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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 07:44 pm

Letters to the Editor

For more comments on last week's cover story on the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, go to illinoistimes.com.
Orchestra losing supporters
Regarding Dusty Rhodes’ article “Out of tune” [IT, May 14], we believe she did an excellent job in exposing the personal dynamics and subsequent problems of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra under the heavy-handed tactics of Karen Lynne Deal and the oblivious pronouncements of board president John Wohlwend.

Let me preface our statements by saying that my wife and I have been patrons of the ISO since we arrived in Springfield more than 20 years ago. We attend the Masterworks and Chamber Orchestra series and have witnessed many transitions over the years, both positive and negative. However, what we’ve observed the past couple of seasons is discord, disharmony and general dissatisfaction by the supporting audience. A cursory assessment of the concert attendance will tell you that the ISO is losing supporters rapidly.
When Ms. Deal arrived in Springfield, we were excited to obtain a maestra with a seemingly impressive resume. We thought it was very progressive of the ISO board to hire a woman to lead the orchestra. However, over time her gimmicks to promote herself, rather than the orchestra, became apparent. We were hoping to get a maestra of the caliber of Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony, but after these displays of abuse of power by Ms. Deal, maybe it’s time for Mr. Wohlwend to start listening to the concerns of the musicians and patrons before the ISO implodes.

We don’t want grand entrances on Harleys or horses; nor false platitudes directed to the musicians; nor a conductor who apparently has trouble keeping pace with the orchestra. We want harmony, both musical and managerial. We pay our subscriptions and donations to relax and enjoy symphonic music, not to be dragged into this drama. The capper for us was the inexcusable treatment of the talented Richard Rossi and his subsequent departure. We believe that Richard Haglund, ISO assistant conductor, would serve as an excellent replacement for Deal. Otherwise, we may not renew our subscription and Wohlwend should use his professed analytical skills to do the math.

Patrick and Jane McGarry

Wohlwend like Mcgwire
What was truly shocking about the May 14 article on the orchestra was not the many accusations of mismanagement, tantrums and incompetence leveled against “maestra” Karen Deal, most of which have at least been rumored, but the statement by ISO board president John Wohlwend that concluded the article: “I’m a business person. I scrutinize the financials. I’m very analytical and I’m proud of that. I look to where we’re going rather than where we’ve been.”

In other words, as long as the ticket sales hold up, everything is hunky-dory. It is business attitudes and corporate boards like this that created the dismal mess our economy is in right now: “Sure, there are warning flags, but we’re still making money, so don’t rock the boat.”

Two images persist in my mind. One is of Mark McGwire, testifying before Congress about steroid use and saying, “I’m not here to
discuss the past.” The other is of Thomas Nast’s famous cartoon of Boss Tweed and his cronies waiting for the storm to “blow over.”

Bill Ward

Call for resignations
NO DEAL! Karen Deal needs to resign as music director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, along with board president John Wohlwend, who has been most destructive in his own unyielding support of Deal.

The chorus was decimated by Deal and the orchestra will soon follow suit if Deal does not go! For the sake of what could be a world-class orchestra, the community should demand Deal’s resignation and reinstall those people who have served the ISO and made music from the ISO and ISC the priority and brought out the beauty that Karen Deal has suffocated.

Trina M. Diedrich

Music lovers deprived
I’m a former Illinois Symphony Chorus member now living out of state. In 2006, I had no idea how much fire was actually behind the smoke. How sad that the small leadership cadre of the ISO refuses to see the situation for what it is. When all this is over, they will be judged harshly for destroying what was once a highly competent small-market musical organization.

Though central Illinois’ serious music lovers are deprived of musical excellence as well as the full classical repertoire (because of the disbanding of the chorus), I have the most sympathy for the people “under” Deal who suffered from the insults and misery she inflicted on them. For shame, Karen Deal.

Isolde Davidson
Scottsdale, Ariz.

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