July 30, 2009
David Graham, President
New Hampshire Music Festival
52 Symphony Lane
Center Harbor, NH 03226
I’ve been attending NHMF concerts since the 1960s, my husband and I were business sponsors and season subscribers beginning in the early to mid ‘80s, and I have continued to be a patron and subscriber since his death. I love classical music and look forward to the summer concerts with great anticipation every year; but I’m afraid the high-handed manner in which you and Henry Fogel have told the public and the musicians of what appears to be a reorganization of the orchestra may ultimately impact the quality of the festival in a negative rather than a positive way. I am sure that is not your intention, David, but you have lost a good deal of local support with your pronouncement.
As a former business owner, I know that you have to change with the times in order to improve your product, but you make those changes by working with the gifted and loyal employees you already have. You even ask their input on policy change, and I think you will find that the majority will be willing to sign a contract agreeing to put in the extra effort and hours you feel are now needed for the good of the organization. A few will find that peer pressure from their hard working colleagues, combined with their own unwillingness to make needed change, will cause them to seek other jobs. BUT, asking professionals to reapply, with multiple essays, etc., for a job they have held for multiple years is demeaning and unprofessional on an employer’s part. Some professional musicians with whom I am acquainted, and who are not involved with the NHMF, gave their unbiased opinion that this reapplication is NOT the normal standard you are trying to make it out to be. Such a process is perfectly acceptable for new employees, but it is an insult to the highly qualified musicians of long standing in this orchestra. I think you would have had more support for your vision of change if those changes had utilized the present musicians.
I don’t think music quality or the present interpretation is the problem with attendance; our aging attendees and the economy is probably a good part of the problem. You need a better P.R. campaign, David, to attract a younger audience. Do some promotions; couple with some hotels for a “Pops” weekend, for example; or offer family discount packages. NHMF is not publicized well enough. Market it; it’s a quality product!!
Polivnik, in my opinion, had a good mix of “new” and “old” classical music, and I enjoyed his artistic interpretations of that music. He did some pieces more than once during his tenure and explained to us how his interpretation had changed, and how composers would have enjoyed hearing different interpretations of their work, so I was surprised that Henry Fogel perceives that NHMF did not have the dramatic impact with it’s performances in the past that he feels is possible. I never felt that the orchestra was merely “rendering the black specks on a page known as notes” in their performances. I have always felt that Polivnik and the current musicians gave an exciting interpretation and rousing performance at most all of their concerts. I think it is a huge assumption on Mr. Fogel’s part that the current musicians have not already been performing with emotional fervor.
I was very sorry to see Polivnik go, and I think your number one priority now is to find another innovative conductor/music director to fill that position. It will then be that conductor’s responsibility to define the orchestra’s “approach to music-making.” I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer’s concerts, and I’m looking forward to even greater performances in the future, but I strongly believe that the present musicians are very capable of that end. I think most people will enjoy the changes you and Mr. Fogel envision, but NOT at the expense of losing the current musicians.
Cc: Henry Fogel
Edward “Rusty” McLear