We might not have been able to call ourselves by name because of our management’s attorney’s allegation that use of the name “Louisville Orchestra Musicians’ Association” is a violation of our contract. Instead, we answered to code names such as “Major orchestra across the Ohio River from Jeffersonville, Indiana” and “Musicians from our Nation’s Capital Orchestra.” But something amazing happened when two ICSOM orchestras combined at the Louisville Marriott on February 19, 2011.
The National Symphony was in Kentucky for a week’s residency when its musicians graciously volunteered to help musicians of the Louisville Orchestra (LO) in their fight to maintain a full-size orchestra. After the LO management filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, the LO musicians formed a nonprofit organization called KEEP LOUISVILLE SYMPHONIC to raise awareness and funds to combat management’s goal of “right-sizing” the orchestra to 50–55 musicians. (It was modeled after the KEEP LOUISVILLE WEIRD campaign supporting local, independent businesses. Please visit www.keeplouisvillesymphonic.org to learn more about our mission and ways you can support us!) A Christmas pops concert and a Classics concert with Maestro Uriel Segal and Mark Kaplan had been very successful under KEEP LOUISVILLE SYMPHONIC.
So the offer of help from NSO musicians was too good to refuse. A program of American music was planned, and after securing an ASCAP license and rental parts, we set out to fashion the largest orchestra possible. LO bassist Bert Witzel deserves a medal for his leadership in organizing the many facets of this concert. The long list of people to thank includes NSO violist Jennifer Mondie for acting as liaison between Louisville and Washington, the musicians of the NSO for the generosity of their time and money, our attorney Liza Hirsch Medina for recommending such a collaborative effort, Jason Seber for conducting and loaning percussion equipment, local composers Paul Brink and Ray Horton (also an LO trombonist) for their pieces, violin soloist and benefactor J. Patrick Rafferty, Indianapolis Symphony violinist Louise Alexander for providing the very first on-line donation to KEEP LOUISVILLE SYMPHONIC, and ICSOM Secretary Laura Ross, who drove up from Nashville to support her colleagues, see friends, and take the excellent pictures accompanying this article.
In mounting these self-produced concerts, we’re learning that the jobs of management are definitely not easy. Ask me about seating musicians from two orchestras or Bert about transporting percussion instruments and stands on a U-Haul at “Oh-dark-hundred” in the morning, and you may have to resuscitate us! But the musicians of KEEP LOUISVILLE SYMPHONIC and the National Symphony proved that we can produce these concerts, that there is enthusiastic and generous support for full-size symphonic music in Louisville, and that audience members aren’t the only ones changed by the experience. We musicians are forever changed by the support of our colleagues from Washington and by music’s healing influence, and we are re-dedicated to our mission to keep Louisville symphonic.