Columbus sails again…watch out for the headwinds!

It’s hard to be anything but pleased to hear of the Columbus Symphony returning after a prolonged and bitter battle.  Sticking to their principals the orchestra was not downsized in personnel but there were many concessions that the musicians had to make, and one decision I hope is reversed, and what about Junichi?…..

Junichi stood up with the musicians and stated his mind forcefully both for them and the integrity of the organization.  He may not want to return as Music Director, although their web site still has him listed as such.  Hopefully there will be a statement soon.

Reading this article from the dispatch, there are several statements reflecting the pain of the past several months as well as the difficulty and reality of making it as a full time Orchestra musician:

“It’s not like you can just go across the street and get a job in another orchestra,” said Jim Akins, principal tuba player. “It’s quite a captive situation.”….

“Columbus has had a great orchestra at a bargain price for decades,” musician David Thomas said.

But without a tangible increase in community and corporate support, “We’ve only succeeded in rousing a sick patient with a shot of adrenaline.”

The most troubling statement comes from Tony Beadle that brings home just why musicians are at such a disadvantage in a labor dispute:

The principal clarinet player will be making less, he said (David Thomas), than when he joined the orchestra in 1989.

He and others are concerned that the group’s quality will inevitably slip as players leave for jobs with better-paying orchestras.

Not likely, said Tony Beadle, executive director of the Columbus Symphony.

“I lament people leaving the orchestra; that’s for sure,” he said. “But every time we have an opening, there are more than 200 applicants. There are many, many qualified musicians out there.”

How true that is, and what sets a CSO (insert any other orchestra name) musician apart from an “applicant” will depend on what happens next.  If there is an effort to connect personally with the audience and the community, the instrument word will be replaced with their names, Jim, David etc… to become the true faces of the organization, the one’s people want to see, hear and know.  Of course people leave, retire etc.. but on average it’s only a few a year.  An effort to truly connect will be of huge benefit for everybody, and in the end will be for a much stronger bargaining position because the community will truly care about the people in the orchestra, and not just the orchestra as a whole.

One other troubling statement comes from trustee and very generous donor Anne Melvin in regards to the lack of an endowment:

Melvin said the orchestra has to live within its means for several years before launching a major fundraising campaign.

Whilst times are very tough for everybody, I disagree.  I think by seeking to build an endowment right away will show donors that the CSO is committed to long term sustainability.  I have sat in front of donors who will say no to a sponsorship request but in the same meeting will agree to an endowment gift because they regard that as a long term investment that will continue to help each year.  Not that the CSO should start a massive public campaign, but they shouldn’t lose the opportunity to have an endowment option when sitting in front of the investment minded donor.

I have worked with the CSO twice, they are a stellar orchestra and my only hope is that they turn it around so their headwind becomes a tailwind!

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