New chairman set to fine-tune orchestra ‘gem’
The new chairman of the board of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra wants everyone to know what a gem we have in this group of musicians.
“It’s amazing that a small community like ours can have this level of artistic talent,” said Ken Barber, who was named chairman two weeks ago. “Musicians choose to come here from all over Florida, the east coast and the north because of the reputation of this orchestra.”
Barber has been a board member for two years and served as its treasurer this past year. His background in corporate finance gives him an unusual perspective as chairman. He spent 22 years with IBM as controller of two of the company’s divisions, vice president of finance for an IBM subsidiary, senior vice president of finance for Tandem Computers, and CFO of Internet search company Alta Vista.
At a time when many symphony orchestras are declaring bankruptcy, Barber intends to focus on serving customers, growing the orchestra’s audience and increasing monetary support.
“Ticket revenue generates less than half of what’s needed to support the orchestra,” said Barber. “Our present and future is dependent on our contributors.”
Having a top-notch symphony orchestra costs money, for everything from hiring good musicians to buying music.
Barber’s first priority, however, is hiring a new music director to replace Maestro Francis T. Wada, who will retire after his final concert March 23 for health reasons. The search is now down to three finalists: Roderick MacDonald, who conducted a classical concert on Nov. 12; Matthew Wardell, who conducted a Christmas concert on Dec. 9 and a classical concert on Jan. 12; and Raffaele Ponti, who will conduct a classical concert on Feb. 16.
After each concert, the musicians and audience members vote on their impressions of the guest conductor. Results will be tabulated and the new maestro will be announced at Wada’s final concert March 23.
In Wada’s three years as maestro, he has set a tone and standard that will be difficult to match, said Barber. Wada is expert at connecting with the audience and getting them involved. Wada himself found the candidates through his connections. Barber said all three finalists are excellent choices, and it will be interesting to see whom is selected.
On March 25, the orchestra will have a farewell party for Wada at Isles Yacht Club. It will be a tribute to all he has done for the CSO, Barber said.
“Most of our audience has lived elsewhere before coming to Punta Gorda, and they are familiar with other orchestras. They know that what we have here in the CSO is special,” said Barber.
Tickets for Wada’s final concert are nearly sold out. To purchase tickets or become a sponsor, call the CSO at 941-205-5996.