Sunday, August 10, 2003

Orchestras feel slump all over U.S.

In the past year, there's been no shortage of bad financial news about America's orchestras.

According to the American Symphony Orchestra League, 18 of America's 23 largest orchestras posted deficits in the 2001-02 season. In the current economic downturn, eight have filed for bankruptcy. Some recent events:

In December 2002, San Jose's 123-year-old symphony permanently closed its doors.

Major orchestras in Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis are experiencing large deficits.

In May, the Florida Philharmonic, which served the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, folded after a failed fund-raiser.

Also in May, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra put its home, Heinz Hall, on the block for $40 million in hopes of beefing up its endowment, which has fallen from $132 million in 2000 to $90 million.

In June, the Louisville Orchestra narrowly avoided filing for bankruptcy. The same month, the defunct Colorado Springs Symphony auctioned off its assets, including office equipment and musical instruments, to pay creditors.

On July 3, the San Antonio Symphony filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Small orchestras, such as the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Philharmonic are posting deficits, some for several consecutive years. The orchestras of Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., might merge to survive.

Musicians have accepted significant pay cuts in St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; and St. Paul, Minn.

- Janelle Gelfand

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