After serving as music director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for 21 years Mark Laycock is leaving the organization. According to a press statement issued by the PSO Board of Trustees on Wednesday, August 1, "Mark Laycock has concluded his long tenure as [PSO’s] music director."
The statement did not give a reason for Laycock’s leaving and Laycock did not agree to be interviewed for this piece, writing in an E-mail, "Given the status of the ongoing discussions regarding the end of my tenure with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, I am not at liberty to comment on any aspect of the entire situation" and referred this reporter to his lawyer, Peter O’Neill of Wills, O’Neill & Mellk, at 10 Nassau Street.
Contacted by phone at his office O’Neill says that he and Laycock are "working on a neat deal, and we hope to be able to break news about that in the very near future." He could not comment further.
In newspaper reports printed last week, Laycock was reported to be leaving due to "unresolved contract differences." The PSO press statement did not cite a reason but quoted Caren Sturges, president of the PSO board, expressing the board’s appreciation of Laycock’s long, productive years as conductor: "We thank Mark for his role in developing the orchestra into such an important community asset through his imaginative programming and openness to new opportunities, like the BRAVO! program [an outreach program that has introduced classical music to thousands of area children] and Pops concerts. We wish him well in his future endeavors."
Laycock became conductor of the orchestra in 1986 when he took over what was then known as the Chamber Symphony of Princeton after the death of its founder, Portia Sonnenfeld. Over the course of the next two decades the orchestra grew significantly in size, in the number of concerts played, and the professional quality of its musicians. The PSO was awarded a 2004-2006 citation of excellence from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
The PSO Board has initiated a search process that will be chaired by Robert L. Annis, dean and director of Westminster Choir College. In the interim guest conductors will lead the concerts of the 2007-’08 classical season, Pops concerts, and BRAVO! performances until the appointment of the new music director is announced.