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San Francisco Symphony Musicians Fight to Keep Esa-Pekka Salonen

By Sara Schabas on March 25, 2024

San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony (Photo: Kristen Loken)

After Esa-Pekka Salonen announced his resignation as music director of the San Francisco Symphony last week, the SFO’s musicians are publicly fighting to keep him.

When the San Francisco Symphony announced its season last week, its visionary music director Esa-Pekka Salonen simultaneously announced his resignation. Salonen cited a lack of a shared vision with the Board of Directors, who have made extensive cuts to performances and educational programs, cancelled a European tour and refused to restore musicians’ salaries to pre-pandemic levels.The San Francisco Symphony Musicians Group released a statement calling Salonen’s departure not only a great loss for their organization, but for San Francisco as a city and community.

Why it matters: The Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is known as one of classical music’s most innovative leaders. He is passionate about the possibilities of combining classical music and technology, and has recruited innovators to collaborate on AI-related and avant-garde programming. Under his watch, the SFO’s attendance has gone up as well as the organization’s endowment, which has increased from $40 million to $315 million since 2019 and is now one of the highest endowments of any US orchestra. When you combine all of that with Salonen’s world-class music-making, it’s no wonder the players are fighting to keep him.

Sara Schabas
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