SLO Symphony invites Nowak back as guest conductor

July 7, 2015

Michael Nowak 2Ousted San Luis Obispo Symphony conductor Michael Nowak has the opportunity to lead three concerts in the upcoming 2015-2016 season.

The symphony board fired Nowak in May and has since faced outcry from the public, as well as members of the orchestra. The symphony board and the orchestra made a joint decision to offer Nowak the role of guest conductor, according to a press release issued by the nonprofit SLO Symphony on Monday.

Nowak has yet to respond to the offer, the news release states. The Tribune reported Nowak has only until Thursday to decide

Prior to Nowak’s firing, he 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.

A board member who spoke to CalCoastNews on the condition of anonymity said the dispute between the board and Nowak was over artistic differences.

In response to the announcement of Nowak’s firing, the entire violist section threatened to leave the orchestra. Musicians later issued a press release stating the orchestra as a whole could no longer work with the board.

But, hours of discussion and meetings took place between the symphony board and a representative group of musicians, according to the news release issued by the nonprofit on Monday. The two sides agreed to produce a full schedule of concerts for the 2015-2016 season.

Orchestra members and symphony staff are conducting a nationwide search for guest conductors to lead concerts. A New Year’s Eve Pops concert at the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center will replace the annual Pops by the Sea event that was scheduled to take place in Avila Beach on Sept. 6.

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I get that the conductor is a silent metronome so that everybody plays the right notes at the right times, and the flourish is part of the show (think Circus Vargas last weekend). Everything behind the scenes is “inside-baseball”. I’d be more concerned if the musicians, rather than the board, had a problem.

I read in this that Nowak and the musicians all finally CAVED IN and they’ll play the season. That means the jerkwater board prevailed. I’m sorry to hear that; I was hoping for Nowak and musicians to start a new one with financial infrastructure, and let the board that fired him be left with no more decisions except what color paper to print their board shut down notice on.

“jerkwater”? I truly thought I had heard them all, a few new to the cultural lexicon excepted. I shrug off almost all insults and direct attention to the real issue at hand, but “jerkwater” might trip me up.

To explain, My use of “jerkwater” was to convey dramatic disdain for the board action, and the MANNER in which they did it. It was not meant as an “insult”, it was an operational definition, written to be deeply negative. That board pulled a nearly Iron’s level action.

As to Msgr. Nowak: A conductor is not a “silent metronome”; he/she is generally the heart of good music, every bit as much and more as the principal violin or french horn (favorite instruments to my ear, after a Strat).

A good conductor I believe puts up with some talented, sometimes high strung (awful pun, I know) musicians. Musicians can be challenging but are priceless when you need them. I used to figuratively kiss certain parts of a lady keyboardist’s anatomy when I had a business that needed live, not canned mood music for events. That lady could sight read, play from memory, take requests and also accompany, drown out and sweeten up the most awful client members’ attempt singing at a microphone. Her annual bonus was five figures and it could be said she was more important to most events than I was. I think she knew more music than

Nowak appears to have been in that elevated and valuable category, and was improperly and unwisely dismissed. JMHO

He probably won’t do it.

If they really want him back, why not just ask him to come back as permanent conductor? Anything less seems like smoke and mirrors, and frankly rather insulting.

At face value this seems to be a path back in. Only Nowak knows whats is and best for music.

Like divorcing your wife and then asking her to come with you to that wedding and family reunion that’s on the calendar.