9/11/09 – George Blaisdell

To the Editor:

Well, the folks at the New Hampshire Music Festival are at it again.  Now that the orchestra is gone, summer folks have returned home and the angry feelings of the Festival patrons are fading in memory, The Festival’s management is sending out wonderful sounding press releases and the Festival’s Board Chairman and Co-Chair sent their latest letter to subscribers describing further growth in an already unnecessarily bloated management team. A regular conductor is not included in that oversized group. They state that the discussions with the orchestra, begun shortly before the first rehearsal for this year, “led to an accord on how to implement the new festival model.”  Not true.  Under real ‘purple ribbon” pressure from patrons, they backed off, for one year, from their idea to have the orchestra’s wonderful musicians submit essays and reapply for their positions for this next year.   That entire furor involving so many seems to be simply a temporary speed bump in their longer range plan to change the Festival dramatically. Candor and straight talk remain casualties of the Festival’s communications.

While they gush about their intentions to present concerts that “leave you with a sense of wonderment and astonishment” they fail to mention why they lack the courage of their convictions to present some samples of what they really are talking about and planning.  For example, they could easily present six classical concerts on Thursday evenings next year, something most patrons desire, and also present three or more concerts of their new “collaborative” model, something they desire, on Saturdays to show patrons what they are missing.  That approach would give customers a chance to listen and form opinions about this new approach, largely untested with full orchestras.  Instead of forcing something down patrons’ throats, they could demonstrate the wonder and correctness of their concept.  (I think that concept is called “win, win”.) 

Actually, the use of the term “their concept” may not be correct.  Here’s why.  A small group of patrons who met with Board Chairman, Rusty McLear and Co- Chair, Susan Weatherbie left that meeting having been told that the primary reason for the dramatic change planned for the Festival is not, as has been so often stated, declining attendance.  Instead, they were told that dissatisfaction with the Festival’s music, a statement that would astonish most Festival customers, was the primary reason for trying something new, even experimental. That concept appears to be the brain child of some members of the Festival’s management and leadership. If they turn out to be wrong, if the experiment fails, I fear that in a year or two we might see a large highway billboard sign saying something like this:  FOR SALE:  USED MUSIC FESTIVAL.  The smaller print underneath will try to entice prospective purchasers by mentioning the long history of the Festival, the wonderful orchestra created by talented musicians who choose to return to NH each summer, the sense of community created by the Festival or the wonderful contributions of Tom Nee and Paul Polivnick, all qualities seemingly held in low esteem or ignored by the current group running the Festival.  There might even be a statement that the Festival could be bought by the highest bidders, again.  Maybe the new purchasers will tell us the truth.

George Blaisdell, Bridgewater, NH