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PSO board asked for 'commitment to excellence' pledge

Thursday, June 12, 2003

By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic

Amid talk of financial hardships that could threaten the world-class status of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, its board of directors is asking board members to sign a "Commitment to Excellence Manifesto."

Leading candidate?

A new name has emerged as perhaps the leading candidate in the Pittsburgh Symphony’s search for a managing director. Douglas Gerhart, president of the San Diego Symphony, has reportedly interviewed for the position twice. According to newspaper reports, Gerhart won the San Diego job in large part because he brought the Alabama and Tulsa symphonies out of bankruptcy. “I enjoy turnarounds and start-ups,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune in March 2000, after his appointment. “If you want the status quo, you don’t call me.” In his mid-40s, Gerhart, a classically trained trumpeter, has won praise for his work in San Diego, which includes the recent hiring of conductor Jahja Ling. He did not return calls from the Post-Gazette.

-- Andrew Druckenbrod


Orchestrated by new board member David Iwinski, the document unveiled at a board meeting Monday says, among other points, the board will "not compromise the artistic future of the Pittsburgh Symphony," and "will not accept anything less than the establishment of permanent financial stability. ..."

"There is the need for the Symphony leadership to take a stand," said Iwinski, president and CEO of Acusis LLC, which pledged $225,000 to the PSO in November. "We are so focused on the mini-crises around us that we needed to take a look around us and define our solutions."

"I see people in any organization that don't see the whole picture, and something like this helps us see the whole picture," said Thomas Todd, president of the PSO, who added that the manifesto is "completely unrelated to contract negotiations."

The musicians are encouraged by it nevertheless. "It is an indication that the board is moving in the right direction," said Zachary Smith, the musicians' spokesman.

"I want us to look beyond the next three months -- the financial problems of the Symphony are long-term," said Iwinski.

Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.

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