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NJ Symphony Picks New Chief Exec

NEWARK, NJ (AP) — A Canadian pipe-organ company executive has been tapped to run New Jersey's symphony orchestra, the organization's trustees announced Wednesday.

Andre Gremillet, who's from Montreal, has been president of Casavant Freres for the past four years, a pipe-organ builder based near his native city.

He starts as the symphony's president and chief executive in January 2007.

The orchestra has been without a permanent CEO since the departure of Simon Woods, who left last year after just 15 months on the job to become chief executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Glasgow, Scotland.

Gremillet worked as a music professor and concert pianist before getting into the organ-building business. He has advanced degrees in both music and business administration.

He'll have his work cut out for him when he gets to New Jersey.

The Newark-based orchestra has suffered financial troubles in recent years. In July, the orchestra announced it was cashing in part of its $10 million endowment to pay some expenses.

There was also controversy surrounding the NJSO's $17 million purchase of 30 rare Italian string instruments from philanthropist Herbert Axelrod in 2003.

Axelrod claimed the instruments were worth $49 million, but experts have since questioned the valuation. Axelrod meanwhile was sentenced to prison for an unrelated tax fraud scheme, serving a 15-month sentence.

The NJSO, though, reports some improvements this season. The orchestra has already sold 700 more subscriptions than all of last year, and there's still four months to go in the season. And sales of single tickets have surpassed $200,000, versus $73,000 at this time last year.

"I really believe the potential is here," Gremillet told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Wednesday's newspapers. "There are financial difficulties, there's no secret about that. But I know what I'm getting into."