The Charleston Symphony Orchestra has begun the promised reorganization of its governing board and taken steps to bolster its artistic direction.
On Monday, the board of directors elected John H. Warren III its president. Warren replaces Ted Legasey, who steered the symphony through the most challenging period in its history, overseeing contract negotiations, dispute adjudication and structural changes. His efforts sparked the ire of musicians even as they won praise from city and symphony leaders.
Last year, a complaint filed by musicians with the National Labor Relations Board was dropped with the understanding that Legasey would be replaced.
Warren takes over at a delicate moment for the symphony. It shut down operations in March, renegotiated a contract with musicians, cut its budget to $1.7 million and started its 75th anniversary season this month. Its music director, David Stahl, died suddenly of cancer in October, leaving an artistic vacuum just when the symphony's financial difficulties were peaking.
Warren was recommended by Mayor Joe Riley and Coastal Community Foundation Executive Director George Stevens in response to the report of recommendation issued in December by the Future of Orchestral Music steering committee, which convened a series of public forums last year to assess the desire for symphonic music. "Johnny is the perfect person to help lead the Charleston Symphony on its new path," Riley said.
Warren was CSO board president for the 1984-85 season and returned to the board for the 2009-10 season. He chaired the Corporation, Banking and Securities Section of the South Carolina Bar Association and has served as a director of the Roper Hospital and Spoleto Festival USA boards, and as president of the Board of the Historic Charleston Foundation and the College of Charleston Foundation.
"I am honored to be elected president of the Charleston Symphony's Board of Directors and look forward to leading the organization into its next 75 seasons," Warren said in a statement. "The Board thanks the musicians of the symphony who have been the ones to make sacrifices enabling this organization to move forward. Thank you also to Ted Legasey for his tireless work these past years during the symphony's most challenging times and for providing the CSO with the structure and new operating model enabling the organization to exist for many years to come."
Warren will be joined this year by former board President Burton Schools, who will serve as chairman of the board-nominating committee. Schools said he hopes to add about 10 new members to the 22-member board in the coming weeks.