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Everett Symphony's conductors resign
Times Snohomish County Bureau
The Everett Symphony will lose its lead and assistant conductors after the 2005-06 season.
Paul-Elliott Cobbs, lead conductor and music director since 1984, submitted a letter of resignation to the symphony board on July 18. Two weeks later, assistant conductor Ron Friesen did the same. Both are expected to stay on until the conclusion of next season, on July 15.
In their letters, the conductors cited a culture shift in the organization that neither could support.
In a letter to board President Carolyn Minckler, Cobbs, 53, said he could not "support the direction that the current leadership is imposing on the organization." Friesen, 55, who has been with the symphony in various capacities since 1984, cited an organizational climate that "no longer fosters trust, respect, and support."
Cobbs and Friesen could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The resignations surprised board members.
"We're really as much in the dark as anyone," said Cami Davis, orchestra representative to the symphony board. "The Everett Symphony has always been a big family, including personality dynamics of any family. We're in the process of discussing a positive conclusion, where Paul is still music director."
"It is a puzzle, and at this point, the board needs to get together and sort out where our options are," said Dr. Mark Valentine, board vice president. "That's me guessing."
Members of the board have been in contact with Cobbs regarding the remainder of his commitment to the orchestra, and both the orchestra committee and board will hold separate meetings tomorrow to discuss the resignation and the next step. Cobbs' contract, which was to last through the 2006-07 season, included the right to resign with a year's notice.
Cobbs is the eighth conductor for the orchestra, which was founded in 1935. Under his baton, the Everett Symphony Orchestra performed in Austria and Italy; locally, it featured such noted talents as jazz singers Diane Schuur and Ernestine Anderson. During Cobbs' directorship, the orchestra maintained ambitious classical programming, but grew to include pops offerings, from Celtic music to "classic rock."
In his letter, Cobbs also said that he was resigning to pursue teaching, conducting and recording opportunities throughout the United States, Europe and Japan.
Everett Symphony members received copies of the resignation letters by e-mail.
"We'd hate like the dickens to lose him," said Ned Carrick, a violinist who has played with the orchestra for 49 years. "We are solidly behind him; we feel he's done an outstanding job with us. He wants perfection, but he's understanding. He works well with people, and he's a good educator. He's brought us a tremendous amount of progress."
In orchestra surveys, Cobbs had asked the players what programming they'd like to do, and notably, the musicians preferred performing classical concerts, said Janalene Simpson, a violinist with the orchestra for the past 56 years and personnel manager for the orchestra.
"We preferred playing the classical concerts over the pops," she said. "[Cobbs] did add another classical concert to our program, so we do four every season."
Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company