Slatkin to Detroit

Congratulations to my old teacher and mentor Leonard Slatkin on his appointment as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony, where he is succeeding Naime Jarvi beginning in the fall of the 2008-9 Season.

Leonard offered the following comment in a press release from the DSO website- “Last May, I conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the first time in 20 years,” said Leonard Slatkin, “and it was clear from the first downbeat that this was an extraordinary ensemble.  We’ve reached agreement in a very short time and I am happy and honored to take the helm of this great orchestra.  I believe we can develop a vision for excellence, education, new and American music, recordings and touring that will bring new attention to the quality and tradition of the Detroit Symphony, locally, nationally and abroad. I look forward to a most exciting and rewarding tenure.”

Although Slatkin will officially assume his role with the DSO in the fall of 2008, he is actively participating in artistic and strategic planning beginning immediately. “We are already making significant plans for future seasons,” he said. “Next season I will lead five subscription weeks, and the year following, one-half of the orchestras’ concerts, as we develop our sound and image together. We will also continue the tremendous educational activities already in place and institute new initiatives as well.”

One of Leonard’s most successful projects at the National Symphony has been the National Conducting Institute, a program which has had an incalculable impact on conductors and their orchestras all over the world. I hope he’ll continue to share his experience and insights with young conductors at the DSO.

I haven’t caught a DSO concert in a long time, but Jarvi’s hallmark is usually to build orchestras that work very fast to a superb technical standard. Leonard shouldn’t have to do a lot of “orchestra building,” but I think he has a fantastic opportunity make the orchestra a central part of healing a troubled city. No American conductor understands social trends, political issues and community moods better than Leonard- could he make the DSO the American equivalent of Rattle’s City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra? How exciting would it be to see an orchestra at the heart of an effort to redefine  and reinvigorate one of the great American metropolitan areas….

Congrats, Leonard.

Official Detroit Symphony Press Release

Detroit Symphony Welcomes Leonard Slatkin slide show (wmv)

Leonard Slatkin Official Website

National Conducting Institute


UPDATE- Of course, Leonard was also recently appointed principal guest of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and they have already announced that he will create a new conducting program there similar to the NCI. More here

 UPDATE II- More detail from the Washington Post here and here.

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American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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10 comments on “Slatkin to Detroit”

  1. Kenneth Woods

    Well…. I think any conductor has to be a survival artist. It’s a hugely competitive and difficult field, full of politics and blood sport.

    NSO has appointed Ivan Fischer as Music Advisor- Ivan is one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever known and he’ll bring tremendous skill and experience to NSO.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see something like Ormandy’s tenure in Philly again- no matter who well matched, conductor’s and orchestra’s need change and room to grow. i think everyone in Washington, including Leonard, felt it was a good time to move ahead.


  2. Jeffrey Biegel

    With the great wealth of American music and living composers, and the history of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s dedication to this repertoire, who better than leonard Slatkin to pave the way for the DSO into the 21st century! I personally loved working with Leonard in our upcoming Leroy Anderson cd collaboration. More than that, he’s a mensch and wonderful human being. Lucky Detroit!

  3. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Jeffery

    Great to hear from you. Congrats on the Leroy Anderson disc- I know that is very close to Leonard’s heart.

    All best


  4. composerbastard

    …i think everyone in Washington, including Leonard, felt it was a good time to move ahead…

    With due respect to what you received from him and the NSO, I feel sometimes these PR spins are only half the story. I wonder what NSO members are really thinking….

    We need a well respected reporter like Rita Skeeter to get to the REAL truth if you ask me!

  5. Reid

    I don’t think you can underestimate his ability to make the orchestra part of the cultural landscape of the city. He was huge in St. Louis even outside of the “classical scene”. I think Detroit is lucky to have him, and he can do a lot with the band and the city.

    Lucky stiff.

  6. composerbastard

    St. Louis orchestra during his tenure was 60% empty, although financially they were able to pull in some supporting cash from corporate sponsors who bought large sections of seats – like IBM.

    Thats not his fault, of course…

    Detroit? I couldn’t think of a worse city. Detroit has the highest number of people and business migrating AWAY from that area in the whole country. He’s not a miracle worker.

    Hmmm…I just thought of a new sports show on cable – conductor wrestling…each week two conductors battle it out in the mud for their city. This week MTT vs. Leonard

  7. Reid

    His St.L cult of personality was important, especially in light of the struggles the orchestra went through after his departure for National. He reminded America that it should care about the SLSO, and made _St. Louis_ proud of its orchestra again. Slatkin put SLSO (back) on the map.

  8. Kenneth Woods

    Well said, Reid.

    I think giving up on Detroit (the city) would be foolish- Cincinnati has largely come back to life in the last 10 years, with a huge investment in culture and quality of life. It’s post-industrial low cost of living has become a boon- that and the university and the orchestra has made it a magnet for new business and investment (still a lot of work to be done in education and social relations, however). Detroit could do the same, and Leonard has the skills to put the orchestra at the center of that, as well as bringing so much to the table musically.


  9. ComposerBastard

    Mark my soothsayers voice…I read tealeaves quite well…

    Theres a bear market a comin’…they must be payin’ Slatkin quite hansomly for this one…

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