Orchestra Nova cancels October concerts, conductor Jung-Ho Pak resigns

From Orchestra NOVA reports

Orchestra Nova San Diego announced Oct. 17 the cancellation of its Nova Classics series

Amadeus in Concert,

due to an impasse in negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union and the resignation of its artistic director and conductor, Jung-Ho Pak, this week.

The opening concerts were scheduled for October 20, 21 and 22 in Qualcomm Hall-Sorrento Valley, the California Center of the Arts Escondido and at Sherwood Auditorium-La Jolla.

After a highly successful 2011-2012 season of sold-out concerts under the leadership of Pak, a visionary whose revolutionary artistic model for classical music has been embraced by a diverse San Diego demographic, the orchestra’s board of directors and administration are evaluating options for the future of the organization.

“Our guests have always been our highest priority,” said CEO Beverly Lambert. “Knowing that the AFM union recently called a strike against the Chicago Symphony just two hours before a concert, leaving ticket holders in a hall with no concert, we realized we were vulnerable to the same action. In an effort to protect our guests and minimize financial risk, we asked the union for a no-strike commitment in exchange for a no-lockout commitment from Nova — for the October concerts only. The union declined that offer and we decided it was in the best interest of our ticket holders and guest artists to cancel the October concerts. The risk of a last-minute strike was of great concern to us.”

Orchestra Nova San Diego’s artistic director and conductor Jung-Ho Pak announced that he is stepping down after six years of musical and strategic leadership, effective immediately. Jung-Ho joined the orchestra in 2006 when it was known as the San Diego Chamber Orchestra. Since that time, he has transformed the orchestra into one of the most innovative and entertaining music experiences in San Diego, demonstrating a fresh and open approach to making classical music entertaining, emotional and relevant to today’s audiences and selling out nearly all of its performances last season.

“Our single purpose was to connect people with great music in an entertaining and surprising way,” said Jung-Ho Pak, artistic director and conductor of Orchestra Nova. “By bringing to life the unexpected relationships between beautiful classical music and things they enjoy in their everyday lives - like movies, technology, and food - we gave people a new way to inspire their senses. I want to thank the musicians for sharing some very special moments with me onstage. I believe that we have set a new standard for how a professional orchestra can connect with its audience. Our exceptional staff and board have worked so hard and with so much enthusiasm, that their sacrifice and dedication will last me a lifetime.”

Under his leadership, the

Nova Experience

became a buzzword throughout the county. Nova guests were immersed in theme-based activities, including food and exciting participatory entertainment, from the minute they entered into the lobby. These activities set the stage for the evening’s performance inside the hall which included creative programming, beautiful music, multimedia presentations and unique interaction with Pak.

“The entire Nova team has been passionate about what began as Jung-Ho’s vision but quickly became the Nova vision,” said Lambert. “We will miss him terribly, but we wish him only the best. He is a true visionary and we have been blessed by his leadership. I have no doubt that he will become one of the most influential leaders in the world of classical music and in music education – one of his passions – in the years to come.”

Leslie Mittanck, Orchestra Nova’s board chair, said, “With numerous well-regarded orchestras around the country in financial crisis, it is apparent that an innovative approach to delivering classical music to a new generation is necessary. Likewise, a new model for its business management must be employed in order to achieve financial sustainability and success with audiences. Our sold-out season last year was confirmation that we, through Jung-Ho Pak’s creativity and vision, had hit upon the right approach. We created a product that people wanted.”

Mittanck continued, “It was becoming increasingly challenging for Orchestra Nova to fulfill our goals and strategies, due to a union contract that prevented us from choosing the musicians we hired. The union contract required us to offer employment to the same musicians every year, but allowed them to opt out of as many performances as they desired – as often happened when a more lucrative job was available. That one-way commitment was becoming increasingly problematic for us, and was the issue that resulted in the impasse. We need flexibility to hire the union musicians we desire for each concert; the union wants a guarantee that we would offer contracts to the same musicians year after year. So far, we have an irreconcilable difference. When we could not be certain that we would have musicians for the October concert series, we really had no option but the terrible one of cancellation.”

Mittanck added, “By the way, with regard to compensation, we respect the musicians and want to support them financially as much as possible within the parameters of prudent fiscal management of our organization. In fact, we offered them a pay increase of 15 percent over the next three years (5 percent a year), an increase that is extremely rare in today’s fiscally depressed arts world. That offer was rejected.”