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Tuning up – Seeking a music director

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Symphony is gearing up for a capital campaign that could total $75 million to $100 million.

The campaign, which could begin quietly in 2002 and publicly in 2003, would finance improvements needed to help hire a new music director, says David Chambless Worters, president and CEO.

“I want to be on record with a potential music director with what we’re committed to doing here,” he says. “I do not believe we’ll be successful in attracting the best candidate we can with empty promises.”

Priorities, to be set by the board, likely will include adding up to 20 seats to the 65-member orchestra at a cost of $1.25 million per seat in new endowment, and boosting the education program.

Eighty-five members would put the symphony on a par with orchestras in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Seattle.

And while the symphony’s education program is the most extensive in the U.S. – it performs one-third of its concerts for fourth- and fifth-graders at schools throughout the state – it has not changed since the 1940s despite a big decline in music education in the public schools, Worters says.

The symphony has hired John Mitterling, former director of development for the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, as vice president for development.

Mitterling says he wants to increase the number of donors giving $2,500 or more to the symphony’s annual fund, which grew by more than one-third to $1.73 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, and is budgeted to grow nearly one-fourth more to more than $2.1 million in the current fiscal year.

The symphony is wrapping up its $13.5 million capital campaign, which has raised $12 million and includes $6 million for Meymandi Concert Hall, $1 million for instruments and equipment and $6.5 million for permanent endowment, which now totals $8 million.

Worters hopes candidates to succeed Gerhardt Zimmermann, who steps down as music director in 2003 to become conductor laureate, will emerge from up to nine guest conductors who will be invited to perform during the 2002-03 season. After inviting candidates to conduct again in 2003-04, the symphony could pick a music director in 2004 or even 2005, he says.

The new director will need to “embrace the history of the North Carolina Symphony but make a mark here and make this orchestra truly exceptional,” and will need strong experience with an American orchestra, Worters says.

Unlike European orchestras, he said, American orchestras require close collaboration among the music director, CEO and general manager, and must deal with collective bargaining by musicians.

“I’m looking for the most exceptional musician we can find and someone who can inspire and lead this organization to new heights,” he says. “I could care less if anyone has ever heard of him or her.”

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