Arts and Entertainment

Farewell, Madame Maestro | Follow up on the Bremerton Symphony saga

Madame Maestro Elizabeth Stoyanovich. - What
Madame Maestro Elizabeth Stoyanovich.
— image credit: What's Up File Photo

So why, exactly, was the Bremerton Symphony conductor canned — mum's the word from the symphony board.

Word has been spinning following this month’s mid-season dismissal of Bremerton Symphony conductor Elizabeth Stoyanovich.

Bremerton Symphony Board President Holly James issued a short statement announcing the parting of ways Jan. 15, and, since, the board has adamantly chosen to say no more, citing it as a personnel matter.

In attempting to reach James or another member of the board for additional comment, What’s Up was finally contacted by downtown Bremerton real estate mogul Louis Soriano, acting as spokesman for the Symphony board — though not an actual member of the board itself — to say that they would not be releasing any statements to the press regarding the board’s reasoning or rationale behind Stoyanovich’s dismissal.

And that is that; mum is the word.

Of course, the Symphony has the right to privacy being a private, non-profit organization and it also had the right to termination, at any time for any reason, written into Stoyanovich’s latest contract — which the former conductor acknowledges and accepts.

“It was that or nothing,” she said. “I had no other choice.”

But the secretive manner in which the termination was carried out, Stoyanovich adds, was unfair, untimely and disrespectful. And the greater symphonic community is left, without its beloved conductor, to wonder why.

Stoyanovich served in the capacities of conductor and music director, as well as artistic director (a hybrid of conductor, music and executive director) during her tenure with the Bremerton Symphony. And now, she’s left with a part-time conductor gig in Butte, Mont., and a family of four to support on Bainbridge Island amidst a not-so job-search-friendly economy.

“Nobody wants to be looking for a job at this time,” Stoyanovich noted. “I certainly never would’ve imagined myself to be looking for a job right now.”

She was brought in six years ago to help grow the symphony and expand its offerings to the community, according to 2003 news reports — which, looking back from 2009, she did.

But in the end, that strength seemed to ultimately become her downfall.

Stoyanovich’s presence helped to incease, nearly double, the amount of revenue generated through ticket sales, fundraising and grant writing during the time she served as artistic director — both on the books and at the podium. She also expanded the number of concerts for, and demand on, the all-volunteer symphony, while creating a youth orchestra and involving an overall educational component to the organization, in addition to creating partnerships with special guest soloists and other local organizations.

Ironically, the Symphony’s December production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” — the concert that would become one of Stoyanovich’s last — was the first ever collaboration between two long, long-standing local arts organizations: Bremerton Symphony and Kitsap Opera.

Leone Cottrell-Adkins, decades-long vocal director for Kitsap Opera, said Stoyanovich had been asking for a collaboration between the two for some time, until she and the Kitsap Opera board finally said yes. With a full symphony and full opera cast to coordinate, “The Marriage” turned into a beast to organize and rehearse, Cottrell-Adkins noted. But it came off well in the end, ran for fairly successful back-to-back nights and was a lead story in local a&e media.

However, she added that there wouldn’t likely be another collaboration between the two organizations under the same personnel. She didn’t name names, but noted that the rehearsal and performance schedule was too grueling for her cast and not very inclusive of her.

Rumors have circulated that perhaps the taskmaster in Stoyanovich may have been the reason for her dismissal. The stench of a personal feud within the organization has also been noted — as have economic and philosophic ideals. The Jan. 15 press release said simply the Symphony was opting to take a new direction, while noting the rest of this season would remain unchanged.

In the end, the board’s true reasoning remains mum, but it’s clear that the former conductor will be missed.

E-mails, calls and comments have been coming in droves, Stoyanovich said.

In a final attempt at reclamation, one Stoyanovich supporter even went so far as to approach the board last week, offering to sponsor the creation of a new chair within the organization which would allow Stoyanovich to remain on as conductor while relieving her of duties as music director.

But the board declined.

“Bremerton made a huge mistake by letting her go,” another Stoyanovich supporter, former principle percussionist for the Bremerton Symphony, Barbara Burzynski said.

She recently left the orchestra to pursue a paid playing gig in Tacoma, but was impacted greatly by the madame maestro.

“(Stoyanovich) had high expectations for the orchestra but nothing more than she was willing to give herself,” Buzynski added. “I have worked with many conductors and Ms. Stoyanovich is in the top three of everyone for whom I have played. I have a master’s of music degree in conducting and know her technique, knowledge, leadership and professionalism is unparalleled in this area.”

For more on the Bremerton Symphony, and the reorganization of the first concert sans Stoyanovich, go to www.bremertonsymphony.org.

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