Productive Use of Board Energy

I am happy to see some promising signs from Honolulu Symphony. Last May I made an entry on reports of infighting and tension in the symphony board and administration.

There may still be some simmering anger in the organization but it appears there are also some attempts to expand the reach and visibility of the symphony thanks to the generosity of a board member.

An email sent out to managers of theatres on all the Hawaiian Islands by an officer of the State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism noting that a symphony board member “is the pilot of a small private airplane that may be available to fly small ensemble performance groups (i.e., Honolulu Symphony and others) between the Hawaiian islands at greatly reduced cost or possibly no cost. I thought you might find this of interest.”

What is particularly interesting, if true, is the offer to fly groups other than the symphony’s internal one to the other islands. Now granted, most of the chamber groups in Honolulu are comprised of symphony musicians. However, these folks are in business for themselves so the symphony doesn’t realize any monetary benefit from their efforts.

It is pretty expensive to fly an entire orchestra and their instruments interisland so it isn’t as if the symphony can realistically be looking to develop an audience on the other islands for their performances. (Although there is a high speed ferry in the works.) Perhaps some more people will fly in to Honolulu to see the symphony there, but it is hardly going to reverse any financial woes.

Even if it is an attempt to gain musicians more employment so they won’t look to the symphony for their main source of income, the board is still showing a lot more concern for the artists than most have in recent years. (Examples from Adaptistration here, here, and here)

It will be interesting to see if anyone takes advantage of the offer and what developes from it.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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