An SOS from Sinfonia Suburbia

A composite case study, presented here for your edification.

Subject: Sinfonia Suburbia

Dear Maestro Woods-

I do hope it is okay that I am writing to  you directly, rather than to your agent. My name is Elizabeth Herzschmertz (please call me Lib), and I am the new manager of the Sinfonia Suburbia. I’m writing to you because our long time music director, Maestro Will Dropschlagen has had to step down in order to devote his full energies to his teaching position at the University of East Suburbia.  We’re now having to fill this year’s concert season with guest conductors.

We’ve heard wonderful things about your work from a number of our musicians who have worked for you in the Philharmonia Commutica. I know it’s terribly late notice, but would you by any chance be available on the 1st of October for a concert at Tinnitus Hall? The originally scheduled repertoire would be Messiaen’s Turangalila with Marc-Andre Hamelin and Mahler’s Seventh Symphony.

If you’re not available on the 1st of October, perhaps you could suggest another date out of the seven alternates on the attached spreadsheet?

In addition to whatever your standard fee is, we’d pay for one first class round trip plane ticket and four nights in the West Suburbia Hilton.

We would be so excited to have you conduct our little orchestra!

Thanks tons

Lib xx


Subject: RE: Sinfonia Suburbia

Dear Maestro Woods

Thank you for coming back to us so quickly. I’m sorry to hear you can’t do the October 1st date, but we understand that your debut at Convent Garden must be a very important event for you. I’ve never heard opera outdoors before- it must be really nice to play music in a garden setting.  Is the convent still active? I went to Catholic School for 3 years when my family lived in Alabama.  I hope it’s not too cold in October in London- my husband tells me that Tristen and Isabel is a very long piece.

It’s great you can do all of the other seven dates.  We’ve got an artistic planning committee meeting next week, so I’ll get back to you with a confirmed date by next Wednesday at the very, very latest.

Hugs from West Suburbia

Lib x

PS- I’m really embarrassed about this, but I guess I didn’t realize that Cardiff isn’t in America. My board chair asked me to ask you if you would be okay to fly coach when you come? I wouldn’t even ask, but we hadn’t budgeted for any travel for conductors next year since Maestro Dropschlagen lives in East Suburbia. Thx.


Subect: RE RE Sinfonia Suburbia

Dear Ken

I’m sorry not to have written sooner- I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since our artistic committee meeting!

Are you still available for our February 29th concert? The program would be

Shostakovich- Symphony no. 9

Rachmaninoff- Piano Concerto no. 2 with Evgeny Kissin

Stravinsky- Rite of Spring

Also- I hate to bother you with this, but could you send along a CV I can pass around to members of our board?

One last thing! Please feel free to say no, but would you be willing to do a home stay while you’re in town?

All best wishes




Subect: RE RE RE Sinfonia Suburbia

Hi Ken

Thanks for checking in. I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since you confirmed your availability for Feb 29th.

I’m afraid I have to let you in on an embarrassing problem- our board chair invited Ka Ching, the new assistant conductor at the Philharmonica Metropolitana , to conduct the February 29 concert without realizing I’d already invited you. I know we asked you first and you’ve been holding the date for us for six weeks now, but Ka Ching’s agent also represents a couple of our soloists and we’re concerned they might withdraw if we withdrew the engagement from him.

Did I ask you if you can do October 1st? I’ve got you listed as available for the other seven dates this year, but those have all been filled since we last spoke.

Warm regards

Elizabeth H

PS- A number of musicians in the orchestra have popped in the offices this week to ask if you’d be interested in the Music Director position. We’d certainly like to avoid a public search if we can avoid it. Can you look at the attached draft job description and let me know if you would be interested. With the players so excited to work with you, maybe we could simply make October 1st a celebration of your appointment? Let me know if there’s any thing I can do to make the position appealing!



Subect: RE RE RE RE Sinfonia Suburbia

Hi KEn

Whoops- I forgot about your opera in the monastery thing in October. Good idea to swap dates with Ka Ching. His agent tells me he is free on October 1st.

Thank you

Elizabeth Herzschmertz



Subect: RE RE  RE RE RE Sinfonia Suburbia

Dear Maestro Woods-

Thanks for getting in touch. I can’t believe it’s been five weeks since your email! We’ve all been very busy getting the brochure together for this year. I’m very sorry to inform you that Maestro Ka Ching is unable to swap to October 1st with you. Although his agent had told us he was free that day, Ka Ching feels that there is not enough time for him to learn the Messiaen before October 1, especially as he has never conducted any Mahler before.

I’m really sorry it’s not going to work for this year, but all the other subscription dates have been filled. We could offer you the March repeat of our Lollipops program we’re doing with our student conducting assistant in February because he’s taking midterms that week, but I’m afraid it only pays $500.

We all feel very bad about the mix up with dates, so we’d like to offer you first choice of dates next season.  I’ve attached a list of provisional dates at Tinnitus Hall. Please let me know your preferred date and an alternate- not that you’ll need it! You’ve earned first dibs!

All best

Elizabeth J Herzschmertz


Sinfonia Suburbia


Subect: RE RE RE RE RE RE Sinfonia Suburbia

Hello Kenneth

Wow- I can’t believe it’s already January. Thank you for your message back in August confirming your availability for Sept 25 and March 1st next season. We’re really excited to work with you. Can you hold Sept 25th for us, please? We don’t want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary for you to work with our great musicians.

Just one thing- the board have decided on having a search season of music director candidates next year. It’s just a formality, because so many of our musicians are so keen to work with you, but could you send an updated CV and a letter of interest so we can officially designate you an applicant for the position?

Elizabeth  J Herzschmerz

Executive and Artistic Director

Sinfonia Suburia




Dear Applicant

Thank you for your interest in the position of Music Director at the Sinfonia Suburbia. We are delighted at the level of interest in this position- to date we have received over 300 applications from all over the world.

Our records show your application is incomplete. Please review the application checklist below and submit the outstanding materials within 72 hours

  • Letter of application- received
  • Curriculum vitae- received
  • List of references- missing
  • Essay explaining your programming philosophy- missing
  • 5 year vision for Sinfonia Suburbia- missing
  • 6 sample Subscription programs- missing
  • 3 sample Lollipops programs- missing
  • 4 Young People’s Concerts programs- missing
  • 20 minute video including excerpts of four contrasting works, including at least one             oboe concerto by a woman or other minority composer and one work by Francaix-             missing
  • Recent video or audio recording (video preferred) of a preconcert talk- missing
  • A criminal background check- missing
  • Evidence of medical insurance- missing

Materials should be uploaded via ftps to the secure file transfer link at

Please do not respond to this email or phone the office, as we cannot address individual applicant questions.



Subject: Application Complete

Dear Applicant-

Thank you for your interest in Sinfonia Suburbia. Our search committee is now vetting applications and will choose the candidates who best meet the needs of the Sinfonia, it’s audience, patrons and community

Please do not respond to this email.



Subject: RE September 25

Hey Ken!

Thanks for your messages. I know you’ve been holding September 25th for 9 months now- I’m sorry it is taking so long to confirm the date.

I know you’ve had other offers for that date, and I feel like I owe you an answer, but because of this whole “search” thing,  I’m not in a position to “officially” confirm, but I’m sure it won’t be a problem. I really hope you can hold the date just a little longer. September 25th is the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of West Suburbia, and we would like this to be a celebration concert featuring Mahler’s Symphony of 1000.

If you can hold the date just a little longer, that would be great!


Lib x



Dear Mr Woods

The members of the committee are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as one of ten semi-finalists for the position of Music Director of Sinfonia Suburbia.

In order to assess your interest and qualifications further, the committee would like you to answer the following questions:

1-    What are your strengths and weaknesses?

2-    How do you feel about using local soloists?

3-    Would you be willing to relocate to West Suburbia?

4-    How would you feel about Sinfonia Suburbia offering a season dedicated entirely to film scores?

Please upload your answers to our server by this Friday at 5 PM

Pending receipt of your answers, members of the search committee will be calling your references on Tuesday the 7th between 6 and 7 PM EST.

Applicants are advised that we are unable to respond to messages sent to this email address.


Subject: Application complete

Dear Applicant

Your application for the position of Music Director is now complete. Your references will be called on Tuesday the 7th between 6 and 7 PM on the numbers you provided in your application. Please advise referees to be available during this time- it is not possible to reschedule reference calls.


Subject: Music Director Application Status

Dear Applicant

The Sinfonia Suburbia has narrowed its field of candidate for our music directorship from ten to five. Your application is no longer under consideration.  The members of the committee have worked meticulously to identify the candidates who are best qualified to lead the Sinfonia going forward, and it was determined that you were not among the best qualified.

We are sorry, but because of the large number of applications, we are unable to provide feedback on the reasons for our decision. Please do not respond to this email or call the office.

Sinfonia Suburbia Search Committee


Subject- Reference Calls

Dear Mr Wood

I received your email asking why your references were not called at the scheduled time on Tuesday the 7th. I’m sorry it’s taken over six months to write back.  Apparently at the committee meeting the night before the calls were to be made, someone on the committee flagged up that you were based in the UK part of the year, and we felt that this meant you would not be a good fit for our orchestra.

I’m sorry if any of your referees were inconvenienced. Please feel free to pass on our regrets to Mr Saltking for making him miss his son’s little league tournament, and to Mr Haltink for driving into the office from home to wait for our call. It was very considerate of him to allow an extra two hours in case something had gone wrong.

Elizabeth J Herzschmertz MMc DPD LPDc

Senior Managing and Executive Artistic and Administrative Director

Sinfonia Suburbia


Subject: Support a Super Season with the SS!

Dear Music Lover

2011-12 is shaping up to be a real Super Season for the Sinfonia Suburbia under the baton of our new Music Director David Dazzle-Herzschmertz. David is just 23 years old and has just come back from a great summer studying at Aspen.  This is going to be the best season ever for the SS- a Super Season! Support the SS today and get a a one year membership to Club SS, including a subscription to our Friends of the SS Newsletter.

We’ll see you in Tinnitus Hall on September 25th!

Donate today and show your love for the SS!




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About the author

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.

Learn about Kenneth at

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3 comments on “An SOS from Sinfonia Suburbia”

  1. Elizabeth J Herzschmertz

    Dear Mr Woods

    I have been fired by the Sinfonia Suburbia. Do you know of an orchestra with an open position for a Senior Managing and Executive Artistic and Administrative Director?

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