Lawrence Tamburri resigns as Pittsburgh Symphony CEO; James Wilkinson takes over

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Lawrence Tamburri resigned as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Monday, ending a seven-year tenure that spanned some of the most difficult years the orchestra has faced financially.

After accepting his resignation, the executive committee of the PSO board voted to name James A. Wilkinson, a longtime board member and currently a vice chair, as Mr. Tamburri's successor, effective immediately.

"I have been doing this for almost 30 years and it is a really difficult job," said Mr. Tamburri, 60, who ran the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Savannah Symphony before coming to the PSO in 2004. "A lot of things came together and it was a good time for me to leave."

"At the meeting, I praised his dedication and hard work over seven years of difficult financial times," said PSO board chairman Richard P. Simmons.

Mr. Tamburri inherited an organization that had a nearly $3 million deficit and was asking for concessions from its musicians. Then, just as the group was emerging from that crisis, he got good news and bad. In 2006, the Simmons Family gave the PSO a $29.5 million gift that launched a successful, ongoing capital campaign. Two years later, however, the recession rocked the orchestra's finances again.

"We had two strong years going in, but we were working out of a hole," said the Pittsburgh native who graduated from Duquesne University. "It was frustrating."

The orchestra has failed to balance its budgets for several years in a row.

But there were high points as well. Mr. Tamburri ably guided the PSO during a period without a music director, and oversaw the hiring of current music director Manfred Honeck in 2007. He also added seven subscription concerts to the season and established the fall gala. His tenure saw the PSO's return to recording, with 11 CDs released and a renewed commitment to international touring.

Mr. Wilkinson, his successor, comes to the position with a diverse set of skills. He was a labor negotiator at U.S. Steel and executive director of the Society for Contemporary Craft. He is a member of numerous boards, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Institute and of Carlow University's board of trustees,

But most importantly, he has nearly 30 years of experience with the PSO. Always an active board member, he has gained the admiration of musicians for his crucial work in numerous contract negotiations, several of which were reached long before deadlines.

"There is no question he has tremendous respect of the orchestra for the job he does and the character he has," said PSO horn player Ronald Schneider. "I can't think of anyone who has dedicated himself to the PSO with such time and energy."

"I am very excited and honored that I was asked to assume this position," said Mr. Wilkinson, who asked not to be named interim. "We must work through the issues we have and do better at gaining attendance, giving and engagement."

"I don't know anyone who knows the orchestra more than him," said Mr. Simmons. "We were pleased that he was willing to step up and take the post."

Andrew Druckenbrod: or 412-263-1750. (blog: Classical Musings at Twitter: @druckenbrod.


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