Sour notes roar from
Sudden resignations and
disputes over leadership
grip the organization
The Honolulu Symphony's leadership has been anything but harmonious recently with three prominent committee members and its president resigning and its biggest donor and chairwoman offering to step down.
Former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano, who took the symphony's nonpaying CEO post in April, suddenly resigned this month when she butted heads with Chairwoman Carolyn Berry over Cayetano's choice for an interim president and other plans.
Berry, who donated $1 million to the symphony this year, had also offered to resign but was talked out of it.
Mike O'Neill, the former Bank of Hawaii CEO who contributed $1 million to the symphony this year, resigned his executive committee post a week after Cayetano's announcement. That was followed by the departure of Michael Fisch, the Honolulu Advertiser's president and publisher.
Cayetano has kept quiet about her resignation but said she decided that "the community deserves an answer."
"Key individuals" within the symphony asked her to take the CEO position, she said. "They believed management and leadership ... needed to be strengthened," she said. "I believed with some other board members that we could bring about changes that would accomplish this."
Cayetano, a successful businesswoman, had plans for changes that included "bringing transparency, more accountability and inclusiveness" to the organization.
"I resigned when it became apparent I wasn't going to get the support needed to do the job," she said. "It's sad because the musicians and community deserve more."
The CEO position has been put on hold pending the hiring of a new symphony president.
O'Neill declined comment about why he left, saying, "My views were made clear to the board chairperson (Berry) and other board members."
Outgoing President Steve Bloom declined to comment on the resignations, including Berry's offer to step down.
"Everyone has his or her own reasons," he said, "and you can't tie it into a neat bow and package it."
Bloom announced in April that he was resigning in June to pursue other interests.
He emphasized that his resignation had nothing to do with Cayetano's CEO post or an outside consultant's audit that was critical of the organization's management and leadership structure.
"There were no recommendations for me personally as far as I know," Bloom said. "The issues were how to improve overall management."
Cayetano disagreed, saying the verbal report was "critical and very negative" of Bloom's management. Some executive committee members -- including Berry, O'Neill and Bloom -- were notified of consultant Peter Pastreich's findings through e-mail.
Pastreich, former executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, had recommended that the Honolulu Symphony create a CEO position. Sources said the recommendation angered Bloom, but he denied that.
Even before Cayetano had been officially appointed CEO by the board, she developed plans to reorganize some departments and the board of directors, make the symphony more community-friendly, improve marketing and increase the organization's financial accountability.
Cayetano hit a sour chord with Berry when she announced just after Bloom's resignation in April that she wanted to hire Pastreich as interim president. Berry said she did not want Pastreich replacing her friend Bloom.
Berry and Bloom's friendship concerned some executive committee and board members who believed the relationship could be affecting how Bloom ran the symphony and how Berry made decisions. Berry tried to talk Bloom out of resigning.
Berry and Cayetano clashed over the former first lady's plans. Cayetano said she came to the conclusion that "we weren't really going to go ahead with my plans." On May 5, Cayetano gave Berry a letter of resignation.
Pastreich also notified the symphony he was no longer interested in the interim president position "because of other business opportunities," Bloom said. Instead, the board selected Gideon Toeplitz, former managing director and executive vice president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Berry declined comment. Pastreich is in Europe and could not be reached for comment. Fisch also is out of state.
An e-mail sent out yesterday by symphony management to employees and others said the Star-Bulletin was doing a story on the organization and instructed them not to talk even in "casual conversation," but to direct questions to management.
BACK TO TOP
director from Pittsburgh
Gideon Toeplitz, former managing director and executive vice president of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, will become the Honolulu Symphony's interim director next month while a nationwide search is being done to replace current President Steve Bloom, who resigned in April, sources said.
Toeplitz, 61, is expected to arrive in Honolulu in the next two weeks to prepare for the position, which Bloom will vacate in late June.
The Honolulu Symphony's board of directors is expected to make the announcement soon.
Toeplitz resigned the Pittsburgh post in 2002 after 15 years in the job. At the time he resigned, he was being paid more than $300,000 a year.
The Israeli-born Toeplitz joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1987. Prior to accepting the post in Pittsburgh, he was executive director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for six years and orchestra manager of the Boston Symphony, beginning in 1975.
At the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he hired Mariss Jansons as music director and Marvin Hamlisch as principal pops conductor. Toeplitz also booked the orchestra on several prestigious international tours that enhanced the reputation of the PSO worldwide.
In other symphony news, pops conductor Matt Catingub has relocated from Oahu to Los Angeles for professional opportunities. He recently appeared in George Clooney's latest film as a band member playing the saxophone.
"Matt is committed to the Honolulu Symphony and not leaving the organization," Bloom said.
Catingub will commute to Honolulu for concerts and other business.