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October 23, 2014

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In orchestrated move, David Itkin set to leave L.V. Philharmonic before new season

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Sam Morris

Las Vegas Philharmonic conductor David Itkin.

Whether his wand is magic is open to discussion. But David Itkin has effectively orchestrated his ouster from the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and it’s happening sooner than expected.

L.V. Phil President and CEO Jeri Crawford confirmed Friday afternoon that Itkin will not take part in the 2012-13 season. On June 2, the Philharmonic announced, following a 15-0 vote among its board of trustees to seek a replacement for Itkin, that the music director of five years would be leaving the orchestra. However, the initial plan was that Itkin would remain in place through the upcoming campaign amid a nationwide search to find his replacement.

Instead, a series of guest conductors will fill the nine-show schedule as a search committee of Philharmonic musicians, board members and Las Vegas area residents determines who will replace the outgoing music director.

Reached on his cell phone Friday afternoon, Itkin said that he had no comment to questions about why he decided to leave the Philharmonic. A formal statement is planned for next week, Crawford said, to officially announce Itkin’s immediate departure and specify plans to find a new music director in time for the 2013-14 L.V. Phil season.

Itkin is already moving on, putting his name in contention to fill the open music director position with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony in North Dakota. He is joining four other finalists in conducting performances next year and is scheduled to lead a Masterworks concert Jan. 19-20.

A resident of Dallas, Itkin also is the conductor of the Abilene (Texas) Philharmonic Orchestra. He was hired by the Philharmonic in July 2007, stepping in for symphony co-founder Hal Weller, who had led the Phil since its inception in 1998.

The startling chain of events leading to Itkin’s departure were set in motion on May 29. Early that morning, Itkin emailed the Philharmonic’s board of directors, sending copies to the LVP Orchestra Players Committee, stating that he planned to leave the orchestra following the 2012-13 season. The notice meant he was opting not to seek an extension of a contract that was to term out June 30, 2013, but it took a vote of the board of trustees to make his departure official.

Crawford, who said Itkin’s emailed announcement that he planned to leave was “a total surprise,” said Itkin was bought out of the final year of that agreement. She declined to specify financial terms.

“We did a buyout,” Crawford said during a phone conversation Friday. “All I can say is everybody’s happy.”

Crawford said that Itkin and she have not discussed his stated reasons for deciding to leave his post. In his email, Itkin expressed concern over what he termed artistic differences and a lack of institutional transparency within the L.V. Phil organization.

Crawford stressed that the Philharmonic is eagerly anticipating its upcoming season, which begins Oct. 20 at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The Phil’s move from Artemus Ham Hall to the Smith Center has been a triumphant moment in its 14-year history, a significant step toward becoming a top-tier symphony. Season subscription sales have increased by 30 percent over a year ago, and Crawford expects a strong response when tickets to individual shows are open for sale Wednesday.

But the most revealing metric to measure the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s appeal is the number of applicants seeking to supplant Itkin as music director. Crawford has counted nearly 300 so far. As she says, “Finding a new music director is an immense undertaking.”

It always is, and it should be a riveting season at Reynolds Hall.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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