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Colorado Symphony Orchestra About To Go Under?Internal study claims that CSO may be gone in 2 years


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#1 YouOverThere

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 04:00 PM

A week or so ago, The Denver Post carried an article that stated that an internal study showed that the Colorado Symphony Orchestra can survive at most 2 years in its present state. The CSO apparently lost $650k last year, which doesn't seem like an extraordinary amount for an arts organization with a budget on the high side of $10 million in the current economic environment. This came as quite a shock to me, as for the past few years the CSO has been portraying itself as a successful arts organization that is ready to move onto bigger and better things. They have pledges for tens of millions of dollars to pay for renovations to the concert hall and recently negotiated a new contract with the musicians that restored more than half of the salary cutbacks that took place in 2009. They claim to have set attendance records last season. I don't know quite what to make of it.

#2 bart

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 04:37 PM

Here's the Denver Post article.

http://www.denverpos....denverpost.com

The report, compiled by an 11-member committee of board and staff members, musicians and community leaders, lays out a series of recommendations, including the immediate need for a "one-year turnaround plan."

"It is the opinion of the Sustainability Study Committee that if the Colorado Symphony does not adopt all of the above recommendations in full and achieve success in their implementation, it faces a high probability of demise within the next two years," the report states.

This story appears in the context of current labor negotiations and recent budget cuts. It sounds like they are hoping to create a sense of urgency and to shake public, staff, artists, donors, and potential donors out of what sounds like an unrealistic sense of complacency.

Company debt ($1.2 million), lack of endowment ("minimal"), and cash reserves ("just $16,000") are the real bad news, I think. You can't run a major arts organization by counting on ticket sales and annual donations.

#3 Helene

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 05:04 PM

This story appears in the context of current labor negotiations and recent budget cuts. Is it possible that one of the motives for this statement is to create a sense of urgency, thus and shaking public, staff, artists, donors, and potential donors out of complacency?

One of the main drivers for the Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy filing was to avoid it's obligation of deferred compensation (pension) to musicians. As far as I know, the threat of bankruptcy leading up to it didn't inspire a rush of organization-saving donations to apply to the deficit. Until someone figures out a naming opportunity for one, I don't think it ever will.

#4 YouOverThere

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:08 PM

If it was a scare tactic, it worked. The musicians agreed to a 14 percent pay cut.

#5 bart

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:17 PM

Don't know whether to be pleased ... or irked. What are people saying in Colorado, YouOverThere?

#6 California

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 05:19 PM

Don't know whether to be pleased ... or irked. What are people saying in Colorado, YouOverThere?


The Denver Post had a story Wednesday that the musicians were postponing a vote on this cut. I can't find an announcement that they have accepted it. Is this a done deal?
http://www.denverpos...rch/ci_18941313

Hate to say it, but state employees in Colorado (and California and many other states) have been forced to take 2-3 unpaid furlough days every month in recent years - the equivalent of a 10%+ paycut. And thousands have been laid off entirely, including many school teachers. It's ugly out there.

#7 California

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 03:55 AM

20 members of the Board have resigned. Here's the Denver Post story:
http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_18972288

In addition, Cho said, board members feel like the musicians often place the blame on them for the orchestra's financial struggles, even though the board has covered many of the orchestra's budget shortfalls in recent years.

"Board members are sick and tired of the musicians' complaining," he said.



#8 YouOverThere

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:31 PM

Don't know whether to be pleased ... or irked. What are people saying in Colorado, YouOverThere?


The people in Colorado are saying that Tim Tebow should be the Broncos' starting quarterback. The behind the scenes goings on at arts organizations don't generate the same sort of "buzz" that they would in a lot of other places. Denver isn't a hotbed for the performing arts. I missed the opening weekend of the season since I got back from hiking too late to take in Saturday's concert, so I didn't get to talk to/overhear any of the other symphony fans.

#9 YouOverThere

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:38 PM

20 members of the Board have resigned. Here's the Denver Post story:
http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_18972288

In addition, Cho said, board members feel like the musicians often place the blame on them for the orchestra's financial struggles, even though the board has covered many of the orchestra's budget shortfalls in recent years.

"Board members are sick and tired of the musicians' complaining," he said.


I probably shouldn't get started on my reaction to this article. And I don't know what the musicians knew or when they knew it. But if I me employer had been telling everyone that their financial position was solid and then all of a sudden they say that they are losing money and they want me to take a pay cut rather than the pay raise we just negotiated a few months earlier, I'd want to take a few days to investigate what is going on.

#10 dirac

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 09:09 AM

The people in Colorado are saying that Tim Tebow should be the Broncos' starting quarterback.


Then it is probably best that they have no opinion on the fate of the orchestra.....

Thanks for these updates, YouOverThere. It sounds as if there's a lot being left out of these news accounts, but the board plainly has big problems and are apparently trying to deflect blame to the musicians, a management tactic we've seen plenty of recently. But again, it's hard to say.

#11 California

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 05:49 PM

It gets worse...Colorado Symphony has just cancelled half of its fall schedule:
http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19049528

Battling a major budget crisis, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra abruptly canceled half of its 20 scheduled concerts over the next two months Tuesday, but vowed to return to full operations in early December.


This was announced in the Denver Post , which just announced that it is offering buy-outs in hopes of reducing the news staff by 20:
http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19048832

(On the bright side, I went to an open rehearsal for the Colorado Ballet's Swan Lake today and the management is very happy with ticket sales. It opens this Friday.)

#12 YouOverThere

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:33 AM

It gets worse...Colorado Symphony has just cancelled half of its fall schedule:
http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19049528

Battling a major budget crisis, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra abruptly canceled half of its 20 scheduled concerts over the next two months Tuesday, but vowed to return to full operations in early December.


I'm getting more and more baffled. Last season we were being told how great things were going and now it turns out that they are on the verge of folding up. I came away from a reception for donors last Spring with the impression that they had lined up their share of the funding for a concert hall renovation and it turns out that they have no idea where the money is going to come from. Even the Colorado Ballet now appears to be in more solid shape.

I'm really disappointed that they cancelled Faure's Requiem. That's one of my favorites. But at least I'll have more of a choice of dates to see Swan Lake.

#13 YouOverThere

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:54 PM

I might be totally off base on this, but it's been my impression that many classical music organizations seem to embrace the image of being elitist. I don't think that's an image that's going to maximize the number of new fans. I think a good first step would be to ditch the tuxedos and switch to clothing that is more contemporary.

#14 Helene

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:35 PM

That reminds me of the promo for "Frasier" reruns on a Seattle station, which goes something like:

Frasier: "Niles, do you think I'm elitist?"
Niles: "Of course I do. You don't have to worry about that."

It may be city-specific, but I've found in Seattle and Vancouver, arts organizations are doing everything they can to break down the wall between the theater door and a public that is afraid of the arts because they feel the theater is too formal, and they feel uncomfortable with what they know about the art forms.

There are all kinds of outreach, public performances through educational outreach, clubs for teens (Seattle, across orgs) and groups for people in their 20's and 30's, pre- and post-performances lectures and Q&A's, special concerts that are more familiar and less intimidating, etc.

#15 California

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 03:32 AM

Another story this morning in the Denver Post. They say that ticket sales have been strong, and the biggest problem is lack of support from the board and big donors:
http://www.denverpos...sic/ci_19059961

One of the cancelled concerts was Romeo and Juliet, with a local dance ensemble, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. Colorado Ballet did a very successful Romeo and Juliet last February and I'm not sure how the Symphony was going to perform this in symphony hall. Guess we'll never know!

Ticket sales are up. Income is zooming. And still the symphony is in a fight for its life. Deep in debt, it needs cash and straight-ahead support from individuals and corporations the kind of donations major urban orchestras have long relied on.




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