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PSO leader stresses community cooperation
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Publicly, the new CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is a laconic leader. Privately, however, he has spent his first four months on the job in nonstop conversations within and without the organization.

Lawrence Tamburri
"Meeting the community has been very important because the Symphony is a community institution," Larry Tamburri said. "I have been out in the arts, business, political and religious communities to see what sort of relationships the Symphony has, where things need to be done, what people think of the Symphony."

He also has instituted community partnership concerts, such as one June 18 at Heinz Hall with the PSO and singer Roberta Flack that will benefit 31 local nonprofits. "It is important for the community to know that we care about it and we are giving back," he said. "It also puts us in front of a new audience, which is important to the Symphony."

Similarly, brown bag lunches have resulted in good communication between the musicians and management. "The orchestra is not shy about telling me their opinions, and I find it really useful to hear what is going on in their minds, and it is good for them to hear what I am thinking."

Tomorrow, Tamburri will step out and meet subscribers and donors at 5:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall "for a discussion of his vision for the orchestra's future," says the invitation.

One item on tomorrow's agenda will be the PSO's still precarious financial situation, which is dependent on annual fund contributions Tamburri is concerned aren't rolling in. "I fear that all the good news about the PSO has blurred the facts about our ongoing financial challenges. For people who gave over $2,500 last year, the average gift is down $700," he said. "[Also] we have 1,000 fewer donors right now than last year at this time, and that means we have 1,000 people who still haven't written checks whom we need to. If we get those people ... we are going to have a balanced budget." Classical subscriptions are up from 6,625 to 6,814 to date.

The issue is complicated by the perception that last year's poor financial situation is now gone. "But on the other hand, sometimes when there is that kind of good news people become complacent," said Tamburri.

"It's the squeaky wheel syndrome. All the pieces are working; we just need the community to come in with that little piece, and we'll be OK. We are just asking everybody to do what they did before."

Moving on

In moves that the PSO called unrelated, the top two members of the staff's development and sales department will leave for other posts.

Sean McBryde, vice president of audience development and sales, will take a similar position with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. "The move was made in part because of significant opportunity for my family in Milwaukee," said McBryde, who will leave this week but still represent the PSO at the National Performing Arts Convention here in June.

PSO director of marketing Heather Clark will become director of marketing and audience development for the future African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh.

First published on May 13, 2004 at 12:00 am
Post-Gazette classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at 412-263-1750 or adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com.
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