Monday, April 28, 2008

Statement of the Board and Management of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra




APRIL, 28, 2008


Robert “Buzz” Trafford 614/227-2149

Tony Beadle 614/221-4897

As a result of an extraordinary individual gift by a Board member the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (“CSO”) expects to have the financial resources necessary to complete it’s Classical and Pops seasons, the final performance of which will occur on May 31, 2008. Without this extraordinary individual gift, the CSO would have been forced to suspend operations on April 30, 2008.

By completing its May concerts, the CSO will fulfill its commitments to its loyal subscribers and to all who have purchased tickets to the Classical and Pops seasons.

We look forward to May as a celebration of the CSO and its music. The May concerts include four time Grammy Award winner Michael Feinstein on May 2, a string ensemble on May 7, a weekend series with Maestro Junichi Hirokami on May 10 and 11, the CSO’s Gala celebration with renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma on May 15, and the final performances of the season with Marvin Hamlisch on May 30 and 31. The CSO will perform a total of 7 concerts during May (schedule attached). Tickets remain available for all of these concerts.

The Board wants to stress that while the CSO believes it has the resources to complete its Classical and Pops seasons, the fundamental financial challenge facing the CSO has not in any way been solved. Rather, by continuing the season through May the CSO achieves the important goal of keeping our commitments to our subscribers and ticket purchasers, but defers to another day the inevitable suspension of operations due to a lack of funds. Whether that day comes at the conclusion of May or the end of August will be determined soon.

The Board’s decision follows an analysis of its current financial situation and reasonably anticipated ticket revenue and contributions during the month of May. The CSO is counting on those who support the CSO to purchase tickets to its May performances and to demonstrate their passion through their financial support.

The CSO enjoys generous support from this community, both corporate and individual. The CSO’s musicians give our community far too little credit for the support it provides. The CSO receives more support, by a wide margin, than any other performing arts organization and is in the top tier (if not first) in contributed revenue among all of Central Ohio’s cultural institutions.

It is clear from the experience of recent years that the level of support around which the CSO must build responsible budgets is $9.5 million. Indeed, for fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007, the CSO’ s revenues, exclusive of emergency, non-recurring funding and donated goods and services (“in-kind” contributions), were $9.4 million, $9.1 million and $9.1 million, respectively. Against this history, and in today’s economy, the Board does not believe it would be fiscally responsible to base a budget on assumed revenue of more than $9.5 mm. The fundamental disagreement between the union and the CSO is the union’s insistence that any new agreement be based on a revenue assumption significantly higher than $9.5 million.

There is substantial support among our donors for the CSO and for the strategic plan the Board announced in January. But, those who provide large portions of the CSO’s support have expressed considerable concern that the CSO will not able to achieve the cost reductions necessary to balance our budget in the next fiscal year. Our largest and most reliable supporters want a successful orchestra. They have in the past and are prepared in the future to provide substantial financial assistance. But, in return, they make a reasonable request – they insist upon an orchestra that lives within the means of support available from our community.

What is clear at this point is that absent a new labor agreement with the union that permits the CSO to operate within its available resources there can be no 2008-2009 season. Unless and until the CSO regains the confidence of those who stand ready to support it, there is no prospect of raising an endowment or taking other steps to strengthen the CSO and increase the compensation of its musicians.

The CSO is prepared to continue discussions with the union at any time for the purpose of trying to secure both the short and long term future of our community’s symphony orchestra.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

THE Carpe Diem String Quartet

Charles Wetherbee, violin
Robert Firdman, violinKorine Fujiwara, violaWendy Morton, cello

The above members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra , comprise the Carpe Diem String Quartet. Here they are shown performing the Theme to The Simpsons.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

From David Thomas: Letter to the Citizens of Columbus

“The mission of the Columbus Symphony is to develop and foster the art of orchestral music at the highest possible artistic level. Through its concerts, outreach, and educational activities, it is a community resource that is a major component of the quality of life in Central Ohio.” -From the Columbus Symphony Management Strategic Plan

“…The board, musicians and community must work together (because) Columbus deserves and needs this orchestra,”
-Anne Melvin, Columbus Symphony Trustee, Columbus Dispatch, 1/18/08

“The foundation of the ARTS in Columbus is the Symphony. It’s the treasure that supports the Opera, the Ballet, and educational programs for children in the public schools.” -Joann Foucht, Women’s Association of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Dispatch, 1/28/08

“Last night’s brilliant performance by this maestro and this orchestra made believers out of everyone: The Hirokami Era has begun.”
-Barbara Zuck, Columbus Dispatch

“…In six years I can make this orchestra one of the best.” -Junichi Hirokami, NY Times, 4/12/08

“…Business leaders and artists throughout the nation (are) watching Columbus. They… hope to see a demonstration of confidence in the future of this city.” -Bruce Ridge, Chair, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Letter to Editor, Columbus Dispatch, 2/6/08

To the Citizens and Leadership of Columbus-

The world is watching Columbus as the Symphony Board of Trustees and Management request large cuts from an orchestra whose members are performing with world class quality. The orchestra took 11% pay cuts three years ago, now restored, to help shore up sagging financial support following a lengthy period without an Artistic or Executive Director. Better results were promised. Now management insists on 40% salary cuts to stabilize the organization.

A gem of cultural pride, loved by Columbus audiences, the Symphony as we know it would not survive these cuts.

The people of Greater Columbus Community know and appreciate the exemplary quality of the Symphony. A flood of supportive letters to the Dispatch has demonstrated this. Our fine Orchestra contributes to the vitality of downtown, both economically and culturally. Thousands of people attend regular concerts, enriched by the unique experience of live classical music. Thousands more benefit from the outreach and education fostered by the members of the Symphony.

In the past decade, total non-musician expenses have increased an average of 7% per year, while total musician expenses increased only 4% per year. In fact, the percentage for musician costs actually went down from 47% of the total budget in the ‘99-’00 season to 39% in ‘05-’06. Musician costs for the ‘06-’07 season were around 42%, at the low end of the national average of 40-50%. (*-source footnote)

The current total musician expenses amount to about $5.4 million out of a $12.4 million budget.* Why not maintain the heart of the orchestra, its musicians, and create a satisfactory budget built on that? Untapped gold mines of volunteers are eager to help. Grassroots organizations can generate untold support and revenue. Several burgeoning efforts are already proving their value. As a community let’s move into action and make it happen.

The Greater Columbus Community accomplishes great things with the right leadership. We need the right leadership to step forward and rescue this gem for our city.

“Across the country, exciting things are happening for symphony orchestras. …attendance is up, downloads are rising faster than for any other musical genre, …and the New York Times is proclaiming that this could be “the Golden Age for Classical Music.” - Bruce Ridge, Chair, ICSOM

I encourage you to be a part of the exciting things that are happening for symphony orchestras. Together we can make this happen.

David H Thomas
Principal Clarinet
Columbus Symphony Orchestra

“I still want to believe there’s a solution out there.”
Tony Beadle, Executive Director, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Dispatch, 3/14/08

(* Sources- Total income and expense figures from audit reports provided by the CSO; Total musician expense figures from expense statements provided by the CSO)

News Article

A sad prospect is at hand:

Columbus Dispatch Article: "Contract Rejection May Stop the Music" (4/26)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Columbus Symphony Musicians Unanimously Vote to Reject Board's "Final Offer"


April 25, 2008

Columbus Symphony Musicians Unanimously Vote to Reject Board's "Final Offer"
Last night, the members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra unanimously voted by secret
ballot to reject the CSO Board's "final offer" for a new contract which would take effect next
season. The offer called for a 40% annual salary cut from all 53 Full-Time Musicians with no
restoration in additional years. The current minimum annual salary is $55,200. Under the
Board's proposal it would be slashed to $33,000. The Board's offer would also require
Musicians to pay 30% of their monthly health insurance premiums, up to $480 per month for
Musicians with family coverage. In addition, the wages per rehearsal and concert for part
time Musicians would be reduced from $150 to $100. The value of these cuts from the
Musician's pockets would be approximately $1.4 million for next season.

Previously the Board rejected the Musician's proposal to accept a 6.5% annual salary cut, to
reduce monthly health insurance payments in return, but to share in future premium
increases, and to leave vacant any non-principal chair during long term leaves of absence
throughout the contract. Depending on the final number of vacancies, this would result in
savings next season of approximately $500,000. Three years ago, the Musicians agreed to an
11% annual salary cut which resulted in total savings over the past two and a half years of
$1.3 million.

Early in the negotiation process, the Musicians proposed that a third party consultant who
specializes in orchestra management be selected by mutual agreement and brought in to
evaluate the situation and to make recommendations to both the Board and the Musicians.

The Board immediately rejected that proposal insisting that no assistance was needed to
resolve matters. They later offered to accept the assistance of a consultant, but only in the
future after a new contract is reached.

The Board has told the Musicians that there may not be enough money to continue
operations beyond the end of this month without agreement on a new contract for next
season. Because the Board's proposal was presented as a "final offer", they will not consider
any further proposals from the Musicians.

Douglas Fisher, President of the Central Ohio Federation of Musicians, Local 103 AFM, the
union which represents the CSO Musicians stated, "We are disappointed that the Board has
rejected immediate assistance from an orchestra management consultant to advise both
them and the Musicians. The longer this crisis continues the more Musicians we will lose. So
far we have lost four high-profile Musicians to other full time jobs next season and that
number will likely increase. It has taken decades for this small group of Musicians to develop
into the high quality ensemble that it is today. Because there are only 53 full time Musicians,
losing even a small number of them has a profound effect on the orchestra's quality."

Jim Akins, Chair of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Committee and Principal Tuba said,
"Key economic data even in today's economy proves that central Ohio has the means to
support this orchestra at an even higher level and that our region is as strong economically as
the four major cities which surround it. Yet the orchestra's annual budget is two to three
times smaller than the orchestras in those cities. Central Ohio deserves an orchestra of high
quality and I hope that those who care will step up and refuse to let it die".

For further information please contact Douglas Fisher at 614-783-3684 or Jim Akins at 614-
361-1481. Also, please visit, the official website of the CSO Musicians, for detailed financial information on the CSO and how it compares to surrounding cities.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Belated Thoughts On Columbus"

Due to the negotiation press black-out, there isn't much new material coming out regularly. Here is one piece that has just surfaced:

Adaptistration Article: "Some Belated Thoughts On Columbus" (4/23)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The GRIM reality

Here is an article from the Columbus Dispatch which shocked arts leaders in Columbus and was very revealing.

* Columbus Dispatch Article: "Grim reality: Perception is that city lacks in arts" (4/7)

Below are some images from the article which are of some note (all images are Copyright Columbus Dispatch):

News Updates

Here are the recent updates from the past week:

* The Other Paper: Promoting (4/3)
* ThisWeek Marysville: "Marysville restaurant pledges to help 'Save the Symphony'" (4/4)
* Columbus Dispatch Article: "Symphony deserves more than polite hand" (4/6)
* Sticks and Drones (Adaptistration): "Columbus: Chicken Soup for the Symphony (and it's not a gimmick!)" (4/7)
* Columbus Dispatch Article: "Criticisms of orchestra board prompt issue-by-issue review" (4/9)
* New York Times: "Symphony Plays Through Its Troubles" (4/12)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two articles

Here are two recently published articles pertaining to the Columbus Symphony:

Columbus Dispatch Letter-to-the-editor: "New blood on board could save orchestra" (4/1)
Adaptistration: "Flanagan, Shreveport, and The CBC Radio Orchestra" (4/1)

It is interesting to note the critique in the above-mentioned Adaptistration article that the author asserts that some people are using bankruptcy as a marketing tool. The author re-states his claim this way...

"The Columbus Symphony: To Cure You We Must Kill You."

Remember that there are performances of Mahler 2 this Saturday evening at 8p and Sunday at 3p!