Symphony & ballet step into new partnership

Lisa Mayer, artistic director of the Toledo Ballet, and Alain Trudel, music director of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, discuss merger.

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra and The Toledo Ballet have announced they will merge.

The merger, announced Tuesday, Sept.  18, becomes official on Jan. 1, 2019. The new Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts though will be celebrated this weekend when Alain Trudel makes his debut as the orchestra’s music director.

The performances Friday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22, both at 8 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle will feature dancers from the ballet performing selections from “Swan Lake” with the orchestra.

Zak Vassar, the orchestra’s CEO, said that the merger came about through a study conducted with funding from the Toledo Community Foundation’s Strategic Alliance Partnership. Originally he said that study looked at a three-way merger with the orchestra, ballet, and Toledo Opera. In the end the opera decided to remain independent, though its extensive collaborations with the symphony will continue.

Vassar said the merger between the 78-year-old ballet and the 75-year-old symphony are three-fold.

Primary is the fostering and expanding on the long history of collaborations, including the annual “Nutcracker,” and other productions that have included Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird.”

The merger also brings together the two educational wings of their operations. Vassar said this may be the only educational organization in the country with certification from the American Ballet Theatre and the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

The symphony’s educational mission, including its youth orchestras, has 350 students, and the ballet teaches 300 students.

Vassar also said that the new organization will mean administrative efficiencies, resulting in financial savings.

The goal, he said, is “optimizing” the saving in he back end while “maximizing” what’s presented to the public.

Trudel said celebrating this collaboration has long been part of how this weekend’s concerts, which also mark the beginning the orchestra’s 75th anniversary festivities, were programmed.

He said he wanted to open with a major statement, so he programmed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He wanted to recognize the area’s musical culture by presenting “Caldera” by Christopher Dietz, who teaches composition at Bowling Green State University, and then celebrate the community with Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” with dancers from the Toledo Ballet.