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August 21, 2012 > Letter to the Editor: Symphony musicians dismayed by changes

Letter to the Editor: Symphony musicians dismayed by changes

The musicians of the Fremont Symphony Orchestra were surprised and dismayed to learn on July 31st, 2012 that its Board of Directors voted to summarily dismiss Music Director of 32 years, Maestro David Sloss. Maestro Sloss's dismissal, coming one month after the Symphony Board voted to cancel the upcoming 2012-2013 season due to inadequate funding, was a condition of the Board's acceptance of a $33,000 challenge grant offered by the Board President, Steve Pietkiewicz.

In return for receiving matching funds of $1 from Steve and Edith Pietkiewicz for every $2 raised by the Symphony, the Symphony Board is required to hire Lee Foster as the new Executive Director and her husband, Greg van Sudmeier, as the new Music Director/Conductor of Fremont Symphony. Lee Foster is also the Executive Director of the Hillbarn Theater in Foster City, and Greg van Sudmeier is the Music Director at Hillbarn. Steve Pietkiewicz was adamant in his condition that Maestro Sloss be replaced, saying he believed that "32 years is too long for one person to hold that position."

As of this writing, there are no guarantees for the jobs of the Fremont Symphony musicians, though the Board has said it will recommend that Mr. Sudmeier retain current orchestra personnel. Lee Foster has been given ultimate say in the hiring of FSO administrative staff and Sudmeier ultimate control over the orchestra personnel.

Board members expressed reservations over accepting the grant, which resulted in replacing Sloss, saying, "We didn't know what else to do," and, "I don't like it, but the bottom line is do we want the money?" Only a portion of the Fremont Symphony's annual budget, around $250,000, would be covered by the $33,000-limit challenge grant and the grant funds would only be available should the Board raise the amount of $66,000.

Fremont Symphony musicians similarly expressed outrage over the firing of Maestro Sloss, saying they felt the Symphony had been "sold for only a potential of $33,000" and questioned the ethics of firing and hiring a conductor without any input from the musicians themselves. The orchestra agreed that Maestro Sloss was the heart of the orchestra, collectively praising "his knowledge of classical repertoire, passion for the genre, programming abilities, conducting skills, and his respect and appreciation of the musicians that make it come to life."

They further noted that throughout Maestro Sloss's 32-year tenure, Fremont Symphony championed the careers of young Bay Area artists and composers through its annual competitions; featured Bay Area musicians as soloists with orchestra; performed annual educational concerts for over 5,000 Fremont-area public school children; commissioned local composers to write and arrange music for Fremont Symphony, including the Anthem for the City of Fremont, composed by San Francisco Symphony violinist/composer/arranger Mark Volkert, premiered during Fremont's Centennial in 2006. Musicians compared Maestro Sloss's longevity with the orchestra to the illustrious careers of Eugene Ormandy, 44 years with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Herbert von Karajan, 36 years with the Berlin Philharmonic; and locally Sandor Salgo, conductor for over 30 years with Marin Symphony, San Jose Symphony, and Carmel Bach Festival.

Fremont Symphony Orchestra Player's Committee

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