Florida West Coast Symphony Decides Not to Renew Partnership with Itzhak Perlman, Angering Many Supporters

Classic Arts News   Florida West Coast Symphony Decides Not to Renew Partnership with Itzhak Perlman, Angering Many Supporters
The Florida West Coast Symphony has ended its collaboration with musician Itzhak Perlman, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Joseph McKenna, the symphony's executive director, said that the board of directors ended the partnership because of financial and scheduling problems, and also because Perlman's education program, which comprised a two-week program for 35 young musicians from around the world, wasn't adding any benefit to the symphony's own youth program.

Garett Albert, president of Perlman's nonprofit youth program, said that Perlman proposed "terms similar to last year's," and that the negotiations were ended by the symphony.

Perlman could not be reached for comment in the Herald-Tribune's article, but Albert said that Perlman and his wife, Toby, were "thrilled with the response of the Sarasota community last year. We wanted to come back, and are disappointed not to be returning."

The decision to end the yearlong partnership instead of extending it has made some of the symphony's supporters very angry.

Heidi Castleman, a faculty member in Perlman's youth program as well as at the Sarasota Music Festival, felt that the board hadn't tried hard enough to work out an arrangement with Perlman, but instead "seems to approach every challenge, every new venture, in a climate characterized by poor communication, paranoia, and sometimes a touch of arrogance." Ending the arrangement, she said, "is an embarrassment for Sarasota, a city which deserves better."

McKenna claims that the board "worked diligently to make it happen, "but such a partnership has to work for both organizations, and we weren't able to work out a financial structure that would meet the symphony's overall needs."

Although McKenna said fundraising for Perlman's residency was too time-consuming relative to the symphony's other needs, former symphony board member David Klein told the paper that no significant attempt to fundraise for Perlman's residency had in fact been made. In addition, he said, the board hadn't been particularly interested in Perlman's program, and that not many of the 50 board members had attended the sessions.

John Wilkes, executive director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, was unhappy with the outcome of the negotiations, saying, "Any community would walk over broken glass to have a program with Itzhak Perlman."

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