Cleveland Orchestra CEO Looks Ahead To 2020

A close up of trumpets with the Cleveland Orchestra.
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ENCOURAGING NUMBERS: The Cleveland Orchestra will start 2020 on firmer financial footing. The orchestra issued its annual report earlier this week, showing a balanced budget and growing base of patrons. CEO Andre Gremillet was particularly proud of the audience numbers.

“We now reach more people than ever,” he said. “So, as opposed to having a small number of people who buy all the tickets in the hall, you now have more people who buy fewer tickets. And I think the impact because of that is greater. We touched the lives of more people than we ever did a couple years ago."

Andre Gremillet [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

EVOLUTION OF MIAMI RESIDENCY: Since 2007, the orchestra has played three or four-week annual residencies in Miami. More recently, the Florida stay was reduced to a couple of weekends, and Gremillet says it was a prudent financial move.

“I think we were very reliant on a small group of donors, and I think that's something always to be to be careful with,” he said. “But the other piece is: markets evolve and you need to adapt to the way markets evolve. We remain committed to Miami. It's a really interesting market. We've developed a wonderful audience and we're looking at how we build for the future. But, two weeks right now is that is the right time in Miami."

CHANGES IN WAKE OF #METOO: A little over a year ago, the orchestra fired its concertmaster, William Preucil, and principal trombonist, Massimo LaRosa, following accusations of sexual misconduct. Gremillet says the musicians haven’t been replaced yet due to a process with the local musicians union. Auditions for replacements will follow the completion of the union process. In the meantime, he says orchestra management has established new policies and procedures to promote a healthy work environment for musicians.

“We've put in a special anonymous line that people can use, if need be; talking to people, letting them know,” he said. “We've done sexual harassment training, for example, and we've been really communicating with everybody internally to make it clear that if anything of this sort were to happen in the future, we want to know about it, and we will act upon it.”

DIVERSITY INITIATIVE: Gremillet says the orchestra is nurturing the growth of musicians of color in the classical music industry.

“This entire community is diverse and should be reflected in the concert hall in the way that it's not currently,” he said. “We have a very good community engagement committee of the board that's doing great work. We are looking at developing, this year, a fellowship program aimed at African-American and Latinx musicians who are on the verge of a major career with great orchestras, but have not yet made it. And we think that we can make an impact in the industry and ultimately in Cleveland.

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KEEPING FRANZ WELSER-MÖST: The orchestra recently extended the contract of its music director, which will boost his tenure to 25 years. Gremillet says there are many artistic projects that Franz and the orchestra want to do together, including the works of well-known composers, as well as composers that are not as well-known as they should be.

"But, we're also talking about some recording projects that we will be making over the coming years, which is the first time in quite a few years that we are making audio recordings as a way to promote the orchestra, promote Cleveland and the partnership between Franz and the orchestra," he said.

An earlier version of this story said the orchestra was focused on diversifying its staff. It’s been updated to clarify Gremillet’s comment that the focus will be on diversity in the industry through a fellowship program.​

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