Between the balance sheet, the newspaper headlines, and the crowded hall at the Eastman Theatre last night, it’s painfully obvious that the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is experiencing a turbulent time.
RPO members who attended Wednesday's annual meeting to either support or challenge the board’s controversial decision to end Music Director Arild Remmereit’s contract early, were also confronted with the news that the organization ended the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year deep in red ink. The 2011 to 2012 deficit topped $700,000, and the orchestra also experienced declines in revenue and ticket sales.
But as much as RPO board chair Elizabeth Rice tried to keep the meeting moving, the subject of Remmereit kept coming up. Responding to criticism of the board’s behavior and even demands for the resignation of Rice and RPO President and CEO Charles Owens, Rice said Remmereit’s dismissal was the end result of a long and deliberate process.
“People’s emotions have gotten out of control,” Rice said, adding that the RPO has “tried to take the high ground” as buzz built over the board’s decision.
Rice said the termination of Remmereit’s contract is akin to a divorce, “and sometimes divorces get messy.” She also said that Remmereit has shown no interest in reinstatement and has been uncommunicative with the organization.
The committee to find Remmereit’s successor begins work tomorrow — Friday, January 25 — Rice said. She said the RPO has already fielded “many calls from agents with interested clients,” and that the board has no particular candidate in mind at this time.