During this year’s Annual General Meeting for active members of the Dunedin Music Society, some of the highlights presented by General Director, Maestro Stephen P Brown included further increases in the number of events hosted by the DMS, increases in income from both audience donations and State grants, and an increase in the number of people who participate in and benefit from DMS services. He also expressed joy at the menu of current DMS activities, including:
- Dunedin Concert Band
- DMS Winter Strings
- Florida Symphonic Winds
- Pinellas Community Clarinet Choir
- Pinellas Community Players (to be called Pinellas Community Band in 2023)
- Pinellas Festival of Community Bands
- Rhythm Kings Jazz Orchestra
Final 2022 events, participation and financial numbers are expected in the next month or so.
A realistic operating budget was approved by members, alongside the hope that a renewed fundraising campaign will finally warrant the hiring of an Executive Director in accordance with our Constitution and Bylaws. At the time of the Annual General Meeting, a possible new Director for the Board was being interviewed, and even if appointed, there is still one available seat for a Director.
If interested, please see details here.
There was also a “Special Announcement”
Maestro Stephen P Brown shared that in early November he gave notice to the Board of Directors that he would be stepping down as General Director at the end of this year, and as Conductor of the Dunedin Concert Band after its Spring concert in April 2023. DMS Chair/ President Michele Tyrpak expressed gratitude for Stephen’s years of service and leadership and wished him well.
Members of the Executive Committee were informed at their meeting over Thanksgiving weekend. Rhythm Kings Jazz Orchestra Program Manager Greg Howard expressed gratitude and wished Stephen well.
Now public knowledge, both the Board and Executive Committee reacted similarly to most others: some were surprised, and some were not!
The Maestro gave two primary reasons for his decision:
- Founding Personality Syndrome. The Dunedin Concert Band was founded in 1981 by Ray Hutchinson, and our Maestro was appointed its Conductor by the City of Dunedin in 2014 with the condition that he set up a not-for-profit organization for financial accountability. Instead of taking ownership himself by filling in the State’s fill-in-the-blank form, Stephen created a steering committee with members of the community, the band, the audience and the City, which spent 18 months developing what became the Dunedin Music Society’s Constitution and Bylaws. “It was always about forming a community organization, not a passion project to serve a single individual’s desires,” says the Maestro. However, over the years, as volunteers and performers came and went, more and more leadership issues became reliant on Stephen and a core group of loyal and dedicated DMS fans. It’s a danger many for-profit as well as not-for-profit organizations face: the reliance on one “personality” for an extended period of time. What happens if something happens to them? As has been seen in both Starbucks and Apple, personality-driven organizations can barely exist without them, and in both cases, their personality-based leaders returned more than once. Even Disney is now struggling to maintain its original purpose and expectations, and it is impressive that it has lasted so long riding on Walt’s name and founding leadership. Stephen does not want that to happen to the DMS, so freeing the organization to take charge of its own reigns is vital for the DMS’s long term survival, growth, and impact in the world, especially as it experiences the bumps it faces during this transition.
- Personal priorities. As many folks involved in the DMS are aware, Stephen’s work with the DMS was not a hobby – it was part of his music career. Basically, he was a professional helping others engage in their music-related hobby. His own business for decades included performing in the UK and USA, producing concerts and coaching freelance professional classical musicians. However, when people across the world were forced to isolate from each other, his business could no longer operate (events could not be hosted, nor was anyone interested in learning how to host them!). He and his wife made several bold attempts to revive his business, but it became clear it will never return to providing them with a living like it did for so long. Alongside unexpected long-term hospitalizations among his relatives both near and far, the Maestro must now focus on providing for and caring for his blood family beyond his music profession, which means difficult decisions had to be made about part of his chosen family, the DMS.
FYI: According to the UK’s “Encore Musicians”, over 64% of musicians have left the profession, with most experiencing an 87% decrease in performing opportunities since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Maestro Stephen P Brown now contributes to those statistics.
Most members, performers and volunteers in the various ensembles and programs that the DMS operates are very sad to see the Maestro step down, yet many are also excited about the future of community music, the DMS in particular. The Board of Directors has already begun preparing for the transition, and will be considering potential Conductors and a Program Manager for the DCB later next year.
Originally, Stephen’s last performance with the Dunedin Concert Band was scheduled to be this Christmas, but with a recent influx of highly qualified, community-focused, advanced performers, we couldn’t resist him leading two more concerts with some of his own favorite – and somewhat challenging – concert band music. Make sure you register your seats for the DCB’s concerts in February and April when they become available!
Always encouraging others
“I would be tremendously saddened if people left the Dunedin Music Society or the Dunedin Concert Band because I’m not on the podium or at the helm anymore,” said Maestro Stephen P Brown.
He continues, “We built this organization to connect local communities with live music and to serve each other, not to cater to individual desires and wants. I am extremely pleased with what we have accomplished – and what we chose to stay away from – and I trust everyone involved will continue doing their utmost to make sure the DMS grows beyond all our dreams for future generations to benefit from. Orchestras, bands and choirs continue to be in danger of becoming relics that look weird in the next century’s history documentaries (like rotary phones or milk floats). We can all do our best to make sure people still experience the thrills and goosebumps that in-person, live instrumental and vocal music gives all humans like no other activity can… if we let it.”
As one former DCB Performer remarked when witnessing the Maestro’s behind-the-scenes commitment firsthand: “I can’t believe how much you do for others.” It is by example that Stephen encourages everyone to serve each other, thereby making our corner of the world a wonderful place to live… with lots of live, in-person music.
The Maestro will remain in the area and might be seen around town attending events, perhaps even conducting the occasional music workshop.