Dock of the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 49

December 5-11, 2002

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In This Week's Issue:

Too Much of a Good Thing, Says Annapolis Symphony, Releasing Conductor Dunner

The Leslie Dunner era of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra came to an abrupt halt November 26, when the orchestra’s board of directors announced it would not renew Dunner’s contract after this season ends in May.

photo courtesy of Annapolis Symphony Orchestra
Dunner has striven to improve the orchestra since 1998, when he was hired to replace musical director Gisele Ben-Dor, who moved on to the Santa Barbara Symphony after six years in Annapolis. Specifically, Dunner worked to develop local appreciation for the music of living composers; the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra’s visibility, locally and nationally, through education and outreach; the artistic excellence of the orchestra’s music; and the size of the orchestra’s audience.

“I worked on the first three my first four years here,” Dunner told Bay Weekly in August, just before the current season began. “Now it’s time to work on the fourth.”

The casual observer sees classical music as an even sea of gray, none of which is particularly palatable. The classical fan, however, sees a bright, white core of hummable tunes by familiar composers. But Dunner, who chooses most of the music the orchestra plays, has favored probing classical music’s shadows. He admitted the orchestra has played “no Wagner and very little Haydn” since his arrival.

Dunner preferred exposing his audience to the work of contemporary composers, but Annapolitans proved too conservative for such an eclectic approach. Board president Bud Billups said comments from concert-goers indicated “the program was going too far afield.”

The board made Dunner aware of such sentiments, and he responded by building this season’s repertoire around the more familiar musical core. There are no composers this season as alien as Khachaturian, Kodaly or Corigliano, but Dunner did include an overture for trombone and strings by adventurous American composer Alan Hovanhess.

“We’re an American orchestra,” Dunner said, “and not to perform the music of America would be a disservice to our country.”

Dunner anchored the season with Old World mainstays, like Mozart, Schumann and Chopin, but such concessions proved too little, too late.

If Dunner knew how thin his welcome had worn, he didn’t show it. He moved here from Detroit, bought a house in Annapolis and became a fixture of Annapolitan culture. He made his dramatic debut over the summer, appearing in the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night. But his presence was most notable within the realm of classical music.

Since signing on, Dunner has championed the Annapolis Symphony’s education and outreach programs, helped secure a resident composer for the orchestra and presented performances by several prestigious soloists, including international sensation Hilary Hahn.

The orchestra’s annual outdoor concerts, performed for free in an attempt to interest casual listeners, have also gained popularity. Marketing manager Lauren Kirby told Bay Weekly this year’s concert “was well attended (between 1,500 and 2,000 people) despite very cool temperatures and the threat of rain. It was the first time Maestro Dunner had conducted the concerts in three years, and he pulled out the stops with great music, audience participation and lots of fun.”

Casual listeners aren’t the orchestra’s primary concern, however. The board’s collective eye is firmly fixed on the shrinking number of season ticket holders. The proceeds from those tickets give the orchestra ballast, allowing it to hire 70 permanent musicians and to pay those prestigious soloists — not to mention Dunner’s own salary.

The number of season ticket holders leveled out this year after declining the past five, Lauren Kirby said.

“It’s gone down by about 13 percent in the last five years,” she added. “A little bit every year. That’s in line with orchestras across the country, but our decline is more pronounced.”

Pronounced enough to cast the orchestra’s fate to the wind, apparently.

“When you have change, you have a degree of risk,” Bud Billups admitted.

Billups refused to discuss specifics, but he said the board considered this change worth the inherent risk, indicating a crisis of some sort was perceived within the organization.

Billups also refuses to end Dunner’s tenure on a negative note.

“He’s done a fine job for us, there’s no question about it,” Billups said. “He’s brought the orchestra to a higher level.”

— Brent Seabrook

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There You Are Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New County Council’

New was the operative word in Circuit Court Clerk Robert Duckworth’s introduction of the Anne Arundel County Council he’d just sworn in to the citizens packing council chambers on December’s first business day.

The hindsight wisdom on November 5 is that voters wanted change. This day’s change saw three new councilmen raise their right hands to take the oath of office.

Election Day’s shake-up cast out two council members, awarding the tall, well-cushioned seats of power in the Arundel Center to Edward Middlebrooks in District 2 and Ronald Dillon Jr. in District 3. In District 7, change had come in a more ominous form. Retiring councilman John Klocko’s death in an auto accident October 5 meant his memory presided over the election of friend and neighbor Ed Reilly, the third newcomer sworn in.

In the first place, new exorcised John Klocko, Shirley Murphy and Daniel Klosterman Jr. from the council.

County Executive Janet Owens, right, newly elected Republican councilman Ed Reilly and re-elected Democrat Barbara Samorajczyk hope that partisan politics don’t again cause a rift among County Council members.
photo by Sandra Martin
New also means untested. Both Dillon and Reilly are new to elected office as well as to the council, with the first publically elected office either has held. Dillon, at 27 the youngest to join the council, works as comptroller in his family’s bus company. Reilly owns an insurance agency. Middlebrooks, on the other hand, is seasoned, returning to the council for a second term after four years in exile.

New also means the balance of the sexes is redistributed, with women losing the majority they held last term. Where before women were four, now they are three: Pamela Beidel in District 1, Cathy Vitale in the District 5 and Barbara Samorajczyk (say Sam-or-Isaac) in District 6.

Party dominance, too, is new. Republican challengers toppled two incumbents, in the Second and Third Districts. Your new county council seats four Republicans — Dillon, Middlebrooks, Reilly and Vitale — and three Democrats — Beidel, Samorajczyk and, in District 4, Bill Burlison, a former congressman from Missouri who is the council’s most experienced politician.

Samorajczyk — who ran virtually unopposed — explained the force of change as broken trust. “I was elected in a Democratic landslide. This year, a Republican tidal wave restored Republican control,” she said. “What does that tell us if we fail to heed the voters?”

Strictly speaking, Samorajczyk’s explanation tells us more about the mood swirling through council chambers on this ceremonious occasion than about why some candidates won and others lost. Council members are elected in their district, not at large; Klosterman and Murphy might be scapegoats, but they were not cast out by a disappointed countywide electorate.

On swearing-in day, council chambers are heady with much the same mood as those at a good New Year’s Eve party. There are auld failings to be examined, and examined they were, by politicians and citizens as well.

“Barbara Samorajczyk put it well,” said community activist Brenda DeLalla, of Edgewater. “Many challenges — traffic, the environment, managing growth — were not met by the old council. We need vision.”

Another sin of the past, allowed Cathy Vitale — like Samorajczyk a second-term winner — was the lack of team spirit. “I don’t see how we can deal with tough fiscal times if we’re not communicating,” said Vitale, noting that people on the past council had stopped talking to one another. This one, she thinks, will do better. “We’ve already begun the process of getting to know one another,” she said.

Once the failures of the past are confessed, optimism dominates such gatherings, with conviction that the future — and we with it — will be better.

It’s an occasion of applause, of thanks to mom, dad, spouse and volunteers, of smiling family photos — plus cookies and punch. If it weren’t in a public building, you’d hear champagne corks popping. It’s a time when everybody’s hopeful.

“I think of it as a breath of fresh air,” said Sheriff George Johnson, on his way to his own swearing in. “I’m hopeful they will work well together.”

Added Del. Ted Sophocleus: “ I think it’s a fresh, new council with fresh new ideas.”

Optimists Johnson and Sophocleus, both veteran politicians, are Democratic survivors of the Republican tidal wave.

Citizen DeLalla called herself “the eternal optimist” for her hope that this new council “can provide the vision” she missed in the old.

Optimistic, too, was County Executive Janet Owens — fresh from her own swearing in, with still more pomp and circumstance, December 1 at Chesapeake Arts Center. Owens has had troubles of her own with the old council, but this one, she says, “has reached out. I hope we’ll be able to work together.”

With state budgets rushing downhill, “goodwill” between executive and council, she says, might be the only force Anne Arundel County has to hold back an avalanche.


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The Bell Rings, For You and Your Dough

Standing by a red kettle in a red apron, Annapolitan Singh Dhillon is as familiar as a pine wreath in front of the Parole Giant supermarket. The final touch is the bell he rings to draw the attention of shoppers to his cause — the Salvation Army.

“Some say the bell is too loud and others say they can’t hear it,” smiles Dhillon. But many put money in the kettle.

Dhillon’s eight grandchildren will be among them. “I get a big pot when the grandchildren come. Of course,” admits Dhillon laughing, “it’s my money.” Dhillon, who volunteers for the Civitan service club, has rung a Salvation Army bell the past eight years. He’ll stand by the kettle a total of 12 hours during the holiday season, two hours at a time.

Thirty minutes into his shift, he estimates that 50 contributors have stepped up to the kettle. “I’m impressed by how generous people are, but no donation is too small,” he says. “We take anything. Even nickels and dimes add up.”

For eight years, Singh Dhillon has rung the bell for Salvation Army in Annapolis.
photo by Sonia Linebaugh
Dhillon knows just how those coins and dollars add up: to $91 million nationally last year. Also a member of the Salvation Army’s board of directors, he helps to count the money when the kettles are emptied each morning at the local office. Retired as director of environmental issues for the county health department, Dhillon has been on the board of the Salvation Army for 25 years, attracted by its support for the poor, the needy and the homeless.

Unlike some, “this charity is very accountable,” says Dhillon. The Christian Science Monitor confirms that assessment. Of the 50 U.S. charities on its 2001 report, Salvation Army ranks seventh in total income at just over $1.9 billion, with roughly 74 percent from public contributions. Of the revenue, 100 percent is devoted to programs. The top paid official at Salvation Army makes $158,310 in salary and benefits, compared to $229,834 at sixth-ranked Goodwill Industries International or $512,503 at number 10, the American Cancer Society.

Started in London, the Christian Mission was renamed the Salvation Army in 1878, with a quasi-military command structure. The imagery of an army fighting for Christ combined with the fiery preaching of founder William Booth led to such rapid growth that the Army spread to 58 countries in Booth’s lifetime.

To this day, leadership in the Salvation Army is provided by commissioned officers — familiar in dark blue uniforms with red piping — who are also religious ministers. According to its official website, the Army aims for “the advancement of the Christian religion, of education, the relief of poverty and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole.”

More volunteers are needed to help keep the bell ringing. Contributors are invited to toss in a quarter or a 20-dollar bill. The Army is fighting poverty in Malawi and Lesotho, but money collected locally, is spent on the local social battlefield.

In addition to the red kettles, Salvation Army projects include the Angel Tree at Annapolis Mall to benefit needy local children. Canned and dried foods for the holidays are being collected at the local headquarters, 351 Hilltop Lane, Annapolis. The Salvation Army is a United Way agency.

Information? 410/263-4091 •

—Sonia Linebaugh

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Anne Arundel Hunts a Killer

Headlights reflect the bright eyes of chattering night prowlers out for a meal that may be served out of your trash can. Who’d suspect that the masked bandits keep company with a killer?

Yet as raccoons live among us, rabies lives among raccoons.

Rabies has ravaged Maryland wildlife and alarmed residents since sweeping through the state in the mid 1980s. In 1998, Anne Arundel County saw 73 reported cases of animal rabies, leading the state. Most were rabid raccoons.

Since then, raccoon rabies has been stalled in part of Anne Arundel County — the Annapolis and Broadneck peninsulas as well as Gibson Island. It’s been stalked, corralled in geographic bottlenecks and exterminated by hunters armed with high-tech, genetically engineered weapons that also taste good — at least to raccoons.

Holding an immunized, sedated raccoon are (from left) Danielle Houghton (USDA), Bill Stafford (USDA contractor), Marie Simpson, R.N. (Department of Health) and Jeremy Smith (USDA). The unharmed raccoon in the photo was released back into Sandy Point State Park.
photo courtesy of Anne Arundel County Department of Health
The hunters are teams of epidemiologists, veterinarians, public health officials, and wildlife experts from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, the Maryland Office of Wildlife Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Their weapon is sandwich-sized fishmeal bait impregnated with Raboral V-RG, an oral vaccine that targets the strain of rabies found in raccoon populations in the eastern United States.

By helicopter and hand, the hunters laid 17,000 of the pungent baits in October, when raccoon families are out foraging in preparation for their winter sleep. The theory is that hungry raccoons take the bait, biting open a packet containing the liquid vaccine and thus vaccinating themselves.

The theory is working, the hunters say.

Weeks after they baited the 45,500-acre region, the hunters trapped and tested 144 raccoons. All healthy trapped raccoons were revaccinated as a fail-safe measure and released.

No rabies appeared in the raccoons on Gibson Island or Annapolis Neck. Only one case, on the Broadneck peninsula, has been reported this year.

“The program has been effective, with one rabid raccoon being found on the Annapolis peninsula in 1999 and none since that year,” said Joseph Horman, public health veterinarian for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. Gibson Island has had no reports of rabid animals reported since October 2000.

With similar hunts up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Canada, epidemiologists believe rabies can be squeezed out of the region.

—Bay Weekly

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Way Downstream

At Elk Point State Park, Turkey Point Lighthouse will shine once more after negotiations between local lighthouse lovers and the Coast Guard. Turkey Point was turned off for budget reasons two years ago, but locals arranged to lease it and turn its beacon back on, the Sun reports …

On the Eastern Shore, the EPA has tallied up the fines for Perdue Farms’ leak of ammonia and pollution last summer from its Accomac processing plant: $137,500. Perdue, seldom a fan of government oversight, is contesting the fine …

In San Francisco, officials are not as tech-friendly as you may think. The city council is preparing to ban Segway Human Transporters, the electric-powered scooters trumpeted as world-changing. But Mayor Willie Brown says he’ll veto the ban, setting the stage for techno-ruckus by the Bay …

Our Creature Feature comes from China, where computer softwear is being developed to match pandas and perhaps avoid another embarrassment to Ling Ling.

Twice, Ling Ling was sent from Japan to a Mexico City zoo, and neither time did he find anything appealing about the three female pandas waiting for his company. The idea, according to reports out of China, is to match potential mates by health and other factors and hopefully grow the world’s perilously low population of giant pandas beyond its present 1,000.

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Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly