Not quite as nice as endowing them, but still…

A local insurance company has recently bought chairs for the musicians of the Winnepeg Symphony:

Thanks to long-time corporate sponsor Wawanesa Insurance, the Winnipeg Symphony proudly introduced new orchestra chairs earlier this season. “These chairs were specially designed for each WSO musician, taking into account their respective height and ergo-dynamic requirements. We went the extra mile to ensure the safety, comfort and physical health of our valued musicians,” said Jean-Francois Phaneuf, Director of Artistic Operations. Two suppliers were engaged in the process, Concert Design and Wenger, and the musicians were consulted as to their specific chair requirements. In fact, each chair is personalized with their respective names.

George Bass, Vice-President, General Counsel and Secretary, Wawanesa Insurance, is delighted to support the musicians in this way. “It was a natural fit with us as an insurance company – looking out for the best interests of the musicians’ physical health allows us to partner with the WSO in a productive way so that they can continue to provide exceptional musical experiences for all Manitobans.”

This is a good idea on the merits as well as the optics. There’s no question that chairs that are actually designed for individual musicians are going to make them more comfortable and reduce the odds of some work-related injuries.

Of course it’s also cheaper than actually endowing those chairs by about four orders of magnitude. But, as they say about those conductors at the bottom of the ocean – it’s a good start.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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