What’s in Cleveland’s laundry hamper

These must be interesting times in The Cleveland Orchestra, what with a damning article in the local alternative rag on their concertmaster and all. For the seven people in the orchestra business who haven’t yet seen it, the focus of the article is on the alleged behavior of Bill Preucil towards his students at the Cleveland Institute of Music and his alleged role in hiring several of his relatives at the orchestra. As interesting as the article are the comments, which total 229 (and increasing by several each hour) as of this posting. The depiction of the Cleveland Institute of Music in the article and the associated comments is not a very attractive one. One wonders whether the imminent retirement of CIM President David Cerone is related to that picture.

There is no way to evaluate such charges from afar, of course.
Clearly it’s not a good idea for people to participate in auditioning
their relatives. It’s not fair to the process, and, if the relatives
get hired, it looks very bad, regardless of how well the relatives
play. This was a conclusion we reached in Milwaukee a number of years
ago, and incorporated into our collective bargaining agreement.

There are other sources of perceived “unfairness” in the audition process; I hosted a discussion
of auditions at Polyphonic.org a few weeks ago that dealt with some of
them. It will likely always be true that people known to the orchestra
will have an edge in auditions, and of course that will include friends
and relatives of orchestra members. It is entirely rational for an
orchestra to want to hire musicians that are known to orchestra members
as good ensemble players and good colleagues, and auditions simply
don’t provide that information. And it is human nature to favor people
one knows and likes over strangers. (On the other hand, I’ve seen
auditions where the “best” player wasn’t hired precisely because he/she
was known to the orchestra and they wanted no part of him/her.)

It’s sad to see such an article, whether or not some or all of it is
true. It’s not going to be good for the Cleveland Orchestra (at least
in the short term), and it must be causing a great deal of pain to a
number of innocent bystanders.


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