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An Essay by Ray Grosswirth

February 13, 2013

The Democrat and Chronicle Published an essay by Ray Grosswirth. You can read it below, or click on the link to the D&C website:


When the RPO Board of Trustees announced in November that it was terminating the contract of its music director, Arild Remmereit, I was deeply saddened. This sadness was soon followed by feelings of anger, whereby the question I found myself asking was, “How could the board make such a decision, and what provoked it?”

Since November, my time has been taken up by efforts to reinstate Maestro Remmereit. This has involved being part of a dedicated group of community supporters, whose primary goal is to offer a counter-voice to what has been articulated by the RPO management. Obviously, when there are two sides to a contentious issue, debates can become heated, as evidenced by opposing letters to the editor, public forums and online exchanges.

In any conflict, there are two sides to the story. We have heard two entirely different points of view from musicians in the RPO. A few have stated that they were treated harshly by Remmereit during orchestra rehearsals. Other musicians challenged those assertions, claiming that Maestro Remmereit, was very generous in his handling of the orchestra, whereby he encouraged questions, if rehearsal instructions were not clear. We have also heard two sides to the story involving Maestro Remmereit’s dealings with RPO office staff.

I have been a loyal follower of the RPO for over 50 years. In fact, I have even guest-conducted the orchestra. This occurred in 1965, when Maestro Laszlo Somogyi selected me as the winner of a competition for young, aspiring conductors. I never forgot the experience of conducting the orchestra in the Eastman Theater. I have immersed myself in the life of the RPO ever since, whereby I have seen many conductors come and go. As I have stated many times over the past few weeks, no conductor has impressed me as much as Arild Remmereit.

I am very proud to call Arild a friend. Defending this friendship and his career as a world-class conductor has unfortunately created some ill feelings between a few orchestra members and myself. I like to feel that during the past few days, some of these tensions have been healed. For example, a few orchestra members and I have simply agreed to disagree, whereby feelings of mutual respect now exist.

What happens next? RPO Community Supporters remains fully engaged in the effort to reinstate Maestro Remmereit. We realize that the maestro can’t wait indefinitely as we continue our efforts, so there is certainly the potential that he may receive an offer from another orchestra, in which case we would be supportive if he should accept. We are also pleased that he continues to be one of the most sought-after guest conductors in the world, and are delighted that a website has been set up promoting his talents.

I still believe there is reason for the RPO to reinstate Remmereit. I believe he is the best conductor Rochester has ever experienced. The largest complaint from RPO management seems to be their conviction that Arild is not a collaborator. I, of course, differ with that assertion. I believe what the maestro needs is a personal assistant, and I have offered to be that personal assistant on a volunteer basis.

I continue to believe that wounds from the RPO crisis can be healed, and I hope I can be part of the healing process.

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  1. Martin Fass permalink

    Many thanks, Ray, for your essay. As a staunch supporter of the Maestro, two comments.

    1. I’ve never known what it means “to agree to disagree,” and I still don’t. That’s no way to get anywhere with anything. Besides, in this particular context, it is not a matter of agreement or disagreement. It is an ugly instance of the most unfortunate RPO Board being destructive, incapable of having in its midst a fine, strong, independent, creative, artistic, imaginative, gifted conductor.

    2. There are not TWO sides to a great many questions, maybe to most questions, and clearly not TWO sides here. There are typically many sides, all sorts of positions and perspectives, while the key issue here is the poison of an authoritarian Board. Is there really a “side” that wants to sustain such a Board? Gads.

    Well, it is the fashion these days to be rich and powerful, and authoritarian. Among the victims–from drones and guns and other weapons such as gossip and falsehoods–are symphony orchestras.

    –Martin Fass

  2. ted cichanowicz permalink

    What concerns me most ever since this mess broke out, is the position the Board has taken. Total and complete reluctance to admit to any negligence on their part for the deep wounds they created in choosing the middle of a season to dump the Conductor. This enraged MANY patrons of this orchestra. Some have said they feel cheated. Others can’t believe that such great performances and imaginative programming are being jettisoned because these internal squabbles.
    I continue to find it nearly impossible to feel good about the RPO while the Boards leadership remains intact. They arrogantly ask us to ‘forgive and forget and move on’—when it is they that started this fiasco. Why in good conscience should they remain? Anyone who attended the annual meeting can attest that they are no good for ‘the greater good’ of the future of this orchestra.

    Until this situation is fixed and a fresh new approach to running the affairs of the RPO is installed, there will be no healing. Absence of war does not mean there is peace. There are far too many opposers both within the orchestra and within the community to ignore the damage done by this dysfunctional Board (and the dysfunction started long before Remmereit arrived). In short, they are bullies and do not deserve our support. Not anymore. The very fact that they refuse to recognize the damage THEY have done should speak louder than anything else. The fact that there is NOT a huge groundswell of support for what they have done also speaks loudly. The recent D&C polls were nothing but shams.

    This whole episode has left me totally cold as respects the RPO. And I hope that most folks who have followed this public relations disaster can see through all these sudden efforts of the Board to ‘make nice’.

  3. Martin Fass permalink

    Ted, you are so right. If EVERYTHING had been different in how the Board functioned and addressed “problems,” at the very worst the Board would have made a quiet agreement with the Maestro to leave, perhaps, at the close of the 2012-2013 season. Or, mutual agreement not to renew the contract. (Not that I, for one, would have seen this as good news, but it would have been a far less intense way to face the situations.)

    But as it is, what we have is a Board that strives first and last to demonstrate its authority, rejects anything that suggests even moderate criticism, and, as it appears, had its destructive agenda in mind for a long time.

    It IS, tragically for Rochester, very like so many other organizations and institutions where people in power have verbalized their commendable ideals, principles and values, while actually working to tear down and destroy, and show who is MASTER.

  4. Martin Fass permalink

    And I am not beyond imagining that some of the Board people, beginning months ago, did what they could, a la Iago, to stimulate, encourage, spread negative gossip within the organization to try and develop administrative employees and musicians as supporters of the action to remove the Maestro.

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