Rochester, N.Y. — For months, David and Antonia Schantz heard there was strife at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra - a clash of styles and personalities between the music director, Arild Remmereit, and the RPO CEO, Charlie Owens. However, the couple never thought their disagreements would lead to Remmereit's termination.
“You knew there were some things that were going on,” says David. “It’s not been a secret but the fact of it is… to terminate the conductor and send him on his way just doesn't make sense.”
On Wednesday, the RPO Board of Directors voted to terminate Remmereit’s contract two years before it was set to expire.
The Schantzs are fans of Remmereit. They liked his enthusiasm and the direction he was leading the RPO. They were disappointed to hear about his termination.
“He's just a treasure,” says David. “We should not lose him. We should keep him in Rochester.”
On Friday, Remmereit’s supporters started an online petition calling for the RPO to reinstate Remmereit. The Schantzs signed the petition along nearly 200 supporters from Rochester and other states.
Remmereit's lawyer, Glenn Pezzulo, says Remmereit sent a letter to the RPO board on Tuesday saying there were several breaches of his contract.
“Arild pointed out that the board was in breach of his contract in respect to creating a hostile work environment for Arild, not providing him appropriate administrative support, and not providing him decisions regarding the hiring of personnel.”
Pezzulo says in the letter, Remmereit asked to speak to the board directly so that he can answer questions or concerns in person. According to Pezzulo, Remmereit wasn’t given the opportunity.
The next day the board voted to terminate his contract. RPO spokesperson, Mark Berry, says the letter had nothing to do with the board’s decision to terminate Remmereit’s contract. Berry would not discuss what the reasons were other than to say the Board of Directors had the interest of the RPO in mind and made the decision that was best for the organization.
Pezullo says he is optimistic that Remmereit and the board maybe able to come together and resolve the issue.
“We're looking forward to the opportunity to have Arild address the board and see if we can undo a terrible mistake.”
Berry says the board remains firm on their decision and they will move forward and look for a replacement.
On Friday, the RPO released this statement from Jeff Tyzik, the RPO’s Principal Pops Conductor.
“In my 20 years as a member of the artistic leadership of the RPO, I have been with this orchestra through many difficult times. Every organization undergoes changes, and I know that the RPO will weather its current difficulties to emerge as a more unified, stronger Rochester institution. I have complete confidence in our board leadership, staff, and musicians to deal effectively with our internal matters.”