Bellevue Philharmonic Director is Out

The fat lady appears to be singing for the Bellevue Philharmonic. What started as an ugly labor fight spiraled into a tanking budget, poor ticket sales and canceled concerts. Yesterday the Seattle Times reported that Executive Director Jennifer McCausland will step down in mid-May. Philharmonic Board Chair Dale Miller told the Times that the group will seek an interim director, but possibly not until next fall.

This comes on the heels of a press release the Philharmonic sent out last week announcing their final concert on May 17. At that concert, the release states, the ensemble "bids adieu to Maestro Kajima and other dear friends in a emotional and uplifting concert featuring great music on Sunday, May 17th."

Sounds a little more like a final curtain than a season finale.

Update after the jump:

The announcement of McCausland's exit coincides with a meeting held last Friday between the Board and the local affiliate of the American Federation of Musicians. Union president Motter Snell says the Board, which originally backed McCausland's refusal to negotiate with the musicians as a union, changed it's tune about a month ago when a committee representing the musicians said the only way they would be willing to participate in the season next year is under a collective bargaining agreement.

Miller says the Board was willing to work with a Union, but with the personality conflicts last year and the tough financial situation (he says board members were digging into their own pockets at times to make payroll) that just didn't seem plausible. But over the last few months, he says, the musicians in particular have shown a willingness to find ways to improve the financial situation--they're not playing for compensation at the May 17 concert in hopes of bolstering the Philharmonic's budget for next season. Miller sees that as a sign of good faith and says it's part of the reason the Board started negotiating with Snell's union.

As to surviving next season, he says, the organization moved its executive offices to cut costs and is planning only three of the expensive masterworks concerts along with a pops concert and the annual Messiah. He's also going before the Bellevue City Council tonight to seek additional funding from the city.

Snell says she's been encouraged by the process so far. Another meeting with the board to discuss contract specifics is scheduled for Wednesday. "It's very, very exciting," she adds.

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