Dunner's ASO firing is upheld

Board affirms conductor's ouster

reason still unclear

January 22, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's board of trustees has reaffirmed its decision not to extend musical director Leslie B. Dunner's contract beyond this season.

Board members would not comment after a special meeting Jan. 15 to discuss Dunner's dismissal, but ASO President Fred H. "Bud" Billups released a statement stating that the board backed last fall's controversial decision by a unanimous vote.

He also stated that the board would support Dunner, 47, if he pursues another job.

Billups shed little additional light on what prompted Dunner's ouster, stating only that the reasons are "personnel issues solely relating to administrative matters."

Billups said in November that Dunner was let go because it was time for a change after his five years as maestro. He also noted declining symphony subscriptions. But Billups later acknowledged that Dunner was let go for other unspecified reasons. Trustees last week apparently discussed disagreements between Dunner and symphony officials over his power in deciding what soloists to hire. The dismissal was not related to any misconduct, board vice chairman Hunter Calloway said yesterday.

"We hope it's finished," Calloway said.

Dunner's dismissal caused an uproar in the city's arts community. The dissent started two months ago when the symphony - at Billups' suggestion - opted not to renew Dunner's contract for the 2003-2004 season.

In response, nearly two-thirds of the symphony's contracted musicians sent letters objecting to the move, more than 75 members of the arts community signed a protest letter, and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer expressed displeasure. One board member resigned, and seven of the 33 trustees called for a special session, prompting the Jan. 15 meeting.

The special meeting was intended, Billups previously said, to present a united front to the community.

Dunner, who was hired in 1998 as the symphony's first African-American maestro, declined to comment as he left the meeting, and he did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

Efforts to change the decision appear to be over.

Carole Falk, who helped organize a letter-writing campaign among former board members and donors, said yesterday, "I don't see what else we could possibly do at this point.

"Obviously they don't agree with us. I find that disappointing and rather astonishing."

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