|New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO)|
|Music director||Xian Zhang|
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) is an American symphony orchestra based in the state of New Jersey. The NJSO is the state orchestra of New Jersey, performing concert series in six venues across the state, and is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey.
Currently, the NJSO presents classical, pops and family concerts at venues in six cities around the state:
The NJSO previously presented concert series at the War Memorial in Trenton and the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. The NJSO also performs summer concerts at multiple venues across New Jersey, such as:
Additionally, ensembles of NJSO musicians perform chamber music in various statewide locations through its Resources for Education and Community Harmony (REACH) program.
Philip James founded the orchestra in 1922. During the 1940s, the orchestra performed at Newark Symphony Hall. In the first half or 1968 then Music Director Kenneth Schermerhorn announced his departure to take up the baton of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Under the leadership or Board President Henry P. Becton a national search was conducted by Jeffrey Platt, Jr. and Robert D'Angelo that lead to the engagement of Henry Lewis (husband of Marilyn Horne) as the first African Music Director of a major orchestra in the United States. Other press comments have noted that in spite of the financial troubles and controversy over this instrument collection, the orchestra has improved artistically during Järvi's tenure. In October 2007, the NJSO announced that Järvi had extended his contract as music director through the 2008-2009 season, with a commitment to six weeks of subscription concerts. In February 2008, the orchestra confirmed the conclusion of Järvi's tenure as the NJSO's music director at the end of the 2008-2009 season. In March 2009, the NJSO indicated that Järvi had agreed to serve as the orchestra's artistic adviser after the conclusion of his contract as music director, and subsequently to take the title of conductor laureate. The orchestra also reduced its staff and the number of subscription concerts, from 70 to 61, scheduled for the 2009-2010 season.
The NJSO has had a series of radio broadcasts in the US since the 2006-2007 season. Gremillet announced in October 2007 that the radio broadcasts would continue. In addition, he stated the NJSO's accumulated debt is at USD $15 million as of October 2007. After the announcement of the November 2007 sale of the Golden Age instruments, Gremillet stated that their scheduled sale cost will allow the orchestra to retire its accumulated debt of USD $14.2 million, and restore USD $3.1 million used from the NJSO endowment used for the purchase of the instruments.
In November 2008, Jacques Lacombe guest-conducted the NJSO for the first time. In October 2009, the NJSO announced the appointment of Lacombe as its 13th music director, effective with the 2010-2011 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. Lacombe held the title of music director designate for the 2009-2010 season. In July 2012, the NJSO announced the extension of Lacombe's contract as music director through the 2015-2016 season. In October 2014, the NJSO announced the scheduled conclusion of Lacombe's tenure as the orchestra's music director after the conclusion of the 2015-2016 season.
Following the departure of Gremillet as NJSO president, the orchestra appointed Richard Dare as its next December 2012. Dare took up the post at the beginning of January 2013. On January 10, 2013, Dare resigned as NJSO president, following reports of a prior accusation of a sexual offense in 1996, and possible exaggerations of his business accomplishments. Controversy subsequently ensued on the question of how much information NJSO officials and board of trustees, and the search committee, knew of this situation during the source of the search for a new executive director. In June 2013, the NJSO announced the appointments of James Roe as its next president and chief executive officer (CEO) and of Susan Stucker as its chief operating officer (COO), effective July 1, 2013. In June 2016, the NJSO announced Gabriel van Aalst as its new CEO, beginning in October 2016.
Xian Zhang first guest-conducted the NJSO in 2010. She returned for further guest appearances in February 2012 and May 2015. In November 2015, the NJSO announced her appointment as its 14th music director, effective in September 2016, with an initial contract of 4 years. She is the first female conductor to be named music director of the NJSO. In June 2018, the NJSO announced the extension of Zhang's contract through the 2023-2024 season.
The NJSO has made several records for the Delos label with former music director Zden?k Mácal, including works of Hector Berlioz, Antonín Dvo?ák, Reinhold Glière and Modest Mussorgsky. With Lacombe, the NJSO made a commercial recording of Carmina Burana, taken from Lacombe's debut appearances with the orchestra.
In past history, the NJSO purchased 30 string instruments, including several made by Stradivari, for its string players, purchased from the collection of Herbert R. Axelrod in 2003. The orchestra named this collection the "Golden Age" string collection, and had hoped that this acquisition would enhance the prestige of the orchestra, and attract increased audiences and donations.
However, this purchase ran into controversy after doubts surfaced as to the actual value of the collection. Axelrod had claimed their value at USD $49 million, and sold it to the NJSO for USD $17 million. However, it turned out that the $17 million value was closer to the current market value. Furthermore, newsreporter investigations raised doubts as to the complete claimed authenticity of several of the instruments in the collection. Axelrod plead guilty for an unrelated criminal charge of federal tax fraud on this transaction. The NJSO had planned to retain the violins and not sell them, as of July 2006.
In March 2007, the NJSO stated that, faced with severe budgetary fiscal and deficit issues, they would try to sell the Golden Age instrument collection. The original agreement with Axelrod was that the orchestra would retain the instruments for at least 10 years, but Axelrod gave his assent to allow the orchestra to try to sell them. The intentions were to use the funds from the sale of the instruments to retire orchestra debt and to build up the orchestra's endowment fund. The orchestra had stated that their ideal scenario would be that the collection would be bought as a whole and then lent back to the orchestra, but commentators noted the difficulty of realizing such a plan.
In November 2007, the NJSO announced that they had sold the Golden Age instruments to the American investment bankers (and twin brothers) Seth Taube and Brook Taube, along with a group of other investors, for USD $20 million and a portion of the proceeds from any future sales of the instruments. Part of the agreement allowed the orchestra to retain playing rights to 28 of those instruments for a minimum of 5 years.