Baltimore Orchestra Chief Quits

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 19, 2006

James Glicker, who served as president and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra during the tumultuous period that culminated in the historic appointment of Marin Alsop as the ensemble's incoming music director, resigned yesterday, effective immediately.

According to a news release put together yesterday afternoon -- before most of the BSO staff or musicians had even been told the news -- Glicker informed the board of his decision to step down last week but will continue to serve as a consultant. W. Gar Richlin, a financial manager and BSO board member, will take over Glicker's duties while a nationwide search for a permanent replacement is held.

Alsop's appointment, announced last July and set to take effect at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, will make her the first female conductor in history to serve as the music director of a full-time, full-size U.S. orchestra. The news brought the BSO world attention, but there was widespread unhappiness among the musicians over the way the appointment was handled. They went public with their dissension, announcing that their opinions had been overlooked and asking that the search process be continued. Much of their anger was focused on Glicker, and there was speculation among some players yesterday that his resignation might not be entirely voluntary.

Reached yesterday afternoon, Glicker called the Alsop appointment "the most important thing I did," but he acknowledged that there had been some bruised feelings. "I feel badly that the musicians feel the way they do, but bringing Marin on was unquestionably the right move for us, and a lot of the musicians are now agreeing with what we did. The board knew in its gut that this was the right move to make, and we did it."

When asked directly whether he was leaving because he wanted to, Glicker answered yes.

From the beginning, Glicker, 51, was considered an unconventional choice to run an orchestra. Although he had studied music from an early age, his principal professional expertise was in marketing and, while he had worked in that capacity for BMG Classics in the 1990s, he had also been involved with the management of such disparate companies as 1-800-FLOWERS, Geocities (later folded into Yahoo!) and Dannon. Moreover, in a deeply conservative field, his manner was distinctly informal: He preferred casual dress, wore his hair long and generally looked more like a pop musician than the president of a symphony orchestra.

His appointment, in June 2004, was followed by the departure of several top administrators and other staff members. Lucinda Williams, who had been vice president of education and community programming, told the Baltimore Sun that she left because she did not believe in the current leadership. "I have incredible concern for the future of the BSO," she said.

But others felt differently. BSO principal trumpeter Andrew Balio went on record as welcoming Glicker's appointment. "He really understands what needs to be done," Balio told the Sun, "that the orchestra needs to grow its way out to the next level, not cut back. Marketing has been so abysmal here, and James brings a lot of strengths in that area."

Like many other orchestras, the BSO has been struggling in a difficult economy. Last year, the ensemble ran a $10 million deficit.

Glicker helped the orchestra branch out from its longtime home, Meyerhoff Hall in downtown Baltimore, to the Washington suburbs when the Music Center at Strathmore opened in February 2005. He helped establish the "Soulful Symphony," a series of orchestral programs aimed specifically at widening the African American audience. With the Baltimore Museum of Art, he created an "Explorer Series," a multidisciplinary examination of the ties between music and the other arts.

"I'm basically pretty happy with what we accomplished. This year, for the first time in 15 years, we've had an increase in our subscriptions," Glicker said. Alsop appeared with the symphony as a guest conductor last week for the first time since her appointment. "About 300 to 400 people stayed to talk with Marin. . . . There's some real excitement here now."

Glicker said he plans to take some time off to "ponder my options." He said that he would like to remain involved with classical music on some level. "I don't know about another orchestra, though."

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