Symphony Director Announces Resignation

Photo: Jim Kleinmann led the Berkeley Symphony through a financial reversal and an overall evolution during his five years as executive director.
Michael Gethers/Staff
Jim Kleinmann led the Berkeley Symphony through a financial reversal and an overall evolution during his five years as executive director.

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Jim Kleinmann, executive director of the Berkeley Symphony, announced Wednesday his plans to resign at the end of the 2010-2011 season, marking the end of a five-year directorship that brought the symphony to new financial and artistic heights.

Kleinmann joined the symphony while it was running a deficit and when subscriptions were - in the symphony's over 40-year existence - at an all-time low, according to Jenny Lee, marketing manager for the symphony. Under Kleinmann, subscriptions increased by 44 percent and are currently at an all-time high.

"He was really the brain behind the initiatives to expand the symphony financially and increase the number of subscriptions," Lee said.

Kleinmann said that coming into the position, he wanted the symphony to have more of a direct impact in the Berkeley community and to improve the quality of music the orchestra played. In 2006, he led an international search to find a new music director.

He said that in the final stage of the search process - the first that the symphony had conducted in 30 years - six guest conductors spent a week making music and doing music readings with the symphony. Of the six, Joana Carneiro of Lisbon was the best fit.

"Bringing Joana is my proudest accomplishment," Kleinmann said. "The transition went very smoothly, and we are confident that her music will take symphony to new trajectories."

During his tenure as director, Kleinmann also worked with Ming Luke, director and conductor for the symphony's Music Education Program, to expand programs in the Berkeley Unified School District from serving four elementary schools on a rotating basis to year-round programs at all 11 elementary schools.

"Even if all the students know is 'Hot Cross Buns', they play 'Hot Cross Buns' accompanied by more challenging music that the symphony plays," Luke said.

Darren Rich, director of development for the symphony, said Kleinmann's replacement will be announced in June, adding that the biggest challenge the new director faces will be deciding the strategic direction that the symphony takes in terms of assessing concert programming and education programs.

"The board establishes the big-picture direction for organization," Rich said. "The executive director's role is to turn that idea into operational reality."

Kleinmann said he has accomplished what he intended for the symphony and wants to invest more time in PlayGround, a playwright incubator he co-founded in 1994 that has since grown into the largest commissioner of full-length plays in the Bay Area.

While symphony staff expressed disappointment at Kleinmann's resignation, Lee said they expect a smooth transition when the new director assumes the position in August.

"The orchestra is going through a really exciting time," Lee said. "Financially, we are in a good place."


Contact Amruta Trivedi at [email protected]

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