NHMF Musings

I would just like to take a minute to jot some thoughts down. I have expressed most of these ideas in emails and discussions but I think they bear repeating in this forum.

I and many musicians in the New Hampshire Music Festival have always suspected an “ulterior motive” to the outrages actions by David Graham and Henry Fogel this summer. Management assailed the orchestra claiming that they wanted to improve the musical product. To make it more “exciting, “relevant” and “fresh” along with several other vague buzzwords. The quality of the music making at the NHMF has always been on a very high level. The musicians in the orchestra will all tell you that the NHMF orchestra is one of the better groups that they have played with in their careers. Because of the positive attitude that the musicians have always had and the ease in which we all worked together, the sum seemed to be far greater than the parts at the NHMF. While there were many problems with the festival, the product we produced was never an issue.

The issue of ticket sales and declining public interest was a rational for their “new model” though management’s marketing of the festival became almost non-existent over the last few years. This year we witnessed a new low in the promotion of the festival and were told by management that they were concentrating on “viral” promotion which we found out meant “word of mouth”.


Fogel and Graham talked of a more “collaborative” approach to music making and expressed concern if the present festival members were up to snuff in this regard to be able to hold their own in the “new model”. Meanwhile one third of the performances that festival offers yearly are chamber music. The chamber music concerts, in my opinion, are some of the best offerings that the NHMF has to offer during the summer. Orchestra concerts give one a good idea of how musicians play AS A GROUP but there is no substitute for chamber music and solo recitals to really hear how a musicians plays individually. Over the last 6 years or so I can only remember David Graham attending one or two chamber music concerts. I was up in Plymouth for only the 4th week this year (I have been at the NHMF for six weeks every year since ’83) and I heard an exceptional chamber music performance in Silver Hall that Tuesday but, of course, there was no sign of Graham or Fogel.

Graham and Fogel shocked the orchestra the very first week of the festival this year unveiling a plan that forced us “incumbent musicians” to reapply for our jobs. The application process required that musicians submit an audition portfolio consisting of a CD or DVD of their individual solo performances of music from three periods of music history as well as optional additional performances of jazz, improvisation or alternative styles, and three written essays regarding their approach to music-making and mentoring.  The due date for this extensive package was set at September 30th.

What could be the “ulterior motive” for putting in place such an unheard of, arduous process with a due date arbitrarily set so early?

We were also told that our rehearsal hours would be drastically increased. No specifics were given but there was an estimation made by Graham and Fogel that it could be as high as 30 to 40 percent above what we do now. We were told that there would most likely not be an increase in our salaries for this extra work. What could be the “ulterior motive” for telling us that we would have to substantially increase our hours of work for no more pay?

We were informed that we would be responsible for the “mentoring” of students that we would play along side in the orchestra. No specifics were given on how many students there would be or even if they would be paid or have to pay to attend the NHMF.

What could be the “ulterior motive” for telling us that this fine professional orchestra would be diluted by students? That we would not only have to play, but “mentor” them for no extra money. You are planning to have students but you don’t know if they will be paid or if they will have to pay to be here? This plan does not sound very thought out.

It later came to light that Henry Fogel has become enamored with a chamber orchestra from NYC. “The Knights”. Here is his blog entry about them:


Fogel’s description of the group makes them sound like it’s exactly the kind of ensemble he envisions for the NHMF.

So the “ulterior motive” becomes clear to us. All the talk of the “new model”, the various new responsibilities asked of us for no extra pay, no music director, the arduous reapplication process, these are all scare tactics. It’s all designed to not have us come back. This is an exercise in “House Cleaning” so that an entirely new group can be brought in to replace us. Just the insult of having to reapply for our jobs was probably all they needed to get rid of us. Would you want to work for someone who you have faithfully worked for for 25 years only to be told you have to reapply because we are not sure how you will fit in in the future?

This whole thing stinks, the musicinas of the NHMF have been screwed big time. Tom Nee is rolling in his grave.

Jay Lichtmann

NHMF trumpeter since 1983