Magazine recognizes ASO maestro Spano’s ‘courage’

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano hugged and greeted musicians at a protest on what would have been opening night, Sept. 25. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano hugged locked-out musicians at a protest on what would have been opening night, Sept. 25. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

Musical America has selected Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano as one of 30 end-of-the-year “Profiles in Courage” honorees.

The magazine cited several reasons for Spano’s selection, notable among them that the maestro didn’t stand quietly on the sidelines during the nine-week lockout that delayed the start of the ASO’s 70th anniversary season.

“When the ASO parent, Woodruff Arts Center, locked the Atlanta musicians out earlier this fall, Spano boldly took on his bosses and argued in defense of the musicians, both in public statements and private meetings with WAC officials,” wrote the magazine’s editor, former Atlantan Susan Elliott.

Given that musical leaders (who are neither part of the orchestra administration nor members of the musicians’ union) typically remain neutral during labor disputes, some Atlantans and industry experts wondered about Spano’s standing with the ASO after the collective bargaining agreement was reached. That was especially so after arts center governing board chairman Douglas Hertz was sharply critical of the maestro in an AJC interview.

In fact, Spano is in the first year of a five-year deal, and relations appear to be warming now that he has returned to the podium. In an encouraging sign, ASO management bought a full-page Musical America ad congratulating Spano on his award.

They weren’t the only one saying bravo. On the Facebook page of the new advocacy group Save Our Symphony Atlanta, the maestro’s mom, Dede Spano, posted about her son’s honor: “A proud mother just has to say Amen to that.”

While Norman Mackenzie will conduct three Christmas with the ASO concerts on Thursday and Saturday (featuring tenor Russell Thomas, the orchestra and ASO Chorus, Morehouse College Glee Club and Gwinnett Young Singers), Spano will return to Symphony Hall early in the new year. He will lead a program featuring violinist Midori in a program Feb. 19 and 21.

In the meantime, Spano is conducting the NEC Philharmonia on Dec. 10 in Boston and the Houston Grand Opera in the Magic Flute from Jan. 30 to Feb. 14.


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