Sunday, June 1, 2003

Symphony begins polling public



By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra wants your input. The orchestra has launched a strategic planning process that is polling the public through online surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

It's a new strategy to deal with the new reality: Declining endowment income and subscription sales no longer ensure revenue streams for the orchestra's annual $31 million operations.

"There is no short-term, temporary or easy budget cut or revenue increase to come to our rescue," board chair Daniel J. Hoffheimer told his trustees recently. "We are going to have to become more astute at reinventing our organization."

Decisions under consideration, Hoffheimer says, include whether to stay in Music Hall or raise money to build a new hall for the CSO, or perhaps merge with another orchestra and become a "regional" orchestra.

Other ideas include changing the concert schedule to have fewer programs in Music Hall and more in the suburbs, and remodeling Music Hall into a true multipurpose venue that becomes smaller for orchestra concerts and larger for opera.

"I think we are going to plow ahead with significant changes. You have to start with a vision and go forward with the planning," Hoffheimer says.

More than 1,600 have completed online or written surveys, which the CSO will accept through Tuesday.

This past Tuesday, a small group assembled for a public session downtown, in which participants listed the orchestra's "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." Among Tuesday's suggestions were to capitalize more on music director Paavo J”rvi's youth, create a better Web site, sell CSO tickets in suburban malls and offer valet parking.

The orchestra has hired NorthStar Consulting Group to analyze the data. Later this summer, the board's strategic Planning Task Force, chaired by James "Rick" Reynolds, will develop a long-range plan for the CSO.

Hoffheimer's goal is to have a strategic plan adopted by the board by August 2004.

To complete the survey, visit www.cincinnatisymphony.org or call 744-3485.

E-mail jgelfand@enquirer.com




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