Firing of chorus director is a black eye for Buffalo

Another black eye for Buffalo. Just when things were looking up with the very successful National Heritage Trust meeting, new appreciation for Buffalo's architecture and gardens, the revival of the Statler, a beautiful new courthouse and renewed funding for the arts, the board of directors of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus has summarily fired Music Director Doreen Rao, without reason and without regard to the impact on the singers, the choral/orchestral programming of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the musical life of Western New York.

Rao has brought the chorus to its highest-ever level of choral excellence and artistry. The chorus has seen an influx of young, talented and committed singers who were drawn by the newfound artistry of the chorus and the chance to sing with a conductor of international renown, who, against all odds, chose to come to Buffalo.

Rao has integrated herself into this community; living in the city, contributing to local musical groups, joining organizations, patronizing restaurants and businesses. She has shared her expertise with music educators throughout the area and with many eager music students, from elementary school through high school and college.

As a retired music educator, it has been a career highlight to sing under Rao. The chorus under Rao has become as close as we'll ever get to being a great symphonic choir -- a worthy partner to our stellar orchestra. To sing in a great chorus, with the incomparable JoAnn Falletta and the BPO, is a dream come true for so many. Colleagues around the country all wanted to know "how we got Doreen Rao to Buffalo." Now they'll want to know how we are so shortsighted as to let her go.

Cynthia Mayo



Chorus will suffer without Rao at helm

The abrupt dismissal of Doreen Rao, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, is troubling. The chorus's exceptional artistry exhibited in the July 23, 2011, concert at the Chautauqua Institution is documented in the Chautauqua Daily review that followed. To quote the reviewer: " but it was her commitment and the lively energy of her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and her two soloists that lifted this performance into the extraordinary."

Rao is a visionary and a scholar. She is one of the gifted conductors of our time. Rao is a teacher of conductors -- someone who has helped to prepare a generation of accomplished music directors working with orchestras, professional choruses and working in academic positions throughout the world. This dismissal should never have been permitted.

Barbara M. Tagg

Past National Chairwoman,

Choral Repertoire and Standards

Committee, American Choral

Directors Association, Syracuse


Dismissal of Rao is a travesty for all

Our membership with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus has spanned more than 15 years. We are both saddened and baffled by the recent actions of our elected board. To terminate Doreen Rao, a world-renowned musical director, we feel, is a travesty not only for the chorus but the community as well. How could this happen? How could the chorus board be so shortsighted? And our biggest question: Why was it done in such a secretive and underhanded manner?

Over and above Rao's musical direction, she is responsible for the inauguration of the Buffalo Sings Community Concerts. Her goal was to help the chorus serve the larger community and help build the chorus's identity independently of our regular guest artist collaborations with the BPO. She has also reached out to the music educators of Western New York in an effort to bring young singers to the Kleinhans stage for choral concerts.

It is her love of the craft that makes her want to share the joy of music in every way possible. How could such dedication be cut short? And what can be done about it?

John and Joyce Cline

Grand Island


Rejecting pipeline is terrible mistake

I read the letter "Obama deserves praise for stance on pipeline" and strongly felt the need to question some of the logic that was presented. I will attempt to avoid the political argument, which is endless, and stick primarily to the issue of oil, energy and environmental concerns.

The author claims that "oil is the No. 1 export the United States produces." That's not actually true. For the first time since 1949, the United States exported more "oil-based fuels" in the form of diesel, gas and petroleum distillates. "Oil-based fuels" are not the same as crude oil. The United States does not export crude oil.

The United States imports most of its crude from Canada. In reality, even with new tight (shale oil) drilling techniques, the United States does not produce enough domestic crude oil to be self-sufficient. The Canadian tar sands will go to China if we do not act in a rational manner. If the author is truly worried about toxic releases and "cancer alley," sending the tar sands to the east only makes things worse. Based on the environmental track records of emerging growth countries, you can bet that there will be limited environmental regulation. Residual toxins created from foreign refineries will re-enter the United States in the form of cheap goods (and food products) we now rely on.

We need to rethink myths that have started out as theories, become glamorized (and fashionable) and somehow end up as truths. The author mentioned "cancer alley" (Louisiana's industrial corridor) as rationale to avoid the Keystone pipeline. "Cancer alley" was a term coined in the 1980s by environmental activists and has been disproved in study after study. We cannot let bad science cost our country jobs and greater energy independence. President Obama's decision is disastrous.

David Maternowski



Obama wise to ponder long-term consequences

The News coverage of President Obama's recent Keystone XL pipeline decision has not served its readers well by attending only to the short-term political advantage Obama might have gained through approving the pipeline rather than the long-term realities of our country's oil addiction. Both the one-sided Associated Press news story and the editorial follow-up criticizing the president's decision were too narrowly focused to help us make sense of the issue.

First, the coverage failed to point out that Canada is already, by far, the top source of American oil imports, even without the extension to the pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline would simply allow our Canadian neighbors to extract the tar sands oil at a faster, less sustainable rate for export from the Gulf Coast refineries.

A study of the water used in the process and the toxic tailings lakes created (vividly depicted in the Canadian documentary film "White Water, Black Gold") makes it clear that water, not bitumen, is the limiting factor that makes this an unsustainable source of oil. As the burning of this particularly dirty fuel continues to warm the climate, the glacier-fed rivers from the Rockies will be less able to provide a reliable water source for expanded processing.

A third of Canada's fresh water is at risk from toxic contamination, as is the health of Canada's First Nations people, fish and wildlife downstream of the tar sands. We need to take a longer and wider view before similarly risking the Ogallala Aquifer.

Clean, renewable sources of energy to replace imported oil should be the focus of 21st century job creation.

Patricia K. Townsend

William H. Townsend



Voters deserve more from campaigning pols

We are currently in the midst of a year-long reality TV show titled "Campaign 2012." Think of it as a political version of "Survivor." We are treated daily to breathless analyses of what tribal alliances are being formed and who will next be voted off the island.

While perhaps this political theater is the ultimate reality TV, shouldn't we expect something more in the campaign for the presidency than the game-show narrative we are all too often presented with? Does the narrative we get give us the information we need to make a decision in November? I think not. It would be refreshing if the candidates were actually required to expound at length about their ideas instead of sliding by with glib phrases and prepared speeches neatly tailored by others to the audience du jour.

Why do we suspend disbelief during national campaigns? We know that:

To get anything done in our system of government requires working cooperatively across differing points of view and value systems.

The capacity of a single individual to bring about fundamental change is limited.

Solutions to complex problems that built slowly over decades due to actions by both parties are not going to be found easily or quickly.

Yet we allow ourselves to accept sound-bite solutions and use them to decide who we want to vote on or off the island. Why are we content with this?

Brian Rose

East Amherst


Niagara SPCA pets deserve our support

Beyond disturbing is the incompetency, unethical treatment and total lack of concern for animals entrusted in the care of the Niagara County SPCA. Animals who find their way to an animal shelter come from sad or tragic situations. Ending up at the Niagara County SPCA proved to be a double tragedy for such animals.

I am grateful this shelter is now exposed and hopeful that major reform will save future animals the fate of those unfortunates from the past.

I fear for animals who need refuge until then. I hope people will look for other viable options than surrendering pets to the Niagara SPCA. But I hope potential adopters will not avoid the Niagara SPCA as an option for adopting their next pet. The animals are innocent victims who are deserving of the public's support.

Cheryl Strub



NFTA does a poor job of serving community

Kevin Gaughan's Viewpoints article regarding the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority was excellent and much overdue. The NFTA does nothing to encourage ridership or to try to service those who must rely on its services, especially in the suburbs.

For at least 25 years, we have had no or very limited service in Williamsville and the nearby suburbs until the senior living homes became abundant. Much of their staff needs public transportation. The NFTA finally provided some buses, but most of us would rather beg rides or find other jobs than have to stand in the road or snowdrifts waiting for the bus.

I know of a stop in front of Weinberg Campus on North Forest, a stop at North Forest and Millersport and one on Hopkins near Maple that is nothing but a pole by the side of the road. I wouldn't have to work hard to come up with more.

The high schools students, for years now, get out of school at varying times and with no or very limited school bus services. I would have loved to have had some public transportation that my kids could have used. It was a real shock when we moved here and discovered we needed another car because mom worked and schools didn't have consistent hours anymore. Of course I wouldn't have wanted them standing in the snowdrift, either!

Linda Weiss