Dallas Symphony Chief Signs On with St. Louis Symphony

Classic Arts News   Dallas Symphony Chief Signs On with St. Louis Symphony
Fred Bronstein, who has become known for marketing and fundraising prowess in his five years as president and executive director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is resigning to become president of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He succeeds Randy Adams, who stepped down from the SLSO in June.

The news was announced last Friday (Dec. 14) and reported by The Dallas Morning News and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The timing of Bronstein's transition has not yet been determined, though he told the Morning News that it would be "a matter of months."

The 51-year-old Bronstein, who has degrees in piano performance from Boston University, the Manhattan School of Music and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, began his career in administration through the internship program run by the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of American Orchestras). He served as a management intern with the St. Louis, Oregon and Chicago Symphonies, then worked as executive director of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (the Chicago Symphony's pre-professional training ensemble) for two years, followed by four years at the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. He left Nebraska to take the DSO position in 2002.

At the Dallas Symphony, Bronstein has achieved four consecutive balanced budgets and oversaw an increase in the orchestra's endowment from $70 million to $120 million. He also reversed a longtime slide in ticket sales, in part with themed programming such as the recent (and quite successful) Beethoven Festival. Critic Scott Cantrell of the Morning News credits Bronstein with improving the quality of the DSO's guest conductors and soloists — and, most particularly, with the appointment of Jaap van Zweden as music director.

"I think we have a winner," DSO musicians' committee chair and bassoonist Scott Walzel said to the paper about van Zweden. "The orchestra just responds to him like nobody else."

Both Cantrell of the Morning News and the Post-Dispatch's Sarah Bryan Miller acknowledge that Bronstein faces a difficult environment in St. Louis. On the positive side, conductor David Robertson, the SLSO's music director since 2005, has been attracting plenty of positive notice at home and nationwide, and the orchestra's endowment has grown from a mere $18 million in 2001 to its current $142 million. Yet the SLSO continues to struggle with slipping ticket sales and annual deficits of around $3 million, and the orchestra suffered a debilitating two-month strike by musicians in early 2005. What's more, while the DSO and SLSO have roughly similar annual budgets (about $25 million and $24 million, respectively), the Dallas area's population is roughly three times that of St. Louis.

Yet Bronstein seems undaunted. "St. Louis holds a very special place in the music world," he told the Post-Dispatch. "It's no secret that it's had some significant challenges over the years. It's also made some remarkable progress. Being able to build on that, and tackle some of the challenges that lie ahead, is very exciting for me."

What's more, as Bronstein said in a statement released by the SLSO last week, "this is, in a sense, very personal to me, as I'm returning to the place where I started my orchestral career."

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