Gerard Schwarz, longtime music director of the Seattle Symphony, will step down when his contract expires at the end of the 2010-11 season, the orchestra said Wednesday. But Schwarz will continue his association with the ensemble as its lifetime conductor laureate as well as lead it for a few weeks each season.

Schwarz, 61, who has held the Seattle post since 1985, served as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1978 to 1985.

Although he is credited with spearheading the effort to build the Seattle orchestra's home, 10-year-old Benaroya Hall, his tenure has been marked by controversy over orchestra finances and an overwhelmingly negative survey of symphony musicians.

highly publicized 2006 survey of Seattle Symphony musicians, conducted by their union, that was overwhelmingly negative about the music director and the orchestra board's leadership.