Hawai‘i Symphony director heading for mainland post
Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Jonathan Parrish is leaving his post for a similar position with an orchestra in Maryland.
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Orchestra Executive Director Jonathan Parrish is
leaving his post for a
similar position with an
orchestra in Maryland.
Parrish, 57, was a key
figure in the continuation and revival of professional orchestral music in the state, rallying musicians and the community together after the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra
declared bankruptcy and stopped performing during the 2009-10 season.
In an interview, Parrish said that at one point he was just “days away” from leaving the islands with his wife, choreographer Minou Lallemand. But a group of local business people emerged, purchased the symphony’s assets and reconstituted the orchestra under a new name.
Parrish, who had played French horn for the previous orchestra since 1998, was named executive director during the 2013-14
“Lots of challenges remain, but we have cleared a number of important hurdles,” Parrish said. “We’ve expanded the programming. We’ve demonstrated we really need to have a symphony, that there’s a market for a symphony. We’ve done a good job maintaining and rebuilding the orchestra, particularly. The orchestra sounds
as good as it’s ever sounded. That’s remarkable considering what we’ve been through.”
An indication of the quality of the orchestra is that many of the guest artists, such as Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich and acclaimed pianists Olga Kern and Joyce Yang, have come back to perform with the orchestra.
In recent years the orchestra presented 12 programs of classical “Masterworks” concerts per season, from September to June. Interspersed throughout those concerts are a handful of “pops” concerts, which include anything from symphonic rock ’n’ roll concerts to movie music and circus music
presentations. The orchestra also has given a free concert in Kailua for six years running, performed
at schools and “pop-up events,” and visited some
of the neighbor islands two seasons ago.
“All of that is part of
the template going forward. The menu has gotten much broader,” Parrish said.
Part of the task to
maintaining an orchestra here is ensuring that
there is enough work to sustain the musicians’ livelihood, which some do by teaching privately or in schools, performing privately or working other jobs. Parrish said some HSO musicians are commuting from the mainland to perform here, whereas a future goal would be to have more of them
become full-time Hawaii residents. Annual income for an orchestra member is now about $17,000 a year for a guaranteed 16 weeks of work, up nearly a third since the orchestra was reborn.
Parrish also said revenue from ticket sales has increased 68% from 2014 until now, and contributions to the orchestra’s annual
$4.7 million budget also have increased.
Parrish studied at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore and played with
the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, based in Hagerstown, for six years early
in his career. He will be
returning to that orchestra as executive director, overseeing a planned expansion.
“I guess I can only be executive director of an orchestra I’ve played for,” Parrish said with a laugh.
“It’s been a huge honor” to lead the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, he said.
“I think we have only begun to scratch the surface of
the potential that this orchestra has. I hope the community will understand that and support it. … It’s a very, very fine orchestra, and this community deserves to have it.”
Symphony board members, musicians’ representatives and mainland experts will form a search committee to find Parrish’s replacement, the orchestra said in an announcement. Parrish will remain at
his position through
November. He will be honored Sept. 17 at the symphony’s Opening Gala at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Visit hawaiisymphonyorchestra.org for information.
Parrish’s departure means new leadership for both of the major classical music organizations in Hawaii. Hawaii Opera Theatre, where Henry Akina had been artistic director since 1996 under various executive directors, is now led
by the new team of Andrew Morgan as executive director and Emmanuel Plasson as artistic director.