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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

JOHN TERAUDS | Tafelmusik managing director Tricia Baldwin’s remarkable 14-year tenure comes to a close

By John Terauds on September 24, 2014

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Tricia Baldwin

It’s been a particular pleasure to take pride in Tafelmusik, which gets regular air play on classical radio in the United States. Hearing their excellent musicianship recognized beyond Canada’s borders has made me think often of the vision and determination that former music director Jeanne Lamon brought to the organization.

Now I have to digest the news that managing director Tricia Baldwin will be leaving soon, as well, to take up the surely enticing task of running the new Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston.

Lamon and Baldwin, who joined Tafelmusik in 2000, helped shepherd the period-instrument ensemble into the digital age.

More importantly, this dynamic duo ensured that the music of the 18th and early 19th centuries had a place amidst the explosive diversification of arts consumption in the 21st century.

Wednesday’s press release announcing Baldwin’s departure reads like an improbable list of accomplishments – financial, technological and logistical. How could one very modest, kind, unassuming person have pulled off what Baldwin did?

The obvious answer would be to say that Baldwin had invisible steel armour, which she probably does.

The not so obvious reality is that Baldwin was, and will likely continue to be, a master of consensual leadership.

The world is awash in people extolling the value of creativity and entrepreneurship, of taking risks and dreaming big. And it doesn’t take very long to see that Tafelmusik embraced those qualities in its modus operandi long before they became fashionable.

But Baldwin’s greatest gift was knowing how to temper boldness with prudence, and how to encourage creative thinking within a practical context. If the dreams were going to be big, there needed to be some pretty careful planning to make sure that they were built on solid rock, as opposed to being whipped up on clouds of wishful thinking.

Baldwin was present at just about every concert I attended over the course of her 14-year tenure as managing director. She greeted individual audience members and always had something interesting to say about the music being presented. Unlike the typical professional manager – which she is, complete with an MBA – Baldwin loved the product as much as the process of producing it.

During her Tafelmusik years, Baldwin wore that love on her sleeve, proudly and boldly. I can only imagine that this made the organization’s musicians feel as good as it did the patrons she encouraged through her own example.

I was never privy to the details, but Baldwin did share over Bloor St. lunch one day a few years ago how difficult certain aspects of her job were. In particular, she spent years wrangling with Sony in order to secure rights to recordings that could very well go out of print unless they could be managed from within – the very recordings that I get to enjoy when I turn on the radio now that I live south of the border.

Where some other music organizations made awkward stabs at setting up their own labels, Tafelmusik set itself up as a true, multimedia presenter.

Where some other cultural organizations over-extended themselves with expensive new buildings that they would figure out how to pay for afterward, Baldwin helped shape a plan to turn its longtime home at Trinity-St Paul’s into not just a great concert hall, but do so in a way that would not tax its finances, but would continue to include all the grassroots organizations that had long found shelter under the building’s accommodating roof.

It’s hard not to gush when one compares the can-do Baldwin and Lamon years at Tafelmusik with what often seems like chronic hand-wringing about the perilous state of the arts. That’s because these women continue to prove that, no matter how dire the circumstances, there are always opportunities if an organization can play to its strengths.

It must be an incredible shock to everyone at Tafelmusik to be without a music director and to now lose a managing director.

Whatever happens now will result in a completely different organization in a year or two. It’s a scary as well as an exciting prospect. The good thing is that Tafelmusik can recruit from a position of strength and, by extension, help ensure that its future could be even more glowing than its already bright present.

Baldwin is one of Toronto’s great cultural heroes, and should be celebrated as such before she heads east in December. And she will probably be the last person to suggest it.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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