The answer to the problems of the orchestra industry

Warren Hyer, Executive Director of the Central Ohio Symphony, has apparently discovered the secret of success for America’s professional orchestras:

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra is struggling with contracts between management and musicians. Hyer said the problem is that those musicians are playing with the symphony as a career.

“Nobody’s here to make a living. They’re here for fun,” Hyer said. “The pay is more a matter of pride.”

The members of the Central Ohio Symphony are committed to making great music and making the symphony a success, but they accept only a nominal fee, Hyer said.

Hyer said his musicians typically have degrees and are employed in other fields.

The Central Ohio Symphony is composed of a core of 45 to 50 performers, each making an average of $1,200 to $1,500 a year through the symphony.

So, the secret for success is this business is – don’t hire professionals. Not only will paying them throw an intolerable burden on the orchestra’s finances, but they won’t have fun either.

For the record, Mr. Hyer is paid to run the Central Ohio Symphony, although his salary ($22,000) is admittedly on the low side for having made such a breakthrough discovery in non-profit economics. But, on the plus side, he’s making more than twice his music director, and around 15 times more than his average musician.

Oh, and they sell lots of tickets, too:

Community support is growing with a record of almost 600 season subscriptions sold for the symphony’s 29th season, Hyer said.

Which, to his credit, is about 600 more than the management of the Columbus Symphony has managed to sell for next season. But then, of course, the Columbus Symphony management is in the extinction business:

[Columbus Symphony] Orchestra Executive Director Tony Beadle …injected realism into the situation.

Symphony expenses amount to $700,000 to $1 million a month, he said, and when the orchestra shuts down June 1, it will be $300,000 in debt to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts for past use of the Ohio Theatre and other venues.

“At the end of the day, people have to understand that we’ve got a huge dinosaur here that has to be fed 500 bales of hay a day.”

A huge fucking dinosaur? What the hell is someone doing in this business who believes that orchestras are dinosaurs? Flanagan, maybe (although he never said so, or even implied such a thought). But someone whose job it is to raise money and sell tickets for an orchestra?

I think we need a Hall of Shame. I’ve got a really good candidate for the first nominee.


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