Opinion piece in “Detroit News”: Detroit Symphony can no longer live beyond its means

Posted on: February 3, 2011

In a Letter to the Editor in Thursday’s (2/3) Detroit News, Peter D. Cummings, a member of the boards of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the League of American Orchestras, writes, “As a former chairman of the Detroit Symphony, I have chosen to be silent regarding the strike. Largely this is a result of my no longer living in Detroit and thus not being as active as I was for several years. … I am speaking now because I sense we have arrived at a moment where the institution as we have long known it is near its end.” Cumming points out the excellence of the orchestra’s musicians, management, and funders, but then asks, “So if the musicians are talented, the maestro a star, the management competent and the donors generous, why have we come to such a pass? The simple answer is that we have been living beyond our means. … We hoped that things would get better and we would be able to afford the last year of a contract, or that the endowment would grow sufficiently to pay off the bonds. But the recession changed all this. Where can the money come from to satisfy the musicians? Government? Sen. Carl Levin and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, well intended like the rest of us, would surely have offered it up were it there. Corporations? The Michigan economy, one of the nation’s worst, has our companies fighting for survival and cutting back their charity to do so. The money can come only from the major individual and foundation donors who have sustained the DSO for many years. … I know that they are ready to step forward again, but only in support of a sustainable program. DSO Chairman Stanley Frankel and Parsons have the complete confidence of those funders. When they announce to this group that we have a labor agreement we can live with, the funders will rally once more. … A stronger, more vibrant, nimble and innovative institution can emerge.”

Posted February 3, 2011