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THE SCOOP | Questions Raised After Nearly Half Of All TSO Board Members Abruptly Resign

Roy Thomson Hall (Photo: Kelly Yuen)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra have announced a major executive level shake-up, with nine out of a total 19 Board Members abruptly resigning for undisclosed reasons.

The resignations start right at the top, with long-time Chair Richard Phillips and Vice-Chair Blake Goldring. They also include Renette Berman, Diane Francis, Peter Levitt, William Morris, John Novak, William Thomas, and Sonia Baxendale.

Before that, interim CEO Sonia Baxendale stepped down, with former Executive Director Cleveland Orchestra Gary Hanson replacing her in late September. She continued to sit on the board to assist in in the transition but has since stepped down after serving a total of four years last week.

The shuffle certainly raises many questions, including if the exodus had anything to do with the release of the TSO’s nail-biting 2015/16 Annual Report earlier this month. The report showed a last-minute financial sleight-of-hand that cleverly wiped away an expected $4–$6M deficit resulting (allegedly) from former TSO President and CEO, Jeff Melanson’s unfulfilled initiatives before he too resigned. This followed the controversy surrounding his legal battle with his ex-wife Eleanor McCain.

To fill in the vacancies on the board, the TSO have appointed Fernhill Holdings Ltd. Director and Manager, Catherine Beck, as new Chair of the Board of Directors. They have also appointed Sharon Groom and Debra Walker to the Board.

Beck, a relatively new member who only joined the board last year, follows in her late father’s footsteps, (H. Thomas Beck) who acted as TSO Board Chair between 1981 and 1983.

“I am honoured to be entrusted with the leadership of the Board of Directors,” said Catherine Beck in a press release statement. “…I hope my deep institutional knowledge and my passion for classical music can help us move further toward long-term sustainability, fiscal health, and ever greater artistic excellence.”

Besides Beck’s family ties to the TSO, she has a long history of service to not-for-profits. These include roles with the United Way, the Regent Park School of Music and the Weizmann Institute of Science, a leading research organization mandated to support intrepid scientists working in diverse fields.

Musical Toronto will be updating this story once we confirm what happened, exactly.

[Update: December 19, 2016] A previous version stated that interim CEO Sonia Baxendale “mysteriously stepped down.” According to a further information provided by the TSO, Baxendale’s term as interim CEO was predetermined to be a maximum of six months long and expired in August 2016, at which time Gary Hanson took on the role. We have also confirmed that she has also left the board, making the total number of departures nine, not eight as previously assessed.]

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