Arts leaders DiChiera, Slatkin and Fisher discuss funding, diversity and why they shouldn’t have to justify the arts

A condensed version of this story was originally published in      Crain's Detroit Business.

By Leslie D. Green

Come June, metro Detroit’s arts world will begin significant transformation.

That’s when David DiChiera resigns after 46 years as artistic director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, Leonard Slatkin begins prepping for his 10th and last season as conductor and music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Ken Fischer concludes a notable 30-year role as president of the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor.

“They are losses to the state,” said John Bracey, executive director for Michigan’s Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

“When Mr. Slatkin came to the DSO… I think he lent an air or respectability. … I’m not sure they would have gotten through all their difficulty strike-wise as unscathed without him.”

Slatkin, 72, is a National Medal of Arts winner, seven-time Grammy Award winner renowned for his love of American music, his conducting, and his composing. He came to Detroit from Washington, D.C., where he led the National Symphony and before that the St. Louis and New Orleans symphonies. At the end of this season, the Los Angeles native will step down from his second post, as conductor and music director for the Orchestre National de Lyon in France.

Fischer, 72, only the sixth president in the 137-year history of UMS, has served for 30 years and is the first university arts presenter to receive a National Medal of Arts. He came to UMS from Washington, D.C., where he was a management consultant. Under his leadership, UMS’s budget has quadrupled and the organization has co-commissioned, commissioned or co-produced more than 60 works in dance, theater and music.

Bracey credits the Plymouth native for helping him navigate his role philosophically with the MCACA. “He said, ‘Remember John: Everybody In and Nobody Out. We’re here about access. It’s great that we have amazing, high quality arts organizations that are doing great work from Houghton to Monroe counties, but you have to remember you’re not here for that, you’re here to make sure every citizen has some access. Doesn’t matter where they live, what they look like, abled or disabled.’”

National Endowment of the Arts Opera Honors Award winner, DiChiera, 81, came to Michigan in the early 1960’s to teach at Oakland University and wound up launching the Michigan Opera Theatre, transforming a vacant stage theater into Detroit’s Music Hall and raising $62 million to reopen the old Capitol Theatre as the Detroit Opera House in 1996. And those were just his exploits in Michigan.

“The arts here owe a debt to David for the resurgence of Midtown Detroit. To say it was struggling at the time he went in there is an understatement. What he did there was the first step in the renaissance that happened,” said Bracey. Regarding the current rebuilding of Detroit that’s being credited to local developers and the influx of young professionals, he said: “I’m not sure that happens if David doesn’t take that first step. He’s done a great job of making opera accessible.”

There are plenty in metro Detroit and around the country to praise the Slatkin, DiChiera and Fischer, but to get a true sense of what they do and have done over their storied careers, we sat down with the three of them and discussed funding, technology, education, challenge, tough decisions, next steps and much more.

On Their Responsibilities

Slatkin: “If you’re a music director and you’re working with your orchestra, you have not only your rehearsals and performances to do but you have a load of administrative work to do. You have to interact with your board, you have to interact with your patrons, you are involved in fundraising… I teach for a couple of weeks at the Manhattan School of Music… If you have a guest date, where another orchestra hires you in, there is no administrative work. You simply show up and conduct your program, rehearse it, move on to the next thing. But in addition to those responsibilities you still need a lot of time for study, as opposed to the violinist or the pianist or the singer who has unlimited time by themselves to practice. We don’t. Because who wants a full symphony orchestra in their living room. So, it is purely a matter of communication between you and the person who has written the piece, whether new or old; you’re sitting and studying the piece, you’re learning it, you’re trying to get the sound of it up in your head.”

DiChiera: “A lot of it was getting the community excited about having another cultural institution in the city and finding the support for it, but then the artistic part has been putting the seasons together, casting the operas, auditioning singers…”

Slatkin: “Wasn’t there an opera company before you at all? Ever?”

DiChiera: “No, there was a woman who did some things but it was very, very small. She did things like “The Telephone” and so forth. She was a singer.”

Fischer: “… I came from a town (D.C.) where there was (his late mentor) Patrick Hayes, a man who desegregated the theaters of Washington… So, I came infused with this notion of ‘Everybody In and Nobody Out’ and found that we needed to get out of the tower and build relationships with communities of shared heritage, with communities of very rich cultures of which we had no relationship — the Arab American community; African and African American communities; the Latin community, especially in Mexican Town, and the diversity of Asian populations. So, we spent the ‘90s building those kinds of relationships and also with other arts organization. It was just incumbent upon us to do this … if you live in southeast Michigan and you don’t know the excellence of what is represented here in the different cultures and you’re a performing arts presenter affiliated through the university that goes through the supreme court to defend its affirmative action policies then… (shakes his head) …”

On Revival

DiChiera: “You know one of the ways I think the opera company has been focused on from the very beginning is the revitalization of the city.”

Fischer: “Amen.”

DiChiera: “I actually had a lot of pushback when I started this because people would stay to me, ‘An opera company in Detroit? You don’t do that in this kind of town.’ A lot of it was me doing what people thought was not doable and that was fine because that really energizes you. If you really want something and believe that it’s possible then it just keeps you going. So, I started the company in ’71, four years after the riots, and people were not coming into the city. They had all left the city, except those who couldn’t. And so, when I opened the Music Hall in ’71 — it had been closed for years — people thought this was wild. They said, ‘…Why aren’t you doing this in Troy or something?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not. This is the center of cultural life in a major city like this.” Then we opened the opera house. And since, the whole area has been redeveloped. … I always thought it was about two things: It was the arts to enrich people but at the same time it was to revitalize the city. There was nobody coming down here… The opera house was in pretty bad shambles, but they were showing triple XXX movies there. It was called the Capitol at the time.”

Slatkin: “This area actually reminded me… very much of the midtown area of St. Louis where I was music director for a long time. People didn’t want to go there. Our hall was isolated from anything else. …My story is a little different. There were a lot of people who said I shouldn’t come here because they anticipated a lot of problems, not just for the orchestra but for the city. But I like a challenge. It’s not fun otherwise. You just go out there, wave your arms, do a few things. Not interesting. So, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and do the best I can.’

“But the first year, I was only available for five weeks because of prior commitments. That doesn’t count as a first-year music director. The second year, I had a heart attack. I was out for three months. That doesn’t count as a music director. The third year, there was no season because they went on strike for half a year.

“So, my work really didn’t begin until six years ago; and because of all that, my job changed. …I thought I was going to come here, I was going to help build the orchestra, work on continuing the work had been done previously — there was a five-year gap between my predecessor and me — where the orchestra really just began to disintegrate because there was no artistic leadership. … But now my job really was to rebuild the institution, and not just the musical end, but the administrative side and all…

“So, I started throwing out ideas and initiatives during the strike. I did it with the board, I did it with management and I did it with the orchestra. I got criticized pretty heavily in some quarters for not being more involved in any side during the strike.

“But I don’t believe that’s my place. I’m answerable to my board, but I lead the musicians too. To go one way or the other to me is a dead end — I can’t do that — my job was to figure out what do I do the day they finally sign the contract?  I had these ideas that I wanted to put in place, because having done this job for many, many years you realize you cannot apply the same principles in one place to another. Every place is individual. We were very isolated with this building.”

DiChiera: “Yes, right.”

Fischer: “Yes.”

Slatkin: “You (indicating to DiChiera) came and had to deal with the ramifications of the riots. The ramifications for us, so many people moved away and were frightened to come down. They were elderly and they weren’t coming down. People brought their grandparents and these are old parents bringing their grandparents.”

DiChiera: Laughs

Slatkin: “And you’re talking about the people who are the major donors and patrons.”

DiChiera: “Yes.”

Slatkin: “So, we were just kind of hanging on here. Our attendance was horrible. The highest we got in the first three years was 62 percent of the house… It was a good night if we had that. Immediately I took a page out of the orchestra playbook during the strike. They went out and they played at community venues out in the suburbs. I said right away, ‘We have to keep that. We have to establish that.’ And now we have seven partner venues for concerts each year. And now people are starting to trust enough to come down as well. … We went up from 62 to 92 percent.”

On Donors and Funding

Slatkin: “All of us can count the things we think we did well, the things that didn’t work. But …you have to keep moving forward … It’s not like it used to be. We use to be able to go to a donor and say, ‘We need X dollars,’ without anything attached. Now you have to be really specific about what you want that money for. You have to think, OK, I’m going to this person, that’s what they’re interested in, let me work on a project around that.”

Fischer: “Another thing you see in millennials and others more and more often is return on investment. What am I getting for what I’m doing? How can you prove to me that’s it’s providing a benefit? It used to be that we didn’t have to do so much of that. Now it’s not a bad thing to be sitting down with a donor and say, ‘These are benefits you’ll garner from this.’

“We had not had corporate support when I arrived. Fortunately, I had some experiences in Washington serving as a consultant with Pacific Telesis Group and Eli Lilly… on how you have to be thinking about the corporate objectives when you’re talking to an arts group. If they’re not responsive to what your interests are, you might not be successful. But if you can point out how providing support can also be an opportunity to reward employees, to stimulate new business, to bring in customers, which is often the argument we would make beyond, it’s good for you.”

Slatkin to DiChiera: “You must have, in the old days, gone door to door.”

DiChiera: “Oh, absolutely.”

Slatkin: “I suspect that David and I can probably say the same thing: We’ve done better than anybody thought we would do, but we still have a lot to do because of private fundraising.”

Fischer: “A presenter is in a different situation. We have corporate, foundation, government, individual (support). And then I have the University of Michigan. But they no provided us no general fund or student fee support until fiscal year 2002. …I said what’s your mission? …They said, ‘Teaching, research and service’… And I said when you think of us what do you think? They said, ‘Oh, you’re part of the service mission.’

“I said excuse me, can I show you what we’re doing in education? … We had all of our stuff to show them. ‘How are you supporting our research mission?’ (They asked) (I said), ‘Well, we’ve commissioned 40 new works in dance theater and music in the last 10 years and every time those works are performed in Suntory Hall in Japan, in the Barbican (Centre) of London, at the Chantilly of Paris, they bear the name of the University of Michigan and you haven’t paid a dime for it… That prompted them asking, ‘How can we help you?’

“The fact that we’re supporting all legs of their mission, we are deserving of their support. But we just have to work hard at it.”

Slatkin: “When we go out on tour, or whatever we do, we’re called the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. First line of my bio? Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Automatically, the name of Detroit gets out there.”

Fischer: “I’ve been very lucky to have been able to demonstrate to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation how we help the economy of the state and of our region by doing the kind of work we do. …We’re in a very lucky state. We’re in Ann Arbor. We have the university.”

Slatkin: “You have the E-word. Endowment.”

Fischer: “We have magnificent facilities.”

DiChiera: “And you have an audience.”

Fischer: “We have young people.”

Slatkin: “Doesn’t mean his job is easy.”

DiChiera: “It’s interesting, government support has never existed in this country.”

Slatkin: “In the Second World War, it did. The government was sponsoring all kinds of arts. It was unbelievable what they were doing.”

DiChiera: “But, I mean in terms of endowment.”

Slatkin: “Oh, yeah, yeah. But we used to get better tax breaks. If you bought a ticket to the opera, you could write it off 100 percent.”

Fischer: “We do need to recognized our government has different ways of dealing with the arts now. The City of Berlin gives twice as much to the arts than we.”

DiChiera: “When you look at what’s going on in Europe and the kind of support they get… Berlin has three opera companies and they are all supported by their city.”

Slatkin: “My orchestra in France, which is Lyon, is all funded by the city. I don’t do anything in fundraising. All I have to do is stay friends with the mayor.”

Fischer: “Now the challenge we face…are the hints there are those in the Trump administration, despite what he has told the Americans for the Arts, there are those who are now working with him who are suggesting we need to just eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities.”

Slatkin: “But we’ve heard that before.”

Fischer: “And have the privatization of public broadcasting.”

Slatkin: “This is something that’s always talked about. And what you really have to understand is that the amount of money, the total amount of his budget, it’s more symbolic than anything else.”

DiChiera: “It doesn’t equal that much.”

Fischer: “It doesn’t equal the expense of a military jet.”

Slatkin: “No!”

DiChiera: “We’re a piece of a jet. You always have to keep looking for different sources (of funding).”

Fischer: “You never give up.”

Slatkin: “No.”

Fischer: “You keep the fight on.”

DiChiera: “In dance, for example, we have been very fortunate and we continue to look. But there are individuals who love that art form, and you have to really give them the sense that their support is absolutely essential if we’re going to keep making dance a really significant part of what we do at the Opera House.”

Fischer: “… Those folks that years ago said you ought to operate more like a business, I wanted to shout …and say, ‘Well, is it banks like Lehman Brothers? … All these have failed miserably. Look at us; we’ve survived. And we’ve found a way to do it and excel.’”

Slatkin: “Our Job is to lose as little as we can. It’s not about making money. (laughing)”

DiChiera: “And getting more and more people to be exposed to what we do.”

On Technology

Slatkin: “Probably more accidental but the timing was right…  I think they had gotten to the point at the end of the strike where the union and musicians took a look at certain ideas and said, ‘They are never going to make that work. Let’s give it to them, it’s not going to happen.” And one of them was that I proposed about live streaming of concerts.”

Fischer: “Amen! Hallelujah!” (drums table)

Slatkin: “…We remain, after five years, the only orchestra that can do it. The union does not permit it, but we got it through. Now … we have viewership all over the world. Again, people said, ‘Slatkin, it’s a crazy idea because you’re going to dilute your audience.’ I said, ‘No.’ Look what happens in the popular music industry. An artist makes a song, song comes out, video comes out. Then they do their concert. Concerts are full. Why? Because people want to come see what they know. That was another thing that, at least for us, contributed to having decent audience. But it also contributes to reaching this audience not just over the city or over the state but all over the world. So, we will use it. We’ll put in special programming now for the tour when we go to Asia in July. We’ll use our Chinese members of the orchestra to actually create product. So, people not only know how we sound but they know how we look, and they know the personalities.”

DiChiera: “It really is great. You know what’s really exciting? This city itself is becoming so vital and so many young people are moving in. So, we’ve been looking at videoing our performances and letting people see them outside on the wall. And just let them come. They might stay for one act. They might look and they might not…  This would be not just because these are things happening at the Opera House; but these things are happening there where you are, and you can watch what you want.”

Fischer: “Now, we’re a presenter, which is very different. We have to get permission of the visiting group … but we live streamed a performance of Igor and Moreno (dancers); then when Steve Reich and his ‘Music for 18’ come, we’re going to live stream that. And I don’t know that’s ever been made available.”

Slatkin: “I’m not 100 percent convinced that we’re not diluting a little bit in the younger generations by focusing so much on the visual. We’re sometimes taking away imagination. The few times I’ve gone to seen an opera in the movie theater house, I actually leave. If you’re doing ‘Aida’ and … all these chorus members are on; but, no, the camera is on one person. I want to see what everybody else is doing. So, I get a little distracted.

“…Just like at a regular symphonic concert. I don’t want to see one visual image, I want 2,000 people to create the images in their head, everybody different. There are dangers in our society that technology revolution is making areas of our lives more complicated.”

Fischer: “With the demise of print advertising and the coverage of the arts we’ve seen gradually, we’ve had to invent other ways for people to get their information. It continues to be a real challenge. But fortunately, there’s the internet, there’s Facebook, there’s email. There are all these devices, there’s texting to try to get the word out, and we’re just trying to be as robust and as interesting as possible. We all need tech people to help us with all of this. We’re at a university where those resources have been readily available. The University of Michigan is where Internet2 got its start. That’s been a device that’s helped. Like at the New World Symphony (an orchestral academy in Florida), a young violinist there can study with somebody in Russia in real time through this particular piece of technology.”

On the Key to Survival

Fischer: “The real key is to shore up the holes in early education.”

Slatkin: “We have to take it on ourselves. My musicians, so they volunteer now to do community outreach, to do teaching. We have one of the largest youth programs that goes on here with the Wu Family Academy — the civic ensemble. You come on a Saturday, there are 550 kids all races, all (waves around). They break down into about five orchestras, they get instruments, they get classes. So at least we’re doing something in that way. Now if we could do reach the broader audience and convince the parents of the necessity of a young person knowing this is an option.”

DiChiera: “We have to constantly do things in the schools. The schools are so without anything in terms of the arts and you just got to develop programs that go into those schools. We go into the schools, we take singers, we do small scenes and so forth. And then you need to pay for the bussing, because now they don’t even have any money for bussing. Find money to bus young people into the Opera House.”

Slatkin: “When you move it to education, you do a little better with people who find that of interest.”

DiChiera: “People care about education. They know that there’s nothing in the public schools.”

Slatkin: “When I was in high school in Los Angeles in the early ’60s, we had three choruses, two bands and an orchestra. We had a composer in residence. When I arrived here, I met with the then acting superintendent of the public schools Robert Bob. And h-he boasted that 30 percent of Detroit Public Schools had arts education. I just looked him in the eye and said, ‘That means 70 percent don’t.’ And that’s not just a phenomenon of Detroit. That’s a nationwide one, and it’s also one that’s starting to creep into the world situation.

“So, we decided we would stream our concerts and find a way to get them into the schools. Our education concerts are seen by a minimum of 40,000 people on the day we do them. …We have to do that stuff now, where the government — either the federal, state or local level — isn’t.”

On Frustrations and Challenges

DiChiera: “What we do is often seen as being very much on the outside, that it’s not critical to our culture. You to have to kind of find ways to get people to realize this essential in terms of quality of life.”

Fischer: “…That’s the disappointment and the challenge: That people can’t come to understand that the arts are a fundamental part of our existence. The old story, is what does civilization have to show for itself when it’s no longer there.”

Slatkin: “What is it that causes the decline of that civilization? The first sign is when they start taking the arts out of it. Rome is the best example of that. Today, literally news today, one of our staff members announced she is leaving… because she doesn’t want to be in Trump’s American. She’s moving to Canada. Welcome to the ’60s. We are constantly confronted with challenges that we don’t see coming and that we have to figure out how are we going to adjust to this.”

Fischer: “Where there is crisis, there’s opportunity.”

Slatkin: “I see too much of a wall between the generation of experience and all the kids who come in, who sort of form groups on their own — this is all over the country. They don’t’ seem to really respect or understand those people who have been in the institution for a long time. They don’t learn from them as they should. …

“There is a literal wall for us, every musician who auditions for the orchestra auditions behind a screen. We do not see them. They are assigned a number. We don’t know anything about them. And in a profession where the paramount requirement is communication, the level of communication is cut off. So, what does it mean? (It’s part of my new book that comes out in October) When our colleagues in Minneapolis went on strike. They were in a lockout…for a year and a half. We had vacancies. …People who played in that orchestra for 15, 20 years would start taking auditions. But now, they were up against these very young, very talented people who technically could get around everything not the way the person from the other orchestras could. But we never get to know about that experience.

“For me… experience does count for something.”

On Diversity

DiChiera: “I’ve always thought that that was a really challenging thing for the orchestra because of how they choose musicians.

“I really wanted to make sure that what we we’re doing reflects the diversity of the city by working with and bringing African-American singers into the programming. I gave people like Kathleen Battle and so forth their professional career debuts. That was really important to me because we were taking things into the schools and into the community. These young people, many of them had to see themselves on that stage. They had to realize that this… wasn’t just some foreign thing for people that were not like they were.”

Fischer: “The Michigan Opera Theatre, UMS and the Arts League of Michigan joined together in a three-year program to celebrate African- American arts and to help build audiences. We did the Nutcracker together, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and in the final year we actually produced our own program on the history of black church music in Detroit, working with The Winans in the late 90s.”

DiChiera: “And the American Ballet Theatre…”

Fischer: “… Then next year, we’ll come back to Detroit with another ballet. These have been wonderful collaborations for us, getting out of Ann Arbor, being able to work colleagues here in Detroit including Mosaic Youth Theater, Sphinx Organization, Arab American National Museum and a number of others.”

DiChiera: “…Because I’m so focused on diversity, if I’m casting a role and there are two sopranos who are of equal talent and one of them is either Latino or African-American, that’s my decision. I make that decision because it is important for us to have diversity on that stage.”

Slatkin: “But it’s visual, so you have to do that.”

DiChiera: “You just need to do that.  In past times with opera companies, it was not done. There are still parts of this country, if you’re casting an opera like Romeo and Juliet, the idea of having Romeo as an African-American and Juliet as Caucasian is a difficult thing for some companies.”

Slatkin: “Less now than it was.”

DiChiera: “Yes, less now.”

Slatkin: “Look at it from (the DSO’s) point of view with this incredible catch 22. We’re preaching diversity and yet that screen in front prevents it. Now of course, we want the most talented people we can get.”

DiChiera: “Absolutely.”

Slatkin: “But if you start combining experience, and you say OK we want to create an environment that creates diversity… (he shrugs). Diversity to me is a highly misused word because usually it applies to African-Americans, but look at all the other people.”

DiChiera: “You’re right. I just recently hired a very talented soprano and she’s Middle Eastern — and there’s a very large community in Detroit. … She said, ‘You know, I am the first person that’s ever sung opera out of my community.”

Slatkin: “I can look back and say there are things that I could have done better. But there are a couple of things where I go, ‘This is something I am proud of.’ We commissioned a cello concerto from an Arab American — Mohammed Fairuz. When that commission came through, I said I want that commission played in a synagogue.”

DiChiera: “I was there.”

Slatkin: “It was the symbolism of saying: It’s music. You’re going to learn something about the culture.”

DiChiera: “Exactly.”

Fischer: “You know Aaron Dworkin (founder of Sphinx Organization), who’s been a real champion of diversity in classical music. What he’s done when told by so many orchestras, “Aaron, you don’t see many people in the orchestra like you because they’re just not out there” is he’s challenged that for the last 20 years, believing they’re out there. They just need to be identified, encouraged and rewarded. But when they come up to this audition — DSO-like —, it all needs to be looked at.”

DiChiera: “I’m so fortunate that I don’t deal with that. (As founders) you can choose singers always because of talent. But of equal talent, if you have a Middle Eastern singer, you have the opportunity to reach out.”

Fischer: “This is a critical issue for all of us. …At the university, it’s diversity, equity and inclusion — a five-year initiative where every department and unit in the university is expected to be dealing with this. I’d say we’re pleased with changes that we’ve made in putting on representation from all over the world on our stages in dance, theatre and music but we all need to look more to our boards of directors to our staffs to have them be the best possible reflection of the wonderful diversity we find here in southeastern Michigan.”

On Tough Decisions

Slatkin: “I thought I was inheriting a good orchestra. After the strike the size of the orchestra was cut back and the number of weeks they played was cut back. The hardest decision was, where are those cutbacks going to be? Which instrumentalists can I manage without for a while until we get resources to bring them back?  We’re still not back to the numbers we’d like to be… I’d say as I get ready to leave that I’ve been able to at least replace the majority of vacancies that we’ve had with people who are as good if not better than the ones they’ve replaced.”

Fischer: “It’s interesting, that’s what came to my mind.  Having to look at people that I love and adore and sit there and say, ‘We need to let you go.’ You feel a part of that disappointment. … These are people that love the arts, that love their job. We just couldn’t keep them.”

DiChiera: “I had a baritone to do ‘Rigoletto,’ who suddenly at four in the afternoon said he couldn’t sing. Another baritone was coming in to rehearse another (opera), and I called him at the airport and I said, ‘Can you sing this role?’ He said, ‘I’ve done it, and I can do it if I can just be looking at the music.’ I said, ‘I’ll have the singer act and you’ll sit at the side with the stand.’

“Years after, people came up to me and said, ‘You know the most exciting night at the opera?’

“I said, ‘No, which?’

“‘The night that your baritone was sick and somebody had to come sing it at the side of the stage.’

“And I said, ‘That was your most exciting? That was the one where I lost five years of my life.’”

On the Future

Slatkin: “At the end of this season, I relinquish my post in France. At the end of next season, I step down from here. In France, I become the director de musicale honoraire, and here I will be the laureate. … The reason is really simple: I just can’t deal with the administration part any more. It’s too hard for me. I’ve got too many other things. I only want to do about 20 to 30 weeks of conducting a year. My second book comes out in October; I’ve already started on a third one. I’m doing some teaching. I’m doing some arranging. So, there are other projects I’m moving into now.”

Fischer: “I’m going to stay active in the professional organizations that I am in. I have an opportunity to teach a course in arts leadership. … Then we have a Michigan in Washington (program). Having spent 17 years of my career in Washington, they’ve asked me if I can help place students during the semester in arts, government and nonprofit, institutions including Kennedy Center and the opera in Washington, NEA and so on. I have grandchildren on the west coast that I want to spend time with. I am open to other prospects as long as I can still have time with family.  …And I’m working on this book. I’m working with a writer because it has to be done this year.”

Slatkin: “I wrote mine on my own.”

Fischer: “I can’t quite do that.”

Slatkin: “Yes, you can.”

DiChiera: “I’ll be retired at the end of this season… in terms of my official capacity. I decided that 46 years of running a company should be about it. I have started writing a book. And the book is… not just about the evolution of the company but about the City of Detroit. Because …I was creating, running and developing a cultural institution at that time.  I also want to do a little more composing, which I have not had time to do. If I can find the right subject, I want to write a second opera.”

On Advice for Their Successors

Slatkin: “My hope is… they will build on the ideas they consider successful but really bring something new and fresh. Don’t be stale. Do something bold. Do something that continues to put the orchestra on the map. And don’t harm the orchestra at all, I mean really don’t destroy what’s been built that way. I want to make sure that whatever part we’ve played in the rebuilding of this city continues. And that can only be done through the artistic leadership, because just like you (to DiChiera), I’m the face of the orchestra. Yes, some people know who the administrators are; but if something goes wrong, I’m happy to take the responsibility even if I don’t have anything to do with it. Just as if it goes right, I’ll take the credit for it. I just want the new person to have the kind of attitude that’s all about the growth that can be here. And they will have real battles on their hands.”

Fischer: He’s (Matthew VanBesien, current president of the New York Philharmonic) a little older than my son, so if he wants to he can have 30-plus years in this gig. I would just advise to listen and learn. I was not prepared for this gig at all. … I’ve got a fabulous staff that I hope he can find a way to continue to have grow. But then one of the best things that I learned in my generation was this book by Tom Peters that talked about management by walking around: Get out of the office. …That way I maintained relationships with so many people at the university.”

DiChiera: “We have maestro Stephen Lord who’s here, who for several years is going to act as artistic voice, and he’ll act as a kind transition. Wayne Brown is here as CEO. That’s how probably within two years where we’ll go. My advice is to make this company evolve even more. There’s so many directions that it can go. … I would like to see us do something like either summer programs on the riverfront. That kind of thing where we expand our footprint outside of the opera house in a more significant way.”

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