Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 34
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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A "Completely Different" PSO Foreseen After Conductor Mark Laycock Departs

To the Editor:

One of the axioms of medicine is "do no harm." This might also be an axiom of any management team that is charged with operating a non-profit arts organization. When the board of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra let Mark Laycock slip through its fingers, for me, this came under the heading of doing harm. Mr. Laycock has been an omnipresent part of the warp and woof of Princeton's cultural life for the past 21 years. That will be no more. One of the reasons why Princeton has been such a vibrant musical community, why the quality of artistic life has been high here, is because of Maestro Laycock's myriad contributions.

I have been a member of the orchestra for the past 12 years and have seen the quality of the group grow from a tidy little chamber orchestra that could whip up a tasty Haydn symphony, to a crack team of high quality musicians with extraordinary esprit de corps, operating under tight ensemble conditions, that can play Rite of Spring one month, La Mer another, and Daphnis and Chloe yet another.

When an arts organization is chugging along nicely, providing exciting and stimulating performances for an often startled and appreciative audience, you don't suddenly make a change. It is not as if it is a corporation where "new blood" needs to be periodically brought in. If George Balanchine is creating great ballets and exciting audiences year after year for New York City Ballet and you are a board member, you let him do his thing and try to support him as best you can. If Leonard Bernstein is the conductor of the New York Philharmonic and you are a board member, you let him do his thing and try to support him as best you can. Now Mark Laycock will be someone else's arts treasure and Princeton will be the poorer for it.

The reason why Princeton Symphony is referred to in their marketing materials as New Jersey's "virtuoso orchestra" is because of all the years of hard work that Mr. Laycock devoted to the ensemble, and because he was able to attract the finest musicians in the tri-state area who wanted to be a part of his vision.

It's not as if the orchestra musicians and the conductor are Lego-like pieces that can be snapped off and replaced with another piece just like it. Without Mr. Laycock, it will be a completely different orchestra. The group will probably not attract as many of the loyal musicians who have played for so many years (and that provide artistic consistency), more New York musicians will have to be used (making it less of a New Jersey orchestra), and more money will have to be spent on transportation. And the passion that was the hallmark of each performance, that made us the envy around the state and the standard bearer for New Jersey artistic excellence, will be no more. Is this the orchestra Princeton wants?

Violist, Princeton Symphony Orchestra

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