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Orchestra appoints chairman

F. Wallace Pope Jr., a Clearwater lawyer, will be the next chairman of the Florida Orchestra, Pope said Monday. He will replace Hilliard Eure, who finishes a two-year term. The change will become official when the orchestra's executive committee meets today.

Pope, 50, has been a volunteer in a variety of jobs with the orchestra since the late 1970s. He recently was head of the nominating committee, which was trying to find candidates for the chairman's post. "There wasn't exactly a stampede for the job," he said.

Ordinarily the chairman, who receives no salary, serves a two-year term.

Pope said he has agreed to serve for one year. "We'll see after that," he said.

The 1991-92 season, which starts in September, will be a make-or-break year for the orchestra, Pope predicted.

The 1990-91 season started as one of the most financially difficult in the history of the 23-year-old orchestra. At one point members of the orchestra and its staff missed paychecks.

But the orchestra played on, and an outpouring of community support as the season closed put the orchestra on its best footing in years.

The orchestra will finish with a surplus of about $200,000. Pope was surprised. "There was a chance (the orchestra) could have collapsed," he said.

Pope hopes he can maintain and expand the strong community support, which inspired him to accept the job.

"After what I saw this spring, I thought taking the chairman's job was the least I could do," said Pope, whose favorite classical piece is Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

Pope said the spirit of the musicians was high and the orchestra's conductor, Jahja Ling, was committed to the coming season.

Still, there will be numerous challenges. The orchestra is saddled with $1.5-million in debt. Also, the lingering recession has put a dent in corporate contributions.

The chairman also will have a strong hand in selecting a permanent executive director, a sticky issue among board members.

The orchestra has an acting executive director, former harpist Kathryn Holm, but has continued searching nationwide to fill the post.

Pope said he favors an executive director with a strong administrative background.