Edwards, ASO's top executive, leaving She will continue in post until June 1

January 14, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Patricia Edwards, executive director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra for the past nine years, has submitted her resignation to the orchestra's board of directors.

Ms. Edwards, 58, told the board she will continue as the symphony's chief executive through June 1.

"Our orchestra is in place," she said in an interview last week. "We have a fine reputation here and elsewhere. We have a loyal and devoted following and a board that provides wonderfully enthusiastic support. Our education program is off to an excellent start.

"With these things happening, I feel it's time for me to leave and allow the orchestra to bring in a more business-oriented person to oversee its affairs."

The ASO's artistic profile has risen dramatically during Ms. Edwards' tenure. Creditable performances of the most challenging works in the orchestral repertoire -- even the sprawling, emotionally complex symphonies of Gustav Mahler -- have been given under the direction of conductor Gisele Ben-Dor and her predecessor, Peter Bay.

Ms. Ben-Dor's international recording career has taken off during her four-plus seasons in Annapolis.

Concert attendance is up significantly, and the overall quality of soloists has risen steadily in recent seasons.

The orchestra's reputation also has grown during the Edwards years. When Mr. Bay departed, there were more than 250 applicants eager to take his place.

"She has truly been the builder," said Anna Greenberg, a former ASO board president who asked Ms. Edwards to assume administrative control of the orchestra nine years ago.

"She's the one who made the symphony known to Annapolis and to the greater community," Ms. Greenberg said.

"She was the one who went to the workshops run by the American Symphony Orchestra League and came back with wonderful ideas for us to try.

"Pat told me what to do, and I did it," she said.

Ms. Edwards and her husband, Arthur, have donated money and even the use of their home to the orchestra, Ms. Greenberg said. "We are tremendously indebted to both of them," she said.

Mitchell Nathanson, president of the ASO board, called Ms. Edwards "a charming, delightful person who has professionalized all of us."

Ms. Edwards told the board in September of her plans to resign but did not make them public until last week.

Mr. Nathanson said the board will look for candidates with strong backgrounds in management and financial development to replace Ms. Edwards.

As the ASO's artistic fortunes have risen, its financial position has declined.

Public funds for the arts have dried up, and the ASO's annual operating budget has dropped from $420,000 to $374,000 over the past two seasons.

In November, the players voted by secret ballot to unionize, ensuring that the new executive director will become a collective bargainer as well as an administrator and fund-raiser.

A five-member search committee has started to sift through the resumes arriving at the orchestra's headquarters at Maryland Hall.

Mr. Nathanson said he expects the full 30-member board to make its choice within a few months so the new executive director can work alongside Ms. Edwards during her final months on the job.

"It'll be nice to bring someone on board while Pat's still around," Mr. Nathanson said, "because she conveys so beautifully the sensitivity needed to make the symphony work."

Mr. Nathanson said that raising money is important but that there are other issues Ms. Edwards deals with, such as taking care of the needs of a visiting soloist or guest conductor, and finding the humidifier or dehumidifier to protect delicate wooden instruments.

"Replacing her will be very, very difficult indeed," he said.

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