Gold Baton Speech

The Gold Baton, given since 1948 for distinguished service to music and the arts, was presented by League Board member Albert K. “Nick” Webster to Henry Fogel, incoming Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and former president and CEO of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and of the League of American Orchestras. 

Read Nick Webster’s speech below, given on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, Chicago.

One of the most significant rewards for being a part of this crazy, twenty-four seven, “orchestra field” is knowing and working closely with amazing, stimulating people like Jesse and Henry. Each worked with me as Orchestra Manager at the New York Philharmonic, as did Allison Vulgamore – not in Atlanta – and others, but Henry found an ingenious way to pay off the boss – he hired my son and daughter as babysitters for his kids. We formed deep bond of friendship while managing that great Orchestra together for three years. We are like loving brothers. So it’s a joy to speak to you about Henry and his accomplishments.

Henry’s great love of music has been the driving passion and motivating factor of his life. He goes to concerts with an unquenchable thirst for the rare, transcendent, moment of beauty; he creates outstanding concert programs; he has a prodigious musical memory and he has an opinion about every work, every artist, every performance. And he’s not reluctant to share that opinion, ever. An opera lover, he is a regular panelist on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast quiz.  He writes copiously about music and he’s a long time record reviewer. The carefully indexed performance information about his enormous collection of recorded music, over 48 thousand performances, is a treasured on line resource at, especially since one quarter of this music was recorded more than fifty years ago.  

Henry’s love of his wife Fran and his family is the only thing greater than his passion for music - after that it’s a tossup between his zest for travel by boutique cruise liner and the pleasure he takes in good food and drink. I can testify first hand to Henry’s excellence as a Chinese cook Henry has donated his skill with his favorite cuisine to benefit many orchestras’ fundraising efforts. I think he has introduced more musicians to more Chinese restaurants than anyone else in the western world.

Henry’s intense passion for music is at the root of everything he does.  He is all about music, and through it, service to community and its quality of life.

Henry’s generosity of spirit is legendary. Anyone can get his ear - he will listen, give sound advice and good counsel and leave you refreshed, re-energized, ready to climb the next mountain.

We met in February 1978 when he helped the Philharmonic run its first Radio Marathon, a fund raising event he had invented for the Syracuse Symphony ten years earlier while running radio station WONO, a commercial classical music station he founded while at the University of Syracuse. That first orchestra Marathon in Syracuse raised $8,500. As the guru of the genre Henry ultimately led 128 Radio Marathons between 1968 and 2007, for 27 orchestras, and helped raise an astonishing $15 million dollars for them. I look back with warm memories of that first time we worked together thirty years ago. The chemistry between us during that long exhilarating Marathon weekend was so good that several months later, on a wild hunch, I invited Henry to apply for the position of Orchestra Manager of the Philharmonic even though I knew he had never worked for an orchestra, or anything like it; he had been running his radio station for 15 years. Henry and I both took a chance and the rest is happy history. Three years later he was successfully courted by the National Symphony Orchestra to be its Executive Director and in 1985 he began his triumphant 18 year tenure as President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, our gracious hosts for this Convention. His Chicago legacy includes the hiring of outstanding orchestra members, the transition from Sir George Solti to Daniel Barenboim, the renovation and expansion of Orchestra Hall, a long period of financial stability, and, out of his passion for accessibility, he created community partnerships, neighborhood concerts, Days of Music at Symphony Center, and greatly expanded the Orchestra’s educational activities.

Henry served ten years on the League Board before he became Chairman in 2001. He left the Chicago Symphony to serve as President and CEO of the League from 2003 to last July. His accomplishments during this time give all of us much to thank him for, but perhaps nothing was more welcome than his triumphant effort to rid us of what Chairman Lowell Noteboom dubbed “our unfortunate acronym”! We are now The League, thanks to Henry. The League is a strong, vital, force, thanks to Henry: He led us into our strategic planning; He tapped Jesse Rosen to oversee the creation of that plan and later to succeed him as CEO and he made other key staff appointments; He brought hard working and generous new members to the League’s board; and during his seven year tenure as Chairman and President, the League raised more than thirty million dollars to support its work on behalf of orchestras throughout the country. 

As President, Henry’s Orchestra visits were one of his most unique contributions. The amazing fact is that over a brief six year period he made 195 separate visits to orchestras in response to their request for his advice. His copious notes included a summary of larger issues emerging during his meetings with musicians, staff, board leadership, and volunteers. While Henry was advising and counseling he was listening and learning so he could bring back critically valuable information which was enormously helpful in guiding the League’s work. Henry brought a Messianic zeal to his orchestra visits.
When Henry retired a year ago the League’s Board of Directors gave him a special musical gift - a commission of a work with a performance commitment from multiple orchestras. The gift inspired the managers who had spearheaded the Ford Made In America Program to get behind the project and Osvaldo Golijov is now writing a work that will be given its world premiere by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra on October 16, 2010. 34 additional orchestras have already signed on to perform the work and there’s room for many more to join this elite premiere performance group. This is a fitting tribute to Henry and  an easy way to include a high profile new work in your orchestra’s repertoire at very modest expense. I urge you to contact Ryan Fleur, President and CEO of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra or League staff and join the list.

Henry’s post League career begins right here at Roosevelt University where he has been appointed Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts. He also just became Festival Director of the New Hampshire Music Festival and he will be available for consulting assignments as a part of the Catherine French Group.

Henry is an exceptional fellow, a great friend to his colleagues, a mensch. With his musical and managerial expertise, his passion, his dedication to all things orchestra and his devotion to American music; he sets the gold standard.  Henry here is your Gold Baton.  The inscription says it all: Henry Fogel – Champion of Orchestras large and small, mentor to thousands, music addict, peripatetic globetrotter, cheerleader, beloved and unforgettable voice of optimism for our field and our art.