V.com weekend vote: How is your local professional orchestra doing?

August 16, 2019, 7:12 AM · The presence of professional orchestra in a city or community can have a profound effect on that community's artistic life, educational opportunities and cultural profile.


With its concerts and events, a professional orchestra constantly offers artistic experiences to residents. Beyond that, the presence of 90-some professional musicians as residents helps provide teachers for serious students in a community, and it brings the perspective of working artists into the fabric of the community. A quality professional orchestra can represent its community, bringing a sense of pride and prestige and representing it for important occasions.

I've lived in a number of different cities of different sizes: Cleveland, Denver, Chicago, Cincinnati, Omaha, Los Angeles, Pasadena. Each had a unique relationship with its orchestra. I was actually born in Cleveland, and I remember well the reverence that every member of my extended family had for the Cleveland Orchestra, whose high quality and presence were (and I imagine still are) a point of deep civic pride. While I did not grow up there, every summer visit to my grandparents involved going to a concert at the beautiful Blossom Music Center, and I held that orchestra in awe. I did grew up in Denver, where the orchestra was an important presence, but at the time it was also under constant strain and change. Eventually the Denver Symphony folded, then rose again as the Colorado Symphony, which seems to have grown stronger. Chicago is where I went to college, and of course the Chicago Symphony is legendary, and again, that area of the American Midwest is full of high-level conservatories and orchestras. Omaha, Nebraska is a smaller city, out on the American Great Plains, and at the time I lived there, its symphony drew on musicians locally and also from elsewhere in the country, making it one of the more cosmopolitan organizations in town.

In Los Angeles, I arrived shortly before Disney Hall opened, and that made a huge difference in the city's cultural life as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's growth. Gustavo Dudamel's commitment to both education and excellence has also increased the orchestra's international stature as well as local relevance. More locally, I live in the LA suburb of Pasadena, where the Pasadena Symphony has had its ups and downs financially, but ultimately has increased its presence and connection in the community and has a strong, if limited, season.

How is your local professional orchestra doing? Do you still have one in your community? Is it troubled, or is it thriving? What would make it thrive even more?

For this vote, I'd just like a report from everyone on their local professional orchestra. Please answer the poll as best as you can, and then please fill us in on these kinds of questions: First, what is the name of your local orchestra (s)? About how many concerts does your local orchestra give in a year? Is there a summer season? Are there "big" concerts, with a lot of musicians and community involvement, or do they tend to be pretty scaled-back? Are there public disputes and problems, such as financial problems, strikes, etc.? Have you been to one of the concerts recently? How is the quality of the ensemble? Has it improved over time, gone downhill, or remained the same? Does it feel like the orchestra has a presence in the community - is it marketing itself well? Does it do educational programs? Anything else?

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August 16, 2019 at 12:29 PM · Our local pro orchestra is the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. Music Director David Stewart Wiley is our local Gustavo. One week he'll have a "masterworks" performance, sometimes with a concerto soloist, and a few weeks later his guest will be someone like Boz Skaggs. The "holiday pops" concerts (featuring an electric guitarist in a Santa suit and a singer like Michael "Big Mike" Lynche) are always packed, so now he takes them on the road (to regional towns like Martinsville, Blacksburg, etc.) in addition to the main pops concerts in Roanoke and nearby Salem. One year in Blacksburg he brought in the Tuba line from the VT band (the Marching Virginians) for one of the songs. The Salem pops concert is in a huge basketball arena (the Salem Civic Center), and the main floor is set with round tables for an elegant dinner beforehand -- always sold out, and so are the bleachers by the way. That's called playing the cards you're dealt.

August 16, 2019 at 02:58 PM · From what I know by reading the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is doing ok. Personally, I'm no longer involved as I broke with supporting the NJSO during the infamous "Golden Age Instrument" fiasco. Those of us who were donors and saw the scam for what it was were sidelined and ostracized only to be vindicated later. However, during the "campaign" the conductor publicly insulted the instruments owned by the musicians at concert-after-concert while begging for more money to purchase the "Golden Age" instruments which turned out to not be what they were supposed to be.

Now I support community orchestras and chamber groups instead of the professionally staffed NJSO. You don't have to be a paid professional orchestra to put on a great series of concerts and the audience knows that the musicians and conductors put their hearts into the performances.

August 16, 2019 at 04:45 PM · Our local orchestra is the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra. They work hard with approximately 12 concerts a year. They do a summer opera concert and a free concert in the park up open their season. They have local support mainly from older people. I would love to see them reach out to a younger generation. We have season tickets for the classical series. I think they could do a much better job marketing towards s younger audience.

August 16, 2019 at 05:49 PM · Our local string orchestra, Northeast Connecticut Community Orchestra (NCCO), is a small group of about 26 or so. We're not a professional orchestra and are a mixture of abilities but we do have conservatory trained musicians in each section which help to support those with less experience. We play 2 concerts each year, spring and December, no summer concert. We rely entirely on donations and have just recently become a nonprofit and are doing very well financially. We all get along very well and have a wonderful young fella as conductor who is quite amusing which makes rehearsals rather enjoyable. This is the only orchestra which I've ever been involved with so I have nothing to compare with...but all in all I truly enjoy my time with these folks....sample of a piece at one of our last concerts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XFwbnBa7vM

August 16, 2019 at 08:04 PM · Our local orchestra is the Richmond Symphony (Virginia). It has between 72-85 musicians who give over 200 performances each season to over 200,000 audience members. It is very involved with the community and raises a significant amount of money to support arts programing in the local public school system. Concerts can be quite large, or smaller, less formal events - even some in a brewery!

The Symphony is partially supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the arts. There is a classic series, a pop series, and a summer series. The Symphony does a "play with the orchestra" day each year where anyone can preregister to play, regardless of skill level. I have been to a number of concerts put on specifically for outreach to city and county school children. The Symphony sponsors the Richmond Youth Orchestra And next May, The RSO is sponsoring the 2020 Menuhin Competition where Ray Chen will play the closing gala concert.

I consider myself very lucky to have access to such a fantastic organization. The concerts are always top notch and the musicians I have had the opportunity to work with have been some of the nicest people.

August 16, 2019 at 10:09 PM · Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (HSO) -- the oldest continuously operating professional orchestra in state. It is thriving -- no disputes or strikes that I'm aware of -- and has what looks like 10 regular concerts per season, September to May.** There are a few summer events, too. They definitely haven't gone downhill and have a strong community presence.

Educational programs: Master classes, symphony school for instruction in orchestral strings, adult string classes, and violin summer camp. They also encourage area public and private schools to set up string education curricula. Haven't been to any concerts recently -- demands of current schedule preclude it.


**EDIT: This should be "10 programs -- multiple performances of each one."

August 16, 2019 at 10:58 PM · Probably not helpful, as my local professional orchestra is the Philadelphia Orchestra. Seems to be doing...pretty well.

August 17, 2019 at 05:41 AM · I'm also in Los Angeles with the L.A. Phil as my primary professional orchestra. I would also last claim to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) which provides much different experience from top talent, like Hilary Hahn's Bach tour last year.

August 17, 2019 at 07:07 AM · I would say the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera is recovering. It's surviving, not thriving, but this is a big improvement from where it was for almost its entire history. It recently rejoined ROPA (having dropped out for a while) and has scheduled 6 classical concert programs, a pops concert, and an opera in the 2019-20 season.

(Note: Sacramento is the largest metropolitan area in the US without an ICSOM orchestra.)

By contrast, there were as few as 2-3 concerts in some prior seasons, and the orchestra went completely dark for a year in 2014-15 and returned having merged with the local opera company. Almost from when it was founded to replace the defunct Sacramento Symphony in 1997, the Philharmonic was plagued by mismanagement and frequent labor disputes, and I'm told it had administrators and a music director credibly accused of embezzling funds in the early 2000s. The orchestra appears to have solved most of these problems by hiring someone from the Detroit Symphony as executive director and working closely with the Detroit Symphony organization. The ensemble itself has improved in recent years as the orchestra's reputation among musicians has started to recover.

Some significant problems remain, but nothing that cannot be solved with time and effort.

Community engagement seems rather spotty. There is some outreach in schools via the Carnegie Hall "Link Up" program, and there are free chamber music performances in various public spaces, but that's the limit of it, possibly because the orchestra is still in survival mode and possibly because many of the musicians commute from the Bay Area. Various people from Sac Phil & Opera, both musicians and front office, do some excellent education and outreach work in the community, but with different, unrelated organizations. Overall, I see more community involvement from each of the three high-level community orchestras in the Sacramento area than from the main professional orchestra.

Programming strategy has gone badly downhill, in my opinion. (Perhaps others disagree. Average concert attendance has almost doubled since 2013, but I would attribute this to a more professional front office rather than programming choices.) Since the 2015 return, I would describe programming as: old warhorses, more old warhorses, and occasionally something by Copland or Gershwin. There have been two seasons in which Beethoven alone accounted for the majority of the pieces programmed, and one season that was majority-Tchaikovsky. On average, the orchestra plays about 5 minutes of music per season that was composed after 1950.

Finally, the venue is holding back the organization quite a bit. The Community Center Theater is a very large concert hall relative to Sacramento's population, but has terrible acoustics. Hopefully, the renovations that started this summer will solve the acoustics problem. The orchestra is playing all its 2019-20 concerts at various alternate venues around the city.

August 17, 2019 at 08:08 PM · To All ~

Our 'local' Symphony Orchestra is springing back from the worst egregious Strike in its history & is considered The Greatest Orchestra in the world (along w/The Berlin & Vienna Philharmonic's + The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Not wishing to get 'shot', one also must include the great London Symphony Orchestra under its just returned from the Berliner Philharmoniker, Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle), our Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, Zell Music Director & Conductor, who shall celebrate his Tenth Season in this 2019/20 Concert Season & Beethoven's 250th Commemorative Birthday Year! Maestro Muti will be conducting all the Beethoven Symphonies in the CSO's 2019/ 2020 Ludwig van Beethoven 250th Year Celebration!! Please visit the Chicago Symphony Orchestra CSO.org website for dates ...

Let it be known, my CSO colleagues endured a truly brutal Strike, Not Wanted nor done to just get more salary due only to the musical acclaim of our Orchestra, but to save hard earned funds by fidel tenured Members of the CSO, for their future retirement, which was in process of being seriously challenged by those at the helm ~ (This Weekend Vote is not intended as a Report on inner workings of any local orchestra, so it really is not germaine to write of things not 100% known to yours truly, myself, a former member of the Solti/CSO +numerous others.) In an unparalleled Move, The Mayor of The City of Chicago, at The Last Hour, stepped in and Up to bring both sides to His Honour's Office in downtown Chicago City Hall, to try resolving what appeared to be the coming calamity of the Cultural 'Face' of our City of Big Shoulders. I do know it was extraordinary & Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the 'right stuff' & attitude-authority to resolve a seemingly impossible solution to a dire situation!

Many never would have imagined such a Gesture, but recent former Mayor Emanuel, has a strong cultural background and especially so in the Ballet, who knew the vital importance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on numerous levels, i.e., its business pull, tourist fascination & positive impact on the City of Chicago Business/Tourist Industries + our international ties with truly good willed from even hardball business & political 'wellness' normally not keen on our city/people. (Not politically qualified, I do know the renowned Artistry of CSO Musicians has broken through toughest barriers in other fields of endeavour, earning respect & good will amongst all whether they Know Classical Music or don't really, yet Know 'The Chicago' is an International Orchestral Icon! Thusly, His Honour, now Ret. Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, had Aces in his deck of cards and with his Heart for our dedicated Artist Musicians, who went full steam ahead! The Gigantic Impasse was resolved within 1 & 1/2 Days! Period. End of Story, or at least for now on this Discussion!!

Btw, compliments to Andrew Hsieh, just above, reporting on the Sacramento Symphony as it was always known until most recently, which gave a broken heart refuge upon the death of a beloved father & broken relationship in the late 1970's, plus so many supportive friends, who still remain so as of this writing!! I know from wondrous Ron Ortiz, a 'Sac' City for The Arts Gold Advocate of 50 + years, that your Sacramento 'Philharmonic' is doing well & giving much to the poorer people areas of your rather wonderful 'sleepy w/happy trees streets' City -Town!!! The CrockerArt Museum was a grand place to give a Farewell Sacramento/Hello Chicago & World Return Violin Recital, Sold Out & greatly encouraged by so many Sacramento Symphony subscribers & some San Fran Violin Aficionados of yours truly, lovingly reviewed in your Sacramento Bee newspaper in May, 1980! There is much Good for Music & Ballet happening in Sacramento, everybody, and it's worth keeping abreast of All Arts Events & musicians reaching out to help the least, which is truly an unspoken 'Oath of Allegiance' all we professional musicians-teachers take or should/do aspire to honour ~

Our Chicago Symphony Orchestra Members, during the brutal Strike, w/no pay nor benefits & fear of job losses, gave Free to the Public in All Chicago & Chicago Public Schools Concerts to bring Great Music to All, many of whom had never been to Symphony Center (nor could afford a ticket) to hear/see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for the duration of the strike!

It was a revelation throughout our City & 'Chicagoland' to have opportunities to hear the great musicians (on Strike & exhausted from picketing 24/7 in front of Orchestra Hall) yet heart-perform their very best for kids on the South side of Chicago (always in the media re gangs) and everywhere they could go during the longest Strike in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra history, yet always Looking Up to help those most in need in spite of what seemed the meltdown of the Greatest American Orchestra & acknowledged as Greatest Symphony Orchestra, 'The Chicago' in All The World . . .

Thusly, in response to Editor Laurie Niles 'Call for Information re our local orchestra's', my pen is overflowing here to spread Hope to All no matter what 'rating' your local Symphony has!! What is truly vital is to do the very best with what you have & that is all any of us can do at varying season's in our lives ~

The late great Author of "The Power of Positive Thinking", Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, always in his 94 years of ministering in Syracuse, NY, to the Collegiate Marble Church in Manhattan, in the Heart of New York City, preached that in dark times lay enormous opportunities for growth and innovation! Yes! We have Deep Watered Troubles within our beloved Nation right now, yet upon hearing/viewing Santana & his Original Santana Band from 1973, last night on a PBS Great Performances TV Special, playing as the equivalent of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & after a 40 Year Break, even more magnificently w/100 Times more Joy/joie di vie, I'm once again convinced that Greatness is Never Lost nor Goodness ever soured when it has been or was first Alive, & perhaps like the Iconic Pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, (who took at least 3 major hiatus's in his 65 year fabled Concert Career, coming back more spectacularly than ever!) & needed to lay fallow to rest & begin re-growing to the point of a rebirth with even more to say & offer, so such is the example of Ennobled Santana & Every Artist his Heifetzian Band, in their classic ballads, i.e., 'Black Magic Woman', 'Oye Como Va', & all most of you will recall better than myself, yet my Heart & Soul was uplifted to Smiles as Widened as I could Grin Last Night on August 16, 2019! Upon departing from the bold thundering w/applause vast audience, Carlos Santana, facing the TV Camera, eyes sparkling, in a lowered voice with Love, put up his right hand w/his V sign saying, 'This has been my great honour ~ PEACE to ALL!"

Amen ~

And to All Good being done by All here and everywhere, most of which we never hear of but must Believe in, in our Hearts ~

We Are what We Do, Shall Do & Have Already Done . . .

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

August 17, 2019 at 09:49 PM · Elisabeth Matesky, have you seen the new recital hall at the Crocker Art Museum? I don't know where musical performances would have taken place in 1980, because I moved to Sacramento only two months before the museum reopened after renovation of the old building and construction of an entire new wing that contains the present recital hall. If you haven't been back to the Crocker, I think you would love the new space. The acoustics are wonderful.

August 18, 2019 at 05:27 AM · I can't go into details. Our local orchestra plays better than its budget would suggest, but there is severe drain on the funds because we are attached to a university that has decided not to support us.

August 18, 2019 at 12:29 PM · My local professional symphony orchestra is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. A shout out to the world-class musicians who are currently locked out for the summer season by management. I have heard amazing concerts every season, including this past season even as it was clear that very tough times are ahead. Our BSO musicians contribute to the community in significant ways beyond the concert stage, They had a highly-praised tour of the UK last fall. Yet management is trying to cut the season by 12 weeks (from 52 to 40 weeks) and balance the budget on the backs of the musicians, while telling subscribers it won’t affect their concertgoing experiences. This is a shortsighted and condescending attitude and wiser people know that cutting the product isn’t the way to save the organization. Fortunately the musicians are well-organized and have many dedicated supporters who are rallying around them by joining in picketing, supporting outreach concerts by BSO musicians and engaging in fundraising. If readers want to learn more I suggest the BSO Musicians Page at http://bsomusicians.org This will be a long haul. Don’t take your local orchestra for granted!

August 18, 2019 at 01:54 PM · The Atlanta Symphony Is recovering however there is some financial trouble but the musicians and concerts are brilliant. We are presenting high level soloists (James enhes, Emmanuel am, midori) and some expensive concerts. In particular Mahler 8 and the subscription is going well as there is a gala concert open to only subscribers which I’m attending ( Perlman playing bruch) and it was virtually sold out weeks ago.

August 18, 2019 at 01:54 PM · The Atlanta Symphony Is recovering however there is some financial trouble but the musicians and concerts are brilliant. We are presenting high level soloists (James enhes, Emmanuel am, midori) and some expensive concerts. In particular Mahler 8 and the subscription is going well as there is a gala concert open to only subscribers which I’m attending ( Perlman playing bruch) and it was virtually sold out weeks ago.

August 18, 2019 at 07:14 PM · The Boston Symphony seems to be doing quite well. No inside info on finances or labor contracts, but I have heard nothing amiss. And Andris Nelsons remains popular with subscribers and musicians, in spite of his relative lack of experience.

I suppose the Pops continues to be a cash cow, although my level of interest there is some distance under my shoe. Still, that subsidiary (and mistreatment of Fiedler) is one of the reasons the BSO has such a large endowment.

August 18, 2019 at 08:40 PM · Our local Twin City orchestras are the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, both of which appear to be financially secure. Both are also investing very heavily in future music-goers, with heavily discounted tickets for younger patrons (like 90% off tickets for superb seating) and in communities not traditionally associated with classical music. Corporate support for our orchestras is generous.

Additionally, there are several community-based orchestras, several of which play at the professional level. The chamber music scene is incredible with concerts somewhere, just about every night. Moreover, we have several professional soloists who make the Twin Cities their homes, while concertizing around the world.

We don't really have a conservatory at the level of a Curtis, NEC, or Juilliard, although there seems to be a close connection to NEC if you check the musicians rosters of our many music groups. With all this competition, music lessons are incredibly affordable and you can get very fine teachers in just about any neighborhood of the Twin Cities. [Note: It's difficult to not think of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) as one metropolitan area, since both major orchestras play in venues all over the region.]

August 18, 2019 at 09:48 PM · @Samira Phillips ~

Dear Samira Phillips in Baltimore ...

I've been keeping somewhat abreast of 'trauma' being foisted upon the backs of the exalted Baltimore Symphony Orchestra members & colleagues, Horrified, for when I performed in Baltimore, as the Violin Soloist in Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto w/ the BSO/Arthur Fiedler, guest Conducting in The Joseph Meyerbeer Hall, your orchestra was thriving with a superior orchestral ensemble, indeed! (Sergie Commisiona was Music Director at the time, who engaged me ~ )

I have painfully observed a 'Trend' occurring across our Nation which first 'hit' the Minnesota Orchestra w/Great Helsinki born Music Director, Osmo Vanska, walking out yet with the firm understanding he would return IF that Minnesota Orchestra Association Board of Directors would cease & desist to come to their senses to reach a fair Contract for superb Members of the Minnesota Orchestra and with Vanska returning as Music Director at the helm!

Major media carried the story throughout the Nation & it went 'viral' across Europe, the UK, & spread around the rest of the international Music World, as you are aware. These up in the snow Tough Grit Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra would Not Give Up & Fought a Battle, revealing numerous shocking doings of those 'in charge' taking what was Not their's! It was crude, cold blooded & vicious on the parts of a select few, but with enormous colleaguial moral & musical support & from the AFM in New York plus our CSO & other strong orchestras, the then lesser known Minnesota Orchestra Members became a Force to be reckoned with, & by gosh, those inflicting grave harm on great musicians, the concert going public & schools, were extricated from Power ~

It has been said, "Success is the Best Revenge!" Winning the Grammy Award for their Sibelius Symphony Series recordings under Maestro Vanska, was Heavenly Music to all musician's ears/hearts Bravo-ing the Minnesota Orchestra & Finnish born Music Director/Conductor, Osmo Vanska!!!!!!!

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Committee's can learn much from the Rough Road travelled by the Minnesota Orchestra Orchestral Committee/s on How to Fight for WHAT IS RIGHT!! As read recently, "Music is a fundamental human right" (direct Quote of Iconic Venezuelan born in Caracus Music Director & Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel), quoted in a brilliant Interview to Violinist.com Editor, Laurie Niles, by former CEO/President of the LA Phil, Deborah Borda, as told to her by Music Director Dudamel, which she explains was their administrative guiding light and Mission she and The LA Philharmonic Board Members of 50 + aimed for & continue aiming for w/Music Goals in the Twenty First Century ~

As an ever evolving American Society, our Orchestras & their Boards/CEO's & Music Director's, together, must remap specific goals of orchestras in every community to meet newer needs of changing citizenry population yet not compromising the Great Musical Orchestral repertoire of glittering Classical, Romantic, 20th Century 'contemporary music' & the Baroque beginnings amid the 21st Century 'Internet' Revolution, whilst finding creative solutions to use technology to enhance Great Music rather than to delete all Human Heart's Need for Higher Inspiration . . .

Never before writing or speaking of such Global issues, I need to request your indulgence & kind patience regarding such a vitally important discussion, & admit my main Mission & expert knowledge/experience is in performing great music for/on the violin, as well as abilities to teach precious techniques required & passed on to me by both of my Mentor's, acknowledged as Greatest Violin Exponents of The Art of Violin Playing, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein ~ )

(I'm no Margaret Mead or Briliantist re vast Societal Changes)

Respectfully & somewhat nervously submitted ~

Elisabeth Matesky

Internationally recognised Violinist/ Artist Teacher & Carrier of the Heifetz - Milstein Violin Playing Tradition's and Musical Performance Legacy ~

August 19, 2019 at 06:26 AM · Dear Andrew Hsieh ~

Hearty Thanks for your Crocker Art Museum Update re its 'newest Self' Recital Hall! In May of 1980, it was an Old World Lovely Space with kindly acoustics amid a welcoming intimate atmosphere in a Hall not too large ~ I recall a green colour & genuine warmth of feelings from the Full House audience ~

I rang my longtime Arts Advocate friend, Ron Ortiz, tonight & read your violinist.com Reply re changes & beauty of the New Crocker Recital Hall with superb acoustic's, which took us onto a Walk Down Memory Lane & much nostalgia! Oddly, just prior to my call to Sacramento, I'd heard famed British Song, (c) '19 "Those Were The Days", on the radio, which rekindled Times I was delightfully living/playing concerts in London! It was a Life Dream, revisiting Bach & Bowing w/Nathan Milstein, only peer of my first Violin Mentor, Jascha Heifetz, and privately at the Milstein's London residence, & in time, welcomed as a near member of the Milstein Family, until Nathan Milstein's Earthly passing on the 21st of December, 1992 . . .

The idea to make a visit back to Sacramento, & possibly give a short musical soirée in the new Crocker Recital Hall & present an Up Close & Personal Public Address about the actual lives of both Heifetz & Nathan Milstein, Grand Master's of the Violin with their rare mentoring & friendship to me w/ a Q & A for all music lovers, students & JH string aficionados following might essentially serve as my "Thank You, Sacramento for Healing a Broken Heart 'Offering'" of many decades later ~

You are welcome to email my Artist Rep for my Email Address & mark Subject: 'Please Forward to Elisabeth Matesky, per her Invitation on Violinist.com, Monday, Aug 19, 2019' ~ Do Email: goldenattorney@hotmail.com (Dale Golden, superb Hornist & musician, graduate of Indiana University School of Music, and highly respected Chicago Artist Attorney) so I can then email you back to further discuss this idea for 2020, if interested or to just keep in musical touch ~ )

Sending sincere musical best wishes from Chicago,

Elisabeth Matesky *


August 19, 2019 at 04:07 PM · Ms. Matesky, I enjoy reading your reminiscences so much. Thank you!

Back on topic, my local orchestra is also my primary employer. Artistically we are doing great. Our decades of financial struggles are well documented, but thanks largely to a long history of sacrificial musician agreements along with some recent visionary leadership, we are still on stage.

August 19, 2019 at 06:25 PM · The discussion reminds of something that has been on my mind for a long time.

Most orchestras have financial trouble. Most families have financial trouble. There was a survey article in the WSJ several decades ago, that asked the question: "How much more money do you need to live well?" The answer was consistently "50% more". Families making $30K/ year thought they needed 45K, those making 100K needed 150K, and so on. The obvious advice would be; Live a lifestyle that costs a little less than your income, and put the surplus into an IRA. It's hard, most can't do it. Those that do are the subject of another important book : The Millionaire Next Door. Meanwhile, American Orchestras have a wide range of budgets, from 50K for a volunteer community orchestra, to 20 Million for a major pro. orchestra. And the To-Do List for the staff is about the same. The advice would be similar; Stay within your budget, plan and behave like a lesser orchestra, and at the end of a good year, put the surplus into an endowment fund. There are several financial thresholds where it is almost impossible for management to pull back; when they start paying for rehearsals, and when they move to full-time, unionized.

August 19, 2019 at 11:06 PM · A non-profit organization is not a family; a business is not a family; and as Michael Kaiser has said so well, an orchestra cannot cut its way to financial health. His book The Art of the Turnaround is a far more appropriate read for professional orchestras than The Millionaire Next Door.

If an orchestra cuts back on its concerts on the grounds that they are expensive, its ticket sales also drop and often, so do donations.

I speak from experience on this. Not once have cuts to the musicians' salaries worked in the way they were expected to. Not once were the cuts the magic bullet to my orchestra's financial health. Not once. Expanding our audience, reaching out to nontraditional donors, striving for new artistic heights--these are better strategies.

And actually, having said that a symphony orchestra is not a family, I can attest to the success of one strategy based on my own experience. When my salary was cut, I responded by seeking out new sources of income--additional students, weddings, etc. When a symphony orchestra's income drops, it too is better served by seeking out new sources of income.

August 20, 2019 at 04:43 AM · Thanks Mary Ellen. My analogy has its limits. What I was thinking was that the orchestra management has to be careful about expanding its season, or moving from amateur to semi-pro to full-time pro.

Does anyone know how Detroit SO is doing? Once one of the best paid orchestras, The population has dropped by half over several decades, and the economy even more.

August 20, 2019 at 04:36 PM · Some of the best wisdom from Deborah Borda was to attend well to development (securing grants, keeping good relationships with donors, getting the financial piece of it rolling) but artistically, to take risks. After taking risks, though, assess how it went and why, and keep that information in mind for the future.

But, I think that an orchestra that plays it safe and stops taking risks is not on the path to growth.

August 20, 2019 at 04:55 PM · It seems like the Colorado Symphony is doing pretty well. I think they have a pretty good marketing department, and seem to have money - The two people at the head of the organization are rich non-musicians that seem to have taken the organization on as some kind of prestige project. Unfortunately, the level of musicianship has pretty well stagnated for a while if you ask me. There has been a few solid, but not mindblowing, music directors over the last ten or fifteen years. They got rid of Andrew Litton, who had some depth, and brought on a younger new guy who is adequate, but not as good as Litton - I think the problem is that his name is Brett, which is really unfortunate, but there is a small chance that there may be other factors at work too.

In my opinion, while I have been going, the guest conductors have almost always completely out-shined the music director, although I didn't attend when Marin Alsop was here. We get a mix of good and decent soloists, with the occasional flop, but the programming is not my style so much, and I tend to focus on attending around interesting soloists and guest conductors.

The orchestra has many strong principals, especially in the woodwinds. The string sections are pretty strong, and the percussionist is very active as a composer as well. Unfortunately, the orchestra lost a very very strong principal cellist a few years ago to the Minnesota Orchestra.

The orchestra seems to do a good job marketing to people that don't listen to classical music regularly, and encourages a relaxed atmosphere, and has done events sponsored by cannabis companies. To me that's all a bit beside the point when the programming needs to be strengthened and the music direction is only just fine, but I think the orchestra is probably not doing so badly financially when compared to the problems some other orchestras have had, and considering the size and sophistication of the Denver market.

August 20, 2019 at 05:31 PM · My local orchestra is the Berkeley Symphony (Berkeley, CA). It has exciting programming and good outreach to the Berkeley elementary schools. There is tons of support from locals for all forms of arts in our city.

August 20, 2019 at 06:59 PM · London UK has several professional orchestras, but London is not a community. My community comprises two or three neighbouring London boroughs, and all the professional orchestras that I can think of have been based more centrally in London. We have, however, several thriving local amateur orchestras and choirs!

August 20, 2019 at 09:05 PM · Around here, "VSO" means "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra", not "Violin-Shaped Object". They're celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. They play several concerts a week in various venues, and feature many major soloists.

I used to attend as many as half a dozen concerts a year, but I haven't been for a while due to time pressure (among other things, I now play in a local community orchestra). But they seem to be doing quite well.

August 21, 2019 at 03:24 PM · When I was at school, VSO was Voluntary Service Overseas (My classmates urged me not to go lest I start a war - Their urgings were totally successful for the same reason that poking a banana into your ear is totally successful at keeping medicaly qualified elephants out of your bed).

August 22, 2019 at 03:05 PM · my local one refuses to audition me for work so I have no interest in them

August 22, 2019 at 06:56 PM · Our Toledo Symphony Orchestra (https://www.toledosymphony.com/)

is, in a word, awesome! The organization and its amazing musicians, are very active throughout Toledo and the surrounding suburbs, through concerts and teaching, as well as partnerships with other local organizations. A new five (5) year contract (up from the 3-year contracts of the past) was recently signed, with well deserved pay increases, and the primary performance venue, the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, is beautiful; I simply can't say enough good things about our TSO!

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