Examining recent orchestra reorganizations

Posted on: August 21, 2012

In Tuesday’s (8/21) Bloomberg Business Week, Emily Grannis examines recent bankruptcies and reorganizations among American orchestras, posing the question of what effect these reorganizations might have on other struggling symphony orchestras. Among the orchestras covered in the article are the Louisville Orchestra and the Delaware, Honolulu, and Syracuse symphony orchestras, as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra, which “exited court protection July 30 after 15 months, having resolved $100 million in claims with a $5.5 million settlement, shrinking its payroll and winning a release from its pension obligations.” Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, explains in the article that “one of the drivers of recent financial difficulty for many groups is a decline in state and federal funding. ‘The state and local funding in some cases has been really severe,’ Rosen said in an interview. … ‘I think bankruptcy should be used as an absolute last resort,’ said Jay Blumenthal of the American Federation of Musicians in New York. ‘We’re talking about the livelihood of highly skilled professionals that essentially ends up in jeopardy.’” Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore said in the article that for her orchestra “bankruptcy was the right choice,” though she wouldn’t “wish this experience on another orchestra.” … [Steve Metcalf, director of instrumental studies at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford] said that one result of the financial crisis among orchestras is that the groups themselves are changing to match the times.…  ‘A symphony orchestra that has been 110 people in formal wear may be giving way in many cases to a different model,’ he said. Rosen … agreed that they need to change. ‘It’s moving quickly from a tradition and set of operating practices that were very successful for the time in which they were developed, which was really the second half of the last century, toward operating models and missions that are attuned to today’s world,’ Rosen said.”

Posted August 21, 2012