Friday, January 11, 2008

CSO chief retiring in June

Steven Monder.
A wonderful colleague and a great friend.
January 10, 2007

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Steven Monder received two standing ovations at Music Hall this afternoon: one from the board of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and one from the musicians. The tribute accompanied Monder’s emotion-filled announcement that he will retire in June just shy of 37 years with the orchestra – almost 31 as its head.
Why leave now? “Well, it had to be some time,” said Monder, who will turn 63 in March.
“I had been thinking about it for a while. The orchestra is sounding great. Paavo (Järvi) will be leading them for at least several more years. There is a strong staff that easily can keep the ship on course while the board finds my successor. And I thought I would like to take a nice, long vacation.”

He is the longest-tenured chief executive of a major orchestra in the United States, according to the League of American Orchestras. “Frankly, that says what needs to be said – that he has done a great job,” said league president Harry Fogel. “He has been a giant in this industry.”
Monder was hired in July 1971 as the orchestra’s production manager and promoted five years later to chief executive, a title that has changed over the years even though his role has not. He has led the 113-year-old orchestra – the fifth-oldest in the country and one of the top 10 by budget ($35 million) – through highs and lows.Highlights of his tenure include:-- Creation of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in 1977 and the naming of Erich Kunzel as its conductor.-- A long-term relationship with Telarc International that has led to more than 100 recordings with sales exceeding 10 million and regular appearances atop Billboard’s music charts.-- The launch of Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon subscription concerts.-- Construction of Riverbend Music Center on the banks of the Ohio River as a summer home for the orchestras and touring acts.-- Nationally televised concerts by the Pops and symphony on PBS.-- A revival of international touring that has taken the orchestras to Europe and the Far East.But there also have been financial struggles, as well as a slide in attendance, subscriptions and single-ticket sales. Average attendance for the CSO’s Music Hall season dropped from 2,030 per concert in 2000-01 to 1,540 in 2006-07. The orchestra has been downsized from 99 to 92 players but even so, it remains one of only 18 orchestras in the country still performing year-round.Monder’s knowledge of music – he’s a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music – makes him special, said CSO music director Järvi. “He is solid, a product of old times in his dedication and the way he sees the orchestra and music, he really knows music. He doesn’t need anyone else to tell him if it was a good performance.”Järvi also said that Monder’s among the hardest working people he knows. “His car is parked outside before I show up and way after I leave – and it is the only one there,” said Järvi. “He lived here – and lives here.”Monder’s retirement comes as the CSO is looking into extensive renovations of Music Hall, whose 3,400 seats make it one of the country’s largest concert halls. It also broke ground last summer on the 4,000-seat National City Pavilion at Riverbend, a $6.8 million amphitheatre it hopes will add $400,000 annually to its bottom line.There will be a national search to replace Monder, whose annual salary of $303,491 (in 2006) puts him among the top-paid orchestra executives in the country.Executive board member John Palmer will head the search committee, whose other members are yet to be named.“It is a demanding, 24/7 job,” said CSO board chairman Marvin Quin. “Steven has been very thoughtful about the transition, but his are big shoes to fill. The search won’t be quick, but will be well done.” Quin added that an interim president will not be named if Monder’s replacement isn’t hired by his June 30 retirement date. “Steven has assembled a knowledgeable and skilled group who can run this on an interim basis. And he has agreed to help us in the transition.”Pops director Erich Kunzel is pleased that Monder will be sticking around Cincinnati after he retires.“We have a close relationship that goes far back,” said Kunzel, pointing out that he was teaching at CCM when Monder was a student there in the late 1960s. “When he called me to tell me that he was retiring, one of the first questions I asked was whether he would be staying in Cincinnati.”

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