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Class of 2024

They’re Keeping Music Alive in New Ways for Future Generations

SSO

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert and Springfield Chamber Players Chair Beth Welty.

 

Beth Welty said the musicians just wanted to play.

With the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s leadership and musicians locked in a labor dispute in 2021 and 2022, the players were willing to perform under the old contract until a new one was settled, but the SSO wouldn’t agree.

“At this point, the pandemic had subsided enough that all the other orchestras in the Northeast had come back to work, audiences were showing up, and we decided we needed to do something,” Welty said. “We were very worried if there was no symphonic music in Springfield — out of sight, out of mind — people would forget about us. We had to keep this going.”

So the musicians started staging shows on their own — both at Symphony Hall and at smaller venues around the region — churches, the Westfield Atheneum, anywhere they could draw an audience.

“We were playing at all these little places, constantly expanding to new communities and venues, and bringing live chamber music to as many people as we possibly could in Western Mass.,” said Welty, an SSO violinist who headed up the effort known as MOSSO, or Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“So many people, including members of my board, have told me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra was in school.”

Well, you might know the story after that — the SSO and the musicians’ union struck a two-year deal last spring to bring full symphony concerts back to downtown Springfield, which proved gratifying to SSO President and CEO Paul Lambert, who never considered the musicians his enemies as they worked out their labor differences.

“I grew up in the Actors’ Equity Association. I’m a union member. And I believe in organized labor, especially in the performing arts. You want to make sure that everyone is well taken care of,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve been a businessman for a long time, so I’m very well aware of the economic realities and challenges that the performing-arts business is going through, especially in these eccentric times we’re still living through.”

The relief on both sides, in fact, was palpable. But the return of concerts to Symphony Hall was only part of the story. The other part was the continued existence of MOSSO under a new name — Springfield Chamber Players — and its continuing mission to bring smaller chamber concerts to venues around the region, including schools.

“We’re interested in promoting the voices that don’t get heard as much but are great composers — music by Black composers, composers of color, women composers,” Welty said. “We’re mixing in composers people have some familiarity with, but also bringing them composers they haven’t heard of, even living composers.”

So as the music reverberates around the region once again, BusinessWest has chosen to honor both the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Chamber Players as Difference Makers for 2024 — not because they settled a labor agreement last year, but because of how important the performing arts are to the region, and how important both entities are to filling that role, hopefully for generations to come.

The Springfield Chamber Players

The Springfield Chamber Players string quartet includes Miho Matsuno, Robert Lawrence, Martha McAdams, and Patricia Edens.
(Photo by Gregory Jones)

“When people come to the concerts, and I may open with remarks, I ask people, ‘just for a couple of hours, turn off your cell phones and let it go,’” Lambert said. “It’s like therapy — go listen to some beautiful music. For a few hours, just relax and drink it in. We just need that so badly right now.”

Welty agreed. “Music is a big part of life, and I want that for everyone. It doesn’t have to be classical — we did a combo jazz-classical concert,” she noted, before citing Duke Ellington’s famous line about how genre doesn’t matter, and that “there are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.”

And good music — good live music — truly makes a difference in a community.

 

Generation Next

Lambert recalled being in the fourth grade and attending a symphony concert; in fact, it’s an especially vivid, formative memory. So he’s grateful for a two-year, $280,000 grant from the city last spring to help the SSO create educational programming for youth.

“We are deeply involved in finding creative solutions, ways to reach out. This is a giant opportunity to reach all kinds of members of our community who might like to learn more about music — classical music, symphonic music, all the various forms of music that we can touch,” he said.

Meanwhile, through a program called Beethoven’s Buddies, people can donate money toward free tickets for those who might not be able to afford one. “Whatever your situation is, we want you to come to these concerts to hear this music and have a wonderful time,” he explained. “We’re excited about that. It’s also another way that we can reach into our community to pull in people as donors and sponsors.”

“You come together, and the concert happens, and it’s magic. It’s that one-time experience of being together in a space where this beautiful thing happens. It’s special.”

A long-time program called the Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestra is going strong as well, Lambert said, and the SSO just hired an education director, Caitlin Meyer, who has been engaging with public schools and colleges on everything from internships to educational programming and performances.

“That’s a critical piece in the equation,” Lambert added. “So many people, including members of my board, have told me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra was in school.’”

Meanwhile, Springfield Chamber Players recently presented educational outreach concerts at the Berkshire School in Sheffield and the Community Music School of Springfield.

Meeting young people where they are is simply a matter of survival for performing-arts organizations, said Mark Auerbach, Marketing and Public Relations director for Springfield Chamber Players.

“A lot of people who go to symphonies and come to our concerts are on the older side. And it’s partly because the music programs in schools are not what they were 30 or 40 years ago,” he noted. “If we can get family concerts going, educational concerts going, and interest kids and young adults to come to concerts, hopefully they will stay and grow with us.”

Welty is glad the SSO is doing grant-funded youth outreach because the budget for Springfield Chamber Players is limited, so it needs to be a group effort.

“I’ve been with the symphony 40 years, and we used to have a really robust school presence. We’d send a trio or a quartet to play for kids, talk to them, and answer questions. And they later came to Symphony Hall to hear the whole orchestra,” she recalled. “I think they want to bring that back. We have to be developing the next generation of audience members.”

Symphony Hall

Leaders of both Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Chamber Players are gratified to be bringing music back to both Symphony Hall (pictured) and smaller venues around the region.

Part of the growth and outreach is simply broadening the definition of what an SSO concert is, Lambert told BusinessWest.

“A lot of folks think of a certain type of music from Western Europe, from the 18th and 19th century. And I love that music. I love Mozart. I love Brahms. I love Beethoven. I love Schubert. I’m thrilled to hear that music, personally,” he said. “But I’ve become increasingly aware of the streams of music traditions that exist all around the world in different cultures and different backgrounds that might appeal to all kinds of folks. So we are trying to pull those various streams together in our programming opportunities.”

To that end, the SSO has begun assembling some hybrid concerts that offer a mixture of traditions, like the classical-jazz fusion explored at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration concert in January, and a Havana Nights show earlier this month that featured Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban rythms.

“The MLK concert had a marvelously diverse audience. We are thrilled when we see new people coming in,” Lambert said. “At our Juneteenth concert that we did last year, we had so many people telling us, ‘I’ve never been to one of your concerts before; I’ve never even been to Symphony Hall before.’ It’s thrilling to us to get those folks coming in to hear this beautiful music.

“Our pops concerts do really well, and we’re going to see what we can explore with those, with different genres of music,” he added. “At the same time, we’re never going to lose track of that beautiful, traditional repertoire that people, including me, love so much. That’s the core of who we are.”

 

A Resource of Note

Welty noted that Springfield Chamber Players has brought an eclectic spirit to its offerings as well, such as “Johnny Appleseed,” a composition by local composer Clifton Noble Jr. based on Janet Yolen’s book of the same name. That concert will take place outdoors in Longmeadow — the legendary character’s hometown — on May 12.

Whatever the venue, she is passionate about exposing more people to good music — whatever that means to Duke Ellington or anyone else — and to get them into music at younger ages.

“I wish every kid could take lessons on an instrument for a few years. You really learn so much. Problem-solving, analyzing, listening, observing. Music is very mathematical, too. Music education would boost everybody,” she said.

“I really think of arts organizations — music, a ballet company, whatever it is — as a resource for everyone,” she added. “You can’t just go to work every day and then go home and watch TV. That’s a boring life. You want something more. And kids that see live music get interested. They want to try it themselves.”

A thriving performance culture is also an economic driver, Auerbach noted.

“It’s essential that Springfield Symphony Orchestra survives because it’s the only live, nonprofit performing-arts organization in Springfield,” he said. “Without the arts, we’d have trouble attracting new residents and new businesses. And there’s a lot of economic spinoff — you go out, first you pay to eat, you pay to park, you may go out to drink afterwards. The musicians, if they are local, spend money here. If they’re not local, they have to stay in hotels and eat here.”

Lambert agrees, even though the demographics for this art form are challenging right now — not just in Springfield, but everywhere.

“For a couple of years during the pandemic, folks stayed at home, and they got used to not coming out at night so much. You got used to staying home and being cozy in your armchair and watching Netflix. Coming back from that was always going to be a substantial challenge.”

But the rewards are great, he added.

“I used to think about how people make wine — you grow the grapes, and you tend the vineyards, and you design the bottle, and you do all of this work. And then you get to dinner and someone opens the cork and you drink it, and it’s gone. But it’s a beautiful thing for that moment.

“I often think about our experience the same way,” he went on. “All the work and the rehearsals and the planning and the tickets and this and that. But you come together, and the concert happens, and it’s magic. It’s that one-time experience of being together in a space where this beautiful thing happens. It’s special.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced the recent hiring of two new staff members: Kim Collins, Audience Development and Community Engagement manager; and Caitlin Meyer, Education director. Collins will work to create community connections for the SSO and engage new audiences, while Meyer will be responsible for bringing back the hosting of SSO educational performances for public-school students as well as creating new educational programming for the organization.

Kim Collins

Collins joined the SSO in October. She most recently served as director of Member Services with the Connecticut River Valley Chamber of Commerce. In that role, she was the first point of contact for all member relations, led the ambassador team, and revised and refreshed member benefits, onboarding, and retention. She also facilitated networking and member-orientation events, as well as ribbon cuttings, and planned large events for the chamber.

Collins has also been a performing artist and educator her entire life. As a flutist, she has performed with the SSO for more than 25 years and also served as the SSO’s orchestra librarian for several years. Apart from the SSO, she has performed solo engagements and performed as a pit musician both on Broadway and with nationally touring shows.

As an educator, Collins has held faculty positions at Choate Rosemary Hall, Fairfield University, the Hartt School Community Division, the Neighborhood School of Music, and Southern Connecticut State University, in addition to directing her private music studio. She has also been a guest teaching artist for the El Sistema-inspired Bravo! Waterbury program and has presented arts-integration programs to students at schools throughout Connecticut and beyond.

Caitlin Meyer

Meyer is an educational leader, music educator, and professional musician who has taught in China, Tanzania, Israel, and Australia. Before joining the SSO, she served as director of Programs for a charter school in Bridgeport, Conn., where she worked closely with the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants to build out arts-integrative, culturally responsive programs for newcomer students.

In addition to her work as an educational leader, Meyer founded the Qingdao Visual and Performing Arts Educators Assoc., which has allowed students of every background in China to participate in district-wide arts initiatives as well as international travel opportunities to Singapore, the U.S., and Australia. The nonprofit now focuses on teacher development and arts integration for teachers from 13 countries.

Prior to her work in Qingdao, Meyer was the music director at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville, Conn. for seven years, where she grew the music program to include well over half of the student population. Under her direction, the music program was honored to perform at prestigious locations around the world, including at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the USS Intrepid and Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York City, Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. She is a current doctoral student at DePaul University in Chicago, studying educational leadership.

“We are thrilled to have Kim and Caitlin join our SSO team,” said Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the SSO. “Both bring a diversity of musical and organizational experience that will serve the SSO and our community well. Kim is a musician herself and has worked with the business community and will help us engage and grow our audience. Caitlin, also a musician, is a music educator with a broad background in music education and will be instrumental for the SSO in re-establishing our relationships with local schools and young people in the region.”

Cover Story Creative Economy

Playing in Harmony

 

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert left a long career with the Basketball Hall of Fame in early 2022 to become interim director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

He said his family has often asked him why. Incredulously. Like … really, Paul, why?

To answer that question, he first notes that he loves music, but that’s only part of why he took over an institution that was still emerging from the pandemic and a long stretch without concerts at Symphony Hall — and embroiled in labor strife with Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians, which, absent a new contract, had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

But Lambert, who shed the interim tag and was named president and CEO of the SSO earlier this year, saw the value in righting the ship, working toward labor peace, and re-establishing — or at least re-emphasizing — the organization’s importance to not only downtown Springfield, but Western Mass. in general.

With the announcement on May 4 of a new, two-year labor deal between the SSO and the union — which calls for a minimum of eight concerts per year at Symphony Hall, annual raises for the musicians, and possibly other community and educational concerts around the region as well — Lambert, the SSO board, and the musicians are all breathing easier as they plan the 2023-24 season.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence.”

“I was very aware of the talent on stage and a great appreciator, if that’s the correct word, of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” Lambert said of his career change last year. “But I also was aware of the fact that it was a very challenging time.”

In fact, even long-time supporters in the community, including corporate sponsors, were growing anxious, Lambert admitted.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence that not only would we perform, but perform on a first-class basis, and then come back with a full season, with real concerts and real energy with our musicians working with us.”

Beth Welty, the union’s president, called the past few years a “demoralizing” time in many ways, but said everyone is feeling grateful now.

Union President Beth Welty

Union President Beth Welty said the musicians are relieved to have a new contract but hope to increase the number of performances in coming seasons.

“There are a ton of people throughout the organization that want to work together,” she told BusinessWest. “The musicians want to work with Paul and the staff and the board, and we are working together. We’ve got to come together and put the past behind us and work for a much better future.”

Lambert agreed. “This has been a very challenging time for the SSO on a variety of fronts. Certainly, the labor issues that have been in place for some years, on top of the global pandemic, which shut everything down and badly affected all performing-arts organizations for some time, were very real. And to get ourselves into a new beginning, a fresh start for all concerned around this labor deal, was critically important.”

 

Developments of Note

That said, as in many negotiations, no one got exactly what they wanted. For one thing, Welty said the musicians have been clamoring for more performances.

“When I joined the orchestra 40 years ago, we probably did three times the number of concerts we do now. For years, they’ve been constantly cutting and cutting; it felt like no number was small enough for them. They wanted to keep cutting, and we felt like we had to take a stand on that.”

She said the musicians were looking for more than 10 shows, the SSO wanted to go as low as five at one point, and they settled on eight — six classical and two pops.

“We’re not happy about that, but we’re looking to build back up from eight, and now there are some new board members interested in growth,” Welty noted. “You can cut yourself out of existence; the less we play, the less people know we exist.”

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play.”

Welty did have appreciative thoughts for Lambert, saying it’s clear he understands where the musicians are coming from. And Lambert told BusinessWest that eight concerts is not a hard ceiling, but only the minimum.

“That was a critical point in the negotiations: let’s see what we can do,” he said. “Let’s see what the market will bear. Let’s see what funding is available and what opportunities present themselves. We have to be very creative and open-minded as we work together to see what’s available.”

Symphony Hall

Symphony Hall will host eight SSO performances in 2023-24: six classical and two pops concerts.

Revenue is the big sticking point, he added, noting that, if the SSO sold every ticket for every performance, it would still be running a deficit without increasing external support.

“The challenges that face the Springfield Symphony Orchestra are hardly unique to Springfield. The industry as a whole — traditional, classical symphonic orchestras — is challenged right now,” he explained. “Those audiences, demographically, are aging and fading, and the folks who go to those concerts on a regular basis, and donors and corporations who support those concerts, have been a shrinking pool around the country. There are a lot of orchestras that are really struggling right now to make ends meet.”

He noted that many cities with wealthier populations and deeper corporate pockets than Springfield don’t even have symphonies.

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play. The whole idea, of course, is to play, to create opportunities for people to hear the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in a variety of formats.”

To that end, the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), the organization formed by SSO musicians during the labor unrest to perform smaller concerts across the region, will transition into a newly named entity, the Springfield Chamber Players, and will continue to present chamber-music concerts, including the long-standing Longmeadow Chamber Series.

Performances like these, Lambert said, will help build a larger audience pool. “They allow new people to come in, who, perhaps, have not listened to the music on a regular basis, and will be exposed to the symphony orchestra and say, ‘wow, this is beautiful. I didn’t know they played this.’”

He and Welty noted that the new season of full-orchestra performance at Symphony Hall, and seasons to follow, will feature a healthy mix of what might be called ‘the classics’ and newer works by more recent composers.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston.
Photo by Chris Marion Photography

“People love the classics, but you have to bring in living composers and composers of color and women composers, and represent everyone at concerts,” Welty said. “We really started to do that this season. It was more diverse and inclusive. In terms of the repertoire we’re doing next year, it’ll be the same type of year; we’re really excited about that programming, which is going to be more diverse and interesting. We’re still going to do a good dose of the classics — we’re not abandoning them — but we are combining them with stuff that was written in our lifetime.”

Lambert was also excited about this broadening of choices. “We want to certainly maintain and nurture our core audience, the folks who have grown up with us for many years, the subscribers and the bedrock of our audience who love the classic repertoire of classical music. But at the same time, there’s all kinds of music.”

He feels like that’s an important element in bringing in younger, more diverse SSO fans, who will continue to support the organization in the coming decades.

“We happen to live in a very diverse community and region,” he said. “So I think it’s really important that we find ways to reach all those audiences, let them know that the Springfield Symphony Orchestra is for everybody, that it’s music for everyone. We really are excited about those opportunities for people to come in and hear this beautiful music and these wonderful musicians.”

 

Sharp Ideas

The other key element in expanding the audience, of course, is connecting with young people. To that end, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the city of Springfield will provide $280,000 over two years in financial support for SSO to create educational programming for youth.

“As the Springfield Symphony and its talented musicians turn a fresh page of music in our beloved Symphony Hall, I cannot stress enough how important Springfield’s talented youth are to the success of this new beginning,” the mayor said in announcing the grant. “Creating a younger, more diverse, and more inclusive classical-music ecosystem should be a top priority of the symphony organizationally. The success of these efforts will ultimately be reflected in the diversity of the music that is played, those represented on stage, and those in the audience.”

Lambert said outreach to youth had been a big success, but stopped happening over the past few years. “As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.’ So I said to the board on more than a few occasions, ‘that’s just not discretionary, that’s mandatory; we have to start redoing that.’ It opens the door for so many people, for the first time in their life, to hear a symphony orchestra live on stage.”

“As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.”

Welty wants to go beyond those experiences, hoping to not only bring kids to Symphony Hall, but for small groups of musicians to visit area schools.

“We used to go play for kids in the classrooms. We probably stopped doing that in the early 2000s, but we did hundreds of those concerts,” she recalled. “I loved it. We interacted directly with the kids; there were Q&A sessions. I want to get back to that as an educational resource.”

She also fondly recalls the days when the symphony toured New England. “I understand that a lot of financial repair has to happen, and we can’t afford to take the whole orchestra, but we can take a quartet out. We can take a quintet out.”

Such traveling shows, like the two series of performances MOSSO staged at the Westfield Atheneum over the past two years, are another way to grow the SSO’s fanbase, she added. “It’s not just great for the audience, but a great marketing tool for the SSO. We hope to keep expanding that.”

As for corporate sponsorship, Lambert said it was a tough year, scheduling live performances on the fly under the old contract’s terms while building up the staff, negotiating with the union, and keeping supporters on board.

“There was a lot of work being done trying to convince people to trust us and come on board. Some folks started to do that when MassMutual came back and was willing to support us; that was critically important. There are other folks we need to embrace that. We’ve had some really wonderful response from a core group of sponsors — I hope there’s a lot more.”

As for growing new audiences, Lambert is confident that those who attend a concert — whether a full symphony performance in Springfield or a chamber concert in Longmeadow, Westfield, or elsewhere — will be “blown away,” and not only want to attend more shows, but perhaps support the SSO as a sponsor or donor. “We need everybody to work together.”

 

In Tune with the Community

After a couple years of performing concerts under the old contract’s terms, Welty is relieved the musicians can focus on the positive impact of what they do.

“For this community to thrive, it really needs a vibrant art scene. It’s a real economic driver,” she said, noting the impact of downtown events on restaurants and other attractions — not to mention on the ability to grow a business.

“If you’re a CEO or business person looking to be based in the Springfield area, and you want to attract the best talent to come work for you, Springfield has to be an appealing place to live — and the arts are so important to that,” Welty added. “Local sports teams are important, but the arts are just as important. If you think you’re living in a cultural desert, you won’t get the best people to come work for you.”

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston — which is impressive in itself, Lambert said.

“The fact that Springfield, Massachusetts has a symphony orchestra in 2023 is kind of a miracle at this point. There are much bigger places that don’t have this great gift,” he told BusinessWest. “I think it’s really important that we all get together and recognize how this adds to the quality of life here in Springfield, how it adds to the reasons that people might want to live and work here and come downtown.”

Which is why Welty is encouraged by what the new labor agreement promises, and what it may lead to in the future.

“On paper, there’s less guaranteed work, but there’s more energy on the board to create new concerts, new programming,” she said. “I think, in the end, we will start building back and offer more to the community.”

 

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 162: May 15, 2023

Joe Bednar talks with Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the SSO

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra recently struck a harmonious note with its musicians, announcing a new, two-year labor deal. On the next installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the SSO, about how that deal came about and what it means moving forward. They also discuss the importance of the symphony to the region, the challenge of creating a robust and diverse season of performances, how the organization is connecting with the next generation of young music lovers, and much more. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

 

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Opinion

Editorial

 

Last week’s announcement of a new, two-year labor agreement between Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians is, undoubtedly, good news. And the press conference at which it was announced, attended by SSO board members, union musicians, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and others, was all warmth — and a palpable sense of relief.

That’s because it ended an awkward period, starting during the pandemic and extending well beyond, in which an expired contract turned into a divorce of sorts, with the union musicians forming a separate organization, Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), and scheduling smaller-scale concerts throughout the region.

As part of the agreement, MOSSO will live on as the renamed Springfield Chamber Players, ensuring that the SSO continues to produce full symphony concerts, while transitioning chamber concerts to the new entity.

So, maybe divorce is the wrong word. Maybe separation is more appropriate, because no one involved — not the SSO’s leadership, board, or the musicians themselves — thought a permanent dissolution was a good idea. That’s why the atmosphere at the May 4 announcement was so festive, and why SSO President and CEO Paul Lambert and Local 171 President Beth Welty repeatedly expressed their admiration for each other and for the way the other handled the long negotiation process — which, let’s not forget, included an unfair labor practice complaint by the musicians’ union registered with the National Labor Relations Board (which has, of course, been dropped).

So, labor peace has been achieved, and everyone’s ready to make beautiful music together.

For now.

As noted, the labor agreement — which guarantees musicians annual raises and a minimum of eight concerts per year — applies only to the next two seasons 2023-24 and 2024-25. The hope is that it will serve as a framework for future negotiations, because, again, no one wants the SSO imperiled.

After all, the Springfield Symphony is one part of a downtown renaissance in Springfield that relies on a number of drivers — from the Thunderbirds to MGM to the club district — as well as a plan for more housing and mixed-use development, to continue an era of revitalization. And the SSO is also a critical element in the arts and culture scene in Western Mass. as a whole, one of its more attractive tourism drivers and quality-of-life elements.

In addition to the agreement between the SSO and Local 171, the city of Springfield has pledged $280,000 over two years in financial support for SSO youth educational programming, underscoring the organization’s generational importance.

Now, it’s up to the business and philanthropic communities, as well as area residents, to support these performances and the SSO itself. But it’s also up to the organization and its musicians to guard against another messy separation — or worse.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will present “Beauty Amid Chaos,” its final concert of the 2022-23 season, on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Springfield Symphony Hall. The performance will feature Ukrainian-American guest conductor Theodore Kuchar and renowned cellist Matt Haimovitz.

Tickets are on sale, starting at $20, at www.springfieldsymphony.org. The SSO is partnering with Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts to support their Refugee Resettlement Program by asking concert attendees to bring items from the organization’s ‘wish list’ to the concert. These items will provide essential resources to refugees from countries like Ukraine and Haiti. Click here to view wish-list items. Those who donate items will be offered the chance to win a pair of tickets to the SSO’s 2023-24 opening-night concert.

According to Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, “our theme in our final concert for the 2022-23 season, “Beauty Amid Chaos,” also could describe what is occurring in Ukraine, with artists and musicians still sharing their talents while war ravages their country. With this as backdrop, we are blessed to have Ukrainian-American Theodore Kuchar as guest conductor in this stirring presentation. We honor the people of Ukraine in this special evening with the incomparable Matt Haimovitz accompanying on cello.

“As we wind down our season, I want to thank our musicians, the SSO staff, all of our concert attendees, and the community at large for their partnership and collaboration in support of the SSO’s first full season of on-stage performances in two years with our 2022-23 season,” Lambert added. “We look forward to a new season with classical and pops performances, and the community’s continued support and engagement with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.”

“Beauty Amid Chaos” will open with Antonín Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture,” followed by Ukrainian composer Thomas de Hartmann’s Cello Concerto, performed by Haimovitz; the piece was written in the wake of the Nuremberg Laws and rise of Nazi movement in Germany. The concert will close with Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. The time during which this piece was composed draws similarities to current events, as described on the symphony’s website: “The political oppression and desperation imposed by Russia on the Finnish nation slightly over one century ago is not dissimilar to the national destruction and genocide being presently inflicted on Ukraine by the same Russian nation.”

A Classical Conversation with Kuchar and Haimovitz will take place at 6:30 p.m. on May 13 for all ticket holders, and there will be a meet and greet following the performance in the Mahogany Room.

Daily News

Last week’s announcement of a new, two-year labor agreement between Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians is, undoubtedly, good news. And the press conference at which it was announced, attended by SSO board members, union musicians, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and others, was all warmth — and a palpable sense of relief.

That’s because it ended an awkward period, starting during the pandemic and extending well beyond, in which an expired contract turned into a divorce of sorts, with the union musicians forming a separate organization, Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), and scheduling smaller-scale concerts throughout the region.

As part of the agreement, MOSSO will live on as the renamed Springfield Chamber Players, ensuring that the SSO continues to produce full symphony concerts, while transitioning chamber concerts to the new entity.

So, maybe divorce is the wrong word. Maybe separation is more appropriate, because no one involved — not the SSO’s leadership, board, or the musicians themselves — thought a permanent dissolution was a good idea. That’s why the atmosphere at the May 4 announcement was so festive, and why SSO President and CEO Paul Lambert and Local 171 President Beth Welty repeatedly expressed their admiration for each other and for the way the other handled the long negotiation process — which, let’s not forget, included an unfair labor practice complaint by the musicians’ union registered with the National Labor Relations Board (which has, of course, been dropped).

So, labor peace has been achieved, and everyone’s ready to make beautiful music together.

For now.

As noted, the labor agreement — which guarantees musicians annual raises and a minimum of eight concerts per year — applies only to the next two seasons 2023-24 and 2024-25. The hope is that it will serve as a framework for future negotiations, because, again, no one wants the SSO imperiled.

“These types of arts and cultural events add to the roster of events we have to offer, which enliven many of our downtown business establishments,” Sarno said.

We agree. The Springfield Symphony is one part of a downtown renaissance in Springfield that relies on a number of drivers — from the Thunderbirds to MGM to the club district — as well as a plan for more housing and mixed-use development, to continue an era of revitalization. And the SSO is also a critical element in the arts and culture scene in Western Mass. as a whole, one of its more attractive tourism drivers and quality-of-life elements.

In addition to the agreement between the SSO and Local 171, the city of Springfield has pledged $280,000 over two years in financial support for SSO youth educational programming, underscoring the organization’s generational importance.

Now, it’s up to the business and philanthropic communities, as well as area residents, to support these performances and the SSO itself. But it’s also up to the organization and its musicians to guard against another messy separation — or worse.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced, in a joint statement with the union representing musicians of the Springfield Symphony, Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians, that they have reached a labor agreement with musicians on a two-year collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement starts in the upcoming 2023-24 season and extends through the following season.

According to Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the SSO, the new labor agreement guarantees six classical concerts and two pops concerts, a total minimum of eight concerts, for each of the coming two seasons. If additional funding can be identified, other community and educational concerts will be produced as well.

Lambert said musicians will receive a raise over each of the two years of the contract, and the agreement calls for an average of 64 musicians at each of the classical concerts.

In a separate agreement with the union, the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), the organization formed by musicians, will transition into an entity called the Springfield Chamber Players and will assume the role of creating chamber-music concerts, including the longstanding Longmeadow Chamber Series. The Springfield Chamber Players will provide outreach that will bring elements of the Springfield Symphony to the community. Under the agreement, Springfield Chamber Players will not compete with the SSO on fundraising. The SSO will continue to produce full symphony concerts and chamber orchestra opportunities.

“This is a great day for Springfield and for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” Lambert said. “For the SSO to survive and thrive, we need all parties working in harmony and in the same direction to bring this magnificent music and our talented musicians to the entire community. The agreement will result in the SSO and our musicians working together to grow our audience and build the philanthropic and business support we need in order to be sustainable.”

According to Beth Welty, president of Local 171, “the SSO musicians are very happy to begin a new chapter in our beloved orchestra’s history. Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the SSO members, congratulates all involved for their hard work in securing this new agreement. The musicians are eager to collaborate with the board and SSO staff, under the inspired leadership of Paul Lambert, in order to realize our shared dream of an orchestra that fully serves Springfield and Western Massachusetts. The SSO belongs to everyone, and we are committed to making our music available to all.”

Tony Falcetti, board chair of the SSO, added that “this is a great day for the SSO, for the musicians who play in the Springfield Symphony, and for all in our community. Working together is the only way to assure that live orchestral music is sustainable into the future. On behalf of the board of directors of the SSO, I look forward to our future success together in presenting musical programs and performances that are embraced by all of Springfield and Western Massachusetts.”

As part of the agreement, a pending unfair-labor-practice complaint by the musicians’ union registered with the National Labor Relations Board will be dropped by the musicians.

Since returning to the stage in the current 2022-23 season, the SSO has held eight concerts — six classical and two pops concerts — and has drawn old and new, increasingly diverse audiences to Symphony Hall. Since the beginning of the year, the SSO has also expanded its board of directors, and Lambert has moved from interim director to the permanent new position of president and CEO of the organization.

40 Under 40 Class of 2023

Director of Development, Springfield Symphony Orchestra: Age 39

Heather GawronHeather Gawron is nearly 15 years removed from her days as an elementary-school teacher, and there have been many career stops in many places — from Paris to American International College — since then.

But she still takes lessons from those teaching days, and from her degree in education, and applies them to all facets of her life.

“I think it shapes so much of what I do now organizationally, experience-wise, and knowing how to communicate with all different types of people,” she said of her work today, which takes place on both sides of Main Street in downtown Springfield.

On one side is the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO), which she serves as director of Development. On the other side is SkinCatering Inc., a salon and spa she serves as ‘chief impact officer.’ Last year, she led its efforts to create and launch a new brand of all-natural skin-care products called Weekend Beauty.

Her life and current work is captured neatly in all that she brought to her 40 Under Forty photo shoot, including her two daughters, Maxie and Charlie, a banner for the symphony, some art work depicting Weekend Beauty, a photo of the Eiffel Tower to represent her time in Paris — what she calls her “happy place” — and a picture of her family, including the family dog.

Gawron joined the SSO roughly a year ago, and her responsibilities there are in development, fundraising, marketing, and public relations, work that has been made much more challenging by the ongoing labor dispute with the symphony’s musicians.

“This year, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to reach new audiences, and showing that we’re here and that we’re committed to being an amazing cultural experience in the community, and bringing in a diverse selection of conductors in the hope that this helps us engage with the community and keep what is a pretty cool thing to have in our size city,” she said. “There are many cities larger than ours that don’t have a symphony orchestra.”

At SkinCatering, she handles marketing and branding for the new skin-care brand, which is packaged for travel, she noted. “These skin-care kits have everything you need to keep your routine consistent on the road, whether you’re traveling for business, at the gym every day, or you just want a simple way to spoil yourself at home.”

Meanwhile, Gawron is active in the community, supporting organizations such as Square One and Habitat for Humanity, demonstrating that her passions extend well beyond both sides of Main Street.

 

—George O’Brien

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will host its second chamber concert of the season on Sunday, April 2 at 3 p.m. at First Church of Christ, 763 Longmeadow St., Longmeadow. The concert will feature the Casey String Quartet, which is made up of Springfield Symphony Orchestra musicians.

Four Springfield Symphony Orchestra string musicians that make up the Casey String Quartet will perform, including cellist Patricia (Tish) Edens, violinist Miho Matsuno, violinist Robert Lawrence, and violist Martha McAdams. The chamber concert will feature works by Edward Elgar, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Benjamin Britten, three composers whose works the Springfield Symphony Orchestra will be performing at its next concert at Symphony Hall on Saturday, April 15. The quartet will also perform a piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking here or by calling the SSO box office at (413) 733-2291. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $10 for youth ages 4-18.

For more information about the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and its upcoming performances, visit www.springfieldsymphony.org.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will celebrate “Mardi Gras!” on the Symphony Hall stage at its second Pops concert of the season on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. The evening will feature New Orleans jazz music led by conductor and trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling.

Tickets are on sale, starting at $15, on the Springfield Symphony Orchestra website, www.springfieldsymphony.org. Attendees are encouraged to dress up for the Mardi Gras theme and wear Mardi Gras colors (purple, green, and gold).

Stripling, who is a conductor, trumpet virtuoso, singer, and actor, has led orchestras throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and has soloed with more than 100 orchestras around the world. Stripling currently serves as principal pops conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and artistic director and conductor of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra.

Music of New Orleans natives such as Fats Domino, Mahalia Jackson, and Louis Armstrong will fill Symphony Hall on Feb. 25. According to the program, “from street parades in the French Quarter to late-night jams in the city’s famed clubs, this party transforms into an unforgettable Mardi Gras celebration with Byron Stripling leading the parade.”

As a soloist with the Boston Pops, Stripling, who lives in Ohio, has been the featured soloist on the PBS television special Evening at Pops with conductors John Williams and Keith Lockhart. He has also been a soloist on the worldwide telecast of the Grammy Awards, and his trumpet and voice have been heard on television commercials; TV theme songs, including 20/20 and CNN; and movie soundtracks. He has also performed with artists such as Tony Bennett and Whitney Houston.

Along with the orchestra, Stripling will also perform with his band during the performance, which includes Bobby Floyd, a jazz pianist and Hammond B3 organ player, and drummer Reggie Jackson.

“Springfield’s historic Symphony Hall will be rocking with Mardi Gras and French Quarter jazz tunes and sounds that will move our audience,” said Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. “Trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling will bring New Orleans to Springfield. This pops concert will appeal to all people and all ages, and we encourage concertgoers to come dressed up for Mardi Gras. We look forward to this fun, unique performance.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced the appointment of the interim Director Paul Lambert to the position of president and CEO, removing Lambert’s interim status.

Lambert joined the SSO as interim director in January 2022. He came to the SSO after serving for many years as vice president of Enshrinement Services & Community Engagement at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Since his appointment to the interim director position, Lambert has overseen the return to the stage of the SSO with six classical and two pops concerts in the current 2022-23 season, the first in more than two years as a result of the pandemic. He has been instrumental in adding new individuals to the SSO board, hiring key new staff, re-engaging with the corporate and philanthropic community, and launching a comprehensive communications and marketing program to support the current season.

Lambert succeeded interim Executive Director John Anz, who left the SSO to take a position at another organization.

“I am truly honored and humbled to serve in this position and appreciate the trust invested in me by the SSO,” Lambert said. “I am a longtime subscriber to the SSO and know how important the symphony is to the cultural landscape of Springfield and all of Western Massachusetts. I am passionate about the symphony and what it represents to all of us who love symphonic music and the arts. A successful Springfield Symphony requires the engagement of the entire community, and I welcome this new position in leading the collective efforts to see the SSO succeed.”

Lambert’s professional experience includes nearly 20 years with the Basketball Hall of Fame, initially as vice president of Guest Experience and Programming, and more recently as vice president of Enshrinement Services & Community Engagement. His work transformed the Hall of Fame Enshrinement into a nationally recognized celebration and media event that has served as the bedrock of the Hall’s development and outreach efforts.

Prior to the Hall of Fame, Lambert served as director of Event Production for the National Basketball Assoc. (NBA), working on the development and execution of live programming, grassroots initiatives, and international events, including the NBA Jam Session program, numerous All-Star Games, and successfully staged events in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Before working in the basketball industry, Lambert enjoyed a career in the professional theater, including roles as general manager of the Cape Playhouse in Dennis for seven years and as executive director of the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Conn. He also served as a production stage manager for many years.

Lambert serves on a number of local boards and community organizations, including the National Conference for Community and Justice, New England Public Media (where he was a board chair), the Loomis Communities, and the boards of Cape Cod Center for the Arts, the South Hadley Cultural Council, Longmeadow UNICO, and the Springfield Rotary. He is a graduate, cum laude, of Boston College, with a bachelor’s degree in English and theater.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will celebrate the life and spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. on the Symphony Hall stage at its next concert on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Music of African-American composers will be performed by the orchestra and guest pianist Artina McCain, and highlighted by a spoken-word presentation by Springfield’s poet laureate, Magdalena Gómez.

Tickets are on sale, starting at $15, on the SSO website, www.springfieldsymphony.org.

Kevin Scott, an African-American conductor, composer, and native New Yorker, will lead the orchestra on Jan. 14. Born in the Bronx and raised in Harlem, Scott has led various orchestras, choruses, and bands throughout the Greater New York area and in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Varna, Bulgaria. His works have been performed by the orchestras of Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

Concert attendees will hear works such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson, arr. Hale Smith); “Rise to the Occasion” (Quinn Mason); “The Audacity of Hope” (Ozie Cargile II); and “Fannie’s Homecoming,” composed by the evening’s conductor, who has been inspired by the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, a leader in the civil-rights movement. Music of Florence Price and William Grant Still will also be performed.

Two of the composers whose works will be performed, Mason and Cargile, will be in the audience on Jan. 14. Mason is a composer and conductor based in Dallas who currently serves as artist in residence of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Cargile is a Los Angeles-based composer and pianist, originally from Detroit, whose music has been performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Boulder Symphony.

Scott will be joined on the Symphony Hall stage by McCain, a pianist who, throughout her career, has been dedicated to promoting the works of Black and other underrepresented composers.

A first for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, there will be a spoken-word presentation by Gómez, a renowned and award-winning performance poet, playwright, performer, teaching artist, and highly sought-after keynote speaker and workshop facilitator. She is also co-founder and artistic director of Teatro V!da, building youth leadership through the arts with a special focus on the creation of youth-generated multi-media performance works in collaboration with professional adult artists.

According to Paul Lambert, interim executive director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, “Gómez’s contribution of the spoken word in honor of Dr. King will offer testimony to the power of words, in honor of the civil-rights icon whose prose and language moved the nation with a profound call to the ‘urgency of now.’”

A ‘classical conversation’ with Scott will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 for all ticketholders, and there will be a meet and greet following the performance in the Mahogany Room.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced that Matt Bertuzzi has been hired as the conductor of the SSO’s Springfield Youth Sinfonia, a youth orchestra that develops ensemble skills and performs in Springfield Symphony Hall.

Bertuzzi, who also serves as music director at the Springfield Honors Academy, previously served as assistant conductor of the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Greenfield. He has been hailed as a “lively and animated teacher” by OperaPulse.

Growing up, Bertuzzi was part of the Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestra. Bertuzzi has served as musical director of the UMass Chamber Orchestra and as assistant conductor of the UMass University Orchestra, the Five College Opera Projects, and Opera Workshop. In his final concert at UMass, Bertuzzi produced and conducted the University’s first fully staged opera to be performed with full orchestra, Donizetti’s Rita, for which he was a semifinalist for the American Prize in Opera Conducting, the only collegiate conductor to achieve such an honor.

Bertuzzi has extensive experience conducting internationally, which includes serving as assistant conductor of the Professional Advantage and the Italian Operatic Experience, opera festivals in the Marche region of Italy. He was also a guest conductor with the Orquestra Criança Cidadã, Recife, Brazil’s premier youth orchestra academy, and has also conducted at the International Institute for Conductors Advanced Conducting Academy in Bacau, Romania.

He is a former trustee of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and developed and implemented the symphony’s innovative Real-Time Concert Notes program, which allows audience members, using a smartphone app, to receive live program notes about the music they are hearing while it’s being played in concert.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have the chance to lead the Springfield Youth Sinfonia after getting my own start with the Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestra as a student so many years ago,” Bertuzzi said. “I’m excited to work with such great youth musicians from our area.”

According to Paul Lambert, interim executive director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, “the SSO is fortunate to have such a talented individual in Matt Bertuzzi to lead our Youth Sinfonia. He has proven in his career to be an innovator and an excellent teacher. He will bring great energy and ability to our youth orchestra, and the SSO board and leadership look forward to supporting him and our young musicians.”

The Springfield Youth Sinfonia, along with the Springfield Youth Orchestra, are merit-based orchestras sponsored by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for talented young musicians (up to age 19) living in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

The SYS rehearses weekly at Holyoke Community College and performs at Springfield Symphony Hall. Weekly rehearsals have begun, and auditions are being accepted for all symphony instruments. Those interested in auditioning should contact Rocio Mora at [email protected].

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced that three new members have been elected to the SSO’s board of directors: Andrew Cade, Margaret Mantoni, and Evan Plotkin.

Cade is the senior vice president of the Urban League of Springfield Inc., which serves the Greater Springfield African-American community by advocating for and providing model services that enhance the academic and social development of young people and families, promoting economic self-sufficiency, and fostering racial inclusion and social justice. Apart from his job at Urban League, Cade also serves as president of the Springfield Cultural Council.

Mantoni is president and CEO of the Loomis Communities. She served for 30 years as the organization’s CFO prior to taking her current position. She is a certified public accountant and worked in a local accounting firm for eight years before joining the Loomis Communities. She serves on the Audit Committee of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, is a member of the LeadingAge Massachusetts board, and serves on the Capital Projects Planning Committee for the city of West Springfield. Mantoni has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Western New England College.

Plotkin is president of NAI Plotkin, a full-service brokerage and property-management company. He has extensive experience in all aspects of property management and commercial brokerage, including commercial office buildings, medical office buildings, industrial buildings, shopping centers, and condominium/residential management. Plotkin is one of the lead organizers of the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival and the City Mosaic project, as well as the force behind Art & Soles. He was recently named the 2022 Richard J. Moriarty Citizen of the Year by the Springfield Regional Chamber. He has served on the boards of the Springfield Museums and Holyoke Community College.

“We are extremely pleased to add these new members to the SSO board, each bringing a unique set of skills as we rebuild the organization after the two-year hiatus brought about by the pandemic,” interim SSO Director Paul Lambert said. “Andrew Cade is heavily involved in the community through the Urban League and as president of the Springfield Cultural Council. Marge Mantoni brings business expertise in serving the Loomis Communities, the premier senior-living nonprofit in the region. Evan Plotkin owns and operates One Financial Plaza, and his love of jazz in establishing the Jazz & Roots festival is a demonstration of his commitment to the arts and to a vibrant central city.”

The SSO also recently announced its 2022-23 season, which will include six classical performances and two pops concerts, featuring an array of world-renowned guest conductors and soloists. Two of the guest conductors coming to Symphony Hall in the coming season, JoAnn Falletta and Theodore Kuchar, were included in a recent ranking of the 10 best living conductors in the world. For more information about the concerts and season subscriptions, visit springfieldsymphony.org.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced it has hired Development and Grants Associate Heather Gawron and Audience Development Manager Annie Celdran.

Gawron has focused the past 10 years of her career on fundraising for community nonprofits in Western Mass. Most recently, she served as senior director of Development at New England Public Media (NEPM), where she focused on overseeing the nonprofit media organization’s fundraising efforts, including grants, on-air fundraising campaigns, and its planned and major giving programs, contributing to the organization’s overall budget of $10 million.

Prior to NEPM, Gawron spent years at American International College as executive director of Institutional Advancement. During her tenure at AIC, Gawron was an engine for growth, strengthening and expanding the college’s alumni-engagement program on a national scale. Her stewardship work with alumni yielded remarkable growth in engagement of the alumni base and landed one of the largest-ever single donations made to AIC. She also worked closely in supporting the grant director to secure Title III funding and developed scholarship funds to help AIC students continue their education.

Before AIC, Gawron worked for Alstom University, headquartered in Paris, and helped launch five international corporate university campuses across Europe and Asia.

“I am thrilled to be able to support interim Director Paul Lambert and the SSO board to breathe new energy, commitment, and excitement into the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” Gawron said. “Promoting an organization that brings vibrant arts and culture into the city is so important as we come back to life after a long two years of COVID. It is my hope that we can continue to impact the forever fans of the SSO as well as educate and inspire our next generation of musicians and music lovers.”

Prior to joining SSO, Celdran most recently worked for New England Public Media as the New Voices Campaign manager. She communicated regularly with donors, visitors, and volunteers and worked closely with the president, chief operating officer, and Marketing and Development personnel on ambitious fundraising campaigns.

A Western Mass. native, Celdran spent some of her career in San Francisco, utilizing her client-services skills at Hanson Bridgett, LLP, a Bay Area law firm with a reputation for community engagement. At the firm, she managed the Client Concierge and Office Services departments, also bringing her creativity to various fundraising campaigns such as the firm’s annual Food From the Bar campaign in support of the SF-Marin Food Bank.

“I’m thrilled to be combining my passion for supporting local arts and community outreach and look forward to welcoming patrons and newcomers alike to the symphony,” Celdran said.

Lambert added that “we are excited to add these terrific and experienced professionals to our team as we get ready to again bring live SSO music to the stage with our spring concerts. Heather and Annie will also be instrumental in re-engaging the community as the SSO reemerges from the pandemic and we begin planning for the 2022-23 season. Together, and with the rest of our growing team, they will help us secure resources and sustain and build audiences to enjoy live symphonic music.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) announced it will produce a 2022-23 season that will include at least six concerts at Symphony Hall, and that tickets are now on sale for the first of two spring concerts to be held on Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.

SSO interim Director Paul Lambert said the SSO is planning a season of at least six concerts at Symphony Hall. Performances are being scheduled while the SSO and the musicians’ union continue contract negotiations.

Lambert said tickets for the SSO’s first of two spring concerts, “Of Heroes and Poets,” are now on sale to the public. Tickets for the April 22 concert, featuring Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa, can be purchased at www.springfieldsymphony.org/event/of-heroes-and-poets or by calling the SSO box office at (413) 733-2291. The box office is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets for the SSO’s May 13 concert, “Dances of Spring,” are also on sale on the SSO website. More details about that concert will be forthcoming.

Mesa, the featured visiting artist on April 22, is a musician affiliated with the Detroit-based Sphinx organization. Focused on increasing representation of black and Latinx artists in classical music, Sphinx is a social-justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Mesa will perform Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. The symphony will also present William Grant Still’s Danzas de Panama and Robert Schumann’s Symphony #2.

Mesa has received numerous awards and recognitions and has appeared as a soloist with orchestras in the U.S. and Mexico, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, Santa Barbara Symphony, Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Mark Russell Smith, who previously served as music director and conductor of the SSO from 1995 to 2000, will serve as guest conductor for both the April 22 and May 13 concerts. Smith is music director and conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. He has worked as director of New Music Projects for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and artistic director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Minnesota, and has also served as music director for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) Board announced two spring concerts will be hosted at Springfield Symphony Hall on Friday, April 22 and Friday, May 13 with former SSO Music Director Mark Russell Smith serving as guest conductor.

Smith is music director and conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. He previously served as music director for the SSO from 1995 through 2000. He has worked as director of New Music Projects for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and artistic director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Minnesota, and has also served as music director for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra.

According to Paul Friedmann of the SSO management committee, “Mark Russell Smith is distinguished by his creative programming and dynamic personality. It is with great joy that we announce he will guest conduct concerts in April and May as we bring life back to the stage at Springfield Symphony Hall.”

Details about the concerts, program, and availability of tickets will be forthcoming and available at springfieldsymphony.org.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) board announced the hiring of Paul Lambert, former vice president of Enshrinement Services & Community Engagement at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as interim executive director of the SSO.

Lambert succeeds interim Executive Director John Anz, who left the SSO to take a position at another organization. Lambert will start in the position immediately.

Lambert’s professional experience includes nearly 20 years with the Basketball Hall of Fame, initially as vice president of Guest Experience and Programming, and more recently as vice president of Enshrinement Services & Community Engagement. His work transformed the Hall of Fame enshrinement into a nationally recognized celebration and media event which has served as the bedrock of the Hall’s development and outreach efforts.

Prior to the Hall of Fame, Lambert served as director of Event Production for the National Basketball Assoc. (NBA), working on the development and execution of live programming, grass-roots initiatives, and international events, including the NBA Jam Session program, numerous All-Star Games, successfully staged events in Canada and Mexico, and numerous initiatives and events throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Before working in the basketball industry, Lambert enjoyed a career in professional theater, including his roles as general manager of the Cape Playhouse in Dennis for seven years and as executive director of the Westport (Conn.) Country Playhouse. He also served as a production stage manager for many years.

According to Paul Friedmann, vice chair of SSO’s management committee, “the Springfield Symphony Orchestra board is very pleased to announce the hiring of Paul Lambert to the position of interim director of the SSO. Paul is a seasoned and respected leader in the region and played a key leadership role at the Basketball Hall of Fame. In his senior position with the Hall of Fame, he was involved in signature live events such as enshrinement and the Spalding Hoop Hall Classic national high-school tournament. Paul also was tasked with engaging local, regional, and national stakeholders on behalf of the Hall of Fame. He has prior experience with the Hall in holding live performance events.

“In his position with the Hall of Fame, Paul was tasked with connecting and engaging with the community and is held in high regard within the region,” Friedmann added. “Paul is acutely aware of how important local entertainment and arts institutions like the Hall of Fame and the symphony contribute to the quality of our lives in Western Massachusetts.”

Added Lambert, “as a longtime subscriber, I am aware of the significant challenges facing the SSO today. When the board approached me with this opportunity, my first thought was, ‘how can I help?’ Through good faith and creative problem solving, I look forward to the return of wonderful, live symphonic music to the stage at Symphony Hall.”

Lambert serves on a number of local boards and community organizations, including the National Conference for Community and Justice; former board chair of New England Public Media; the Loomis Communities; and the boards of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, the South Hadley Cultural Council, Longmeadow UNICO, and the Springfield Rotary. He is a graduate of Boston College, cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in English and theater.

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SPRINGFIELD — On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a monetary settlement to resolve a complaint against the Springfield Symphony Orchestra Inc. (SSO), which was accused of violating federal labor law.

The NLRB ordered the SSO board of directors to pay its unionized musicians the $276,406 they would have earned for playing 10 concerts, but with the requirement of hosting two concerts.

The orchestra musicians’ committee offered to drop all charges against the SSO in exchange for the resignations of all six members of the SSO board’s management committee (BMC) and a plan to put the money toward a full 2022 concert season. The 71 musicians had previously voted unanimously that they have no confidence in the BMC. The musicians have resolved to put the NLRB settlement money toward producing their own concerts for the Springfield community in 2022.

“During the pandemic, the BMC fired the orchestra’s beloved music director, looked on as almost the entire SSO organizational staff disappeared, and recently stood by as the fifth SSO executive director since the end of 2012 departed the organization,” the musicians said in a statement. “This sorry state of affairs makes plain what has been evident for years: BMC members have a stranglehold on the operation of the SSO, despite lacking any experience in running a performing-arts organization.”

Beth Welty, chair of the musicians’ committee, added that “our beloved Springfield Symphony Orchestra has been reduced to a hollow shell by the very people entrusted with its well-being. The musicians of the SSO believe the BMC’s destructive actions demonstrate that the time has come for its members to depart the organization. Our musicians have given voice to this opinion in their unanimous vote of no confidence in the BMC. We, the musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, for the sake of the SSO’s future, demand the resignations of the members of this committee.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) board announced that interim Executive Director John Anz, who formerly served as Development director, will be accepting another position outside of the SSO. Concurrently, the board has begun the process of identifying and hiring a new interim leader for the organization. The SSO management committee will serve as the committee to conduct the search process.

Tony Falcetti, in his role as committee chair, noted that “the SSO management committee has been tasked with the responsibility to organize a search for a new interim leader for the organization during this period of transition. While the SSO remains at a crossroads due to the absence of a labor agreement with the musicians’ union, we believe it is in the best interest for the future health of the organization to identify new interim leadership, and that process has already begun.”

Falcetti said there was no timetable for the search process. The board is also hopeful that a new labor agreement can be reached so that planning for a sustainable future for SSO can be charted.

Anz said the announcement about his new position will be shared at a later date in order to allow the hiring organization to inform internal staff and related constituencies.

“John served the Springfield Symphony Orchestra admirably as Development director, and we are particularly grateful for the leadership he provided in the interim executive director position, which was difficult given the current stalemate with the union,” Falcetti said. “We wish him well in his new endeavor and are thankful for all of his efforts on behalf of the organization.”

Anz added that “it has been my great pleasure and privilege to be a part of this important cultural partner in our community these past few years. Despite the many recent challenges we have faced, I have complete confidence in the current leadership of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to the SSO’s triumphant return to the concert stage and continuing to be a patron and supporter now and in the years to come.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) received a $10,000 donation pledge from their counterparts at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

According to Beth Welty, a violinist and MOSSO co-founder, “James Markey, BSO trombonist and chair of the BSO players’ committee, informed us that this gift is being sent ‘with sincere and heartfelt support.’ We are deeply moved and grateful for this wonderful gesture of solidarity from our fellow musicians in Boston.”

Welty added, “the BSO musicians are giving this gift not just to MOSSO, but to all of our audience members here in Western Massachusetts. They know how vital our presence is for the economic and cultural well-being of our community — just as theirs is for the Boston area.”

According to principal trumpeter Thomas Bergeron, another MOSSO co-founder, “in addition to this generous donation from the BSO musicians, MOSSO has received $43,000 from over 130 donors since September, sending a clear message that our audience wishes to see and hear SSO musicians return to Symphony Hall. All of the money we have raised will be used to present live music in Western Massachusetts, including upcoming holiday brass quintet concerts.”

Miho Matsuno, a violinist and another MOSSO co-founder, explained that the musicians founded MOSSO earlier this year in response to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s failure to schedule any concerts for the 2021-22 season.

“The Springfield Symphony Orchestra last performed live in Symphony Hall in March 2020,” Matsuno noted. “With no agreement in place between the SSO board and the musicians, no executive director, no music director, and no concerts planned, the musicians formed MOSSO, a nonprofit organization, to produce live classical music concerts. We’ve received tremendous community support and have been gratified by the enthusiastic response of our audiences. The encouragement of both community leaders and music lovers has bolstered our resolve to continue to program and perform concerts.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) will continue to produce professional classical-music concerts for the audiences of Western Mass., following the success of their Oct. 15 concert with Maestro Kevin Rhodes in Springfield Symphony Hall.

“Coming Home: A Symphonic Reunion” filled the COVID-adjusted capacity of Symphony Hall with 1,300 audience members and reached thousands of additional people nationwide through a livestream, made possible with the support of the city of Springfield, the Music Performance Trust Fund, the American Federation of Musicians, the office of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Amanda Spear-Purchase and the staff of Symphony Hall, benefactor Lyman Wood, and lovers of classical music from throughout the Pioneer Valley, Connecticut, and beyond. Their financial and in-kind support allowed all audience members to attend or livestream the performance for free. The audience also included scores of students and families invited from the Community Music School of Springfield.

“I have to say something about our incredible patrons who filled Symphony Hall,” Rhodes said. “While incredible enthusiasm from the audience was a constant feature of every performance I’ve had the pleasure to conduct in Springfield in 20 years, the unbridled passion and love shown to the musicians and the music were completely unprecedented.

“This concert was entirely produced by MOSSO,” he added. “In order to accomplish this amazing feat, the musicians had to learn an incredible number of new tasks and skills in concert production. They collaborated with numerous city departments and businesses; managed finances; solicited grants, sponsorships, and donations; marketed and promoted the concert … all within six weeks time.”

Rhodes emphasized that the reason they did this “was not to save their own jobs in Springfield, but rather, because of the love and passion they feel for classical music and our audiences. This is — in addition to the most committed belief in the mission, value, and power of live music, and the importance of being a positive force in a community standing for excellence and joy — what our musicians demonstrate every time they walk on stage.”

According to longtime Assistant Concertmistress Marsha Harbison, donations to MOSSO continue to arrive. “As of October 25, MOSSO has received over $40,000 in contributions from over 120 individual donors in the area. This money will be used to produce additional MOSSO events, ensuring that professional classical and symphonic music continues to be a part of Springfield’s cultural identity.” Harbison added that MOSSO recently received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS.

Martin Kluger, principal timpanist, added that “MOSSO does not wish to be a rival or competitor to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” and said the musicians are hopeful that the SSO will schedule concerts for a 2021-22 season while working toward an agreement with the musicians and Rhodes.

Opinion

Editorial

 

Going back to the start of the pandemic, we expressed concern for the survival of not only the businesses in Springfield and across the region, but also the institutions that contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy here.

That’s a broad category that includes a number of museums, the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Springfield Thunderbirds and other sports teams, and arts venues ranging from Jacob’s Pillow to Tanglewood to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. All of them are part of the fabric of this community.

Among all those, perhaps the one we feared for the most was the symphony, which has seen several changes in leadership over the past decade and has seemingly struggled to attract younger and broader audiences. If there was an institution that couldn’t afford to be on the sidelines, out of sight, and in many cases out of mind, it was the SSO.

“Reading between all the lines, it appears that concerns about the future of the venerable, 75-year-old institution are very real and quite warranted.”

These fears gained some legitimacy last week when musicians who play for the orchestra issued a press release that doubled as both warning and call to action. These musicians, some of whom have been playing for the SSO for decades, raised questions about how committed the SSO’s board is to everything from giving long-time maestro Kevin Rhodes a new contract to a 2021-22 season for the SSO. They asked for “an encore, not a curtain call.”

The SSO’s interim executive director, John Anz, responded by saying many of these issues are intertwined, and the orchestra cannot proceed with a new contract for Rhodes or a 2021-22 season until negotiations with the musicians’ union are resolved.

Reading between all the lines, it appears that concerns about the future of the venerable, 75-year-old institution are very real and quite warranted.

We sincerely hope the SSO is able to rebound from what is certainly the greatest challenge of its existence. Springfield needs these institutions to become the destination that we all hope that it can be.

Indeed, many things go into making a community livable — jobs, neighborhoods, schools, a thriving downtown, and, yes, culture. Springfield has already lost CityStage; it simply cannot afford to lose another thread of its fabric.

This is especially true as the state and the nation emerge from this pandemic. We’ve heard the talk that large urban areas are now less attractive to some segments of the population, who are now looking more longingly toward open spaces and less crowded areas. And we’ve seen dramatic evidence of this in our own real-estate market.

Springfield is to emerge as a player in this new environment, a true destination, then it will need institutions like the SSO to create that quality of life that both the young and old are seeking out as they search for places to call home.

The SSO has certainly been rocked by this pandemic. Emerging from it will be a stern test. We certainly hope it can move forward and be part of Springfield and this region for decades to come.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — In a letter to supporters and the media on Tuesday, a group representing Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) musicians leveled a number of complaints at SSO leadership, claiming that the lack of a 2021-22 concert schedule, failure to replace departed Executive Director Susan Beaudry or renew the contract of Music Director Kevin Rhodes, and a dispute over the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement have put the future of the organization in doubt.

Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) also announced plans to appear at Symphony Hall on Saturday, June 12 at noon to “support the continuation of live symphonic music in Springfield.” The musicians plan to gather on the steps of Symphony Hall to call attention to the “precarious state of the SSO” and offer a free, short concert.

MOSSO alleges that the SSO board of directors’ executive management committee has effectively shut down the organization.

“Despite welcoming donations from music lovers in Springfield and beyond during this past year’s successful development campaign –– which added funding on top of an already-robust $7.5 million endowment –– the SSO board scrapped plans for outdoor summer concerts, and has no concerts scheduled for the 2021-2022 season,” the letter states. “In contrast, the orchestras in Hartford, Albany, and Rhode Island have all announced dates for their live indoor concert seasons starting this fall.”

MOSSO noted that the SSO board has essentially eliminated artistic leadership by minimizing Rhodes’ role and putting off renewing his contract, which expired on May 31, and has launched no national search for Beaudry’s successor. For the time being, Development Director John Anz is serving as interim executive director. “The SSO is in limbo,” the letter states, “because the board has failed to address these two leadership positions atop the organization.”

According to MOSSO, the SSO board’s solution to current financial challenges has been to eliminate staff positions and drastically reduce the number of performances and players performing –– “actions that directly hinder fundraising and marketing efforts by handicapping the organization’s mission to serve the music lovers of the Pioneer Valley.”

MOSSO maintains that the board’s own endowment and fundraising reports show that SSO finances are improving and that, instead of cutting performances, the SSO should continue growing its successful development program, start applying for grant funding (as have similar performing organizations), and turn over management of the SSO to an executive director with a proven track record of success.

The SSO board claims that the 2021-22 season cannot be planned in the absence of a successor to the 2017-20 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), but MOSSO notes that federal law requires that the terms of an expired CBA remain in effect until a new agreement is reached, yet the board refuses to honor this legal principle.

“The immediate obstacle to achieving a successor CBA is that the board presently lacks a negotiating team; all of its members have departed the organization,” the letter goes on. “As a result, negotiations ground to a halt in March. The American Federation of Musicians, Local 171, has filed an unfair labor practices charge, alleging bad-faith bargaining by the former SSO management/board negotiating team, as well as threats by the board to cease operations unless the musicians settle their contract. Absent a team that MOSSO can negotiate with, there is no possibility of arriving at the long-term agreement that both parties desire.”

Unless the board changes direction, MOSSO concludes, “there will be no further SSO performances in Symphony Hall. After a run of more than 75 years, this would be a tragic ending for our region’s finest orchestra, with incalculable economic, cultural, and educational losses for Greater Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.

“The musicians of the SSO, many of whom have dedicated their entire careers to performing with the symphony, will not be silenced. With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, they are determined to bring back the music.”

For more information and updates on the June 12 concert, visit www.springfieldsymphonymusicians.com.