Encore Series Inc., presenter of the Philly Pops, has hired a successor to its founding music director, Peter Nero.
Michael Krajewski, 62, who leads pops orchestras in Atlanta, Houston, and Jacksonville, Fla., will take over in the fall of 2013.
Public acknowledgment of the decision was made Tuesday at City Hall by Mayor Nutter, who called Krajewski "one of the world's foremost conductors."
Nutter took the opportunity to tip his hat to Nero - who did not attend the announcement - "for his contribution to the arts." The Grammy-winning jazz pianist and pops conductor, musical leader since the group's founding in 1979, is in his last year on the podium. His exit was negotiated as part of the Pops' Chapter 11 petition filed in April 2011.
The Pops had offered the job to the pianist, conductor, and composer Marvin Hamlisch, and he accepted, said Pops president/CEO Frank Giordano. But Hamlisch died in August, so the search resumed.
Krajewski has never conducted the Philly Pops. Indeed, Nutter has conducted the Pops more than Krajewski, leading a Sousa march in front of Independence Hall in July, and at Tuesday's announcement the mayor threatened to take on a bigger conducting load.
The Orlando-based Krajewski said he decided to accept the post because of the group's national reputation.
"If the Philly Pops says, 'Would you like to be music director of our orchestra for a few years?' I thought, " 'Yes, I probably would.' "
His contract runs for three years, with an escape clause after the second, said Giordano. His first concerts with the Philly Pops are slated for March and April.
Krajewski told the gathering of Encore Series board members and a handful of reporters that he wanted to send a special message to listeners: "All of the things you love about the Philly Pops are going to continue for years to come."
Nero lawyer Paul R. Rosen said Nero did not attend the announcement because he was not invited.
"They produce a press conference to introduce the music director-designate and talk about how wonderful Peter is, and they don't invite him. It seems to me that was an intentional slight, which is unbecoming of our promoter and the respect that Peter Nero deserves," he said.
Giordano said Nero was invited.
Rosen said he sent ESI representatives an e-mail saying "that we were not invited. And they never responded."
ESI used the bankruptcy to negotiate lower pay for Nero while adding Giordano to the payroll as president and naming Philadelphia Youth Orchestra conductor Louis Scaglione to a new paid position as chief operating officer.
Giordano declined to say what Krajewski would be paid, though he said Krajewski's fee is "the going rate for a conductor, which is substantially less than Peter was paid." Nero was paid $513,000 per year under his old contract, which compensated him for conducting, and, he said, included expenses associated with running the organization.
Giordano said the search committee consisted of ESI's executive board, along with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra vice president for artistic planning Evans Mirageas.
Longtime board member Samuel J. Savitz said he has not heard Krajewski conduct. "It's going to be different, because the audience comes to hear Peter and to hear Peter play piano. I know because when he doesn't play, I get the letters."
Krajewski comes from the traditional pops-conductor mold, leading themed concerts with major and smaller orchestras. This season with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra pops, he conducts a tribute to Simon and Garfunkel, a holiday series, and stars from the cast of Jersey Boys in songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He is repeating those concert themes with the Houston Symphony pops, plus others with tunes from James Bond movies, a Louis Armstrong homage, and a visit from crossover band Pink Martini.
Last summer, he made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut at the Mann Center in a concert that married orchestral favorites with photographic projections.
Nero will conduct the Philly Pops several more times this season. Then, he takes on a busy schedule performing piano recital and conducting dates across the country.
Giordano says he expects to announce in January programming and guest artists for Krajewski's first season, 2013-14.