Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster Chair, Frank Almond, ‘to begin a new chapter’

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra officials on Friday, Sept. 20 announced Frank Almond would conclude his tenure as concertmaster at the end of the 2019-2020 season.

According to a news release from the MSO, appointed by Zdenek Mácal during his final season as music director, Almond served as concertmaster for 25 seasons under Andreas Delfs, Edo de Waart, and now Ken-David Masur.

Following the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season, the release said Almond would remain with the orchestra as an artistic advisor, working closely with Maestro Masur and others to contribute to the MSO’s continued artistic excellence.

The Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair is arguably the most prestigious and visible role within the orchestra, according to the release. As leader of the string section and first violin, Almond also served as the liaison between the orchestra and the music director. Over his 25 years with the MSO, Almond led the orchestra to the highest acclaim locally, nationally, and internationally.

As a fitting tribute, the MSO will close its 2019-2020 season with “Everyone Sang” by contemporary composer Helen Grime, with Almond performing one of the most legendary and beloved works for the violin: Bruch’s Violin Concerto.

You’ll recall, in January 2014, Almond was assaulted with a Taser, and the Lipinski Stradivarius violin, constructed in 1715, was stolen during an armed robbery in a parking lot in the rear of Wisconsin Lutheran College on West Wisconsin Avenue. Almond had just performed at Wisconsin Lutheran as part of his “Frankly Music” series.

On Jan. 31, 2014, a $100,000 reward was announced for the return of the violin. Milwaukee police worked with international police organizations on recovery efforts. The original getaway vehicle and violin case were both found a short time after the original attack, which appeared to have been carefully planned in advance.

Three suspects were arrested by Milwaukee police on Feb. 3, 2014.

On Feb. 6, 2014, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced that the violin had been recovered.

Salah Salahadyn in November 2014 was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years’ extended supervision after pleading guilty to a robbery charge.

Prosecutors said Salahadyn used a Taser on Almond, and then grabbed the valuable violin as Almond fell to the ground. In court, Salahadyn reflected on that day, saying, “I got the violin in my hand, almost as if it were handed to me, and I pressed that button, and my life changed at that moment just as it probably did for him.” He added, “I wanted to buy as many boarded up properties that I could have bought, to perhaps rehabilitate those homes and create some jobs for people.”

Universal Allah in July 2014 was sentenced to serve three-and-a-half years in prison and three-and-a-half years’ extended supervision after pleading guilty to a count of robbery, as party to a crime. Prosecutors said Allah provided the stun gun used to attack Almond as he left the performance.

Almond issued this statement in connection with the concertmaster announcement:

“With immense gratitude, I’ve made the personal decision to step away from the position of concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the end of this season. It has been an honor to have served in this role for the past 25 seasons. This is a world class organization and it has been my privilege to serve our city alongside its exceptional musicians, visiting soloists, board of directors, artistic staff, generous patrons and devoted audiences. It was an immeasurable honor to serve under the direction of two transformative music directors, the esteemed Andreas Delfs and legendary Edo de Waart. Their keen insight into what makes music speak so deeply to all audiences was a constant source of amazement and inspiration for me. I’m also looking forward to having the privilege of serving under Maestro Ken David Masur this season.”

“I would like to thank my incomparable onstage colleagues, who are not only superb musicians that any city would treasure, but who are remarkable people with a genuine commitment to their art and community.”

“As the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra takes its next steps forward with a new hall and a new conductor, I am humbled that the MSO has graciously asked me to stay on as an artistic advisor, where I will work directly with Maestro Ken David Masur and others in whatever capacity I can to contribute to the orchestra’s tremendous upward trajectory.”

“And finally, thank you to our loyal and devoted audience. I look forward to staying connected to you in the next chapter for the MSO, in my own life and in our truly extraordinary community.”

MSO officials will soon begin the process to identify the next concertmaster, the release said.

In an orchestra, this critical role is played by a violinist who is among the very best performers in the world. As such, the search will be international in scope.

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