On to Plan B in Columbus

Management’s plan to scare the orchestra into concessions by publicizing their downsizing scheme appears not to be going very well, so it’s time for more chunks of the sky to fall:

Nearly broke and still short of solutions, the Columbus Symphony could fold as early as next month, the president of the symphony board says.

Although efforts to save central Ohio’s largest arts organization continue behind the scenes, Robert “Buzz” Trafford said the orchestra’s demise is possible if additional donations prove elusive.

“Without more help, there’s a very real risk that our money won’t take us beyond the next month or two,” Trafford said. “Our options would become extremely limited, including suspension of operations.”

Fortunately there’s a bail-out in the works:

The possibility that the symphony could soon die has prompted campaign organizers to redouble their efforts to match the combined $1.3 million recently approved for the first year of the drive by the city and Franklin County. Organizers have set April 1 as their informal deadline to secure matching money from private donors.

The symphony would receive the most: $1.15 million, enough to keep the organization afloat and eliminate most of the $1.4 million deficit projected for 2007-08.

“We’re trying to get cash flow generated for all the organizations but particularly the symphony,” said Press Southworth, president of the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium, which represents the arts groups that would benefit.

With the county money approved Tuesday, Southworth expects to firm up more than $500,000 in pledges next week.

If at least some private pledges are confirmed by April 1, he said, some of the public matching funds could be freed up for immediate distribution.

The symphony, Southworth added, is first in line.

Surprise! There’s a catch:

Even if the campaign succeeds, however, symphony managers will have to work for the money. “There’s a real fear among many corporations of putting money into the symphony again without seeing progress on the restructuring plan,” Southworth said. “Our biggest issue right now is the potential restrictions on certain gifts.”

It was clever of the powers-that-be to set up the public funding so that it was contingent on private funding, which in turn is contingent on the board getting its way. Who knows what could have been accomplished had the same care, time, and intelligence had been devoted to actually running the orchestra?

But- wait! How can they run out of money if they’re about to start selling subscriptions for next season?

The board would be irresponsible, [Trafford] said, to cover expenses by spending money from advance-ticket sales (once they begin) for its recently announced 2008-09 classical series. Such spending is customary for U.S. symphonies in stable budget times, Trafford said, but the practice is unacceptable in a crisis that casts future seasons in doubt. The board would “borrow” against advance sales only if a consensus were reached among musicians, donors and the community about a restructuring to ensure another season.

And it would be “irresponsible” to do what every other American orchestra does because if they did that, then… they might be able to keep the doors open and actually have the concerts next season for which they are now selling tickets. And how could that be considered “responsible”?

Some might think that “irresponsibility” might be better defined as telling the world you’re going to have the mother of all labor disputes at the start of next season and then… trying to sell tickets for those concerts. But what do greedy musicians know? And besides, the musicians are being pig-headed:

Such conditions represent a tall order, however, because the board and the musicians have yet to sit down to discuss the plan since Trafford tried to present it Jan. 17.

Akins and Doug Fisher, president of the musicians union, have rebuffed more recent board efforts to meet, said Tony Beadle, the symphony’s executive director.

A new work! L’histoire du Beadle! And, like Stravinsky’s masterpiece, a complete fantasy, according to the musicians:

Though there is much in [the Dispatch] story to rebut, the most shocking omission is the fact that early this week we finally received from the management and board, after weeks of classic union-busting tactics, a formal request to meet with them to discuss the situation in accordance with our contract. The day before the Dispatch story appeared, we accepted their request and offered to meet with them as early as this Monday. None of this was reported by the Dispatch and instead, a quote from Executive Director Tony Beadle, falsely claiming that we have refused for weeks to meet with them, was printed.

The title of the Dispatch article, by the way, was “Columbus Symphony: Could it really die?” It’s really too bad that murdering an orchestra is not a criminal offense – because that’s what happening in Columbus.


3 Responses to “On to Plan B in Columbus”

  1. David Thomas Says:

    Well done!!

  2. drew mcmanus Says:

    Not only did the Columbus musicians discount the Dispatch’s claim that they are deliberately stalling negotiations but the CSO’s executive director confirmed the musician’s statement. One might begin to wonder if the Dispatch, whose editorial board publicly endorsed the CSO board’s proposed financial plan, is trying to create some sort of self fulfilling prophecy.

  3. David Thomas Says:

    Odd that you don’t have a “contact” link. So I’m contacting you here instead. I’ve written a Letter to Columbus, which I posted on my blog Buzzing Reed. http://glitteringstew.com/reed/. Feel free to use it, quote it, or comment there. Thanks,


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