Orchestra group strives for harmony with peer organizations

To the Editor:

I was extremely surprised to read Cullen Macbeth’s “Orchestra rivalries flare up” (1/27). As music director and co-conductor of Berkeley College Orchestra, I was neither notified nor contacted for an interview. Macbeth does not quote a single current member of BCO, but quotes extensively from Saybrook Orchestra members. As a result, the article grossly misrepresents the situation among undergraduate-led orchestras.

Macbeth characterizes inter-orchestra “rivalry” as caused by a “quibble over unspoken rules” on preserving opportunities for undergraduate conductors. Since this “rule” applies to all five orchestras supported by undergraduate funds, it is unfair to blame it for supposed “rivalry” between two particular orchestras. Chong’s and McCreless’ comments on this issue were taken out of context. They are certainly not “penis envy” as Perry So, SYO’s former conductor, crudely insinuates. So’s response that Bach Society Orchestra hired an alumnus conductor in 2003-’04 is misleading: Bach Society was forced to ask its senior conductor to stay after graduating because So committed to leading Bach Society that year and quit at the 11th hour. Issues of equal opportunity and use of funds affect all undergraduate orchestras, and BCO is not alone in supporting mutual respect.

Macbeth correctly concludes “rivalry” was limited to conductors in the past. But the headline portrays “flaring up” of institutionalized “rivalries.” Macbeth gives no examples. Neither was SYO conductor Steven Thomas quoted regarding recent “rivalries.” In two years with BCO, we have encouraged members and freshmen to explore all musical opportunities here, and many play in SYO. BCO and SYO currently enjoy a rivalry-free relationship.

Clement So ’06

Jan. 29, 2006

The writer is the music director and co-conductor of Berkeley College Orchestra. He is not related to Perry So ’04.