In support of Thomson

Re. Former conductor will sue (Castanet, Dec. 8)

I hope there’s an investigation into who benefits most from this airing in public of dirty laundry because it would be very sad if the public ends up drawing grossly unfair conclusions about the reputations and character of the people involved.

As to (former OSO music director and conductor) Rosemary Thomson’s character, nine years ago, as an adult beginner and new to Kelowna, I was struggling to play my instrument in front of a room full of people, when unexpectedly, in walked the conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. Imagine my sheer mortification as I muddled through. And then, imagine my delighted surprise that she would even take the trouble to walk over, introduce herself and offer me every encouragement.

From direct personal experience and observation, Rose has been a positive force for our entire community. She's propelled us forward, often uphill, improving the accessibility of classical music, building bridges to indigenous artists, creating a safe space for and supporting youth mental health and neurodiversity initiatives and fostering the careers of countless young musicians from our community, while inspiring literally thousands along the way. And that only begins to scratch the surface.

In both of my children’s lives, she shared of herself freely and had a huge positive impact on them, despite neither of them ever planning to be career musicians. She’s been inclusive and collaborative as just one example.

It should be no surprise she’s also an avid fan of country music. It’s certain she has drawn new audience members to the symphony, who otherwise would not have been there.

As to the character of the OSO as an organization and its governance (the Okanagan Symphony Society), my personal experience has been the opposite of inclusive and collaborative because of how singularly disinterested the governance of the organization has seemingly become in its constituency. For example, during annual general meetings (board members) refused to hear certain member questions. I’ve not been a member for some time now.

There has been significant churn on the board and in governance it seems to have lost its way, becoming out-of-touch and disconnected from the community its meant to serve.

These are not issues any music director would have control over. They will not change by changing the music director.

In a business, it's for the board to hire and fire the executive, and for the shareholders to hire and fire the board. In a non-profit, the members are effectively the shareholders. So perhaps its time members take a long hard look at how best to right the ship.

Charl Coetzee, West Kelowna

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