8/4/09 – Terry Thomason

Printed August 4, 2009 in the Laconia Daily Sun

To the Editor,

On July 15, you carried a signifcant story introducing the public to a confict within the New Hampshire Music Festival organization. Last Saturday, The Citizen also gave this issue major space in the form of an interview with NHMF President David Graham and, in a lesser way, with orchestra representative Valerie Watts. The Graham interview, unfortunately, did not reveal the entire story. Let me add a bit to it with this counterpoint.

The New Hampshire Music Festival symphony orchestra is a magnificent musical organization that has thrilled concert goers for a half century and in the process has distinguished New Hampshire in the musical world. Now, with the addition of a new “Festival Director”, Henry Fogel, to the payroll, the existence of the New Hampshire Music Festival, as we know it, is in great jeopardy. I will mention only a couple of issues not conveyed in the aforementioned articles.

First, David Graham, agreeing with Fogel, opines that in their view, we are not receiving good enough music — it must be improved! (I’m wondering if they have been listening to the same orchestra we have!) What Graham does not say in the recent article is that they plan to “improve” the quality of the orchestra by dismissing a number of our professional musicians and replacing them with conservatory students! Such a proposal insults the intelligence of the average concertgoer. If all of such youngsters brought in are the very best of their institutions, they will still arrive at NHMF with approximately zero professional orchestra experience, compared with the many years of professional experience we have enjoyed from our orchestra for decades. Pardon me, but this sounds like tooth fairy stuff.

Second, and really alarming, what the Graham interview did not reveal, is anything about the strident, astonishing and rapidly growing revolt by NHMF patrons and donors of many decades, against the plans of the management team and the Board of Directors.

On Thursday evening, July 9th, the first concert of the season, the orchestra had only very recently been told of the multiple planned changes that would effect many of them very personally and professionally. Orchestra members appeared for that concert wearing purple ribbons as a symbol of solidarity. In a burst of indignation and support for the orchestra, patrons began asking for and wearing like ribbons. With a spontaneity seldom observed in reserved old New Hampshire, the clamor for ribbons grew over successive weeks, so that by the evening of July 23rd, a virtual sea of purple ribbons, hundreds of them, adorned concertgoers as a dramatic vote of no confidence in the plans of management and the Board of Directors. It’s abundantly clear that a vast majority of the constituency of the NHMF is vigorously united in insistence that the completely professional character of our orchestra be maintained intact.

In spite of numerous letters of indignation and protest by patrons and donors of long-standing, to both management and the Board of Directors, I have not found a single writer who has yet received the courtesy of even an acknowledgement of their correspondence from either management or the Board of Directors. This lack of transparency and non-responsiveness has been perceived as aloof and has been quite hurtful. A common comment one hears frequently is, “I’ve supported this organization financially for years — but no more, as long as this is the way they’re running it!”

With equal frequency is heard the heart-felt plea that the Board of Directors will finally listen to their historically supportive constituency and reverse the course of this ill-considered madness.

Terry C. Thomason, NHMF patron