Sarah Lutman to leave SPCO

Editor's Note: Thanks to MPR's Bill Catlin for this post

St. Paul, Minn. -- Sarah Lutman is leaving her position as president and managing director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to start an independent consulting practice. Her last day as president will be March 1. On that date, Lutman will begin a consulting arrangement with the SPCO.

Dobson West, chair of the orchestra's board will serve as president during the transition to a new leader.

"Sarah has made many contributions to the SPCO during her tenure, and she leaves the organization in a very good place," West said in a news release. "We have a clear vision for the future, a road map for achieving that vision, and an extremely strong and talented group of staff, musicians and volunteer leadership who are eager to bring that vision to fruition. Most important, the organization has a large, growing audience and a community that generously and steadfastly supports it."

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Lutman said she has wanted to be an independent consultant for many years, "but family obligations have not made that a smart choice," she said in the release.

She said her adult children are completing post-graduate education this year and the SPCO has a clear direction, so the timing seemed right.

Last December the Orchestra announced it had completed its fiscal year with a balanced budget, but projected a shortfall of as much as $1 million for the 2011-2012 year. Lutman said at the time that foundation and corporate giving in the Twin Cities is shifting toward meeting human needs, and that has ramifications for the orchestra's budget.

Lutman came to the orchestra in December, 2008, from a senior position at Minnesota Public Radio. It was a very difficult time in the overall economy and, by extension, for many arts organizations as well.

The Great Recession was still underway and would continue officially for another six months. In Lutman's first nine months with the orchestra, Minnesota employers shed more than 100,000 jobs, a huge drop. As of the end of 2011, payroll employment in the state was still down by some 60,000 jobs from December of 2008.