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Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.”

Daily News

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.

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