Bruce Ridge  

How to Hire a Boss

Bruce Ridge
December 18, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Bruce Ridge, bassist with the North Carolina Symphony and President of ICSOM, served as the Chair of his orchestra's Search committee when they were looking for a new Music Director. Bruce has agreed to share his expertise in this area, and to solicit articles from other orchestras with innovative Music Director Search stories to tell.
In this introductory article, Bruce explains the elements he believes are essential to a successful Music Director search, and describes the additional topics he plans to cover in his column.

- Ann Drinan

This article first appeared in the July 2004 edition (volume 42, #3) of Senza Sordino, the official publication of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM).

The North Carolina Symphony's three-year international Music Director search came to a successful conclusion in January with the announcement that Grant Llewellyn, who is also Artistic Director of Boston's Handel and Haydn Society, would become the fifth Music Director in the orchestra's 72-year history.

This announcement followed what was designed to be the most inclusive search that could be run by a symphony orchestra. All of the constituencies involved in our orchestra had a voice in this process, including the musicians, the staff, the Board, and our audiences. We believe that this process and its result has the entire community involved with and excited about the future of our orchestra. The press has been supportive throughout the entire search, and our announcement was carried in newspapers from Kansas City to Wales, with unprecedented coverage for the orchestra locally in all of the region's major papers and on numerous web sites.

Our process began with a clause negotiated into our contract describing the structure of a Search committee. The eight-member committee would be comprised of four representatives from the management and Board, and four musicians from the orchestra. The four musicians were elected by a secret ballot of the orchestra. The chair of the committee would be appointed by the Society's Board Chairperson.

Robert Doherty, our Board chair at the time, asked me to chair the Music Director Search in the summer of 2001. We believe that this marked just the second time that a musician from within the orchestra has chaired such a search in an ICSOM orchestra, San Antonio having been the first.

The eight-member committee (consisting of musicians Robert Anderson, Michael Cyzewski, and Elizabeth Lunsford, and myself, as well as President and CEO David Chambless Worters, General Manager Scott Freck, Board member Edward Woolner, and Chancellor James Moeser of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) then embarked on a thorough research process. We investigated well over 200 conductors, gradually narrowing to a group of 12 who would be invited to appear in Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. We established one rule: that we would need to see a conductor at least twice before we made a decision. The research began after we created a "profile" of the person we were hoping to find. This profile was developed by surveying the orchestra, the staff, and the Board, and by soliciting audience suggestions.

With input from everyone involved with the organization, from musician surveys to audience responses, we arrived at a list of four "finalists" but, after Maestro Llewellyn's return appearance in November of 2003, it was clear to us that we had found our next Music Director. The Board unanimously accepted the equally unanimous recommendation of the Search committee, and Mr. Llewellyn's appointment was announced to much acclaim throughout the region.

A remarkable level of open communication existed between all of these constituencies throughout the Search process. Our management was always open to the involvement of the musicians, and the relationship between the orchestra and the Board has been strengthened in a very authentic way. We all believe that this strengthened relationship will help the organization achieve its shared goals for the future, both in artistic achievement and community service.

The North Carolina Symphony is a unique orchestra in the ways that we serve a large community throughout a large state. As we travel around this community, we are always introduced as "Your North Carolina Symphony." Our audiences feel a sense of ownership, and there is a renewed excitement about their orchestra these days. This announcement follows the opening of our beautiful new home, Meymandi Concert Hall, and the Regency Park Amphitheatre, which serves as our home for Summerfest. With an ambitious management, a unified and strong group of musicians, and now with our new Music Director, we are all looking forward to a very exciting time for the North Carolina Symphony.


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