Utah Symphony and Opera Donor Calls for Ousting of CEO and Music Director

Classic Arts News   Utah Symphony and Opera Donor Calls for Ousting of CEO and Music Director
A former Utah Symphony and Opera board member has said he will resume support of the organization only if CEO Anne Ewers and music director Keith Lockhart are removed, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Bertram Schaap had canceled a bequest to the company—"hundreds of thousands of dollars"—and an annual donation because he was disappointed with the outcome of the merger of the Utah Opera and Utah Symphony, and did not think highly of Lockhart's and Ewers' performances.

Of his offer, Schapp said, "It's no vendetta. It's an attempt to make sure that what [we] have had in the past is continued into the future.

The 2002 merger was meant to create business efficiencies for both organizations. Instead, ticket sales and donations dropped, and the US&O posted deficits of $1.7 million in 2003 and $3.3 million in 2004, with a projected deficit of $3.2 million in 2005.

A financial-recovery plan outlined by independent consultant Thomas W. Morris, who looked into the organization's finances and administration, was presented to the US&O's board at the end of February. A task force is currently deciding which of Morris's suggestions should be put into action, and will make recommendations to the board on March 24.

Carolyn Abravanel, widow of the symphony's late conductor Maurice Abravanel, would like to see Morris's recommendations implemented by the board. This would include an evaluation of Ewers' performance.

Abravanel said, "From everything that concerned individuals are calling and telling me, I no longer believe this is a temporary moment of insanity. People are making it known they are disillusioned and concerned."

Ray Kingston, an architect who helped design Abravanel Hall, agreed with Abravanel and said, "I don't understand how a board of directors can be so unaware of the fiscal health of an organization. The board is not doing its job—they should be asking some extremely difficult questions of their management."

Other donors stand by Ewers, according to the Tribune. Rick Lawson told the paper that the merger hadn't been given enough time to work itself out. James Swartz, who donated $1 million to start up the new Deer Valley Music Festival—which came under fire in Morris's report as a drain on the organization's finances and adminstration—called Ewers a "visionary."

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