Spotlight on Columbus: ICSOM to try to save orchestra
Bruce Ridge of Raleigh, N.C., chair of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, will travel to Columbus next week to meet with musicians and other community members to try to save the Columbus Symphony.
"It's my hope that as an outside viewpoint, I can generate the citizens to rise up and save this orchestra. It is not too late. It is crucial that we do it," says Ridge.
He is hoping that the citizens of Columbus hear "a positive message about the future of the arts in their city." He says he frequently makes such trips to cities with orchestras in trouble, usually with positive result. He's hoping to meet with people in the community, as well as executives of the orchestra's board, musicians and representatives from the local media.
"My concern for the citizens is they have heard a uniformly negative message about the future of the arts in their city," Ridge says.
The nonprofit arts and culture in Columbus generates more than $330 million in local economic activity annually and supports more than 11,000 fulltime jobs, as shown in a study, "Arts and Economic Prosperity III," published by Americans for the Arts.
"The board seems to be putting out this message that somehow a great orchestra is not sustainable in their city. ... In being so negative, that undermines their ability to raise money for the orchstra, and they are the stewards for the orchestra," he says.
Do many American cities need to be reminded about the importance of their arts? Even though some proclaim the death of classical music, in reality, the climate of support for orchestras is strong across the country. Recent articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal proclaim this a golden age. The Nashville Symphony, for instance, has won three Grammy Awards and revitalized their city with a spectacular new concert hall.
"Other cities, with far less resources, have succeeded greatly," Ridge says. "Their success is due to visionary community leaders. Those leaders can be found in Columbus. They just need to hear this positive message and they will step up...I am certain."
YO-YO MA TO PERFORM GALA CONCERT THURSDAY
Star cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform a gala concert with the Columbus Symphony on Thursday. The orchestra's Web site says: "All proceeds will be dedicated to continuing the various artistic programs that allow us to fulfill the vital role as a leader in the arts community."
So, if there's no orchestra, where will the proceeds go?
"It's great to have Yo-Yo, but I'm not sure what they're celebrating," says bassoonist Douglas Fisher, president of the local chapter of the union.
"We have begged for weeks to bring in a third-party consultant, and they have steadfastly refused outside interference," says Fisher, who lives in Hyde Park with his wife, Catherine Carroll, a faculty member at CCM.
The musician contracts go through Aug. 31, but the orchestra has stated it will close down operations on June 1.
"So they will illegally lock us out on June 1, and we will be pursuing a grievance against them for that," Fisher says. "They'll owe us for seven weeks of work this summer."
The musician payroll is about $100,000 per week. The musicians' legal counsel is Leonard Leibowitz, an attorney based in Florida.
Drew McManus is weighing in on his blog, about the fact that the board suspended subscription renewals months before collective bargaining started. That news aside, he also provides a step-by-step plan to save the organization -- maybe.
Here's a reaction to the situation from the Cincinnati Symphony.