Blowing Back Into Town

When Chicago Symphony Orchestra fixture Bud Herseth retires this summer after 53 years, there’ll be a familiar face in his spot. Craig Morris, the 32-year-old Texas native who’ll replace Herseth as principal trumpet, was hired at the CSO three years ago and lasted six weeks.

In the winter of ’98 Morris auditioned for fourth trumpet and won the job. The bottom-rung position wasn’t exactly his goal, but he’d been out of an orchestra job since the Sacramento Symphony (where he was principal trumpet) went bankrupt in ’96. Unemployed classical musicians are ubiquitous as Beethoven’s Fifth, and the CSO had been an icon for Morris since childhood. He accepted.

Biding his time in the few weeks that elapsed before his start date, he also auditioned for an associate principal position with the San Francisco Symphony. Then came the quandary: “The morning I left for Chicago,” Morris recalls, “I got a call from Michael Tilson Thomas offering me the job.”

Morris drove to Chicago, bunked with a friend in Evanston, and took up his CSO gig while deciding if he should kiss it off. In the end, the distance from San Francisco to Herseth’s position looked shorter than the distance from fourth trumpet in Symphony Center. “Bud, through his career, had established [CSO] as a brass players’ mecca. When I won the position there I thought, ‘This is incredible,'” Morris says. “But my true dream was to play principal. Knowing Bud would retire at some point in the not too distant future, the best thing for the long term seemed to be to go to San Francisco and get more principal experience.”

The trumpet section of the orchestra consists of principal, assistant principal, second, and fourth players. (Third trumpet is handled by either the assistant principal or the fourth player.) When he came back to Chicago this winter for open auditions for Herseth’s job, Morris went up against friends he had made in the section three years before. He passed through preliminary rounds in January and returned in February with eight other finalists to be judged by a committee of nine orchestra members and music director Daniel Barenboim.

Winning required at least six committee votes, plus the maestro’s. Because members of the orchestra were competing, the first finals round was done anonymously. Judges sat behind a screen in the auditorium, a carpet was laid onstage to muffle the revealing click of high heels, and candidates were announced by number only. Each played the same excerpts for about 15 minutes, and the field was narrowed to two. At that point the screen came down, the committee got copies of the players’ resumés, and Barenboim joined each candidate onstage. They played again, then waited a thousand beats to hear the decision. Was that just like Miss America? “Yes,” says Morris, “and the feeling was the same.” He’ll rejoin the CSO this summer.

Robbing the Bank

After director Denise Miller’s abrupt departure from Columbia College’s Museum of Contemporary Photography last summer, a national search was mounted for her replacement. Founder John Mulvany came out of retirement to head it up and soon decided the best candidate was right under the museum’s nose: Sarah Anne McNear, former chief curator at the Allentown Art Museum (by way of MOMA and the Philadelphia Museum of Art). McNear had thrown her career to the wind when she moved to Chicago to marry four years earlier.

She’d landed as curator of the photography collection at LaSalle Bank and she wasn’t looking to make a change. LaSalle’s collection–started by Sam Sax in 1967 when the bank was Exchange National and he was its president–is the second oldest corporate collection in the country. It goes back to photography’s earliest days (while the museum’s holdings begin with the late 50s) and is comparable to the museum’s collection in size.

But the bank doesn’t do public exhibits. When Mulvany came calling, McNear says, she listened out of respect for friends who had recommended her and then realized she was interested. The bank had been a chance to “think outside of the museum box,” but the call to run a small museum and develop an exhibition program was irresistible. She made the change in January; a search is under way for a new curator at LaSalle.

McNear says her first task is to restore the museum’s connection to the college. “Past directors worked hard to establish its reputation with the external world and the art world. That’s not going to change. But there’s a sense that the museum has become distant from the college itself,” she says–that the museum and other “entrepreneurial” initiatives like the Dance Center have taken on a life of their own. There’s a push to “make it clear that all these things are a unit.”

Denise Miller was hired at Yale University Art Gallery as deputy director in December but left that job suddenly last month. A gallery official said she left for “personal reasons.” Miller had programmed a year out at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, but a hole in the summer schedule is providing McNear’s curatorial debut: a show of work from the last ten years by Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen that opens in August. It will feature documentary work from Russia and China and photographs of the four men in van Manen’s life: father, son, husband, and lover.

Let Them Eat Cake

United Airlines is eliminating grapefruit juice and McDonald’s meals on flights as a cost-cutting measure after a brutal quarter, but it will still be underwriting Ravinia’s Gala Benefit Evening July 28. Tickets to the Hapsburg-inspired event–which includes cocktails, pavilion seats for a performance of Viennese music by Kiri Te Kanawa and the CSO, and a postconcert dinner–are $600. Neither Ravinia nor UAL will tell what it costs to throw the party.

Bad Press

An SOS from Ralph Kipniss of the Puppet Parlor: His landlord, angered by a cover story that appeared in this paper March 9, gave him five days’ notice last week; if he can’t raise $7,000 in back rent pronto, he’ll have to vacate the theater he’s occupied for the last 13 years. “Our brochures are out for the season,” Kipniss says. “We wouldn’t want to leave before the end of July. I’m trying to get the money out of my house, but it’s in probate. I need to find some backers–a corporation or a bank; we’ll pay them back, no problem.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Slomanson.