8/4/09 – Gianni Lanza

A Letter to the Editor is the only way of reaching subscribers who might not have been paying attention.

It seems evident that Mr. Graham never understood the spirit of the NHMF. Most of the patrons in their previous “life’s” had the opportunity of attending the best performances in the best concert halls. My wife and I had the subscription to the Boston Symphony for 35 years. What was the experience? After parking the car, you sat on your assigned seat, enjoy the usually excellent performance, applaud, get back to the car and go home. I never shook hand to maestro Ozawa or any of the musicians. Here, you have your friends offering their excellent performances, and after the concert you exchange comments with the Maestro and the musicians; hear about their physical efforts during the concert and learn to appreciate the efforts going into playing, which otherwise are taken for granted.

The administration points, in the media, to the “growing lack of support for the Festival’s classical concerts”, due to the present economic situation. This decline started during the peak of the economic cycle, when many “donors” stopped donating to express opposition to the Red Hill project. Many also stopped being “supporters”, after Mr. Graham tried to co-opt them by offering “charter membership” to the Red Hill project if they were renewing their subscription.

Why this confrontational, secretive and hostile attitude to handle this problem?

Mr. Fogel was hired as “Festival Director”. He will be involved in program planning, scouting artists, hosting lectures, and building industry connections. He will also assist in governance and strategic planning. This sounds like a full time job to me.

Effective July 1, 2009. Mr. Fogel was made dean of Roosevelt University’s (CCPA). That sound like another full time job to me.
He is a passionate Chinese cook, having studied for three years under Virginia Lee.
July 16, while he was talking to us about the evening concert, repeating what was written in the program, he shared that he is a speaker on Russian cruising ships. He writes blogs!
Definitely a multitasker; does he ever take a break?
He wrote “Experimenting with “Romantic Excess” in New Hampshire”. “Well, now I’m going to have an opportunity to try to put my beliefs into practice… David Graham, the imaginative and courageous president, shares some of my feelings on this topic.”
Aren’t we lucky! The NHMF under the leadership of Mr. Graham is becoming the guinea pig for Mr. Fogel experiment? In other blogs Mr. Fogel also wrote:
“Almost nothing is as important to an orchestra as its music director search. The outcome will be central to what that orchestra is, artistically, for years to come…” Why not go ahead with it at the NHMF?
“From time to time when I visit an orchestra, or when I talk with conductors or executives, I encounter a problem that seems to be growing and expanding like a bad weed. That is the phenomenon of board members, usually one person, trying to take over the programming of a professional symphony orchestra…it often results in a mess…. Often what happens, I’m sorry to say, is that one person makes the mistake of thinking that his taste reflects the taste of everyone, and thinks he knows better than the music director what should be played. It is virtually always nonsense.” Sound familiar? Mr. Graham has been choosing the pieces to be performed, usurping Maestro Polivnik prerogative!

“In planning, the process is as important as the plan. Inclusiveness is crucial–board, staff, musicians, music director, volunteers, key community members all have a stake in the outcome, and all have unique perspectives to bring to the process. Their inclusion at all phases is a very important element of a thorough planning process.” We wish we had put this in practice during this (unnecessary) change in direction of the NHMF.

Let us place things in perspective.
We know as a fact that the NHMF operating budget is less than $1M. This is more or less equivalent to the operating budget of a medium size condominium, where President, VP, Treasurer and Secretary are all volunteers.

Just adding the salaries of the administration personnel whose compensation is more or less public knowledge plus the housing accommodations for the president, and the compensation of the Festival Director, we get more than $400K. To that, we must add the considerable cost of legal representation. That 40-50% of the operating budget goes to administration is absurd. The contribution of the donors and the income from tickets sale, goes to support activities that the majority of the patrons oppose; it is no wonder that donors and supporters are dropping out?

The chorus of volunteers has been disbanded. (Mr. Graham stated that this saved the NHMF $100K; from other statements in previous programs involving numbers, one gets the impression that he is arithmetically challenged).

Was the chorus eliminated to partially pay Mr. Fogel salary?