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Classical Music
Janelle Gelfand on the classical music scene


Janelle's pen has taken her to Japan, China, Carnegie Hall, Europe (twice), East and West Coasts, and Florida. In fact, Janelle was the first Enquirer reporter to report from Europe via e-mail -- in 1995.

Janelle began writing for the Cincinnati Enquirer as a stringer in 1991 while writing a Ph.D. dissertation in musicology at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She joined the Enquirer staff in 1993.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she graduated from Stanford University, Janelle has lived in Cincinnati for more than 30 years. In her free time, this pianist plays chamber music with her circle of musical friends in Cincinnati.

She covers the Cincinnati Symphony, May Festival and Cincinnati Opera, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, chamber music ensembles, and as many recitals and events at CCM and NKU as possible.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Columbus Symphony: Blame the ______ (fill in the blank)

OK, who's the problem, the board or the musicians? The Columbus Dispatch is weighing in against the musicians, but orchestra consultant Drew McManus blames the board.

Meanwhile, Barbara Zuck, former music critic for the Dispatch, and other reports from the Dispatch note that ticket sales are up and the past weekend's concerts had strong attendance -- "close to capacity."


12 Comments:

at 5/12/2008 02:33:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have followed this story since it began. I've never heard "Buzz" the head of the board, or any other CSO board member, say anything positive about the symphony musicians, nor any desire to work to find a solution. They dug in their heels, stated they knew what was best, ignored pleas from the musicians to bring in an outside arbitrator, and it is obvious the "board" is going to bust the union. They will then hold auditions for the rates they want and life will go on, with a much diminished CSO.

The CSO board is lazy and out of their league. They say they can't raise 12 million when Cleveland and Cincinnati raises nearly $40 million to support their orchestras. The cities are very similar in industry, size, etc. What's the big difference in Colubmus?

It is the CSO Board and their arroganze. Therein lies the problems with the Columbus Symphony.

I have no horses in this race, just a music lover who appreciates the fine orchestra we have in Cincinnati and is sorry for the people of Columbus that a few bad eggs have robbed them of their up and coming orchestra.

 
at 5/12/2008 02:50:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question. During the past season can someone tell us how many potential seats can be sold during the course of a season for the CSO performance hall and how many actually sold. Maybe we can get an idea of how much revenue came in from ticket sales and how much coould have. Should be a good barometer of community interest or lack of it. This should gave us a baseline to start drawing some conclusions.

 
at 5/12/2008 04:41:00 PM Anonymous Drew McManus said...

Although Janelle is absolutely correct in that I focus scrutiny toward the current board I think it is important to clarify that I don't lump the entire board together. although I don't always succeed, I do try to refer to use classifications such as the executive board as opposed to the CSO board-at-large.

As for blaming the musicians, although I've seen musicians behave with curious actions during negotiations, I don't even see how anyone could say the CSO players are sabotaging the process as the executive board has all but ensured the failure of their proposed financial plan. I will have some more details behind that allegation in my blog tomorrow Janelle is free to edit that part out if it crosses the line of self-promotion :) I would like to believe that there are some members of the general board who question the current direction and that some of those individuals may be able to move into leadership positions in the near future.

The comment inquiring about ticket sales is interesting. It would be useful to have all the data s/he requested. At the same time, most analysts (myself included) in this business believe earned income such as ticket sales revenue will continue to occupy a smaller percentage of overall revenue for orchestras the size of Columbus each year until it levels off. As such, the fact that the executive board's proposed financial plan fails to acknowledge this is another sign that the plan is not as sound as they may want others to believe.

Great stuff Janelle!

 
at 5/12/2008 05:34:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sales figures are a starting point to determine what percentage of the overall revenue they represent (and perhaps more importantly what they can build on) as well as the volume being a gauge of the publics interest in symphonic music. You know maybe the market just isn't there to tap into and the marketplace has spoken. The fleshing out this revenue stream is the gauge that everything else can be built from or the postmortem can be derived.

 
at 5/12/2008 05:46:00 PM Anonymous Drew McManus said...

I can sympathize with the notion that current ticket sales or ticket sales trends can be used to indicate current or potential interest but that isn't usually the case with most orchestras. In Columbus' case, they have been without long-term marketing leadership for several years. That, in and of itself, all but ensures that ticket sales are not reaching true potential.

Additionally, it is useful to examine the dynamic potential of ticket sales; meaning, how many tickets do we think we can sell if the organization is financially secure, there's artistic excitement, new artistic accomplishments, etc. It is difficult to tell but there have been some recent examples of orchestras where they have been able to increase ticket sales from one year to the next by nearly 1/3 (a situation which took place in conjunction with the opening of a new hall and expanded performances per concert series). In that case, the potential was certainly there but was it obvious based on ticket sales before the switch?

That situation becomes even more interesting when you look at that ensemble's average concert attendance before the move into the new hall was around 70%. It all goes to show, that even though looking at ticket sales is an entirely worthwhile exercise, drawing conclusions from that data isn't as straightforward as it might seem.

 
at 5/12/2008 09:09:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly enough I sometimes compare symphony orchestras and art museums. Very few art museums could stay open if they only depended on the folks walking thru the door. Enough RESPONSIBLE people raise the money to keep it open for THE GREATER GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY. The average Joe on the street, indeed, is not interested. They wouldn't know a Van Gogh from Two Men and a Van. Now, don't get me wrong either. A symphony orchestra is much more expensive. The product lives and breathes. At each concert one can witness the rebirth of some of the greatest art ever produced (ok, some not so great art too). But this stuff is alive. I can't imagine that those board members can face their friends, families and colleagues!

 
at 5/12/2008 11:45:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting how it's often said that the musicians have a sense of entitlement which they should not. They were, however, hired to do a job at a given rate of pay which is now being yanked from them as though it's their fault.

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra Board and Management are the ones who have had a disastrous sense of entitlement through recent years.

They presumed that the orchestra would simply exist without good marketing and without communicating effectively and honestly with the public. When financial difficulties arose and they lost track of the finances they tried to hide it from the public. Never was fund-raising sensibly and gradually increased to meet the difficulties. The public wasn't told there was a problem until it was in the huge deficit stages where it had to be called "extraordinary giving" and a "bailout": exactly the situation they necessitated yet say they public will no longer endure. If any management thinks an orchestra is so entitled to survive that they can manage it secretly and poorly, everyone has learned a lesson from this group which has a strong following but suffers from years of inattention and subsequent cover-ups.

 
at 5/13/2008 09:39:00 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what "Buzz" would say (the Columbus Symphony Board president) would say if the management at his law firm decided they needed to cut his staff in half and reduce his salary by 35%. I'm sure he would have no problem with it.

 
at 5/13/2008 10:36:00 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

He would probably say that we are bringing costs in line with revenues.
By the public statments made in the media both here and in Columbus a budget short fall for this year only (after years of deficets) of $1.4 million against a total budget of $12.5 million is a huge amount.(It wasn't that long ago that the "other" CSO was over $6 million in the red(again)with a budget in the $30 million range.) I think before everyone starts trashing the board of the Columbus Symphony I would suggest that they read all the media in both Columbus and Cincinnati that has been linked through this blog. Some of these people (board members) have been generous to a fault and I don't think they are desereving to be trashed for finally drawing a line in the sand.
In previous blogs, months ago, it was stated that attendance has been a real issue with this organization in recent years. More people showing up for concerts would have gone a long way to loosen some purse strings if needed.

 
at 5/13/2008 01:46:00 PM Blogger Janelle Gelfand said...

You and Drew are right in stating that the entire board should not be lumped as one. I'm sure there are dedicated, generous music lovers on the Columbus board, just as there are in Cincinnati. I would love to be a fly on the wall, though, to see if there was much discussion or input from those who are not members of the executive board. Too often, I fear, the small group makes all of the big decisions. Instead of "trashing" them for "finally drawing a line in the sand," I'm wondering if the board as a whole considered other options.

 
at 5/13/2008 06:16:00 PM Anonymous Drew McManus said...

Well put Janelle!

 
at 5/17/2008 10:25:00 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is where is the call for the resignation of Buzz Trafford as head of the CSO board? He has demonstrated a complete failure of leadership and abilities in this role. No matter what you think of the man, if his answer is to shut the orchestra down, that is a total and utter failure.

Where is the outcry in Columbus to oust him?

 
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