columbus situation dire

This was posted on the CSO facebook group yesterday:

Friends, things are not going well. I beg your attention for a few minutes while I report the “unreported” events surrounding the arts crisis in Columbus. These are my opinions and not the official view of our committee representatives.

I am convinced our orchestra, the Columbus Symphony, which has been built to world class level in the past 56 years, will be decimated by the insidious restructuring “plan” (fire 22 and cut salary 30%) forcefully proposed by the board of trustees and management. Many musicians (including myself) will leave, seeking better work elsewhere. Lives and careers will be ruined. The music will be gone.

Recently, there have been several articles in the local newspaper announcing the city and county’s intentions (Thrive in Five) to set aside funds for arts organizations in Columbus. Unfortunately those promised funds have not changed the tenor of the board’s official attitude toward the symphony. In fact, I believe they give false hope to those who support the orchestra. Truth is, there has been no indication that the “plan” will be altered or discarded.

Two other articles have appeared in the Dispatch, one announcing next season’s programs and another about last week’s live recording of our concerts for the Denon record label. While this publicity helps us, the musicians’ perspective and comments were shut out from both articles. (in fact, none of our official press releases have been printed since this all began) I believe several quotes from those articles need to be isolated to demonstrate the damage they are causing.

In the article about next season’s programs, the first thing Ex. Dir. Tony Beadle is quoted saying is, “The orchestra may go on strike…” There has been no mention of a strike by our representatives. Why would Mr. Beadle open with such an inflammatory and presumptuous phrase in the public press? What are his intentions?

In another article, last week’s recording project was deemed a “vanity” event by Mr. Beadle (which FYI was not organized by management, but by principal tuba Jim Akins with support from Gene D’Angelo). To brand as “vain” a recording by a well known international label is absurd. Recordings build and inspire GREATER support for an orchestra. If he considers this beneficial publicity to be excess fat, what are Mr. Beadle’s real goals for developing the symphony? Who is directing him?

Columbus is larger and growing faster than Cleveland, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. Of those cities, Columbus’ per capita income is highest. Yet musicians’ salaries are already 30-50% lower than the orchestras in those cities. How embarrassing that “the powers that be” in the Capitol of Ohio seem unable to justify an orchestra appropriate to its size and wealth! Columbus deserves a real concert hall and a better vision for its orchestra’s growth, not the dismembering of its largest arts institution.

In yesterday’s article about county support for the arts there is this quote by Commissioner Marilyn Brown, “We so often talk about Columbus as a sports community. Columbus is arts, too”. That is empty rhetoric. Last year I attended a play in Pittsburgh, which has a thriving theater district with numerous productions offered on a Tuesday evening. Columbus barely squeaks for the arts by comparison. Let’s face that fact and act upon it, rather than thinking smaller and smaller.”

We have 15 organizations with budgets over $500,000,” Bill Conner, head of CAPA, said in yesterday’s Dispatch. Wow! That’s such a stress on a huge city which spends untold hundreds of millions per year on sports. Mr. Connor continues, “This isn’t about bailing out the symphony. This is about providing support for our arts and cultural community.” If supporting a great orchestra in our city is “bailing it out”, then we need to ask Mr. Connor why he’s in arts management.

Last season, the orchestra reluctantly gave up three weeks of precious Classical Series to allow management to “repackage” those weeks into something more marketable. Those weeks were feebly renamed and then even more feebly marketed, and now have been canceled. Three weeks of classical music are for all intents and purposes lost, to you and to us. Their only function now, as empty paid weeks, is fodder to argue for cutting our contractual weeks permanently.

There have been viable rumors of plans to shut down the orchestra April 1st (April Fools Day!) Additionally, there are hints that cheaper, lower quality Eastern European orchestras will be brought in to “replace” our lost weeks. I heard one of these groups last year here in Columbus. The quality was far inferior to the CSO, which lives and works here.

Next season’s schedule, which usually starts in mid-September, is not slated to begin until October. CAPA and the stagehands who work for them are itching to dump the CSO for more lucrative Broadway shows.

What can you do? A lot. Please, spread the word. Forward this letter to everyone. Write and phone your city and state representatives, specifically Gov. Strickland and Mayor Coleman. Call for the resignation of those who claim to represent and support this orchestra and Columbus by proposing this defeatist plan. Call for the Dispatch to fairly report the musicians’ statements.

More information can be found at symphonymusicians.com and a new site to be officially launched April 1, symphonystrong.com. Add your voice. Let’s prove grassroots networking can change things.

Sincerely,
David Thomas,
Principal Clarinet
Your Columbus Symphony

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