process.
We have adopted many of the concepts our musicians advanced to us in our dialogue. We will continue these discussions through the last two weeks of the Festival season, with the intent of reaching an agreement by the end of the Festival.
New Hampshire Music Festival and the Community
We appreciate the important role the Festival has played in the social fabric of the communities we serve. Concertgoers from Gilford to Plymouth have told us how the Festival fosters a sense of community, creating enriching musical experiences and creating friendships. This sense of community will continue to be part of the Festival’s mission. We want to assure you that classical music, featuring the works of those same composers you have come to love, will continue. And, most importantly, the concept of an orchestra in residence remains an integral part of the Festival mission.
The Case for Change
The Festival has experienced a steady decline in classical music attendance, in line with a national trend. Yet, despite aggressive marketing, the Festival has experienced a steeper decline than the national experience. Indeed, we reduced the number of classical offerings this season as a result of this decline. If the audience attendance trends seen over the last ten years were to continue, the Festival itself would be in jeopardy. We must take steps to reverse this trend; continuing what we have been doing with the current product will result in further erosion to the financial stability of the Festival. On the other hand, an increase in our ticket buying audiences will not only increase revenue but will also broaden our base for contributions, providing more opportunities for concerts and musician employment in the long term.
Our declining financials drive the decision to address the artistic product. Leaders in the classical music scene have observed that concert performances that provide an atmosphere of discovery and emotional excitement create fresh enthusiasm for classical music and retain current audiences, capture new audiences, and recapture former audiences. We are confident that our vision to reinvigorate music making will develop new and renewed interest in the Festival.
Many of you have told us you are happy with the current musical experience. Your loyalty is deeply appreciated. However, many of our historic audiences are staying away and have little interest in the Festival. A more exciting product will continue to delight those of you who remain devoted concertgoers and will entice new audiences. We MUST do this to ensure that we will be able to continue to bring quality music to one and all; to continue on our present path is not sustainable.
It is well established in the symphonic world that artistic revitalization has been successful in attracting new audiences and we at the Festival have experienced this in the past.
2010 Season and Beyond
We have begun the realization of our artistic vision this season. Both Orchestra and patrons are enjoying a new level of excitement brought by outstanding conductors and soloists. In 2010, we look forward to the next step: a new orchestra model that offers musicians, conductors and guest artists a more creative, exciting and collegial relationship. This new excitement among our musicians is the path toward re-engaging a passionate resonance for classical music that will have a broader appeal, attracting a growing audience. This will evolve to a better, healthier and financially stronger Festival that will flourish for years to come.
We ask you to join with us at this important crossroad.
With best wishes and many thanks for your support,
Edward J. McLear Chairman
Henry Fogel Festival Director
Susan B. Weatherbie Co-Chair
David Graham President