Elliot Moore chosen to lead the Longmont Symphony

Moore will conduct the orchestra’s annual Fourth of July concert.

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) announced last night at their spring pops concert that its board has signed Elliot Moore to a two-year contract as its next music director.

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Elliot Moore, new director of the Longmont Symphony

Moore was selected at the conclusion of a year-long search that included appearances by four candidates with the orchestra. He conducted a concert with the orchestra in November. He will succeed Robert Olson, LSO director for the past 34 years. Olson conducted last night’s concert, titled “A Few of my Favorite Things,” concluding the orchestra’s 50th anniversary season.

Moore, who currently lives in Detroit, has said that he and his wife will move to Longmont by the fall, so that they can become part of the community. For the 2017–18 season, he will conduct all rehearsals and performances. These include six subscription concerts at Longmont’s Vance Brand Auditorium, the holiday candlelight concert and two Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet.

Because of the planning involved, it is likely that the 2017–18 season will not be announced until August. In the meantime, Moore will make his first appearance with the orchestra in their annual Fourth of July concert in Thompson Park. In the coming year he will also lead the orchestra’s community engagement concert for St. Vrain Valley School District fifth graders, and two concerts in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum.

In a statement released by the Longmont Symphony, board president Robert Pilkey wrote, “The entire LSO family—musicians, board members, and our many volunteers—are thrilled to have Elliot Moore as our new music director. He will play a major role in civic and social activities throughout our community, paying special attention to our youth and the expansion of our community engagement programs. We’re delighted with Elliot’s enthusiastic commitment to continue the legacy of our iconic community orchestra.”

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Elliot Moore. Courtesy of the Longmont Symphony.

As part of a wide ranging conversation, Moore talked extensively about his move to Longmont. “The plan is definitely to become part of the fabric of the Longmont community and to really invest our lives here,” he said. “By being a member of the community, I hope that people will feel free to come up to me and introduce themselves.

“I hope people will stop me when they see me in the grocery store and have a conversation about what’s going on in the town, what’s going on in the community. I hope that my being here in the community will play a role in making the symphony an even more integral part of the Longmont community.”

Moore said he is looking forward to taking a role he described as the “full-time steward” of the Longmont Symphony. “I have various ideas about how an orchestra can really impact the community, how a symphony is a symbol of the community,” he said. “How players listen and respond to one another is symbolic of what a community does.

“One thing about a vision is not coming in with a preconceived idea, but communicating to community leaders, asking them questions, asking the orchestra questions, and asking the board members questions about their vision—where they would like to see the orchestra go in the next several years. So while I do come in with various ideas, I also want to make sure that what we do is authentic for Longmont.”

Moore is especially interested in the educational activities that the LSO offers. “One of the things that I am very excited about is the 5th-grade concerts that we have in January,” he said. “I want to have a further reach into education. One of the ideas I would love to do is to teach people who don’t have much knowledge about conducting—or even about music—what a conductor actually does.”

Moore has several engagements for the coming year outside Colorado. This is normal for any conductor of a less than full-time orchestra, in order to supplement his income, but Moore made it clear that the LSO will remain his top priority. “The rehearsal schedule and the concert schedule leave room for guest conducting with other orchestras,” he observed.

Moore was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and lived briefly in Denver when he was six years old. He has also lived in Texas, Cleveland, New York and Switzerland, as well as Detroit. He studied at the University of Michigan, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. He has been conductor of the Blue Period Ensemble in New York and the Detroit Medical Orchestra. In 2015 he also became director the Michigan’s Five Lakes Silver Band.

He has led rehearsals and/or performances with Mexico’s Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, Canadian Chamber Opera of New York City, Sewanee Symphony Orchestra and Canada’s National Arts Center Orchestra, as part of its Summer Music Institute Conductors Program. After completing his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, Moore was invited back to lead programs of the University Philharmonia Orchestra and the Contemporary Directions Ensemble.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble appoints new artistic director

Kevin T. Padworski will succeed founding director Evanne Browne

By Peter Alexander

Seicento Baroque Ensemble, a Boulder-based choral organization specializing in the music of the early Baroque period, has appointed composer/conductor/organist Kevin T. Padworski to succeed Evanne Browne as artistic director.

At the same time Amanda Balestrieri, a soprano who is well known for her early music performances, has been selected as assistant conductor of the group.

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Kevin T. Padworski has been appointed artistic director of Seicento

Browne founded Seicento in 2011 with the goal of “performing worthy but rarely heard music of the early Baroque musical period,” their Web page states. Under Browne’s leadership the auditioned choir has employed historically informed performance practice and period instruments in their performances.

In a statement released by Seicento, Browne praised the choice of Padworski as artistic director, saying, “Seicento is honored to have a musician of this caliber lead our group into the future.”

“Evanne clearly has kind of established a little bit of a legacy here in Colorado,” Padworski says. “I’m following an incredible woman in her field, and I’m excited to work on the repertoire. I’m excited about being able to perform Baroque repertoire up to historically informed performance practice.”

The transition has been made easier by planning that already taken place for the 2017­–18 season. Themes have been selected for two concerts during the year. “The fall theme will be ‘Luther to Bach,’ and that can mean a whole bunch of things,” Padworski says. “That’s really exciting because Luther’s influence was widespread in Europe, so that leaves a lot of composers available to explore.

“Then in the spring they had established a theme called ‘Mad Madrigals.’ It gives us a breadth of madrigal repertoire from a couple of centuries. As I look at that, my initial reaction would be to try to make that as broad as possible.

“I see it as a privilege to work with and collaborate with the people in the ensemble, and to offer music to greater Boulder.”

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Amanda Balestrieri will be assistant conductor of Seicento

Balestrieri has been a frequent soloist with Seicento, most recently for Browne’s last performances with the group March 24–26. She worked closely with Browne and the ensemble over the past six years, and has also appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival, Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, and other performing organizations in Colorado.

“I think it’s going to be a really good collaboration,” she says of her role working with Padworski as assistant conductor. “Kevin’s skills are huge. He’s a singer and a conductor and a keyboard player, and he has energy and wonderful musicianship. What I bring is how to technically execute some of the more difficult parts of the early music style, and a much longer experience in the early music movement.”

Padworski is a doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is artistic director of the Colorado Chorale and director of music and organist at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver. He is the composer of both choral and instrumental works, available through MusicSpoke and Santa Barbara Music Publishing.

He performs as an organist, singer, pianist and harpsichordist with an interest in early music. He has appeared professionally with the Jubilate Deo Chorale and Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Colorado Choral Arts Society, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Opera Colorado and American Baptist Churches USA, among other organizations.

Padworski holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern University, a certificate in leadership from the Foundations program at Duke Divinity School, and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.  He has been a conducting fellow with the Sarteano Chamber Choral Workshop and with Chorus America.

Protest precedes Boulder Chamber Orchestra performance

Corporate contribution attracts activists’ attention

By Peter Alexander

They started blowing their whistles about three minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin.

Last night (May 5) was one the biggest nights in the history of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO). Just before 7:30 p.m., the players were all on the Macky Auditorium stage, along with members of the Boulder Chorale, getting ready to perform Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony.

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Artistic director Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

It would be the climactic concert of their 13th season. The house was filling with a large audience.

Suddenly, several protesters—I saw three but it sounded like there were more—stood up and started blowing police whistles. The audience suddenly grew quiet. A woman near me stood up and started shouting, although her words were lost in the general din. Loud voices could be heard from other parts of the hall.

The woman hurried down the aisle, still blowing her whistle and talking to several audience members on the way. A man near the back was shouting, and raised a fist in protest; I saw one or two others rushing out of the auditorium. They made a quick exit from the building, leaving behind flyers headed “Community Alert.”

The protestors were from East Boulder County United (EBCU), an activist group that opposes fracking. The group’s Facebook page lists as one of its goals “to protect our community and neighbors from the dangers that oil and gas development poses to our health, the quality of our air and water, and our agricultural heritage.”

They had already stated their opposition to contributions the BCO received from Extraction Oil & Gas, which describes itself as “a domestic energy company focusing on the exploration and production of oil and gas reserves in the Rocky Mountains.” It is likely that EBCU alerted some of the media of the planned protest against Extraction, since the Boulder Daily Camera had a reporter and photographer at Macky before the performance.

As soon as the EBCU protesters had left the building, the concert continued as planned. Board chair Jessica Catlin spoke briefly from the stage, acknowledging the BCO’s supporters. Conductor Bahman Saless came onstage and talked about the program, as he often does. The performance took place without further incident.

There was no evidence that the musicians were rattled in any way. Their ardent performance received a boisterous standing ovation. With people on the main floor and in the balcony, this was likely the largest audience the BCO has played before.

After the performance, BCO board member Ari Rubin said that the board and orchestra had received no notice or threat of the protest. “It saddens me that they would choose to use this as an outlet rather than contact their elected officials,” he said.

The trouble between EBCU and the orchestra began about April 30, when the BCO posted a notice on their Facebook page that a gift from Extraction Oil & Gas would help pay the cost of free student tickets to the performance. EBCU responded with a message to supporters, asking them to “Please contact the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and call on them to end their partnership with Extraction Oil and Gas. . . . We are calling upon (the BCO) to immediately return all money you have taken from this lethal corporation and remove all promotion of them from your publications. Make music, not pollution.”

EBCU also posted protests on the BCO Facebook page. Those posts were taken down, and the BCO board issued a statement that read in part: “Organizations like ours have increasingly been forced to look towards private donations and corporations to help fund our mission to educate and expand the cultural fabric of our city. . . .Donations are necessary [for us] to survive and thrive as a nonprofit.”

The donations from Extraction was one of three gifts that provided free tickets to the performance for students from Boulder Valley School District, Jefferson County School District, and St. Vrain Valley School District. The University of Colorado, Boulder, and Excel Energy also contributed to this initiative. According to the board statement of May 2, “Students have responded eagerly to our offer, and we must honor our commitment to them.

“We understand corporate donations may present difficult and controversial issues, but we viewed the acceptance of funds as way of ensuring that some good can come from otherwise divisive issues surrounding corporate stewardship.”

Extraction Oil & Gas is one of 15 sponsors listed on the BCO Web page. Total corporate contributions, including Extraction and other local businesses, are reported as 17% of the BCO’s budget.

Regarding the larger controversy that ECBU has generated, Saless  and the BCO’s acting managing director, Nell Clothier, have declined to comment. Members of board have indicated that they prefer for the board’s written statement, posted May 2, to speak for itself.

UPDATE: According to a report published in the Boulder Daily Camera, EBCU member Kristin McLean said that there were seven activists who blew whistles in Macky Auditorium before the performance. She was also quoted saying that the group had paid $562 for their tickets to get into the auditorium.

 

Boulder Chamber Orchestra offers a journey from darkness to joy

Beethoven Ninth Symphony is the culmination of BCO’s 13th season

By Peter Alexander

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Bahman Saless with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has become the ultimate summit for many in the musical world: conductors, orchestras, singers and audiences.

The symphony, and especially the last movement with its text proclaiming that “all men become brothers,” has become equal parts an artistic, spiritual and political icon of Western culture. It the first choice for orchestras celebrating everything from an important anniversary up to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, when Leonard Bernstein conducted a multi-national performance in the city where the wall had once stood.

As the culmination of their 13th season, the Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra reach that summit Friday at Macky Auditorium, with additional performances in Lakewood Saturday and Lone Tree Sunday. Performing with the BCO will be the Boulder Chorale and soloists Szilvia Schranz, soprano, Rebecca Robinson, mezzo-soprano, Jason Baldwin, tenor, and Malcolm Ulbrick, bass.

As it has for many orchestras, the Ninth closes the cycle of the Beethoven symphonies for the BCO. It’s a large undertaking for a small orchestra, but it was a goal that Saless and the BCO could not pass up.

“It’s the last Beethoven symphony we haven’t done yet,” Saless says. ”We sat together with the board and said ‘Well, we’ve done all the eight, what are we going to do next?’ So it just kind of made sense from a historic point of view.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony/Ode to Joy
Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, conductor
Boulder Chorale
Szilvia Schranz, soprano, Rebecca Robinson, mezzo-soprano, Jason Baldwin, tenor, and Malcolm Ulbrick, bass

7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5, Macky Auditorium, Boulder (Unity Concert)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Lakewood Cultural Center, Lakewood

2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree

Tickets

 

 

Once ‘the twain shall meet’ at The Dairy

Reena Esmail brings Indian and Western music together

By Peter Alexander

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Composer Reena Esmail joins East and West. Photo by Rachel Garcia.

“East is East and West is West,” Rudyard Kipling famously wrote, “and never the twain shall meet.”

Kipling never met Reena Esmail. A composer who is thoroughly trained in both Western and North Indian classical music, she comfortably combines the two in her personal experiences and work. And bringing that cross-cultural blend to a broader public has become her mission.

Together with composer/percussionist Payton MacDonald, Esmail leads Shastra, an organization that aims to musically overthrow Kipling’s poetic decree. Or as the website states, Shastra “connects musicians working in both the Indian and Western musical traditions.”

Esmail and MacDonald bring their boundary-breaking project to the Dairy Arts Center in “Shastra! Indian/Western Fusion,” a concert featuring Front Range artists. “It’s basically a single evening of artists who do this kind of collaboration,” Esmail says. “It’s musicians but there’s also dance.”

In addition to the concert, The Dairy will present MacDonald’s film Sonic Divide in the Boedecker Theater. The film documents MacDonald’s 2016 bicycle ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, from Antelope Wells, New Mexico, to Banff, Canada. He rode the 2,500-plus mile route alone, stopping along the way to perform music composed specifically for the event.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

Boulder Chamber Orchestra returns to basics for 14th season

Concertos familiar and unfamiliar will decorate the 2017–18 season

By Peter Alexander

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra: Fourteeners all year for 2017–18

Conductor Bahman Saless is calling next year’s season of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) “Fourteeners,” because it is their 14th season, but there are no massive summits on the horizon.

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Bahman Saless returns to basics

“If there were going to be a theme it would be going back to our basics,” he says of the season’s program. “We have kind of stretched ourselves for a year or two, to get us to some benchmarks, and now we can go back to our more intimate chamber orchestra concerts.”

The search for benchmarks has led Saless and the BCO into Romantic territory, with concertos and symphonies by Brahms, and this season’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (coming May 5, 6 and 7). But the 2017–18 season stays mostly in the classical period, which is the core repertoire for smaller orchestras, including two symphonies by Mozart and one each by Haydn and Schubert.

Along with chamber orchestra basics, the season will be decorated by concertos, some of them familiar and some virtually unknown. Undoubtedly the least familiar will be on the December concert, when the orchestra’s principal flutist, Cobus du Toit, will be featured in the Pastorale Suite for flute and strings by Swedish composer Gunnar de Frumerie.

It’s a piece that Saless literally found on a beach in Mexico.

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Cobus du Toit: Playing music from a Mexican beach

“Cobus has been bugging me for a concerto to do with him for a while, and I love showing him off,” he says. “I was in Mexico by the beach and I heard this on my phone, and I’m like, ‘I’ve never heard this before! I’ve got to do this!’

“I really don’t know anything about the composer. The piece is unknown enough that even Cobus had to look it up!”

Another unfamiliar solo work will be the Concerto for piano, violin and strings by Mendelssohn, written when the composer was 14 years old, and unpublished in his lifetime. It will be performed in November by pianist Mina Gajic and violinist Zachary Carrettin.

Filling out the roster of little known concertos will be the Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a contemporary of Beethoven who succeeded Haydn as Kapellmeister to the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy. Known principally as a piano virtuoso, Hummel wrote eight concertos for his own use of which, Sales says, the Third is “really hard to do.” It will be performed in February by Andrew Staupe.

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Soprano Christie Conover

Beethoven will provide another rarity for the February concert, the complete incidental music for the play Egmont by Goethe. The Overture is a common concert opener, but the full incidental music, including songs that will be sung by soprano Christie Conover, is not often heard.

Well known solo works on the season schedule are Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, played by Sharon Park and Andrew Krimm; and the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra by Joaquín Rodrigo, performed by Chaconne Klaverenga. The season wraps up in May with a concert that will feature four members of the BCO in Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, bassoon, violin and cello.

Tickets for the 2017–18 season will go on sale through the BCO Web page May 5. The full season schedule and programs are listed below.

# # # # #

October 20, 21
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, K364 for violin and viola
—Sharon Park, violin, and Andrew Krimm, viola
Mozart: Symphony No 29 in A major, K201
Elgar: String Serenade

November  10, 11
Mendelssohn: Concerto for piano, violin and strings
—Mina Gajic, piano, and Zachary Carrettin, violin
Janacek: Idyll for strings

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Chaconne Klaverenga

December 15, 16
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra
—Chaconne Klaverenga, guitar
Gunnar de Frumerie: Pastorale Suite For Flute and Strings, op. 13
—Cobus du Toit, flute
Schubert Symphony No. 5 in D major, D485

February 23, 24
Hummel: Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor
—Andrew Staupe, piano
Beethoven: Overture and Incidental Music to Egmont
—Christie Conover, soprano

March 30, 31
Mozart: Requiem in D minor, K626
—Boulder Chorale
—Soloists TBD

May  11,12
Haydn: Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major for oboe, bassoon, violin and cello
—Soloists from the orchestra
Haydn: Symphony No. 95 in C minor
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C major, K 425 (Linz)

 

 

Finding Lessons in a Fiasco

What can we learn from the collapse of the Colorado Masterworks Chorus?

By Peter Alexander

The collapse of the Colorado Masterworks Chorus (CMC) last month, and the story of the unpaid musicians the organization left behind, were reported in several media at the time (see the Boulder Daily Camera and Denver CBS 4).

The CMC was formed in 2016 and gave its first performance during the summer, presenting the Brahms Requiem under conductor Evanne Browne. In October 2016, the CMC appeared with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and conductor Cynthia Katsarelis in two performances of Haydn’s Creation.

Their next performances were March 3, 2017, in Denver and March 4 in Boulder, when they presented Handel’s large-scale oratorio Israel in Egypt. For those performances, the CMC engaged a chorus, some of whose members had written contracts and were paid for their performances, as well as soloists and an orchestra. The performances were led by conductor Vicki Burrichter, who also had a written contract as artistic director and was paid.

However, the orchestral musicians, including Katsarelis as concertmaster, and others who were involved in the preparation and performance of the oratorio did not have written contracts, and were not paid.

Michael Madsen, the organizer and board chairman of the CMC had expected ticket sales and a silent auction to cover most of the costs of the performance, but they fell far short of expectations. With somewhere between $12,000 and $16,500 in unpaid bills, Madsen filed dissolution papers with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to abolish the organization, and ambitious plans for several future performances were cancelled.

That was the situation at the end of March, when the news stories appeared about CMC’s collapse. Today little has changed, and many of the musicians remain unpaid. Musician Relief, a campaign through Colorado Gives that aims to solicit private gifts to pay the musicians, has so far raised about half of its $16,500 goal.

From the money that has been raised, some of the musicians who performed with the CMC have received funds to make up for their loss. As freelance musicians, many of them depend on income from performances to pay their basic expenses, and some of the players had incurred expenses for travel and/or babysitting.

People involved in the performances have expressed differing opinions on how the CMC handled its business and why it broke down. I do not wish to throw fuel on dying embers by going over those disagreements. Nor do I wish to give a forum for accusations against any individuals. More important is a larger question: What does this mean for musicians and musical organizations in the Boulder area? What can we learn from what happened?

From talking with people directly involved in the CMC and its collapse, I found five major lessons for other arts organizations, for their board members, and above all for musicians.

It is very difficult, and takes time, to establish a new arts organization. Anyone who wants to do so needs to have a solid financial plan extending for two or more years, until the organization can qualify for grants. Most arts organizations make no more than 1/3 of their costs from tickets and other sales, with the other two thirds coming from supporters’ contributions and grants. Without one of those three legs, organizers need to be prepared for initial deficits.

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Michael Allen, president of Local 2623, Denver Musicians’ Association

Few new arts organizations survive. Michael Allen, the president of Local 2623 of the Denver Musicians Association, has seen this firsthand. “Any time I see a new group, I’m thinking, ‘Why?’” he says. “It really doesn’t make any sense, unless there is a unique point of view. There are a couple of groups that have cropped up in the last decade that have that unique point of view, but they’re in the minority.”

Among the issues making survival difficult is the fact that Boulder is already saturated with musical organizations. There is a great deal of competition for dates, and many weekends see multiple events competing for the same audience. For just one example, early in April there were events in Boulder and Longmont by Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra chamber series, the Boulder Symphony, the Boulder Opera and the Longmont Symphony, all on the same Saturday evening.

Madsen seems to have underestimated the competition for the group. He complains about the Boulder Film Festival that was the same night as the Handel performance in Boulder, although those may not have been the same people that would have attended a Handel oratorio. But even more challenging than direct conflicts with performance dates is the competition for audience interest and financial support. There are many organizations to support in Boulder, and established patterns of support are very hard to change.

Madsen expected that the quality of the group would be enough to capture support. “I thought we could get by [the competition] by getting the best singers in the front range,” he says. “The chorus was superb, but I was wrong about that, because very good, extremely prepared doesn’t bring the (audience) in here.”

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Vicki Burrichter conducted performances of handle’s Israel in Egypt in March

Most people seem to agree with Madsen that the chorus was superb. “It was an excellent chorus, “ Burrichter says. “When you get professional level voices, it automatically raises the level of the chorus. We had a great time and the Handel was spectacular.”

That level of quality may attract attention, but one spectacular performance is not enough to change people’s patterns of support overnight, which is what Madsen was counting on. When that failed to materialize, the organization was left with bills it could not pay. Or as Burrichter says, “It was very, very beautiful and moving, but unfortunately it was on the backs of the instrumental musicians.”

Consult with people who know the business. Several of Madsen’s expectations were unrealistic, as he himself now admits. “Always before when we had done this, we were doing it for larger organizations,” he says. That experience led him to overestimate how much money the CMC would bring in during its first years. For example, Madsen hoped the silent auction would bring in a significant amount of money toward the cost of the performances.

“We were hoping for a $15,000 auction,” he says. That estimate was based on his experience with a refugee ministry, but that is very different than raising money for an arts organization. For her part, Burrichter recognized the problem. “As somebody who’s been artistic director with boards that have done silent auctions, I could tell pretty early on that the silent auction was not going to be successful,” she says. “There were just a lot of errors.”

The $10,000 that Madsen budgeted for ticket sales was also unrealistic. By reports, the Handel performance in Denver had an especially small audience. “I could have told him, having been a musician in Denver for 10 years, that you’re not going to build an audience in Denver overnight,” Burrichter says.

Once again, more caution and better advice would have prevented unrealistic budgeting. “No musical event is paid for by ticket sales and one very humble fundraising attempt,” Katsarelis says. “A little bit of research and planning would have exposed the flawed nature of the plan. They just didn’t know what to expect because they hadn’t asked people who know.”

Everyone involved must understand and follow non-profit laws and best practices. This may be the most contentious area of disagreement among the people involved in the CMC: whether it was run with appropriate board oversight, or Madsen made decisions on his own. For his part, he says only “my wife and I were simply on the board.”

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Kathy Kucsan spoke with people affected by the CMC’s collapse

Kathy Kucsan, a consultant who works with arts organizations in Colorado, has spoken with some of the people affected by the CMC’s dissolution. “It sounds like the board of directors wasn’t really a functioning board,” she says. “The board has legal and fiduciary responsibility for the organization.

“From my point of view I would say set up your organization properly” is the most important lesson to be learned.

An attorney would have to clarify the legality of actions that were taken, and no one has claimed that laws were broken. However, several issues have cropped up in background conversations about the CMC that, if true, would be violations of good nonprofit governance. Three are particularly troubling.

The first is that board members were not given enough information on the finances and business practices of the organization. Burrichter says that Madsen “didn’t tell the board what was going on in terms of finances beyond certain very basic things. I’m sure the board didn’t know that (the instrumental musicians) didn’t have contracts.” That information is well within the board’s area of responsibility and if they were not kept informed, they should have been.

Second, Burrichter says that she was excluded from most board meetings, where she could have offered advice that would have prevented some of the miscalculations leading to the CMC’s failure. “I requested to go to a board meeting at one point, but (Madsen) said no, I just want to you to come once a year to talk about the artistic vision.”

It is extremely unusual that an artistic director, who is asked to carry out the objectives of the organization, would not be present and offer advice at meetings where the decisions are made. In hindsight, Burrichter says, “I should have insisted that if I were not going to be on the board, I would not take the job.”

The final question that has been raised is whether the dissolution of the CMC was done properly. This requires action by the board and should not be done by any one individual. Madsen says that he carefully followed a “20-point checklist” from the Secretary of State’s office for dissolving the organization, but has offered no more details.

None of the board members was willing to speak on the record, but I have heard from numerous people close to the organization and the board that, as one person who asked not to be named wrote to me, “The board was just as shocked as everyone else that the Madsens dissolved the chorus.”

These questions show how important it is for anyone who is thinking of starting a nonprofit group, or for anyone who is asked to serve on a nonprofit board, to do their homework. “There are so many resources for brand new nonprofits,” Kucsan points out.

For example, the Colorado Nonprofit Statutes are easily available online. There are simplified guides to the statutes here and here, and the Colorado Nonprofit Association has posted Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence.  Other resources are easy to find through online searches.

Too often, supporters are asked to serve on a board without adequate understanding of the responsibilities of board members. In the case of the CMC, it is possible that better preparation and understanding by all the board members, including Madsen, would have prevented some of the problems that occurred.

Freelance musicians need to protect themselves from being exploited. This may mean that they may no longer be willing to play without a written contract. One way to accomplish this of course is to go through the musicians’ union for all engagements.

That is clearly the preference of Allen and the union local in Denver. “We sent a fairly strong message to the union musicians that participated in that production that if they want their union to step in for them, they need to do things under union rules,” he says. “That includes both playing for scale and only working under a contract.

“If a contract had been filed, the union would have paid the musicians and then we would have used our resources to go after the Colorado Masterworks Chorus to seek reimbursement. That was sort of an expensive lesson for (the musicians) to learn.”

In the past, union musicians who took jobs below union scale would have been punished by the local, but Allen says that is not the approach today. “What we try to do is treat this as a teachable moment,” he says. “This is an opportunity to inform a larger group of people about not only what the union could have done, but also why we have the rules that we have.”

With or without the union, it is likely that musicians in Boulder will be more reluctant to take jobs without written contracts. “This is where I think things in Boulder are going to change,” Katsarelis says.

“We’ve always gone on trust, and it’s been reasonable to do that. But (after this) I think that organizations and musicians are going to tighten up and require contracts, instead of the trust method. I don’t think I’m going to play a gig like this again, that isn’t contracted through the union.

“That means they’ll have to pay union scale, which is higher than the kind of prevailing rate, and this is going to stretch the budgets of organizations that hire professional musicians.”

cynthia

Cynthia Katsarelis, artistic director Pro Musica Colorado and concertmaster of the Handel performances.

Katsarelis says that one final lesson is for everyone who is interested in, attends, or supports musical performances to understanding the real cost of musical performances. “Professional music making in our region is underfunded,” she says. “I wish we could make a stronger case for what high quality professional music making brings to a community.

“This awful debacle that robbed some of the region’s most compelling musicians asks the community to respond in several ways. We have a fundraiser to right that injustice, but there also has to be a response to what high quality professional music making really costs and the value it brings.”

At the end of the day, Kucsan says, “It’s just unfortunate, and it’s a learning experience for everybody involved. You actually have to try, and ask, and sweat the first couple of years, and if you’re still here, there’s a place for you. But to pack it up and leave people in the lurch is not the way to do it.”

You may make a contribution to help the musicians who were not paid by Colorado Masterworks Chorus at the Colorado Gives Musician Relief page, sponsored by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra.

NOTE: Edited for clarity and correction of typos 4/26.

NOTE: Upon reflection, I have now blocked further comments on this article and removed all comments naming or blaming others in the dispute between the musicians and the organizers of the Colorado Masterworks Chorus. No purpose is being served by finger pointing on this site.

I believe there are two important issues for readers, and I will remain focused on those:

  1. Lessons can be learned from this fiasco. That was the focus of my article, and I believe it remains the main subject of interest for anyone who was not directly involved.
  2. Musicians who gave their time and talent, and whose livelihoods depend on their professional activities, remain unpaid. I urge anyone who is concerned with the health of Boulder’s musical scene to make a contribution through the page listed above.