With the cancellation of the three opening weeks of the San Diego Symphony fall season, symphony musicians are scrambling to find other performing opportunities. And some are clearly looking beyond the city limits for employment.
Principal contrabass player Peter Rofe signed a contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to play the whole season up north. When the Philharmonic plays Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony later this week, Rofe will be joined by French horn player John Lorge, another San Diego Symphony member. Ironically, the Bruckner series opens Oct. 23, the date on which the San Diego Symphony had been scheduled to open its 1986-87 season.
Violist Gary Syroid will be commuting to perform with the Orange County-based Pacific Symphony for the next several weeks--and longer, he admitted, if no agreement is reached between the orchestra management and Musicians’ Local 325. Other players joining the exodus of experienced musicians from San Diego that began with last spring’s orchestra crisis include acting principal trumpet Geoffrey Payne and violist Timothy Hale.
Payne joined the San Diego Symphony in May and was featured in the Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto with the San Diego Pops in early September. At music director David Atherton’s invitation, Payne took leave from Australia’s Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, where he was associate principal trumpet. Because of the current lockout and unpromising prospects for a reasonable settlement, Payne is returning to Melbourne today.
He cannot go home to his former job, however, “Because I already notified them I would be playing in San Diego this season, and they’ve hired someone else to fill my place. I’ll be lucky to find a job playing fourth trumpet somewhere,” he said ruefully.
Friday, at noon, he was donating his services, along with 11 other brass players, mainly from the symphony, in an outdoor concert in front of Civic Theatre. While former Pops conductor Matthew Garbutt led the group through fanfares and other rousing numbers, pickets from the orchestra’s string section stood behind the ensemble, holding placards demanding fair pay for the musicians.
With contract negotiations already at a serious impasse, violist Hale left San Diego after the close of the summer Pops season.
Last spring’s crisis cleaned out nearly all of the orchestra’s visiting first-chair players, including acting assistant concertmaster Manuel Ramos, acting principal violist Cynthia Phelps, acting principal cellist Catherine Lehr and acting principal trombone John Huling. Huling had played with the Boston Pops Orchestra before coming to San Diego, and, according to symphony trumpet player Mark Bedell, wanted to remain in San Diego in spite of a lower salary with this orchestra. After the close of the subscription season, he left San Diego to become the associate principal trombone with the National Symphony in Washington.
Orchestra concertmaster Andres Cardenes, whom many consider to be the symphony’s primary musical asset, also is looking elsewhere for a more stable orchestra.
Although he would not reveal where he was auditioning, he said: “I’m doing what I can to cover myself in this situation.” Cardenes joined the orchestra at the beginning of last season to get out from under the high-pressure demands of his concertmaster post at the Utah Symphony. While he has found living in San Diego and making music with the San Diego Symphony to his liking, Cardenes now faces rejoining the rat race he left Salt Lake City to escape.
Ten orchestra members will be playing with the San Diego Opera Orchestra in its production of “Norma,” which opens Saturday and continues through Nov. 2. Had the symphony opened on time, of course, these players would not have been able to keep their commitments to the opera. They said they were realistic enough, however, to predict the continued impasse into November.