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UPDATE: Symphony seeks maestro with local presence

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The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is looking for a new maestro, and CEO Simon Crookall said he wants Mario Venzago's replacement to have more of a local presence.

Crookall told the ISO staff and musicians today that he would not extend Venzago's contract, which expires Aug. 31. Venzago has been with the orchestra for seven years and is well-liked by musicians.

"I think we're all a little sad that it couldn't be resolved better," Crookall said.

Crookall said "a variety of things" were at issue in the contract talks, which went on for nearly a year.

Venzago was paid $388,695, plus benefits in the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2007, according to the symphony's most recently filed tax return.

Venzago, 61, lives in Heidelberg, Germany, and travels to Indianapolis to conduct the classical series. Recently he conducted for the first time at Symphony on the Prairie.

Crookall said he made the decision to part ways with Venzago just a couple of days ago. "I don't think either of us are happy about it," he said. "This is not an ideal solution, but it's where we are."

Crookall said Venzago's local presence, or lack thereof, was not the "burning issue" in the negotiations. International conductors commonly travel for concerts in cities where they have long-term contracts.

Having Venzago as music director reflected well on the quality of the Indianapolis symphony, Crookall acknowledged, but he said, "It's also important to have a balance."

Crookall said he wants the next music director to be on par with Venzago as an artist.

Guest conductors will take over Venzago's shows in the 2009-10 season. Crookall said he doesn't expect the maestro's departure to hurt ticket sales.

"I think we can stimulate some excitement about new people visiting," he said. "I think it can be a positive thing."

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