Lawrence Leighton Smith

Music director Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony reached an agreement to extend the maestro’s contract for three more years, to 2018, the orchestra announced this weekend at its annual meeting in the lobby of  Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

That continues the enviable stability at the top of the orchestra’s artistic pyramid, where Kalmar has fashioned an orchestra that plays far better than it is funded, and though its president position has been empty since Elaine Calder left more than a year ago, its other top managers are veterans, too.

Back to the press release for the kind words Kalmar from outgoing Board Chair Terry Pancoast:  “Carlos’s accomplishments with the orchestra since he was first named Music Director in 2003 have been extraordinary.  It gives us great pleasure and confidence that he will continue on our podium at least until June, 2018.”

And then Kalmar responded in kind: “I look forward to these additional years and making great music for all of our Symphony family and to serving this great community in ever-increasing ways.”

Carlos Kalmar's contract has been extended until June 2018./Leah Nash

Carlos Kalmar’s contract has been extended until June 2018./Leah Nash

The press release didn’t divulge the terms of the contract (Kalmar received a salary of $451,929 in 2010-11  [NOTE: The symphony says this number is incorrect, though it won’t divulge Kalmar’s salary in that or any other year, including the extension years] per Adaptistration, very close to the national average of $480,037), so we don’t know how much it cost to wrap-up Kalmar for three more years, though music directors around the country are pulling in higher and higher salaries. In 2010-11, their salaries rose an average of 12.02 percent.

The symphony also announced its new lineup of officers for the upcoming year: Karl A. Smith, Chair; J. Clayton Hering, Vice Chair; Walter E. Weyler, Vice Chair, Gerald R. Hulsman, Secretary; and Ted Austin, Treasurer.

Pancoast closed with comments about the symphony’s strategic planning effort, and said that the orchestra was giving a new emphasis on service to the community. “We are owned,” he said, “by the community and entrusted to bring vibrancy to the cultural life of our community.”  This sounds very promising, and as details emerge, we’ll let you know about them.


Lawrence Leighton Smith

Lawrence Leighton Smith

Former Oregon Symphony music director Lawrence Leighton Smith has died in Colorado at 77. He left the symphony in 1980, and became music director in 1983 of the Louisville Orchestra, which he established as a hotbed of new orchestral music. He became artistic director of the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale (1995-2004) and then music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony in 2000 (which morphed into the Colorado Springs Philharmonic following the bankruptcy) until he stepped down in 2011 when he fell ill with Binswanger’s disease. He also led the Sunriver Music Festival for 17 years.


Dear arts funders, Stop asking arts organizations to innovate. They do that already. Signed, Todd London, artistic director, New Dramatists

OK, London did not write that, not exactly. But that was the idea of the lecture,< “>“I Don’t Want to Talk about Innovation: A Talk about Innovation,”  he gave at the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture in Denver, October 21, 2013. Maybe you can already tell how subversive the lecture was in that particular context.

“Where innovation thinkers see ill-adaptive organizations, I see decades of unsupported art and artists, energy and money thrown at institutional issues, as if this can make the art relevant. I’d suggest it’s the funding community that needs to take a deep, humble look at its assumptions and, most urgently, at the human relations and power dynamics of money and expertise. Doctor, please innovate thyself.”

A thought experiment, inspired by London’s lecture:  Suppose you wanted to invest $1 million in local theater next year, how would you spend it? Most likely, you’d pick out some theater companies you thought did excellent work and divide it among them. Or maybe you’d invest in the future in the form of college or even high school drama programs. But what if you just gave the money directly to the artists, say, 25 grants of $40k each, for independent actors, directors, and designers. What would happen next?


Shaking the Tree Theatre’s “Wilde Tales” runs through November 9, and Bob Hicks has already written persuasively about how important (and underrated) these fairy stories by Oscar Wilde are. He’s not alone: novelist Jeanette Winterson has recently written an essay for The Guardian about the Wilde tales that makes a similar argument and expands it.

“Reason and logic are tools for understanding the world. We need a means of understanding ourselves, too. That is what imagination allows. When a child reads of a Nightingale who bleeds her song into a rose for love’s sake, or of a Selfish Giant who puts a wall round life, or of a Fisherman who wants to be rid of his Soul, or of a statue who feels the suffering of the world more keenly than the Mathematics Master who scoffs at his pupils for dreaming about Angels, the child knows at once both the mystery and truth of such stories. We have all at some point in our lives been the overlooked idiot who finds a way to kill the dragon, win the treasure, marry the princess.”

She also points out that in the Age of Harry Potter, children’s literature is no longer overlooked as it once was, though really, it was only the stuffy old adults who were doing the overlooking, wasn’t it?


Carl Hall, 'Fog Totem Woman'/Permanent collection/Hallie Ford Museum

Carl Hall, ‘Fog Totem Woman’/Permanent collection/Hallie Ford Museum

The indispensable Hallie Ford Museum of Art is turning 15, which seems odd. Hasn’t been there, tracking the important artists of the state since there WERE important artists in the state? Apparently not.

The Salem Statesman Journal’s Barbara Curtin marks the birthday with an in-depth account of the museum’s history.

“Trudy Kawami, director of research at the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in New York, said the Hallie Ford museum stands out for the way it stages fresh exhibits instead of simply showing its own collection.

“In the Northwest there are a couple of museums in Portland and Seattle that have larger collections, but are nowhere near as active,” Kawami said. “It’s a little museum that could,” she said.”

Curtin starts at the beginning of the museum and works forward, detailing the important gifts (from Hallie Ford and Maribeth Collins), the stability (John Olbrantz has led the museum from the beginning, and Roger and Bonnie Hull have helped keep its focus on Northwest art), and its growing importance in the region, especially to local artists. The Ford Museum’s retrospective exhibitions of the work of Oregon artists, organized by Roger Hull, have produced a series of catalogs that are central documents in the preservation and interpretation of art history here. Happy Birthday!

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