David Bilger, Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1995, has accepted a teaching position in Athens, GA.
In a letter sent to Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Bilger confirms that:
- He will immediately become the “Visiting Professor of Music and William F. and Pamela P. Prokasy Professor in the Arts at the University of Georgia.”
- He will continue to teach at The Curtis Institute of Music and Temple University
- He will keep his position with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but will not be playing in four subscription weeks, and will be withdrawing as soloist in the PO’s performance of Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto
The letter is quite diplomatic, yet certainly does not pull any punches with regards to Mr. Bilger’s motivation in accepting the two-year position.
Check out this excerpt:
It would be disingenuous of me not to admit to you that pursuing the position at UGA at this point in my career was a response to the current difficulties and uncertainties at the POA. In fact, it would have been irresponsible of me NOT to be looking for career opportunities elsewhere. Previously, I had always believed that I would retire from playing as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. But now, given the uncertain financial future of the orchestra, it is imperative to reassess my career options.
One of the more vocal members of the POA Board of Directors has stated on many occasions that the musicians of the orchestra won’t leave, no matter what sort of contract (and pension) is offered to us. He has flatly stated, “Where will they go?” . . . Personally, I know of several titled players in the orchestra who have been reached out to by other orchestras and educational institutions. Contrary to what this board member thinks, there are indeed other places to go.
(Full text of the letter can be seen HERE)
The evidence has clearly shown Mr. Bilger to be correct. The Philadelphia Orchestra has already lost three titled players:
- Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales finally relented to the New York Philharmonic’s efforts to woo him back to Manhattan where he had previously served as the Metropolitan Opera’s principal; he takes over the chair that Stanley Drucker filled in the NY Phil for 60 years
- Associate Concertmaster Jose Maria Blumenschein became 1st Concertmaster of the WDR Radio Symphony Orchestra (Cologne) and was also a finalist for the concertmaster chair with the Pittsburgh Symphony
- Associate Principal Cellist Efe Baltacıgil is the new Principal Cello with the Seattle Symphony
In addition, Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa sat in as guest principal with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when their permanent position was still open (it was soon filled by Whitney Crockett, former principal with the Metropolitan Opera and Montreal Symphony), and a number of the other PO section players have taken academic positions.
So for now, Mr. Bilger seems to be keeping his options open while simultaneously sending a message to the PO’s management that they may lose another premiere player. Given that he is the second highest compensated musician in the orchestra, the orchestra’s budget-conscious bankruptcy-filing management may be more than happy to shed his salary and find a new (read: less expensive) Principal Trumpet; let’s hope not. And as a coincidence, if Tom Hooten becomes Principal Trumpet with the LA Phil and eventually gets tenure, the Atlanta Symphony will need a new Principal Trumpet of their own in Fall of 2013 — right when Mr. Bilger’s visiting professorship ends. Hmmm . . .