(excerpts from a letter sent to the GRS Board of Directors)
I moved to Grand Rapids in 1979, and developed an independent chorus (Grand Rapids Cantata Choir) that regularly hired Symphony players to perform choral-orchestral works with us, including standard extended works, newly commissioned pieces, and rarely-performed repertoire. When I first arrived (coming from Philadelphia), to my surprise I found that the orchestra musicians were young, but superbly trained. They also had a much more supportive and open attitude towards sacred music, and a hunger to explore new repertoire, than the instrumentalists that I worked with previously. They were absolutely essential to the development of my organization, and our mission….
Over the years, our symphony musicians have continued to develop into a world-class orchestra, a well-oiled ensemble. Their community spirit has deepened, and they have contributed tremendously to the cultural life of this city. Their deep concern for and dedication to the artistic growth of our children is evident in the achievements of our young musicians. Our orchestra is nationally known and respected, raising the profile of the city and state. I hope nobody takes them for granted, or thinks that just any pick-up group of frequently-rotating musicians would be just as good, or “good enough."
If this city is to maintain our present level of musical excellence, it is critical that we provide our symphony musicians with a competitive wage scale and benefits, and programming that will enable this. If we do not, we will not be able to attract players of the same quality, and we will not be able to keep them.
Retaining excellent players creates a mature ensemble that can prepare and perform a wide variety of music with efficiency and style. Well-paid professional musicians can afford the finest instruments and the continuing training that ensures top performance standards. They impact every other organization that engages their services, too. We do not want to see our symphony decline when standards worldwide are rising, for all kinds of reasons from economic to personal. We can’t afford to have a symphony that is any less skilled and experienced than the one we have today…
It is my fervent hope that the Symphony Board members will come to a forward-thinking and optimistic position, providing our Symphony musicians with remuneration that reflects the extraordinary skill and dedication that they bring to this community. Attract the best, respect them, and keep them, please!
With gratitude and and high hopes, I am