Greg Wanchap, Chairman of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra board, has refuted claims made in a Daily Review story that the working environment within the organisation is “toxic” leading to an unusually high turnover of staff.
In a statement provided to Limelight, Wanchap said: “The story published in [yesterday’s] Daily Review is particularly personal and aggressive against Queensland Symphony Orchestra. These sorts of pieces are very hurtful for those many talented people who have contributed a large part of their professional careers to an orchestra that is remarkable.”
“From a company perspective obviously we do not agree with, or accept, what has been written, and attributed to unknown sources,” said Wanchap.
Daily Review reported that 27 full-time and part-time staff have left QSO in the last 21 months, and that many of its staff employed in the last 18 months have not stayed more than six months. A comparison between the QSO Management list on the company’s website and the list in the 2016 annual report confirms these figures. The website currently lists 26 staff, compared to 37 in 2016, with a great deal of change in the people employed.
Queensland Symphony is now headed by Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra, who commenced her association with QSO as Music Director during 2016, taking up the position formally from January 2017, and David Pratt who joined QSO as Chief Executive in September 2016. Pratt came from Santa Barbara in the US, and has had previous roles with Savannah Philharmonic, G’day USA Festival, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.
Among other changes in senior positions, Anna Coles, who joined QSO as Director – Development in January 2017, is no longer with the Orchestra, with Deanna Lane now in the role. In May, Richard Wenn left the key role of Director – Artistic Planning after eight years in the position. His permanent replacement is still to be found.
A former QSO employee (none of the people named in this story) told Limelight that morale is very low at the Orchestra “with crises happening every few days and very little support from management”, “personality conflicts” and staff “getting yelled at on a daily basis”. The source said that QSO had employed “a morale boosting coach to come in”.
De la Parra is contracted to spend 14 weeks of the year in Brisbane. The former employee told Limelight they felt the conflict within QSO is “partly due to the non-consultative method of orders coming from above … Alondra is very controlling over all aspects of the organisation but actually is not present [more than 14 weeks a year] so essentially she sends directives through to David Pratt who will then essentially go into conflict situations with heads of departments and staff members, and it has just been burning people out.”
“Essentially both David Pratt and Alondra de la Parra are quite disconnected to the day-to-day workings of QSO and this disconnect with staff ripples through the company,” added the source.
However, as outlined in the statement provided to Limelight, QSO does not “agree with, or accept” these accusations.
Meanwhile, QSO’s 2017 Artist-in-Residence, star violinist Maxim Vengerov, has had to withdraw from concerts with the Orchestra, conducted by De la Parra this weekend. QSO posted a message on its Facebook page saying: “We deeply regret to inform Brisbane audiences that Maxim Vengerov is no longer able to appear this weekend to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto with Queensland Symphony Orchestra. A close family member of Maxim’s has become very unwell and Maxim has asked, despite all his respect and love for his audience and fans in Brisbane, to understand his decision to stay home with his family at this very difficult time. He sends his love, but unfortunately he himself cannot be with us.” He has been replaced by Hungarian violinist Barnabás Kelemen.