You’re great; get lost

It was inevitable that what’s left of the Columbus Symphony board was going to fire their music director. It happened yesterday:

Hirokami, a native of Japan, took over the baton in June 2006 and had one year remaining on his contract. He was openly critical of the symphony board during labor negotiations with musicians in the last year. The contract dispute led the symphony to suspend operations for almost five months before reaching an agreement in September.

“We acknowledge the wonderful artistry and talent Mr. Hirokami possesses and that was reflected in his concerts over the last two seasons,” said Martin Inglis, chair of the Columbus Symphony board. “However, as we move forward into the new season, we have agreed with Mr. Hirokami that we will do so under the leadership of a new music director.”

Inglis, whose term as chairman began last month, said the symphony is searching for a replacement.

In a letter received by the board and musicians today, Hirokami said he was dismissed by the symphony.

“It is with sadness and with the best wishes to the orchestra that I hereby accept my dismissal request,” Hirokami wrote.

Inglis said he wouldn’t characterize Hirokami’s departure as a firing.

“Junichi managed to polarize a lot of people in the community,” Inglis said. “He was a fantastic talent but the board felt perhaps it would be better if we started fresh.”

Given the board’s rather casual attitude towards its contract with the orchestra, it’s hardly surprising that they would neither honor their contract with the music director nor be honest about doing so.

So I’ll be honest for them. They fired him because he spoke out against their plans to alter the orchestra out of all recognition and against the board’s abrogation of its implicit agreement with him to maintain a quality orchestra in Columbus. He certainly didn’t come to Columbus to conduct the kind of orchestra that would have been left had the board’s plan been implemented. They fired him because he came out on the side of artistic quality – a position that he could excusably have thought that they’d hired him to uphold.

If the board wants to “start fresh” (and I agree that they need to), they might look at removing the guy that actually runs the orchestra on a day-to-day basis, Tony Beadle. If the criteria for termination is having “managed to polarize a lot of people in the community,” that’s a threshold that he crossed a lot earlier, and far more often, than the music director.

After having very publicly fired their music director for having protested against trying to gut the orchestra, I wonder who the board thinks will agree to take his place? The world is full of conductors looking for music director jobs, of course. But ones on the level of Hirokami are few and far between. Good luck in convincing someone to work for a board that just fired the last guy for being as honest as he was competent.


2 Responses to “You’re great; get lost”

  1. David Brickman, Rochester, NY Says:

    Out of pure spite the Board of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has fired their excellent Music Director at a time when they have concerts coming up in a matter of weeks for which they have no conductor. This astonishing act of nastiness and stupidity is directly contrary to the best interests on the CSO, an organization they have volunteered to support! The Board and Management of the CSO have made themselves famous as objects of ridicule and derision across the nation. It is tragic that Columbus has been unable to appreciate and maintain the cultural gem they have in the CSO.

  2. Well written blog post about Junichi firing | The Buzzing Reed Says:

    […] out this post, You’re Great; Get Lost!, a well written, biting review of the motives and repercussions of firing Junichi Hirokami as […]

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