On January 2 Richard Dare, a business executive who had been credited with saving the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, began his appointment as president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. On January 11 he resigned. The writer of U.S. 1’s January 2 account of Date’s original appointment, Elaine Strauss, says flatly: “I am not surprised.”
In an announcement accepting his resignation the NJSO referred to the emergence of “information new to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra” and “the distraction the situation could bring to bear” on its work. According to Daniel Wakin, writing in the New York Times, Dare cited as the reason for his resignation a 1996 California case in which he was charged with an “attempted lewd act” upon a 15-year-old girl.
Even though the 15-year-old later became — and still is — Dare’s wife, that charge was only one of several questions raised about Dare’s claimed accomplishments and business dealings, including details of his 20 years of experience in the for-profit sector business that was described even by some of his partners and investors as “a little puffy.”
In a statement announcing his resignation, Dare said, “media attention to my family’s personal life will harm the organization and musicians I cherish, as well as needlessly embarrass my wife.”
Writer Strauss, who has covered the classical music scene for U.S. 1 for more than two decades, said she had other doubts about Dare’s background from the beginning of her reporting. “I was struck by a gradually burgeoning host of anomalies, inconsistencies, and peculiarities in his story,” she says. “His history, as he told it, seemed hard to believe. It took three drafts to come up with an account that satisfied me.”
Continues Strauss: “I met Dare on Tuesday, December 11, when I was the first to arrive at the NJSO event introducing him at Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of New Jersey in Princeton. About 20 guests were present in the large space festively decorated for Christmas. Ruth C. Lipper, co-chair of the NJSO Board and a trustee of the Drumthwacket Foundation, was a cordial hostess.
“In our chat at the beginning of the evening Dare mentioned that he was a composer. When I asked him what instrument he played, he said that as a composer one had to play all instruments.”
When Strauss later formally interviewed Dare, “he seemed eager to recount the story of his life, rather than to respond to my questions, so I took careful notes as he erupted with vivid quotes. One of the most amazing stories he told had to do with encountering classical music for the first time at age 14 and being so enthralled that he practiced piano seven hours a day seven days a week for three years. As a pianist, I could not help wondering what a beginner can do at the piano to occupy that much time.
“Clarifying his account of study of composition in England and in the United States, he explained that immediately after high school, he spent a year at England’s Newbold College, where he had an excellent composition teacher. He wanted a year of study abroad, he said. I was amazed that a boy who grew up on an isolated dairy farm in northern California and attended a one-room schoolhouse [as he claimed in the interview], could have developed the concept of study abroad.”
Following the publication of the New York Times story, the NJSO issued a statement that said in part:
“As information new to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra emerged about Richard Dare’s background, Mr. Dare tendered his resignation. Co-Chairs of the board Stephen Sichak and Ruth Lipper accepted the resignation, acknowledging the distraction the situation could bring to bear on the important work of the Symphony: ‘We are deeply disappointed, and we are thankful we are able to move forward quickly. Longtime vice president of operations and general manager Susan Stucker will again step in as interim president & CEO.’ The board will continue the search process with vigor.”