DaPonte String Quartet Rehired and Board Members Replaced
The DaPonte String Quartet lives.
Just over a month after the Midcoast Classical Musicians received layoff letters from the leader of their nonprofit group of friends, a new board of directors was struck and rehired all four members.
The resolution was reached with the help of two lawyers who read about the fate of the dismissed quartet members – cellist Myles Jordan, violinists Ferdinand “Dino” Liva and Lydia Forbes and violist Kirsten Monke – and wanted to support them. .
“What these musicians want is to perform and bring their music to the public, not to be entangled in litigation,” said Eva Frank, who, along with Claire Robinson, represented the quartet at no cost. “It’s a great result.”
Frank did not provide additional details on how the resolution was reached, but said former board members who pushed for the musicians to be fired have agreed to step down, as has executive director Erica. Ball. Frank also refused to share any documentation of the deal.
Jordan said neither he nor the other musicians could discuss the terms of the deal, but he said the musicians were thrilled.
“I think this past month has taken our whole lives away,” he said.
The quartet learned in a May 10 letter signed by Ball, who had recently been hired as executive director of the Friends of the DaPonte String Quartet, that their paid positions had been cut.
“The Friends of the DaPonte String Quartet Board of Directors has assessed its mission and role in supporting the performing arts and has come to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of the organization to go in a different direction,” Ball wrote. “The organization will no longer serve as a full-time employer for performing artists. Following this decision, I regret to inform you that your position as salaried musician will be abolished as of May 10, 2022.
Additionally, the group of friends who originally formed to support the quartet’s concerts and programming and manage finances were changing their name to Chamber Music Maine and intended to expand their musical offerings with a larger group of musicians.
The foursome, who had each been paid $40,000 a year, were stunned and vowed to fight.
“It’s our livelihood, and it’s the livelihood we’ve built stone by stone, ourselves, for 30 years,” Jordan said last month.
The quartet originally formed in 1991 in Philadelphia, but its members moved full-time to Maine a few years later. Jordan and Liva are original members, but the band has had several different lineups over the years. The current quartet has been intact for over a decade and has performed concerts throughout the state and beyond to dedicated audiences and also provides educational opportunities.
Jordan said he believes the decision to fire the musicians last month was made because board members tried to exercise more control, particularly over what music they should play at their many shows .
“They said our music wasn’t diverse enough in its representation of women and people of color,” he said. “It’s true that most of what we perform is the music of European dead white men, but that’s what we’re trained in.”
Ball, in an interview last month, acknowledged that the now-removed board members were looking for more flexibility and diversity in programming.
Before the former board members stepped down, they appointed three new members, including David Shipman as chairman.
Shipman said he’s been a fan of the quartet for years and is grateful that it continues.
“I’ve been listening to string quartets for a long time and having musicians of this caliber based in Maine is special,” he said.
Jordan said he was touched by the support the musicians have received since news of their firing became public last month.
“We had no idea we were having an impact like this,” he said. “There’s a real audience for this music, and that’s important to people.”
The non-profit organization will henceforth be known as the DaPonte String Quartet Foundation. According to Frank, the old board has waived all unspent donation claims, meaning the money is now under the control of the new foundation.
It is unclear whether Chamber Music Maine will continue. The balloon could not be reached for comment.
Ari Solotoff, an attorney who represented the group of friends, said he could not provide further details.
“I understand the parties have resolved their differences amicably and there has been a smooth transition in the governance of the nonprofit,” he said in an email. . “Because I am no longer the attorney for the organization, I cannot comment further.”
Frank, who served as a prosecutor in Washington, DC, for many years, moved to Maine more than 20 years ago with her husband, Halsey Frank, the former U.S. Attorney in Maine. Robinson was a corporate lawyer for Walt Disney for many years, specializing in intellectual property.
The musicians rehearsed throughout the event for possible shows this summer. Their next show is June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Union Church in South Bristol, and their full schedule of performances can be viewed on their new website, dapontequartet.org.
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