Annapolis Symphony in transition As director leaves, community orchestra faces tough challenges.

January 26, 1996

An editorial in The Sun for Anne Arundel Friday should have listed the conductor of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra as Gisele Ben-Dor. The Sun regrets the error.

THE HISTORY OF the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra from its founding in 1962 has been one of steady artistic growth. There was never any question about the great ambitions of this community orchestra. A year after it was formed, it gave a joint concert with the Annapolis Choral Society. And whereas the orchestra initially included high school students, along with members of the U.S. Naval Academy Band and other players, today it boasts a degree of professionalism that has helped it win recognition and acclaim far beyond Maryland's borders.

Among persons instrumental in its early development was Leon Fleisher. Having an established reputation nationally and internationally as a conductor and pianist, he was its demanding music director. To make sure that the orchestra lived up to his expectations, he recruited a number of musicians from Baltimore's acclaimed Peabody Institute.


Many others have made important contributions to build the Annapolis Symphony into what it is today. Chief among them is Patricia Edwards, who has been the orchestra's executive director for the past nine years. She recently announced she will leave that post June 1.

Reflecting on her tenure, Ms. Edwards enumerated the orchestra's strengths. Nevertheless, she said, "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."

This is a frank assessment of the Annapolis Symphony's situation. Artistically, it is a solid organization, with a new conductor, Mark Allen McCoy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about financial backing.

Shaky finances is a problem shared by most American symphony orchestras these days, perhaps with the exception of the Chicago Symphony. As the threatened closure of the San Diego Symphony in California illustrates, an orchestra cannot operate on the basis of ticket revenues alone. When major donations fail to materialize, disaster strikes.

The departure of Ms. Edwards should lead to some soul-searching among Anne Arundel businesses and philanthropists. For all these years, the Annapolis Symphony has added an invaluable dimension to life in the county. People can demonstrate their appreciation by keeping the organization financially strong.

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