BSO Approves First Female Director

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Marin Alsop was confirmed as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra today, after what the BSO said was "an overwhelming majority" of the board voted in her favor.

Alsop, a 48-year old New Yorker, will therefore become the first woman conductor in history to assume the artistic leadership of a full-time, full-sized, world-quality orchestra when she replaces out-going music director Yuri Temirkanov at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

Philip D. English, chairman of the BSO board, said that Alsop' s "artistic mastery, recording success and highly regarded reputation world-wide will shape an exciting future for the BSO."

No further details of Alsop's contract were available today. A full press conference will take place tomorrow afternoon at Meyerhoff Hall in downtown Baltimore. Alsop is expected to attend.

Approval from the board is usually a mere formality after the search committee hands in its recommendation. At the conclusion of a seven-month search, Alsop received that recommendation last Wednesday and word of her pending appointment was leaked to the media on Thursday night.

But in an extraordinary and unprecedented challenge, the seven musicians who served on the search committee released a statement over the weekend, asking the board to both extend and broaden its search. According to the statement, "approximately 90 percent of the orchestra musicians [believed] that ending the search process now, before we are sure the best candidate has been found, would be a disservice to the patrons of the BSO and all music lovers in Maryland."

The meeting took place at 8:30 today at Meyerhoff, before the midsummer heat and humidity had settled in. "It's a beautiful morning and beautiful things are going to happen today," Jeffrey F. Liss, an officer of the board of directors, said as he entered the building.

Somewhere between 35 and 40 board members came to cast their votes (the exact results will be kept confidential). Board members were greeted at the door with a photocopied statement from "the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra" asking once more for a continuance of the search process. "No decision is more important to the future of a symphony orchestra than the choice of a music director," it read.

While the meeting took place on one floor of Meyerhoff Hall, the musicians were rehearsing with conductor Hugh Wolff for an upcoming concert. At the end of the rehearsal, James Glicker, the orchestra president, and Decatur H. Miller, a life member of the board and member of the search committee, took the stage and delivered the news.

It was greeted with "general silence," according to Ellen Orner, a violinist in the BSO who calls herself one of Alsop's supporters. "It was seriously taken." Musicians then filed out of the building, some of them smiling, some of them wistful, a few of them apparently fighting back tears. "We've been told not to talk," one woman whispered as she pushed through a group of reporters and photographers out into the steamy afternoon heat.

Shortly thereafter, Jane Marvine, an English horn player and chairman of the players committee that had issued the request to continue the search, read a brief statement.

"The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are disappointed in the premature conclusion of the Music Director search process," it said. "However this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music making. We will work together with Marin Alsop and every conductor to present the inspiring performances our audience has come to expect."

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