Newslets are compiled with the help of ICSOM’s delegates and members at large from sources that include direct submissions, member orchestra websites, and topical news items. The editor encourages input and submissions.
In January, months before contract negotiations were to begin, the management and the board of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra publicly issued a 50-page strategic plan proclaiming that the orchestra’s financial problems would be best solved by firing 22 musicians at the end of the summer, thus reducing the number of full-time core musicians from 53 to 31. They also announced their intent to exact a 30 percent wage reduction from the remaining 31 musicians by cutting the current 46-week season by 12 weeks. Their plan was developed in secret over several months. Musicians learned of the plan by reading about it in the newspaper. The musicians and the local union have stated publicly that they will not accept any firings, even if that means the end of the orchestra and the loss of all jobs.
Doug Fisher, Local 103 president and CSO bassoonist, said that CSO musicians voted to make a live recording of standard Tchaikovsky repertoire to memorialize the achievements of their orchestra, now at its artistic peak after decades of development. Music Director Junichi Hirokami, who publicly condemned the board/management plan despite possible career consequences, will conduct. The recording is being personally underwritten by the former board chair, Gene D’Angelo, father of actress Beverly D’Angelo and grandfather of her twins with actor Al Pacino.
Following a series of payroll problems that started in October 2007, musicians of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra were told on December 13 that paychecks scheduled for the next day would not be issued, that the symphony was insolvent, and that there would be no further payroll paid until some time in January at the earliest.
Since that time, HSO Musicians have been playing with pay delayed by as much as five weeks. The HSO musicians’ emergency fund has extended loans to players who have needed assistance in getting through this challenging time. The hardship has been too much for some, though. They’ve had to travel off-island in order to find work. Paychecks have been issued sporadically, and HSO management has not been able to give a firm timetable on any future pay.
According to Honlolulu’s orchestra committee chair, Paul Barrett, HSO musicians are encouraged by significant community support, including $450,000 in public donations in response to media coverage of the crisis and a well-attended rally in support of the musicians organized by students of the Hawaii Youth Symphony. The Honolulu orchestra committee continues to consult with ICSOM Counsel Lenny Leibowitz and the officers of Local 677 as it carefully monitors the situation.
The Detroit Symphony is looking forward to Leonard Slatkin’s April return to Detroit for his first concert series since being named music director. Even before Slatkin’s tenure as music director begins in September, he has already begun meeting with orchestra and staff members and helping plan future seasons.
The DSO is grateful to Honda Motor Company for its generous $1 million grant for education programs. The grant, to be paid out over five years, will fund ensemble experience and private beginning string instruction in underserved local communities. Delegate Brian Ventura says that the grant will enhance the Detroit Symphony’s already strong support for music education, which currently includes a total of 10 civic orchestras, wind, jazz, and chamber ensembles.
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been engaged in an endowment campaign with a $30 million goal since fall 2005. Then, BPO’s endowment stood between $6 million and $7 million, which placed the BPO 35th among U.S. orchestras in endowment size.
Buffalo’s ICSOM delegate, Robert Prokes, notes that the campaign was in a “quiet” phase until the season opening gala concert in September 2007, when it was announced that $13 million in cash and pledges had already been secured. The campaign currently stands at $18 million in cash and pledges, of which $8.4 million was raised from board and former board members.
The endowment campaign recently received a $6 million challenge from a private foundation. If a total of $24 million is raised by the end of the year, the foundation will add $6 million to complete the endowment drive. The chair of the endowment campaign is the current chair of the Buffalo Philharmonic Board of Trustees, Dr. Angelo Fatta.
The Chicago Symphony’s new in-house recording label, CSO Resound, has just released its third CD, Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago, according to Delegate Rachel Goldstein. In December, CSO Resound released its first download-only recording, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, which was an immediate success on iTunes.
The CSO launched three new concert series two years ago: a rush hour series, a Friday night film music series, and a lecture/ multimedia series called Beyond the Score. While the rush hour concerts have not been particularly popular, the other two series have been quite successful, and Beyond the Score has received critical acclaim. Its website provides free video downloads of the lecture/demonstration portion of the concert (produced under the Symphony, Opera, and Ballet Audio-Visual Agreement).
Ticket sales for the Oregon Symphony this season have already surpassed $5 million. According to Oregon’s delegate, Dolores D’Aigle, that’s almost half a million dollars better than they were doing at the same time last year. The success marks a change in direction for ticket sales in Portland, which were in decline for the last five years. This season has also seen an increase in average paid attendance at Oregon Symphony’s home, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It is up a whopping 20.5 percent over last season.
The Florida Orchestra ratified a three-year contract in December. The agreement’s concessionary tone reflected a seven-year erosion in subscriptions and chronic long- and short-term debt that hobbled the institutional cash flow.
TFO Player’s Committee Chair Harold Van Schaik explained that the agreement was contingent upon a multiyear bridge fund as well as board and management accountability benchmarks, all of which have been met or exceeded thus far. The $6.5 million bridge fund goal is nearly two-thirds complete, and the 2008–2009 season subscription renewal campaign was launched in mid-February—four weeks earlier than usual and ten weeks earlier than last year. For the first time in many years, TFO also successfully navigated through the tight-cash-flow months of December through March without tapping into lines of credit or endowment loans.
The board and the administration are continuing a “retooling” to improve quality and efficiency in areas of institutional advocacy, marketing, and fundraising. Although TFO still has a long way to go on its road to recovery, if these past few months are an indication of what is to come, they seem to be headed in the right direction.
The Recording Academy announced three Grammy Awards for the Nashville Symphony and its music advisor, Leonard Slatkin, for Made in America, a CD of works by American composer Joan Tower. The orchestra won in the categories of Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance, with the third award going to Tower for Best Classical Contemporary Composition (Made in America).
In a long list of firsts, this was the first Grammy win for the orchestra as well as its first project with Music Advisor Leonard Slatkin for the Naxos American Classics series. The CD, which includes Tower’s Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra, was the first recording made by the orchestra in the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The title piece, Made in America, was the first composition resulting from a project known as “Ford Made in America.” The 65 participating orchestras, smaller-budget orchestras from all 50 states, jointly commission and individually perform the project’s works. The project is spearheaded by the League of American Orchestras and
Meet the Composer, with major support from the Ford Motor Company Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Joseph Schwantner has been selected to write the next commissioned work for the project.
In addition to four previous Grammy nominations, the Nashville Symphony also received a Regional Emmy award in the Special Event/Live category at the 2008 Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards for One Symphony Place, a live broadcast of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center opening. Other nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards included Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Minnesota Orchestra. Nashville’s delegate, Brad Mansell, says that it was truly an honor for his orchestra to be nominated along with those orchestras.
The San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music (AIM) program is celebrating its 20th year of providing music education to students in the San Francisco Unified School District. Believed to be the longest-running program of its kind among U.S. orchestras, AIM reached more than 22,000 children during the 2006–2007 season. Cathy Payne, San Francisco Symphony delegate and ICSOM member at large, reports that each year the SFS Education Department creates a curriculum for the San Francisco Unified School District that links music to fields such as language arts, science, geography, or history. Teachers receive books, CDs, simple instruments, and other materials to support the program. Students also attend in-school performances that reflect the diverse musical traditions of the Bay Area, including classical, jazz, and world music. A major component of the AIM program is an annual concert by the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall that incorporates the concepts students studied in their classrooms.
In May, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will open the 12,000-seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta, Georgia. In so doing, it will become the only orchestra in the U.S. simultaneously operating two amphitheaters. The orchestra also operates the Chastain Park Amphitheater, home of the Atlanta Symphony’s Classic Chastain summer series. According to Atlanta’s long-time delegate, ICSOM Treasurer Michael Moore, the ASO’s annual budget will top $50,000,000 as a result of the new operation.
The ASO also announced a new $1 million, three-year grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support three ASO programs: recordings, the Atlanta School of Composers, and Theatre of a Concert. This represents the first Mellon Foundation grant to the ASO in more than thirty years, as well as the largest grant from a national foundation outside Atlanta earned by the ASO in its history.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra played its debut performance in Carnegie Hall on January 26. Over 500 Texans traveled to the Big Apple for the experience. ICSOM Delegate Karen Hall reports that orchestra members ran into friends, neighbors and patrons at every turn in Manhattan!
The nearly full concert received critical acclaim, including from New York Times critic Anthony Tomasini, who said that “[t]he Tchaikovsky was first rate.” Mr. and Mrs. Sid Bass hosted a formal dinner at their New York City home for the event and expressed their pride in the symphony by donating a second million dollars this season. Another formal dinner was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Bass after the concert for the orchestra members and patrons.
On January 27, the Symphony returned to the Carnegie Hall stage for a sold-out performance of Peter and the Wolf, narrated by John Lithgow in English and Spanish. The Carnegie Hall trip was a welcome change for the Fort Worth musicians, who usually find themselves playing educational programs to small towns in Texas when they go on tour.