Despite the Grand Teton Music Festival board of directors’ decision to reinstate three disinvited musicians, the festival’s Players’ Committee has penned a letter to the board calling for President and CEO Andrew Palmer Todd’s dismissal.
The letter was delivered Tuesday morning, just under a week after the board reached its decision to reinvite Kristen Linfante, Jennifer Ross and Juan de Gomar to the 2020 season.
The three were “disinvited” about a month ago. That ruffled the feathers of festival musicians and Music Director Donald Runnicles, who sent a sharply worded letter to the board threatening not to return. A slew of former board members followed suit days later with a communication of their own calling for Todd’s dismissal.
The snafu also attracted outside attention. About 1,800 people signed a petition demanding the board reinstate the musicians. It did on Dec. 3.
However, the Players’ Committee asserted Tuesday that none of the orchestra would return unless Todd departed.
“We must inform you that we stand united as an orchestra alongside our devoted maestro,” the letter read, “and we will not return to the festival in 2020 unless Mr. Todd is removed immediately.”
The letter alleged years’ worth of “negative” encounters with Todd, including his circumvention of the Players’ Committee and communication issues. The letter did not cite specific examples.
Todd, who said he was not included in the original distribution of Tuesday’s letter, declined to comment on the allegations, referring instead to a statement from festival board chair Christine Hartley.
“Given the confidential nature of personnel matters and the multiple stakeholders in our organization, our current board members are the only qualified individuals to assess executive leadership, and we will not make changes reactively,” Hartley’s statement read. “We are working together to evaluate the situation, and we will comment if it becomes appropriate.”
Former festival directors are also planning to send a follow-up statement to the board today, supporting an initial call to unseat the president and CEO. Former director Peter Benoliel said the sentiment will be similar to the Players’ Committee demand: Todd “has to go.”
In its statement the Players’ Committee claims the entire orchestra is unified, a stance calculated by an “opt out” poll of its 230 or so members. That poll asked musicians to let the committee know if they opposed the stance taken; the de facto stance was consent.
Asserting that the Players’ Committee has “the pulse of the players,” spokesman Martin Andersen said the approval process was structured as such because “time was of the essence.”
The committee “felt that this is what the players’ wanted and [what] we as their representatives wanted,” Andersen said.
Roger Oyster, a 30-season festival trombonist and a former committee chair, took no issue with the “opt out” nature and suggested his colleagues — many of whom are represented by similar bodies at home — would feel similarly.
“It is my understanding that no musicians have objected to sticking together,” he said, “and insisting that the best way to recenter the Grand Teton Music Festival is to have a change.”
Runnicles’ status uncertain
In professing that the orchestra stood alongside its “devoted maestro,” the Players’ Committee’s letter brought up another question: Will Runnicles return for the 2020 season?
Andersen said no, unless Todd is removed. The Players’ Committee has "been in communication" with the music director to affirm that stance, he said.
However, that sentiment is at odds with the Grand Teton Music Festival’s assertion last week that Runnicles would return. A spokesperson said Tuesday that the festival had not heard otherwise.
Runnicles did not respond to request for comment by press time.
More information on musician and maestro status for the 2020 Grand Teton Music Festival may become available this week, following a festival board meeting expected to occur on Friday.
This story has been updated to clarify that the Players' Committee did not speak directly with Music Director Donald Runnicles. Rather, the group has "been in communication" with the Maestro. — Eds.