Concert  Manager  Henry  Fogel

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Henry Fogel is Dean Emeritus of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He has had a 45-year career in music administration, including President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras from 2003 to 2008, and President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1985-2003. He has also been Executive Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., and Orchestra Manager of the New York Philharmonic.

From 1963 to 1978 he was program director and vice president of WONO, a commercial classical music radio station in Syracuse, New York.


Living and working all my life in Chicago, I had known Henry Fogel for many years.  In August of 1990, I asked him for a formal interview, and he immediately accepted.  Our conversation was convivial, and as expected we both laughed and occasionally bemoaned the state of affairs in our chosen love of classical music.

Part of the conversation was aired on WNIB, Classical 97 soon thereafter.  Now, more than thirty years later, I am pleased to be able to present the entire chat on this webpage.  Names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  Recordings which illustrate this page are items we spoke of, and a few others made during Fogel
s tenure with the Orchestra.

Since he was running the Chicago Symphony at that time, we began with that superb group in mind . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:   Tell me the joys and sorrows of guiding the fate of the world’s greatest orchestra.

Henry Fogel:   The joys and sorrows?  That’s quite a question, Bruce!  Not very many sorrows... none really of any significance.  I’m one of those people who gets up in the morning and can’t wait to get to work.  If you’re somebody who loves music, and who also enjoys the process of management, which I do, this must be the ideal job.   I can’t imagine a more ideal job than this one.  It’s satisfying because of the quality of music that’s made by the orchestra, and because you feel, rightly or wrongly – and maybe I need to feel this – but you like to feel that as a manager, you have some impact on the music that’s being made, both in terms of whatever influence you’ve had on the programs and on the happiness of the musicians that are on stage making the music.  So, I would say it’s all joys.

BD:   You mentioned
the process of management.  Is running this great orchestra any different than running IBM or Coca-Cola?

Fogel:   Oh, absolutely.  It’s very different because the profit sector has a different end point in mind.  For the private sector, or a for-profit corporation, the purpose of that corporation is to make money.  That’s the reason they exist.  When I’m lecturing at seminars of people who want to get into arts management, I often say that they have to remember the goal of General Motors is not to make cars.  The goal of General Motors is to make a profit for their stockholders, and cars are the means to that end.  That’s why in the corporate world you have conglomerates that have whole bunches of unrelated products.  The goal is to make a profit, and whatever products are made, are all different means to that corporate goal.  The goal of the symphony orchestra is to make music, and the money is the means to that end.  So, the means and the end are reverse, and that has serious implications in a lot of your decision making.

BD:   That doesn’t mean that you run it backwards?

Fogel:   No.  It does mean, however, that you make decisions that the private sector might find backwards.  For example, the private sector might never choose to do the equivalent of commissioning a new work.  It costs you money to commission a piece.  It costs you more to rehearse it than it does to rehearse a piece the orchestra already knows, and the chances are the bulk of your audience would just as soon hear the work they already know.  So why would you do it from a business point of view?

BD:   How is this different from coming up with New Coke?

new coke New Coke, reformulated soft drink that the Coca-Cola Company introduced on April 23, 1985, to replace its flagship drink in the hope of revitalizing the brand and gaining market share in the beverage industry. The announcement sparked a furour, and within a few days the decision to discontinue the prior version of Coke was called “the biggest marketing blunder of all time.”

The drink Coca-Cola (later called Coke) originated in 1886, and in the ensuing years it became part of American culture. In the 1930s William Allen White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Kansas newspaperman, described this carbonated beverage as the “sublimated essence of all America stands for—a decent thing, honestly made,” and nobody blinked when the Coke company hung out a sign for the Apollo 11 astronauts reading, “Welcome back to earth, home of Coca-Cola.”

However, despite Coke’s seemingly secure place in American lives, by the mid-1980s it was facing a strong challenge from Pepsi. That beverage had begun a popular ad campaign called the “Pepsi Challenge,” in which the majority of participants in blind taste tests chose Pepsi over Coke. Worried Coke executives decided to reformulate their drink, creating a sweeter product. (Perhaps the most notable previous change to Coke had occurred about 1903, when cocaine was removed as an ingredient.) After much testing—in which the reformulated product scored favourably—it was launched in April 1985 and became known as New Coke, though its official name was simply Coke; “new” appeared on bottles and cans.

On the street it was considered a national disaster. New Coke ads onscreen at the Houston Astrodome were booed, and original Coke was hoarded or sold at Prohibition-style prices. In addition, New Coke was dumped publicly into the sewers in Seattle. After 77 days the previous version of Coke was brought back as “Coca-Cola Classic” on July 11, 1985. The Coca-Cola Company lost millions in research and advertising costs but gained three times as much in free advertising. Indirectly, New Coke strengthened the company’s position atop the commercial “beverage tree,” which conspiracy theorists say had been the plan all along. CEO Roberto Goizueta denied the charge, claiming “We are not that smart and we’re not that dumb.”

Perhaps the best verdict on the New Coke affair came from Pepsi-Cola USA’s CEO Roger Enrico, who thought Coca-Cola had learned a valuable lesson: “I think, by the end of their nightmare, they figured out who they really are. Caretakers. They can’t change the taste of their flagship brand. They can’t change its imagery. All they can do is defend the heritage they nearly abandoned in 1985.”

Despite its poor reception, New Coke continued to be sold for a number of years. In 1992 it was renamed Coke II. However, its market share was miniscule, and the beverage was discontinued in 2002.

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Fogel:   You do expect the consumer to buy New Coke right away, and to like it right away, and if they don’t, it’s a failure, so that’s a mistake.  But in coming up with New Coke, or any new product in the commercial world, the goal is for the consumer to want it immediately.

BD:   Why shouldn’t the consumer want the newest symphony?

Fogel:   They don’t.  I don’t know why they don’t know, but for the most part they don’t.

BD:   Should they?
Fogel:   No, they should want the best, not the newest.  There’s more experiment involved, and there’s more risk-taking involved.  In the private sector, you do research and development, and gear your product to what the consumer wants.  You don’t do that in our world.  You give the artist his freedom.  You tell the artist to create, and you put it out there in the market place, and history will determinemaybe long after you’re deadwhether it was worth doing or not.  The reading today on the music of Mahler is very different than it would have been in 1905.  What you’re doing is investing in the future repertoire.  Long-range development and research in a corporation is five years.  Long-range development of new musical repertoire is fifty years or more sometimes.  There are a lot of similar decisions that you make because you believe in their artistic merit, whether or not they’re immediately popular.  So, in that sense, it is different from managing in the private sector.  On the other hand, many of the processes of management are the same, such as getting a staff, or getting people to do their best work.  The management techniques in the microcosm are similar.

BD:   Are you looking for someone who can get the job done and still loves the music, or someone who can get the job done and maybe would rather go to a rock concert?

Fogel:   In the management world, I suspect that love of the music is essential.  That’s not to say that some of us don’t also enjoy other kinds of music.  I think all of us do, but a passion for what we do is absolutely essential.

BD:   A belief in the product?

Fogel:   Belief in and love for it.  The emotional gut commitment to what we do, is essential.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Coming back to this idea of commissioning new works, how much of your job is curating the old and established, and how much is creating and laying the ground work for the next generations to come?

Fogel:   Oh, boy!  I couldn’t give you a percentage answer.

BD:   What about where the balance falls?

Fogel:   Even that is hard to say, and it’s not only my job.  It’s clearly the job of the institution, and I am one of the people involved in that.  The Music Director, Daniel Barenboim, of course, is principally involved in that, but we also have John Corigliano, our composer-in-residence, and we have Martha Gilmer, our Artistic Administrator, and the staff, and musicians who all have input into it.  This is not a direct answer to your question, but it speaks to what you’re trying to ask.  We know and we all recognize that an audience tends to be on the conservative side, and for the Chicago Symphony to survive, we must please our audience.  My feeling is that our role is to stretch that audience as far as we can without breaking it.  At the same time, we try to build a confidence on the part of that audience so that they believe in our choices.  And you never know.  You absolutely never know.  We asked John to write a piece, and originally it was going to be about twenty or twenty-five minutes long.  He wound up writing a forty-five-minute symphony that was very complex, very hard to put together, very emotionally demanding on our audience, and it brought the house down every night it was played.  It’s a work we’re going to play again both here and on tour.  We’ve talked to Daniel about that, and he believes in the piece.  It got the kind of reception you don’t always expect at a world premiere, and that is wonderfully gratifying.  Certainly no one would deny that a major part of our responsibility is the heritage of the past, but I don’t think it’s exclusively that.

BD:   What do you expect of the audience that comes to concerts week after week, or perhaps only two or three times a season?

Fogel:   Most of the audience probably comes a minimum of five times a season, because that’s the smallest subscription series we sell, and ninety per cent of our seats now seem to be sold on subscription.  The first thing that we as managers and the institution have to remember is that just as people ask me, “What does the orchestra think?” I have to remind people the orchestra is not one person, and the audience is not one person.  There’s a huge range in every audience.  There may be somebody who has heard the Eroica Symphony fifty times in his or her life, and there may be somebody who is hearing it for the very first time.  We have to try and balance our programming into reaching all of those people.  But whatever their level of sophistication and development is, it is incumbent on a member of the audience to understand that this is not just entertainment.  Any cultural experience is an experience that’s designed to reach a person on many levels.  Yes, on one level it’s entertainment, and on another it’s intellectual and emotional stimulation on a very profound level.  We hope that the concert experience is one that will both entertain people and also make them think and feel differently than they did without that experience.  My hope is always that the audience comes to be ready for that; that they don’t come and say, “Okay, I’m going to sit back, and figuratively or literally, take my shoes off and have you just blow a couple of nice tunes past me!”  It is incumbent upon a member of the audience to come with some preparation for what they’re going to hear.  It’s also incumbent upon us to provide that.  That’s why in the last few years we have expanded our pre-concert lecture and demonstration series, and we will continue to do that.  Five years ago we were doing almost none of that, and we’re now broadening that considerably, and very popularly.  We are looking at other forms of outreach.  We make program notes available in advance to those subscribers who want them.  For a very nominal charge, we mail them to your house before you come to the concert.  We’re also looking at other ways to help the listener come to the experience enriched in different ways.

BD:   These are all your expectations.  Do they differ on a Thursday night, when most of the crowd has come from work, as opposed to a Friday afternoon when that is their event for the day, or on Saturday night when they’ve rested all day and then come to the concert?

Fogel:   I don’t know if this is as big a difference here as in many other cities.  One of the things that’s a given in a number of other cities is that the opening night audience is the more ‘society’ audience that isn’t that serious about their music.  I don’t find that here in Chicago.  Although we can all joke about the coughing and the bracelet jangle that you hear at a concert, I find that much less the case here than I do at subscription concerts elsewhere.

BD:   [Surprised]  Really???

Fogel:   Oh, absolutely.  New York, frankly, is the worst, and I don’t mind saying it.  It’s awful!  That audience starts leaving the hall between the second and third movements on the last half of the program so they can make their train.  In Washington too, we found people leaving early, and referred the general deplorable lack of attention in the concert hall.  I find the audience here not to be that noisy by comparison with other American, or even European audiences.  However, nothing is as quiet and attentive as an audience in Japan.  But to me this in Chicago has always been a somewhat more serious audience.  New music gets a quiet hearing, and often an enthusiastic reception even on Thursday nights.  The letters that I get from subscribers tend to reflect a real knowledge and care about the music we play.  One of things that took me by surprise when I came to Chicago in 1985, which differed from New York and Washington where I had worked, is the degree of seriousness with which this audience does take the concerts and the experience.  It is not a frivolous thing at all.  It’s wonderful.  One of my complaints is that some people tend to take music too seriously.  I remember once chuckling during a performance of the Beethoven Symphony #8, in a spot which clearly warranted a chuckle.  He wrote it into the music.  This was somewhere else, not Chicago, and somebody next to me started glaring at me, as if to say, 
“How dare you?  She simply had missed the point.

BD:   You’ve mentioned other audiences and other orchestras.  Do you have some advice for would-be music administrators who want to run prospectively great orchestras?

fogel Fogel:   Hmmm...  I find myself uncomfortable being asked to do that.  I’m not here to pontificate to other professionals who have their own views.  I like to think very much about every concert we put on, and how we present it.  I don’t like to believe that we ever just plonk a concert down.  For example, a couple of years ago, we asked Zubin Mehta to conduct the Turangalîla Symphony of Messiaen.  It was Messiaen’s 80th birthday, and we wanted to do this important work.  [The three performances were in November of 1988, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano, and Jeanne Loriod, ondes-martenot.]  Zubin had studied and worked on the piece with Messiaen, and we felt that was appropriate.  He said he’d be happy to do it, but he warned me that when he did it with the New York Philharmonic, after each one of its ten movements, some percentage of the audience got up and left, so by the end of the evening, he said there was only forty per cent of the original audience still there.  So we thought about it and still wanted to do that piece.  We also decided to do two things.  Because it is a difficult piece for an audience, being eighty minutes of very unusual sounds for an audience that is used to Brahms, we mailed the program notes to every subscriber in advance.  Not just the ones who bought the notes in advance, but to every single person who was scheduled to come to that concert.  We included a note that said, “Because we believe this a more challenging piece, we wanted you to have these notes in advance.”  We also asked Zubin to speak to the audience before the performance.  This was not just a pre-concert lecture in the ballroom, where we can only fit two or three hundred people, but to the whole audience.  I said to Zubin, “Many subscribers will come to this, not being familiar with the very bizarre sound world of Messiaen.  It’s not even necessarily difficult, but it’s certainly not traditional, and I’d like you to approach what you say with that perspective in mind.”  So, he did a wonderful eight or nine-minutes’ worth of talking, in which he involved the orchestra.  He had orchestral excerpts worked out, with the trombones playing their special part, and the love music in the strings, and gamelan music in the percussion, and he tied them all together in a way that people found really helpful.  The result was we lost virtually nobody.  Two to three people left in the course of this eighty-minute piece each night, and that was it.

BD:   You’ll get that in almost any concert.  [Vis-à-vis the recording shown at left, see my interviews with Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, and Tōru Takemitsu.  All three works were commissioned by the Chicago Symphony.]

Fogel:   You will.  You get that in almost anything, right!  Later he said to me, “It’s interesting, the difference of what happens when you think about the audience, and how they are going to approach this piece, and take a pro-active stance.”  That’s the bottom line.  For better or worse, I do feel that I’m a very pro-active manager, and that we are becoming a very pro-active management.  We look at any given concert and
try to figure out the most logical way to present this performance.  Is it a talk?  Is it the question of late seating?  If so, do you let an audience in after the first movement, or will that interrupt the flow of the music so much that you really do not want to do that?  In that case, is there an overture on the program to allow in late-comers?  If not, do you want to start a few minutes late so that the late-comers can get there?  We have meetings about every single concert to think about all these issues.

BD:   In the case of Zubin Mehta being so amazed at the Chicago audience, does this make him want to come back?

Fogel:   Oh, absolutely!  Of the things that will make a conductor want to come to an orchestra, first and foremost is the quality of the orchestra itself, the responsiveness, and the chemistry.  Second is the feeling that they have that the audience is with them, and thirdly, they like to feel that they’re well-treated by a sympathetic management.  If those things happen, yes, a conductor wants to come back.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Since they have the whole world of music to pick from, I often ask conductors how do they make their selections.  You have the whole world of conducting talent, so how do you pick which ones you will ask and lead your orchestra?

Fogel:   Again, there are lots of factors, and the decision is certainly not mine alone.  The Music Director is the final authority but certainly I, and our Artistic Administrator, are very heavily involved in making recommendations, and even in the decision-making process.  This is because there are both budgetary as well as artistic considerations.  There are a lot of factors you put on the plate, and you try to inject a little of each.  What kind of repertoire does the conductor specialize in?  You don’t want an entire season where every conductor is a specialist in the Austro-German repertoire, where no one will do American music, or nobody will do modern music, or nobody will do French music, or nobody will do Russian music.  Then you have the so-called established stars and super stars, and you also have the younger conductors where you want to develop emerging talent.  We try to be in early on a career, so that when that person is the super star, they remember Chicago gave them one of their early chances.  All of those go into the mix.  There are certain conductors that we think of as regulars.  Erich Leinsdorf is a regular.  Leonard Slatkin is a regular.  Claudio Abbado is regular, and thank God they are all still coming back.  So, you start out with some of those.  I don’t think this is done very normally by orchestras, but it is an indication of what I would call my pro-active stance.  Once in a while we start out by wanting to do a certain kind of repertoire that we don’t often do.  So for that program, who should we get to conduct to it?  It is very rare for an orchestra to start out with an idea like this, and then try to get the right person to conduct it.  Usually the orchestra is engaged, the guest conductors have their repertoire, and then everyone starts negotiating programs.

BD:   Because it
s the Chicago Symphony, are you in more of a position of power in terms of getting exactly what you want to balance the season?

Fogel:   Yes.  I don’t think of it as power so much as having more flexibility, or control over putting the music first, not just the conductor.  About four years ago, we had an evening of Scandinavian music.  Håkan Hagegård was the baritone, and it was songs of Hugo Alfvén, Sibelius, and Wilhelm Stenhammar, and then a symphony by Eduard Tubin with Neeme Järvi conducting.  This led to an ongoing relationship with Järvi because the orchestra likes him a lot, and so do the audiences.  That was one of those cases where we started with the program.  I really felt that we had given short shrift to Scandinavian music.  Some of it is very beautiful, and it’s not that well-known.  We started out with that kind of a program, and felt that Järvi was the logical person for it.  He was delighted.  He told me he had given up trying to get any American orchestra to take a Tubin symphony because none of them had ever heard of them, and didn’t want them, so he had stopped proposing them.
BD:   Was your acquaintance with the Tubin symphonies through a score, or was it through recordings?

Fogel:   Through a recording.  I do read scores, but I must confess that most of my familiarity with pieces comes from recordings.  I am, as you may know, an avid record collector.  I have a good 7,000 or 8,000 records, and I’m buying new ones all the time.  This is another area where our management is different from some other managements.  I don’t know of other orchestras that do this.  There are many orchestras that will send a person on their staff to a school to learn the music computer, or to a management seminar, and the orchestra will pay for that tutoring.  We do that from time to time as well, but we are the only orchestra that has a budget
not for me as I pay for my ownbut for some of my staff to go out and buy records.  The only promise they have to make is that they’re going to buy records of pieces of music they don’t know.  They listen to the records, and then they share their reactions with others on the staff.  We don’t spend a lot of money on this, but we have spent maybe $1,000 a year on records.  But it’s a way for the artistic staff to get to know more repertoire, and every once in a while, out of that will come a program suggestion.  For example, next season we’re doing the Harold Shapero Symphony for Classical Orchestra with André Previn, which I think is an American masterpiece, or at least close to it.  It’s a very important and wonderful work, and it was through somebody picking up Previn’s recording [shown at left] and saying, “Wow, this is a good piece. Why don’t we do it?”  So those records are very useful tools, and become a resource for us.

BD:   As people come to concerts with unfamiliar but still easily accessible music, do you find that you’re getting more and more comments asking, “Why isn’t this done more often?”

Fogel:   Oh, sure!  That Scandinavian program was a wonderful example.  It drew as much mail as almost anything we’ve ever done, and the letters all said something like, “Dear Mr. Fogel, when I came to the hall, I was terrified at this list of composers that I had never heard of, except Sibelius.  Then I listened to the music, and I wondered why I had not known this music before.  It was so beautiful!  Thank you for introducing me to all this music.”  We also heard that when we did George Lloyd’s Seventh Symphony. and with a number of other things.  I expect to hear it this coming year with the Shapero symphony, and with the David Diamond Fifth Symphony.

BD:   You have a commitment to American music?

Fogel:   Absolutely, a strong commitment to American music.  In fact, I’ve started to talk with our Artistic Administrator and Daniel Barenboim about music from the whole first half of this century, especially this country which, I think, has really been shamefully neglected.  Roy Harris wrote thirteen numbered symphonies of which all we know is the Third.  They are not all masterpieces, but a number of them are very good works, and should be listened to.  This is where Leonard Slatkin is wonderful, because he brings this music to us.  There are other conductors now beginning to do this, and we may explore relationships with them because they are doing this repertoire.

BD:   [Suggesting two others]  Christopher Keene and James Conlon seem to be doing a few things from that era.

Fogel:   Yes, and Gerard Schwarz is doing a lot of it in Seattle.  In fact, he’s committed to some recording projects including the Diamond Symphonies.  James DePreist is another conductor, and he had a terrific success with us last year.  I was delighted with his concert, and the orchestra liked it very much.

BD:   Do you ever feel frustrated that you can’t have one more concert, or one more conductor that you really want to have this year?

Fogel:   Every year!  It’s a really interesting problem, and in a way, it’s the best kind of problem to have.  We do thirty subscription weeks, and starting in the 1991/92 season, twelve of those weeks will be Daniel Barenboim.  Three or four will be Georg Solti, the Conductor Laureate, and generally we’ve given Leinsdorf two weeks.  So now you’re already up to seventeen or eighteen weeks.

BD:   You’re running out of possibilities already.

Fogel:   Exactly!  We also need a week for the Assistant and Associate Conductors.  It’s not only part of the development of their talent, but you will not have younger musicians of quality if you will not give them a subscription week.  The good ones simply won’t come.  With Kenneth Jean and Michael Morgan, we’ve done pretty well in raising the level of that position at the CSO, and I want to keep it at that level.  So, already you’re down to ten or twelve weeks left in the season.  Where possible, we like to try to bring conductors for two weeks instead of one because changing conductors every week is hard for the orchestra.  It takes more than a week for that relationship to really set between musicians and conductor.  All the time, our biggest problem is not
could we engage’, but who we will eliminate from the list of people we want to engage.

BD:   I assume those names are reluctantly eliminated?

Fogel:   Very, very, and sometimes it’s okay.  We have to put this one off for this year, and this one off until that year, and I wish we could bring back Klaus Tennstedt, but if we do, how do we accommodate this other conductor?  [Photo of recording Tennstedt made with the CSO is shown farther down on this webpage.]  It’s a terrible decision in one way, but a wonderful problem in another way.  Many of the other orchestras in America, especially the less famous ones, have a problem in finding conductors of stature to come.  Our problem is trying to keep the ones that we have a relationship with happy, when we can’t bring them every year.

BD:   Are there perhaps too many first-rate conductors around?

Fogel:   No, I don’t think so.  There might be too many for our particular schedule in our particular situation, but no, I don’t think there are too many first-rate conductors around.  I don’t think there can ever be too many first-rate conductors around.  [Laughs]  Seriously, there are a lot of very good orchestras in this country.  If you go one level down from the so-called from the famous five
or Big Five, as people call it... I hate that term, and I don’t even think it’s a fair reflection anymorebut go down to good orchestras, and whether you’re talking about the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the National Symphony that I used to manage in Washington, or the San Francisco Symphony, they actually have trouble getting some of the most important conductors because they’re not the most famous three or four in America.  Part of the problem is many of those good conductors work in Europe, and when they come to America they only schedule five weeks.  They tell their management they’ll do Philadelphia, and Chicago, and maybe New York, or Boston, and that’s it.  I wish some of the great conductors saw some of the other really, really wonderful orchestras of this country.
BD:   Should the Chicago Symphony reach out and perhaps put a little pressure on them?  Say you’ll give them two weeks in Chicago if they’ll give a week of concerts to Milwaukee, or Seattle, or Dallas?

Fogel:   That would never work.  They wouldn’t accept that.  You can’t say that to a conductor.

BD:   [Clarifying]  Not as blackmail, but maybe as a strong suggestion?

Fogel:   I would never make it a trade, but I have certainly talked to some of the conductors that I have a personal relationship with.  Last year, when Günther Wand was here, I had invited the manager of another orchestra, which will remain anonymous, to come, and I introduced the two of them in hopes that Mr. Wand would go there.  [Photo of recording Wand made with the CSO in January of 1989 is shown at right.]  I have often put in good words with those conductors, which is the only way you can do it.  I can’t say that I’ve seen any great effect of that yet, but one keeps trying.  It’s very hard when each one says they’ve got five weeks in America, and they want to do Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, or New York.  Part of the problem is they make higher fees in Europe because the government supports the orchestras.  The dollar is not what it was five or six years ago in relation to European currency, so what they get paid in Europe is worth many more dollars than any American orchestra can afford to pay.  They actually make a financial sacrifice when they come to this country.

BD:   So, to conduct the Chicago Symphony, the draw has to be the quality of the music-making?

Fogel:   Absolutely.  A conductor will make more money with a second-line European orchestra than conducting any American orchestra because of the value of the dollar versus the European currency, and the government support that allows the orchestras in Europe to pay those fees.

BD:   Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, or just a thing?

Fogel:   It’s just a thing.  I don’t know.  I try to stay out of international economics because I don’t understand them as well as I’d like to.

BD:   Do you understand American economics enough to really do the best job you can with this orchestra?

Fogel:   I’d like to think so!  From a financial point of view, the budget has been balanced for the last five years, and we’re one of only two or three major orchestras in the country to do that.  I can say that we have not had a deficit for five years in a row, and the trick is to be careful to not let the money become dominant.  My goal is not to balance the budget of the Chicago Symphony.  When I was being interviewed for this job five years ago, I told the search committee that if, in ten, fifteen, twenty years, what was said about me was, “Henry Fogel is the guy who came in and balanced the budget of the Chicago Symphony”, I would feel like I failed completely.  That’s not what I’m all about.  It is an important part of what I do, but it’s not what I’m all about.

BD:   [Asking the obvious question]  Okay, what are you all about?

Fogel:   You’d have to sit me in a chair and let a shrink get at that, but I have a need to feel that I’ve made a difference.  There’s no question about that in my life.  I’d like to feel that whatever job I’ve done, I’ve made an impact.  In the case of the Chicago Symphony, I’d like to believe that I had an impact on what kind of orchestra it was, and that means what kind of music it plays.  It also means how it relates to the community, how it thinks about new music, how it thinks about the community it’s in, and how it thinks about the lives of the musicians in it, and the concert performances that it gives.  That’s what I’m all about.  We could spend more time than you or I have, but I’d like to believe that if you took an honest look at the way the Chicago Symphony relates to the community now, and the way it did five years ago, that you would see some differences.  We did one concert three or four years ago on the south side of the city on the campus of Chicago State University, and then we did two concerts last year at Christ Universal Temple on the south side.  The Chicago Symphony never did anything like that before.

BD:   Are these isolated incidents, or are these now part of a progression?

Fogel:   They are part of a progression.  We have got to understand that the music we play is not the property of people of wealth, education, or a certain social standing, or a certain European background.  The cliché is that music is the Universal Language, and we either believe that or we don’t.  If we believe it, as I do, and I do passionately, then it is our job to break down the barriers that to some degree our business has put up, so that people feel welcome to give the music a chance.  Not everybody will respond to it, no matter whether they are of a European background or wealthy, or an American background, or a black heritage, or an Hispanic background and not wealthy.  Some people will and some people won’t, but it is our role to make the orchestra available to everybody, and to make the music we present available to everybody.  Another part of that pattern is the Civic Orchestra concerts, which are now free.

BD:   [This being one series which I did not attend]  Were they not always free?

Fogel:   No, they were $5 a ticket when I came, and they played to a thousand or 1,200 people per concert [about half the capacity of the hall].  Now we’re turning people away.  The house is full and we’re promoting them particularly in those areas of the city that do not have a tradition of coming to Orchestra Hall.  We have played every year for five years at the State Fair in Springfield.  We have done other kinds of outreach concerts, and we
re looking more and more at how to do more of that.  This is also something that happens to be a strong feeling on the part of Daniel Barenboim, and that’s in an area where he and I are spending a lot of time talking about how we can continue to do that.  A whole different area that he and I both feel very strongly about, is the level of orchestral training that is given to future orchestral musicians and even young conductors.  In this country, it’s not as good as we’d like it to be, and a lot of music schools simply train soloists, but they don’t train orchestra players.  That’s the role of the Civic Orchestra, but we’d like to expand the Civic Orchestra and the way it does that.  He intends to give it a lot of his own personal time, and perhaps even conduct one or two of its concerts down the road, although that’s still being thought about.  [Laughs]  I’m giving you what are, in effect, almost scoops, but they’re just thinking points right now.  I’d like to expand that idea.

BD:   They’re ideas that you’d like to have happen?
Fogel:   Yes!  The relationship that we’ve started to establish with the music of our time, is a change in the last five years,  In the ten years between 1975 and 1985, the Chicago Symphony commissioned a total of seven pieces of music.  We now commission roughly three pieces a year, so that’s a major change, and it’s exciting.  Now we have our second composer-in-residence [Shulamit Ran], who is a constant spur in the whole area of our relationship to the music of our time.  So, these are all areas that I’m all about, which is keeping an orchestra vital.  We’re looking at what an orchestra is, and what it is going to be in the twenty-first century, and how it relates to its whole community.

BD:   It’s always growing and changing?

Fogel:   Yes!  [At this point we stopped for a moment to take care of a few technical details, including his recording of a station break.  He was amused by the request.]  Now you’re getting back to my old career!  [See photo of Fogel at WONO control board below-left]  
Hello, this is Henry Fogel, and you’re listening to Classical 97, WNIB in Chicago.  [Knowing that my programs included recordings by my interview guests]  But what can you use on the air?  I haven’t written anything for you to play.

BD:   We can have your ideas, and play some recordings where you’ve had a direct impact.

Fogel:   [Making a helpful suggestion]  You can pick the Franz Schmidt Second Symphony that we did with Järvi [shown at left].  There’s an example of a piece...  When I was in Syracuse running my classical music radio station, the music director of the Syracuse Symphony, Karl Kritz, was a student of Franz Schmidt, which I didn’t know.  He was a very dear man, and very close to me and my wife.  In fact, our son is named after him.  One day on the radio I played the Schmidt Fourth Symphony, which was the only one recorded in those days.  This was the old Rudolf Moralt recording.  He said, “That’s wonderful!  I didn’t know you even knew who Schmidt was.  I studied with Schmidt, and someday we must do a piece.”  He and I talked, and I got tapes of the other three symphonies from European radio broadcasts.  He and I both came to the conclusion that the Second was a wonderful piece, and he programmed it.  Just to show you how far back this goes, I got Westminster Records to agree to issue a recording of it, which I would produce right after the performances.  The conductor had a heart attack during the concerts, although he continued the performances.  He didn’t realize that’s what was happening, and he died a week later.  We never made the recording.

BD:   He thought that it was just a cathartic experience?

Fogel:   He thought it was indigestion.  He knew he was sick, but he didn’t know it was a heart attack, and he bulled through this forty-eight-minute monster symphony, when he should have been off the podium and in the hospital.  It may have been what made it even worse.  That goes back to twenty years, and I’ve had the tapes of the rehearsals and the performance in my house, and have listened to them from time to time saying,
“Someday I’m going to give this piece a recording.  I suggested it to Järvi, and that’s why we programmed it.  To my knowledge, the work had only been played three times in the United Statesin the 1930s with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, which was the American premiere, and then in Syracuse, and then here.  So I’ve had something to do with two of those three performances.  Järvi has now gotten interested in Schmidt, and he’s doing his works all over the place.  [He would record all 4 of the Schmidt symphonies, #2 and #3 with the Chicago Symphony, and #1 and #4 with the Detroit Symphony, of which he was Music Director.  Photo of #3 is shown below.]  It’s a great feeling to do that, and it’s much more of what I’m about than balancing the budget.

BD:   That’s the fun part, and balancing the budget is simply what you have to do?

Fogel:   Yes, but I have fun with that, too.  I enjoy numbers.  I don’t deny it, but it’s not my passion.  I have a feeling of accomplishment in the fiscal integrity of this orchestra, but it
s partly because I believe that it helps us then be able to take more risks.  When I came here in 1985, this orchestra was losing a lot of money, so we couldn’t take chances.  You can’t talk about commissioning pieces of music when you’re losing $1.5 million a year.  How can you persuade yourself, let alone your board, that you ought to spend another $40,000 commissioning a piece when you’ve got that kind of loss?

BD:   Is it fair to ask you how you turned it around?

Fogel:   It’s a fair question.  We did a lot of different things.  Probably one of the most significant things was ending the ten-concert series in Milwaukee. That was a financial disaster for this orchestra.  It made a lot of sense eighty or ninety years ago when the Chicago Symphony began it, because in those days our musicians were paid on a per-service basis, and it was extra work for them.  Also, Milwaukee didn’t have an orchestra then, so it was a service to Milwaukee.  But at this point, we were turning people away in Chicago, using those ten orchestra services in Milwaukee.  Our fee for playing in Milwaukee was $30,000.  Our out-of-pocket travel expenses were $15,000, forgetting the regular orchestra salaries, and even forgetting a conductor’s fee, because we’d have to pay that conductor in Chicago or Milwaukee.  But the extra cost of going to Milwaukee was $15,000, so the net to us was $15,000.  In that year, which was 1986, a sell-out in Chicago would gross about $72,000 or $73,000 at Orchestra Hall.  So clearly, as soon as we sold about twenty-two per cent of the seats, we were breaking even with Milwaukee, and everything over that was gravy.  That alone got us $400,000 a year when we did those concerts in Chicago instead of Milwaukee.  That was certainly one of the biggest financial gains.  We also increased the rental price of the Hall, and we raised weekend ticket prices higher than weekday ticket prices.  That is typical throughout the entertainment business, but was not with the Chicago Symphony.  So we boosted those ticket prices somewhat, and we’ve raised the prices of box-seat tickets.  I had some complaints from some of our box subscribers, but the truth is we have one hundred-twenty box seats, and a waiting list of almost one hundred people who want to get a box.  I feel that it’s very important for us to keep seats available at all prices, and in fact the cheap seats in the gallery we have raised only a total of $1 since I came five years ago.  We’ve increased the spread between high and low, but frankly we feel that we have the right to charge as much as the traffic will bear for the box seats for which we have a demand.  Even so, it doesn’t begin to approach ten per cent of a Sky Box for a Bears football game!  But we have raised the price of those considerably year after year, and most of the people who have complained have written their complaint along with their renewal check.  Somebody said I was being very arrogant about it, but I don’t feel that’s an arrogant position at all.  Box seats are a limited commodity.  I’m certainly not saying the Chicago Symphony should only be for the wealthy, but here’s a very desirable seat, so why shouldn’t we get what the traffic will bear?  That seems to me to be right.  It helps support the orchestra, and so we keep doing it.

BD:   They are then subsidizing the people in the cheap seats.

Fogel:   Absolutely!  At Wrigley Field [home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team], the corporate box holders are subsidizing the people in the bleachers.  That’s the way our economic system works.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Are you optimistic about the future of this orchestra, and orchestras all over the world?
Fogel:   I am.  People talk about orchestras being dinosaurs, but I don’t really believe it.  They’ve survived a long time, and they’ve changed when they’ve needed to change.  I do think that fresh thinking needs to come in.  We need to look at a lot of things.  Can we keep playing programs over and over again?  Can the same musicians be asked to play the same repertoire over and over again?  Do we need to induce more variety into the musicians’ lives to avoid boredom?  I don’t know.  Maybe we do, and maybe there are ways to do that.  I’m aware of the controversy of the choice, but to me, we have one of the most exciting musical minds in the public eye coming in as Music Director, who also thinks about all these issues, and that makes me very optimistic.

BD:   Are you the bringer of new ideas, or are you the seeker of new ideas from all over the place?

Fogel:   I hope I’m both.  I hope I’m capable of coming up with new ideas.  I also know that any good administrator steals good ideas from everybody else, and adapts them, and modifies them to suit the situation he’s in.  I see my role as a catalyst, as well as being a person with ideas.  We very much work in a consensus and consultative way.  If you were to gather Daniel Barenboim and Martha Gilmer and me in a room, and ask which one makes the programs, all three of us would say that we all do.  It was that way with Solti up until now, and Barenboim from the 1991 season forward.  We all come up with ideas and recommendations.  We all are people who know and care about music, and everybody’s a piece of it.

BD:   Do you build programs for a season, or for a subscription, or for ten years?  What is the key?

Fogel:   You don’t build it for a particular subscription.  You build mostly for a season, but you also start to look at the idea of overall themes.  We’ve had multi-year themes of Bartók and Haydn, and that was, I’m pleased to say, the concept of multi-year ideas.  What many orchestras have done
which is take one year and do Schubert, or Liszt, or somethingthey either do so much of the music by that composer that everybody gets a little tired of it, or they don’t do justice to the composer because you don’t do enough of the music.  The only way to deal with this was to take a theme, whether it’s a composer or a style, and do it over a four- or five-year period.  You don’t have to play something every week, but you still can get a broad perspective of that composer.  I made that suggestion to Solti about five years ago, and he liked the idea.  Then we started talking about what to do.  He’s the one who came up with Bartók and Haydn, because they’re two composers he is very close to.  That’s the way a good consultative process works.  Someone comes up with half the idea, somebody else comes up with the other half, and it fits, and it makes sense.

BD:   Has this ipso facto been happening over the years because the Symphony has been playing a lot of Mahler, and a lot of Bruckner, and a lot of Beethoven?

Fogel:   To some degree.  There are certain composers that will happen with on a regular basis, but I don’t think it would ever happen with Haydn.  What happens with Haydn is the more popular works would get done, but you’d never hear the early serenades, or the baritone trios, or the opera overtures, or the early symphonies, which we’ve been doing a lot of.  With Bartók, when it’s all over, we’ll have played virtually everything he ever wrote for orchestra.  It might be that this orchestra has always played a lot of Bartók, but we’ve never played Kossuth, and we’ve rarely played the early Suite No. 1, and things like that.  So, when you set out to do it in an organized way, you can take a more thorough and balanced and complete look at the composer involved.  It might not always be a composer.  Maybe it’s a style.  Perhaps let’s look at the symphony in the twentieth century, and over the next five years every other concert will have at least one work called ‘symphony’ that was written in the twentieth century.  I don’t know that we’re going to do that, but it’s the kind of thing you can do.

BD:   You come up with the idea, and then see how close you can come to it?

Fogel:   Exactly.  You start with a long thrust in mind, and you know when you’re going in any season.  We have this Bartók list of what we’ve done and haven’t done.  These have to go in to the programs, but then you also really focus on the season, and a lot of that has to do with balance of styles, nationalities, and popular versus unfamiliar repertoire.  Then, it all has to fit in with the conductors.  Coming back to the other section of your question, one of the most challenging parts of what we do, after we make the thirty programs, is balancing the different subscription series.  That’s an amazing process.

BD:   Is that like a jigsaw puzzle?

Fogel:   Almost exactly.  It’s done on index cards all over the Artistic Administration Department.  They’re on tables, they’re on the piano in the Music Director’s studio, they’re all over the place.  There’s Thursday’s pile, there’s Friday’s pile, and there’s Saturday’s pile.  Thursday is the easiest because it’s all three series (A, B, and C) with the same length of ten weeks.  It’s harder on Saturdays where there is a five-week series and two ten-week series.  Each one of them should have in equal dose of the Music Director, and the famous conductors, and the younger conductors, as well as the famous soloists and the younger soloists, the pianists and other soloists, vocal music and non-vocal music, contemporary music and non-contemporary music, etc.  You don’t want to have one series that has all the one-piece (no intermission) concerts such as the Bruckner Eighth, the Mahler Ninth, and the Britten War Requiem.  Those are all known as
blockbuster pieces.  The problem is when you balance any one of those factors, it throws off the other ones.  You discover there are no pianists on the A series and all the pianists are on the B series.  So you move those around, and now the pianists happen, by coincidence, to be playing only twentieth-century pieces.  Or now Solti is all on A and not on B, so then you fix that, and B becomes all vocal.  Then you fix that, and C has all the modern music!  [Both laugh]  We also try to get a relatively even chronological distribution, so a subscriber doesn’t get three concerts in October, and then have an eight-week hiatus until December.  Ultimately it isn’t perfect, but you finally get it so that all the factors are in as close a balance as you can reasonably expect.  Then you print it, and a subscriber writes in says, “There are four weeks between my third and fourth concert.  Don’t you people think of anything???  They don’t know what it looked like before we fixed it up.

BD:   If you hadn’t fixed it, it would have been eight weeks between those concerts.

Fogel:   That’s right, or it would have been chronologically perfect, but they would have had every world premiere and no famous soloists.  It’s a fun process, and we all get involved in it... the Music Director, the Assistant Conductors, Phillip Huscher, our Program Annotator, the Artistic Administrator, Joyce Idema, the Marketing Director, and probably I’m missing some people.  We all go and move the cards around.

BD:   Essentially, then, what you are selling is trust on the part of the audience.  They have to trust you to give them the best that you can.

Fogel:   Yes, and it’s our job not to betray that trust.  People, of course, don’t always know what you didn’t give them.  They only know what you did give them, and you have to be able to make a reasonable explanation.  I have a policy that I answer virtually all of our mail.  If we get complaining letters, they come to me and I answer them, and it’s not a form letter.  I enjoy that part of my job a lot.  I spend probably two hours a week at least cumulatively answering all of my mail.  I spend that time on it because I know my days from running a radio station that it’s important to keep a personal contact with your audience.  They need to believe that you care about them.  Even the most angry letter will get a relatively reasoned response.  Often I throw out the first draft I’ve written, and then send what I hope is a well-reasoned, rational letter explaining why we do what we do, and why we made such a decision.  Five years ago, one of the ways I saved money for a while was to consciously not engage the famous and therefore the most expensive soloists.  We simply had no choice.  The orchestra was losing a lot of money, and you can’t turn a ship like this around quickly.  People don’t understand the huge difference in fees.  Without getting into giving away any artist’s fee, I will tell you that for a week of three or four subscription concerts, the top fee for the most famous artist can be anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, or even $65,000.
BD:   Is it the same for three as it is for four?

Fogel:   It will vary.  It’s usually more for four, but once you’ve made the first booking, the add-on for the fourth is not a multiple.  For a young emerging pianist or violinist, you could spend $8,000 for that same week, as compared to those figures I just gave you.  Over a thirty-week season that’s an enormous difference, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

BD:   Will you get comparable quality from the young emerging virtuoso as you will from the seasoned veteran star?

Fogel:   Probably not, although I could argue in some cases yes.  Sometimes it isn’t even someone who is young or emerging.  You and I would probably agree that there are certain artists who. for some reason, have not established a super-star career.  Some of them will give you a concert on the level of almost anybody.  Sadly, fee is not related to artistic talent.  It’s related to perceived box-office appeal.  They might not get a mere $8,000 for a week, but it is not near $30,000 to $50,000, either.  It’s somewhere in between.  So artistic quality is certainly one factor, but it isn’t the only factor.  When we were clearly losing a lot of money, I had an obligation to straighten out the finances, so we made a decision to minimize, or virtually eliminate for a few years, super-star soloists, and we had a lot of mail about that!  I didn’t duck it and I didn’t write back a form letter than said,
“Thank you very much for your letter... and saying why we don’t hire Isaac Stern, or Itzhak Perlman, or Pinchas Zuckerman, and we are certainly considering them for future seasons.  I remember writing to the Met about a singer they didn’t engage.  I was a teenager at the time, and I got back that kind of form letter, and I really hated it.  I felt they didn’t give me a real answer.  I knew that it was placed in somebody’s file.  So now, I explain to people exactly the fee differences, and I told them that as soon as we get the budget balanced in a regular basis, we will change that.  Now the budget has been balanced, and we have changed that.  Itzhak Perlman was here last year, and Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zuckerman, Jessye Norman, Martha Argerich, and few others are all scheduled to be here in coming seasons.  I’ve had some people who remembered that I wrote them that letter two years ago, and they wrote me a new letter saying, Thank you, I noticed that you have changed back now to the old policy again, and I just wanted you to know that I remembered.

BD:   Is there is anything that the world management community can do to help to hold down exorbitant fees?

Fogel:   It’s a real problem, and it’s a very depressing problem because fees are going up much faster than the rate of inflation.  The supply versus the demand is not in favor of the buyer.  How many super-star violinists can you name, who are known in most households?  There are whole bunches of very good violinists, but to become a super-star, and to qualify at that level of fee and attention, where you announce the name, and the concert is sold out?  That isn’t a problem for us, but in smaller orchestras, or for recital series, which also have to pay the established fee, it is.  I think there are perhaps three in that super-star class, and I doubt you and I could name ten pianists that we would say are in that category.  You look at all the orchestras, and add the recital series around the world that are groping for this handful of super-stars, and you realize that they really are in a position to call their own shots, and there’s almost nothing we can do.  Every orchestra would have to draw the line at a certain fee.

BD:   Then the artist would sue for anti-trust?

Fogel:   You are absolutely correct, and that is a fact and a real issue.  The managers are not even allowed to get on the phone to talk about it.  If I had three managers of major orchestras on the phone, and we all said we’re all going to agree that the New York, Boston, and Chicago orchestras will not pay more than $35,000 a week, that would be collusion.

BD:   Is it collusion even if you’re all at a party, and just saying you’re thinking about not charging more than such and such?

Fogel:   Yes, if it can be proven that you all spoke about that, and all made a common decision.  That’s collusion.
BD:   Where do you split the idea between stealing ideas from somebody else and collusion?
Fogel:   There’s a difference between ideas and something as specific as a hard-and-fast fee.  If we were all at a party, and we said we’re going to start holding the line and getting tougher, that’s fine.  But if we all said we’re not going to pay more than $37,500, and all of a sudden every orchestra said that’s our top fee, that’s more than an idea.  That’s a number.  The competition is, again, with Europe and their heavy levels of government support.

BD:   Should the government here in America get more involved in direct support of the arts?

Fogel:   I think so, but I would not like to see it at the level that it is in Europe.  That’s too strong, and it’s probably not healthy.  Lord knows, we’ve seen from the current NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] battles what even minimal government support can lead to in the way of attempt at control.  I don’t want to see any supporter, whether it’s a corporation, an individual, a foundation or the government be at such a high level that they can make or break the institution.  But my own personal feeling is that the Federal government ought to be into arts organizations to the tune of between eight and ten per cent of their budgets, as opposed to the one to three per cent that they are now.  State and local governments could pick up another eight to ten per cent, and the rest we’d have to go out and fund ourselves.  That would be a responsible statement by society that the quality of life in this country is important, and is a good goal of government.

BD:   You want about a fifth of your budget coming from the public?

Fogel:   Yes.  I would feel that was a rational and reasonable number.

BD:   Then you get another percentage from the box-office, and the rest from contributors?

Fogel:   Yes.

BD:   Are those the only three players?

Fogel:   Yes, and there is also the endowment, but ultimately that’s the interest on money that’s been contributed.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Do we in Chicago know how lucky we are to have the greatest orchestra, and get the greatest soloists and conductors?

Fogel:   I sense that we do.  The firm of J. Walter Thompson helped us do a marketing survey of our audience.  Obviously, it’s different with the commercial world, but they said they’ve never seen a group of clients, or customers, who feel as positively about the corporation as our audience feels about us.  On a zero-to-one-hundred scale in the questions of how they rate the performances of the orchestra, it was about ninety-six.  It was really amazing.  It was a very in-depth survey, sent to 2,400 subscribers randomly chosen to reflect the zip code breakdown of our subscription.  We have about 18,000 subscribers (which counts a household as one), and about forty-five per cent of that 2,400 returned it, which is very high, especially considering it took about forty-five minutes to an hour to fill it out.  It was in-depth.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  Are you sure the people didn’t think they were doing the census?

Fogel:   Well, that’s possible!  [Much laughter]  But one of the things we listed was a whole bunch of soloists.  There were about twenty-five soloists, and the survey said ‘just rate them’.  One of the ones we listed was
orchestra soloists, and that came in third.  It came in ahead of soprano Jessye Norman and pianist André Watts.  It was amazing!  So I think the public does know how lucky they are.  When one of our orchestra members plays a solo, listen to the kind of ovation they get, and the popularity at the box-office of those weeks.  I have a feeling that the relationship between the public and this orchestra is quite a bit stronger than I’ve seen elsewhere.  You sense it in the hall.  I happen to be a sports fan, and I’ve heard the sports-casters say things like, “[Pitcher] Greg Maddux handles the opposing batters the way Solti handles musicians!  It’s amazing to me that not only the sports caster would know, but that he assumes his audience would know what he’s talking about.  I mentioned before that when I first came we made some changes in the programming, and even some of the angry letters were gratifying because the sense I got was that, Though I was brand-new here, don’t tamper with the Chicago Symphony that we love!  Even where I may have disagreed with the specifics of the letter, I had to respect that love for the orchestra which came through.
BD:   Should you be doing anything at all to try and get Cubs fans and Sox fans and Bears fans into Orchestra Halls for concerts?

Fogel:   Absolutely, and in fact I would say we did.  During my first year here, the Bears went to the Super Bowl, and the Chicago Symphony played the Bears Fight Song as an encore [and made the recording, which is shown at left].  Dallas Green, General Manager of the Cubs (1981-87) was a Symphony subscriber and a serious lover of the orchestra.  I had an ongoing commitment to him that if the Cubs ever made it to the world series, we’d do something similar.  [The Cubs finally went to the World Series (and won!) in 2016, their first appearance since 1945, and their first victory since 1908.]  We’re all a part of the same community, and this is not a new idea.  Leonard Slatkin took a sabbatical this season, and he traveled with the St. Louis Cardinals and sat in the dug-out!  I had lunch about two weeks ago with Mike McCaskey [oldest grandchild of George Halas, founder of the Bears, and Chairman of the Board 1983-2011] out at Halas Hall, and he and I just talked about what he felt with the similarity between our jobs of handling of athletes and handling musicians.  We’re going to have a follow-up lunch to see how we might do something together.  I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but these stereo-types are silly.  One of the other things we found in that survey was that about thirty-five or forty per cent of our subscribers happen to be lovers of either professional baseball, basketball, or football teams.  The year that the Bears went to the Super Bowl, one of the five concerts on the Sunday afternoon series turned out to be on Super Bowl Sunday.  When it became apparent that the Bears might go the Super Bowl, we stuck a quick questionnaire in the program of the previous Sunday.  This was five or six weeks earlier, so it was not at all clear yet that the Bears would be in the Super Bowl, but we said we had to make the decision now.  It’s the same audience because that series is ninety-seven per cent sold by subscription.  We said,
“The next concert on your series is Super Bowl Sunday.  It’s a three o’clock concert and the game begins at four.  We apologize, so please fill out the form below and leave it with the usher.  Would you like us to move the concert to 1:30 PM?  We got about 1,200 of them back, which represents close to everybody in the hall because most people are couples.  The result was about ten to one to move the concert time.  It was the most overwhelming consensus I’ve ever seen on any survey.  So we moved the concert back by an hour and a half.

BD:   If you could have, would you have moved the date?

Fogel:   If we could have, but that would have been very difficult because by contract, our Sunday afternoon concerts are in the weeks we don’t do Saturday night concerts, and the Sunday audience would not have wanted it on a different day of the week.  Then on a different Sunday maybe Solti wouldn’t have been available.

BD:   You’re back to the jigsaw puzzle again!

Fogel:   Yes, but to move it to 1:30 PM was fine.  It was easy, and we did that.  On the Thursday night concert, when we did that Bears Fight Song as an encore, we didn’t announce it.  It was a big secret.  We rehearsed it once, but nobody knew what we were going to do.  Fortunately, the program ended with The Nutcracker Suite, so it wasn’t a sacrilege.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have done it.

BD:   You wouldn’t have put it after the Mahler Ninth?

Fogel:   No, or Death and Transfiguration.  It meant having the chorus come running on stage, and, of course, the audience was distinctly puzzled as to why people were running on stage in a non-choral concert, and getting up on the choral risers.  Then Solti came out, and everybody in the house was befuddled as to what in Heaven’s name was going on.  But as soon as they started the song the house erupted.  Everybody knew what that was all about.  People are not all in separate compartments.  People who like football games also like great music.  That’s a very long answer to your question, but it goes back to something we said earlier.  Part of our job is to break down some of these perceived barriers, or preconceptions about who likes classical music.  No matter how many years I’m allowed to spend here, I’d love to eliminate the phrase,
I’d like to go to a concert, but I don’t enough about it.  [Both laugh]

BD:   You don’t need to know anything, really.

Fogel:   That’s right.  But what have we done?  What have we in the music business done to make people feel that way?  That’s the question that we have to examine.  Chicago is a wonderful city.  It’s a great city to live in, and I don’t just say that because I’m here now.  I said that when I wasn’t here.  To me it’s the most vital and interesting city in the country, partly because of its great arts institutions, and also there’s a sprit about this community.  Having lived in New York and Washington, everybody is from somewhere else.  Chicago has a great sense of itself, and that makes it just a wonderful place.

BD:   Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

Fogel:   It’s a pleasure.


See my interviews with Dale Duesing, Andrew Schenck, and Margaret Hillis


See my interviews with Lella Cuberli, Graham Clark, Jennifer Larmore, and Augusta Read Thomas


See my interviews with Pierre Boulez, José van Dam, Nancy Maultsby, and David Schrader


© 1990 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on August 6, 1990.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB two months later.  This transcription was made in 2022, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.