SLO Symphony calls off Pops by the Sea

June 22, 2015

Michael Nowak 2The annual Pops by the Sea concert will not take place this year as the San Luis Obispo Symphony sorts out its personnel problems stemming from the recent firing of conductor Michael Nowak. [Tribune]

Pops by The Sea is traditionally held on Labor Day weekend. The concert was scheduled to take place Sept. 6 at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, and it would have been the kickoff for the symphony’s 2015-2016 season.

“The orchestra, board and staff will use the time normally spent preparing for Pops by the Sea to collaborate closely on the presentation of our 2015-2016 concert season,” Edmund Feingold, executive director of the symphony, said in a news release.

Last month, the symphony board fired Nowak, who had spent 31 years as the symphony’s conductor. The board did not publicly state a reason for the firing, and it announced the decision by way of a press release prior to notifying the musicians.

In response to the announcement of Nowak’s firing, the entire violist section threatened to leave the orchestra, and musicians later sent out a press release stating the symphony as a whole could no longer work with the board. Symphony donors and supporters also questioned Nowak’s termination, and some have called for forming a new symphony.

On June 28, Nowak will conduct the newly formed New Hope Symphony in a concert involving about 60 of the SLO Symphony’s 76 musicians. The event is called Concert for Harmony, and it will take place at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande.

The SLO Symphony plans to hold a New Year’s Eve Pops concert in place of Pops by the Sea. It is scheduled to take place Dec. 31 at the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center.

JB Bronson

To SLO_Johnny:

Unless the Board that fired him can play music you want to hear, Nowak and his allies ARE the Symphony.


The inmates want to run the asylum. They would rather pull down the temple and blow it up instead of working to the build for a better future. Nowac and his allies think that they, alone, are the SLO Symphony.

Kevin Rice

Which photo and name is featured on the album cover of nearly every classical recording and news article: The chair of the board or the conductor?


The board wants to have guest conductors and road musicians perform the entire season, that wouldn’t be the SLO Symphony either.


Please help sign the petition to reinstate SLO’s beloved Maestro Michael Nowak:


I was really hoping that the board would participate in mediation with all of the parties involved in this unfortunate situation, and that apologies would be spoken and received with open hearts. I was always taught that this is what good people do.

I wonder why this hasn’t happened. Perhaps John Prine answered that in his song, “Some Humans Ain’t Human.”

Some Humans Ain’t Human

Some humans ain’t human

Some people ain’t kind

You open up their hearts

And here’s what you’ll find

A few frozen pizzas

Some ice cubes with hair

A broken popsicle

You don’t wanna go there

Some humans ain’t human

Though they walk like we do

They live and they breathe

Just to turn your old screw

They screw you when you’re sleeping

They try to screw you blind

Some humans ain’t human

Some people ain’t kind

You might go to church

You sit down in a pew

Those humans who ain’t human

Could be sittin’ right next to you

They talk about your family

They talk about your clothes

When they don’t know their own ass

From their own elbows

Jealousy and stupidity

Don’t equal harmony

Jealousy and stupidity

Don’t equal harmony

Have you ever noticed?

When you’re feeling really good

There’s always a pigeon

That’ll come shit on your hood

Or you’re feeling your freedom

And the world’s off your back

Some cowboy from Texas

Starts his own war in Iraq

Some humans ain’t human

Some people ain’t kind

They lie through their teeth

With their head up their behind

You open up their hearts

And here’s what you’ll find

Some humans ain’t human

Some people ain’t kind

“Some Humans Ain’t Human” is track #5 on the album Fair and Square. It was written by John Prine.


It’s the same SLOstory as the SLO city council. They shoulda never hired Lichtig, but they did, and all the department heads there when she arrived have left because of her. Like the city council, the symphony board just doesn’t get it.

Good luck, Michael, with the new group.


Did I miss something? I do not seem to recall Mr. Novak’s replies, rebuttals, angry/upset comments at his termination.

Usually when someone is unanimously let go (especially someone high-profile / long-term), and they are silent about it… either a big lawsuit is coming or it was a moral issue (sex, stealing, what have you).

Now I do not mean to say that this is what happened, but it just seems odd that the out-pouring of support for Mr. Novak and the Symphony is so great, but I didn’t see any self-defending remarks or op-ed pieces from Novak himself. I could have missed it (this isn’t really in my “wheelhouse” as it were).


r0y, Mr. Nowak appeared on the Dave Congalton radio program the week following his dismissal and will give you the context you are missing. A dearth of public comment does not equal silence.


Thanks for the info, I (obviously) missed Dave’s show. Also, I did not mean to say there has been silence, but that I really have not heard or read anything. Maybe CCN could request an Op-Ed from Mr. Nowak.

I figured I’d take heat for asking a question and not immediately jumping in with the support the conductor / hate the board mob, but I was understandably curious.

Rich in MB

Is the boars happy now????

What a disaster for the community.


Perhaps not, Rich. This could be the start of something beautiful and even better!

Maybe this was just a catalyst that was needed for something better than what was before?


After re-reading (which I did while waiting for it to post, unfortunately), I realize my reply is not communicating my intention. What I was trying to say, Rich, is that this terminating could be the start of something better: a NEW symphony, where Nowak has a more controlling roll or something. Maybe the catalyst was needed to dissolve this board? Anyway, sorry for the double-reply.


The board fired the wrong person. They should have fired executive director Ed Feingold who left the Monterey Symphony last summer after they failed to renew his contract.