Slatkin staying 3 years as Detroit Symphony leader

Published On: Nov 18 2011 10:44:41 AM EST
Updated On: Nov 18 2011 10:50:40 AM EST

DETROIT -

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musical director Leonard Slatkin announced Thursday night that he will remain through the 2015-16 season as leader and conductor of an institution that is working to rebuild after a six-month musicians strike nearly put it out of business.

Slatkin, 67, announced the three-year contract extension from the stage after a concert titled "Concert of Flutes," which featured Sir James Galway.

 I'm completely thrilled by this," Slatkin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview during intermission. "I love this orchestra. I love this city."

Facing a severe financial crunch last year, the Detroit symphony demanded a 33 percent pay cut from its musicians, whose offer of a 22 percent cut was refused. They struck on Oct. 4, 2010, and returned to work April 7.

Slatkin said he was pleased with the progress the orchestra has made since then, both artistically and financially.

"There's an energy, there's an excitement," he said. "We're seeing almost consistently full houses."

Corporate and private backers also are coming through for the symphony, he said.

"We have to continue to work hard to win back all those people who were disappointed," he said.

Slatkin came to the Detroit symphony in 2008 after a career as musical director with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra. He also leads the National Orchestra of Lyon in France.

"Leonard has provided outstanding artistic leadership since he began with us in 2008, and we are thrilled to be able to confirm his extended agreement," said Anne Parsons, Detroit symphony chief executive. "Leonard inspires, partners, drives and supports all that we do throughout the organization, on and off stage, in Orchestra Hall and in the community."

In an announcing the contract extension, the symphony said its fortunes have greatly improved since the strike's end, with single ticket sales up 40 percent from 2009-10 and season subscriptions up 16 percent. Through Wednesday, it said, annual fundraising had reached $4.7 million, up 80 percent from last year at this time.

Slatkin said the symphony plans to launch a series of performances at six suburban Detroit venues in an effort to win over potential audiences there and entice them to follow the symphony down to its home venue, Detroit's landmark Orchestra Hall.

Slatkin said he also is making two other long-term commitments, the purchase of a home in the suburb of Bloomfield Hills and the wedding this Sunday to composer Cindy McTee.

"Things at the DSO are moving very quickly in a positive direction," he said. "I am proud to call Detroit my home."

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