Letter from Robert White


January 7, 2011
Dear Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors:
I moved to Metro Detroit a little over a year ago from Charlotte, North Carolina.  While Charlotte stands in sharp contrast to Detroit economically, I can honestly say that the cultural climate in Detroit is vastly more sophisticated, lively, and enriching.  This is due almost entirely to the presence of prominent institutions like the DIA and, above all, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  The Symphony’s excellence reflects not only the world-class stature of its resident musicians, but also the decades of commitment stewards like yourselves have shown it.
As the people charged with preserving and cultivating the DSO, I ask you wholeheartedly to accept the provisions of compromise laid out by former Governor Granholm and Senator Levin.   The cuts therein reflect a huge gesture of sacrifice by the musicians, and will provide an unprecedented “running start” for efforts to improve the health of the organization going forward.  No other major orchestra’s musicians have ever voluntarily given up as much as the DSO musicians are willing to do, and it is only reasonable to expect you to honor such a sacrifice and work with them.  With many musicians already leaving for other orchestras, and undoubtedly more doing so in the future, it will take time to rebuild the DSO.  You should waste no time getting started!
Beyond that, I believe it would be a good idea to seriously consider changes in the management of the organization.  First and foremost – find and retain a first class Director of Development.  This should be someone who recognizes that asking the DSO’s wealthiest patrons to act alone in making larger and larger donations is a horrible strategy for growth, and will instead commit to broadening the base of donors across the entire region.
Second, you should understand that an Executive Director and a Vice President who are purposefully and openly antagonistic to the musicians have no place in an orchestra of this caliber.  In every other top American orchestra, the musicians are justly honored as the outward identity of the orchestra – indeed, the very “product” that the organization produces.  Anne Parsons is only making your job harder by behaving in the manner of a provincial or fledgling arts administrator – more concerned with being the boss than actually managing the organization effectively.  Remember, she is working for you – not the other way around.  Frankly, to continue to pay her exorbitant salary when she’s proven a failure as a leader reflects badly on you.   Paul Hogle, based on recent statements to his staff, seems content to let the strike ride out while he continues to eat the remaining endowment to pay himself for two more years.  Is that the vision you’re looking for in a manager? I implore you to remove them and avoid further embarrassment.
Thank you for reading my letter, and the many others you have received and will receive.  I ask once again that you please take action now!  This community really needs the DSO.  We need it to thrive so that we can continue to attract people and business to our region.  Even more importantly, we need it to thrive so that the unique powers of music – those that led you (and in many cases, your parents and grandparents!) to undertake the stewardship of this treasured component of our city, state, and nation – may continue resounding in our ears and minds forever.
Sincerely,
Robert A. White
Rochester, MI
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