October 12, 2008 at 10:15 PM
It was like a punch in the stomach.
"Due to the recent extraordinary conditions in the financial markets, the Pasadena Symphony has been forced to cancel the November rehearsals and concert," read the letter I got from the orchestra's personnel manager on Friday.
What? A couple weeks of plummeting stocks and...kablouey? What about the sponsor that the Symphony already had lined up for the concert? Or the tickets that have been sold?
It's not the first time this year that I've received a letter from an orchestra asking me to help cover their economic hardship. In August, the New West Symphony sent me notice that, although they've weathered great losses (their major donors have been Countrywide Financial and Amgen), they needed me to "donate" $100 that they owed me from radio broadcast pay over several years so that they can cook their books properly. Or whatever. If ALL of us musicians who haven't been paid agree to do this, we'd be listed in the program at the "Platinum Circle" level of donors. This is incredibly exciting for musicians going paycheck to paycheck.
Oh, and by the way, the radio station for which we (I guess) donated our services, Los Angeles' K-Mozart, also went under.
Now this from the Pasadena Symphony, which just a month ago threw a lavish fundraiser with John Williams conducting. Though Pops conductor Rachel Worby told audiences all summer long that this concert would raise $1 million for an educational endowment, many musicians have suggested privately that the money instead would help pay down a sizable debt that they said the Pasadena Pops brought to the table when the Pops merged with the Symphony last spring.
And, let's just add, contract negotiations are currently underway with the Musicians' Union, as our old contract expired last season. We are to play our October concert under the conditions of the old contract. The November concert was one of just five planned for this season, so losing it means a significant pay cut for the musicians.
Does anyone smell something funny? Or does this just stink?
And yes, sponsors would have a big deal in it, if everything is going under, than more changes will have to be made to try and componsate it.
I'm sure in about a month, we'll all know if things are going to be "BAD". As soon as prices start raising etc as well.
Good luck Laurie, I hope your symphony doesnt go under, or that they start cutting back members.
Second - my deepest condolences. These events are always a bit of a conundrum; there are many arts donors who are, in the wake of fear and panic, notifying organizations that they may not be able to make large pledges. However, it is always interesting and disheartening to hear the same line: "The economy is bad, we have to make cuts, and so we ask you, the musicians, to make a concession."
These things are always difficult for all involved - perhaps, however, this is a real opportunity for board members, administrators, and musicians to truly cooperate as oppose to going down the dark road of low morale, etc. - much like the Europeans are in regards to the financial crisis. This of course can only be done with the group mindset that "if this ship sinks, we're all going down."
There has been much discussion about this at www.polyphonic.org, and I invite you to look at Day 4 of "Great Expectations", held in May 2006.
That's real bad for morale. There should be a comprehensive monthly financial presentation where any of you can attend who want to. That might be overkill in your kind of case...but maybe not.
The local Pasadena Star-News changed my name to "Laurie Stiles."
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