The Alabama Symphony was named “Nonprofit Organization of the Year” at the Birmingham Business Journal’s ninth annual Best In Business Awards banquet. The Alabama Symphony was the first winner in a new awards category recognizing nonprofits. An independent panel headed by Robert Holmes, dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Business, did the judging.
The orchestra recently named British conductor Justin Brown as their next music director, culminating a search process begun in 2004. Brown will assume his duties in September 2006. Since recovering from bankruptcy in 1997, the Alabama Symphony has grown to employ 72 people in full-time positions. Alabama’s endowment, currently valued at $11 million, is held by the Alabama Symphonic Endowment, which establishes investment policies and guidelines.
The Atlanta Symphony’s 2005–2006 season focuses on composer Osvaldo Golijov. Among the works being performed are La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion according to St. Mark) and his opera Ainamdamar. Upcoming tours include concerts in Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and California’s Ojai Festival. Fundraising continues for the Symphony Center designed by Santiago Calatrava. Recording projects this year are for Telarc and DGG. The contracts of conductors Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles have been extended through 2008-09.
Atlanta delegate Michael Moore reports that his orchestra saw a 34% increase in healthcare premiums this year. In order to manage that increase, the orchestra changed plans from CIGNA to Aetna. Despite much higher co-pays, Michael says that their medical expense reimbursement plan (MERP) keeps net costs the same to the musicians.
The Charlotte Symphony announced that Resident Conductor Alan Yamamoto has extended his contract by two years. This season, their Sunday Summer Pops concerts at Symphony Park were able to remain free to all through the generous commitment of VISA Signature, the series’s presenting sponsor.
Cincinnati Symphony has released two new recordings: Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (with Music Director Paavo Järvi) and Howard Hanson’s Symphonic Music (the 80th Pops recording conducted by Erich Kunzel). The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra toured China and Singapore in October, performing two concerts in Beijing, one in Shanghai (as part of the prestigious China Shanghai International Arts Festival), and two in Singapore. Vocalist Daniel Narducci was the guest artist for the tour.
The Florida Orchestra completed a successful negotiation last January in which they made substantial recoveries and reasonable gains. The orchestra has posted surpluses for the last two fiscal years, reducing their accumulated deficit to just under $2 million. According to delegate Warren Powell, the musicians are currently working on a future website to be located at www.floridaorchestramusicians.org. With the Tampa Bay area one of the fastest growing localities in the nation, the musicians want to achieve parity with orchestras of similar demographics through artistic vision and increased activism.
About a month into their season, the Houston Symphony endured the drama of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which dominated the nation’s attention. John Thorne writes: “The season does seem off to a good start; attendance is up. The settlement of our contract, even considering it was a ‘reopening,’ seems to have given people a sense of where we are headed.
“The most important thing to note was the generosity of the Dresden Staatskapelle. They flew all the way to Houston to play a concert for the relief workers and refugees from Hurricane Katrina. We were all touched by their generosity and warmth. Unfortunately, Hurricane Rita was bearing down on Houston and most Houstonians were evacuating the city. The free concert was to be well attended, but unfortunately the attendance was affected by the evacuation. However, the concert, on which the Houston Symphony also played, was a memorable one. The members of the Houston Symphony were not only impressed with Dresden’s generosity, but with the beauty of their playing. It is a concert we will all remember for a long time to come. (The Staatskapelle was able to fly out the next morning, Thursday, well in advance of the storm’s arrival on Friday.)”
John Thorne has resigned as delegate to serve on the HSO’s governing board. The new ICSOM delegate is Eric Arbiter.
Delegate John Wieland reports that the Jacksonville Symphony has been busy dealing with media issues. They voted against doing a limited pressing due mainly to compensation and scheduling concerns. After much negotiating with management, the orchestra committee came up with a limited pressing package that passed. Management agreed to reduce the service count for the season by the number of sessions. The package also included increased up-front compensation, revenue sharing, and scheduling relief in the week following the recording sessions.
The biggest news in Kansas City, according to delegate Jessica Wakefield, is that they have started their first season with their newly appointed music director, Michael Stern. The community is reportedly very excited, and the board seems energized. Concerts with Stern have been well attended. With Stern pounding the pavement to drum up support for the Symphony, the orchestra has been getting good media coverage. This is supposed to be a negotiation year, but there is talk of postponing negotiations until next year. The board has kicked off an endowment campaign, but it’s still too early to tell how it will progress. Concurrently, the orchestra is soliciting donations necessary to break ground for a new performing arts center, hopefully by fall 2007.
As was reported in the last issue of Senza Sordino, the Nashville Symphony hosted the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra on October 4, 2005 in its first concert since Hurricane Katrina. The performance took place in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall. Current LPO Principal Guest Conductor Klauspeter Seibel and Music Director Designate Carlos Miguel Prieto led the majority of the 68-member Louisiana Philharmonic. Gross proceeds from the concert went directly to the Louisiana Philharmonic.
The highly anticipated new Schermerhorn Symphony Center in the heart of downtown Nashville is set to open on September 9, 2006. The 2006–2007 inaugural season of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center will be the most extensive and ambitious of Symphony’s 60-year history, with a diverse season of programs suited to the acoustical capabilities of this stunning new hall and embracing Nashville’s love for music of all kinds.
North Carolina Symphony musicians saw a significant improvement in their paychecks this fall due to the five-percent salary increase that was negotiated last spring. Their 2006–2007 season began with a pair of concerts inaugurating the newly renovated Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus. According to delegate Beth Lunsford, the renovations took three years and included upgrades to the auditorium’s interior and the addition of an orchestra shell. This is the third hall inauguration recently played by the NCS, following the openings of Meymandi Concert Hall (NCS’s new home hall in Raleigh) and Booth Amphitheatre (NCS’s summer home at Regency Park in Cary).
Delegate Emily Watkins reports that the San Antonio Symphony has hired Dick Hoffert, formerly CEO of the North Carolina and Indianapolis symphonies, to replace Eddie Aldrete as interim CEO. Aldrete had previously accepted the position in a complicated arrangement with his employer, but he recently became unavailable due to unrelated complications with that employer. He will continue to serve the San Antonio Symphony as a board member. The CEO search committee, which includes two musician representatives to the board, is using a local headhunter to research candidates for the permanent position. The goal is to have a new CEO in place before spring.
Another management change is the appointment of a marketing director, a position that had been empty for three years. The position of CFO has also been recently filled, having been empty since around the time of the orchestra’s bankruptcy. Searches continue for the posts of development director and marketing director. Musicians are hopeful that the filling of these positions will help the San Antonio Symphony in its recovery and growth.
The Dallas Symphony is playing with Andrew Litton in his final season as music director, a post he has held since 1994. No successor has been named. This past October under Litton’s baton, the DSO received the Gramophone Editor’s Choice Award for a recording of the Rachmaninoff piano concertos with Stephen Hough.
On the financial front, they have seen two consecutive years of balanced budgets, a 19% growth in annual donations over the last three years, and a 43% increase in endowment during the same time. The endowment is now slightly over $100 million. However, the musicians recently dodged a financial bullet after an initial healthcare premium quote showed an 18% increase. All were relieved that the healthcare broker negotiated the rate to about $8,000 below the negotiated cap (12%). Even so, the healthcare committee recommended making changes to the PPO’s out-of-pocket maximum and to the out-of-network coinsurance in order to protect the musicians from a large premium increase in the future. The orchestra voted to accept those changes.
The Dallas Symphony found a number of ways to contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief. In cooperation with the Dallas Arts District, they hosted a donation drop for clothing and money to be donated to displaced disaster victims. They also placed containers in their lobby for donations to the Red Cross throughout September. Additionally, they held a benefit concert on September 27th with David R. Davidson, conductor of the DSO chorus, their new associate conductor, Danail Rachev, and baritone Timothy Jones. In total, they raised approximately $10,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra went “live” with their own website in October, just before leaving on a 12-day, seven-concert tour of Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Austria with their departing music director, Yuri Temirkanov. The site, www.bsomusicians.org, was designed to complement their employer’s website and initially served as a travelogue for the tour. Now it will provide on-going and in-depth information about the orchestra’s musicians and the music they play. A special “sneak preview” section features brief enticements and photographs for music lovers who want an insider’s view of what’s happening each week at the BSO. Visitors to the site will be able to express their views directly to the musicians through the area entitled “Everyone’s a Critic.” The musicians, who are funding the site themselves, appreciated a generous gift from Local 40-543, the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, to help their effort. Their continued volunteer efforts will keep the site fresh for visitors.
The musicians are looking forward to welcoming Maestra Marin Alsop to Baltimore in January for her first concerts with the orchestra since being appointed their music director. Their collective bargaining agreement will expire in mid-September 2006. The musicians have retained a local communications specialist and legal counsel Susan Martin.
These reports, with the exception of Baltimore’s, were compiled by ICSOM Governing Board Member at Large James Nickel from information supplied by each orchestra’s delegate. The Baltimore Symphony report was contributed by delegate Mary Plaine in consultation with Member at Large Nancy Stutsman.