Welcoming change - Marc Levy says MSO's future will be `exciting'

March 12, 1997

Marc Levy says MSO's future will be `exciting'

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

As managing director of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Mark Levy's passion for music must be in tune with the realities of keeping the organization financially sound.

"There's nothing like live music," says Levy, who's been in the position since June. "There's nothing like going to The Maryland Theatre and feeling the music."

A tuba player who has played with community orchestras in the Midwest, Levy also was a four-year member of Northwestern University marching band during its football team's legendary losing streak.


MSO Board President J. Emmet Burke acknowledges that Levy came to town when times were tough. The symphony was facing a $61,400 deficit - the first in its 15-year history.

Founding music director Sandy Wantz, who retired after 10 years as the organization's managing director, left "very big shoes to fill," Burke says.

Plans for Tuckwell's final solo performance and a fund-raiser for the MSO in Hagerstown were rejected by the board, and Levy arrived in a charged atmosphere during a period of major transition.

To his credit, Burke says, Levy works well with Tuckwell, the board and the musicians.

"We're thrilled to have him," Burke adds.

Levy says he's been impressed with MSO's board and guild. They stepped up to the challenges of declining funding and red ink. The revised balance sheet anticipates a small surplus.

Changes coming

MSO moved to new headquarters at 13 S. Potomac St., next to The Maryland Theatre, the hall the orchestra rents for its performances. And bigger changes are coming. Next season will be Tuckwell's final season as music director. The program includes audience favorites from the past 15 years.

A national search for the new music director will begin in April.

In a time when orchestras across the country are struggling and even closing, MSO has strong support from the community and local businesses, Levy says.

He expects more than 200 applications for the position. Four finalists will have final auditions - each conducting a concert during MSO's 1998-99 season. There will be opportunities for the candidates to meet with the community, and musicians and audiences will have a voice in the process.

MSO's Web site

MSO has a new Web site at It provides information about MSO's history, programs and events and a printable order form for tickets.

Levy hopes to get audio for the site so people can click and hear a preview of a coming concert.

Getting kids interested

Symphony orchestra audiences are aging. Levy plans to see that the MSO's youth programs continue. Levy speaks glowingly of the "Symphony Saturdays" program which provided 92 first- through third-graders with four sessions of hands-on information about the orchestra and its instruments. The $12 price tag included two tickets to a concert. Levy was thrilled to see more than 100 kids and their families at the performance. He noticed the new young fans of symphonic music teaching their parents how the instruments work.

Next season half-price tickets for children and full-time students will be available for Saturday evening performances as well as Sunday matinees.

"Will there be a future?" Levy asks. After less than a year on the job, his answer is a confident yes. "And," he adds, "It will be an exciting future."

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