Now Just Wait One Cotton Pickin’ Minute…

Sometimes I’m not sure who to be mad at: Monday Morning Quarterbacks or the Lamestream Media.  Guess I’ll try both.

There is a disturbing yet probably (mostly) truthful article on the Colorado Symphony that is out today.  Like many orchestras they are facing an uncertain future.  Unlike many orchestras they seem to have noticed that the canary at the bottom of the cage is dead , a true sign that something must be done soonest.

Colorado has its own set of problems:  expansion at the height of the bubble is one.  That leads directly to the “sorry, I made that $62 million dollar pledge at the height of the bubble and now I need to re-mortgage my 17 vacation homes” situation.  There are the usual suspects as well: aging audiences, restrictive contracts, etc.  And, to be brutally honest, I have never heard anyone refer to the Boettcher Concert Hall without adding a few choice adjectives that would get you a very large fine from the FCC.

That’s not what has my ire up this morning.  The following statement in that aforementioned article does:

(Jim) Copenhaver (a former executive director of the symphony who is now an arts consultant) places an “enormous amount” of the blame for the problems in Denver at the feet of the symphony’s board and management, especially Palermo.

“I don’t think you can call him a chief executive officer without saying you are totally responsible for the success of this place,” Copenhaver said. “And that means great concerts on the stage, but it also means that you’ve got a healthy organization that people want to be a part of.”

What bothers me here is that this statement appears just inches after this one:

At the same time, it’s true that the Colorado Symphony has done a better job than most orchestras selling tickets. Earned income increased nearly 19 percent, from $4.55 million in 2009-10 to $5.4 million in 2010-11, a big achievement in a tough field where just holding even is considered a success.

Now, which is it?  Personally, I’m pretty impressed that any orchestra anywhere has managed a 19% increase in anything over the past two years that is not called “long-term debt.”   That’s a very, very significant achievement.   Palermo started at the CSO in March of 2009 and in two short years has managed to have a very positive impact on the earned income side of the budget, this without having the advantage of a new hirsute Music Director to push or a decent hall to fill.  Two years is an eye blink in this business, people.  Having started when he did, the first season he would have had any real impact on is 2010-11.

On top of that Palermo must be one of the driving forces behind this new report which seems to take a very cold eye to the fiscal health of the CSO.  We have all seen many other CEOs just paper over these situations and hope everything will turn out alright.  Taht does not seem to be the case here.

Now, I’m not about to get on the “Palermo is the 2nd coming of Ernest Fleischmann” bandwagon (and having known Ernest I’m not sure Mr. Palermo would want to be considerd that way; but I am pretty sure Ernest wouldn’t want anyone to share that particular spotlight, if you know what I mean) but either the reporter of this article is irresponsible or Mr. Copenhaver is irresponsible.  Or Both.  Give Palermo a break.  You cannot turn a ship of this style and size around in one year, and half the battle is getting everyone to acknowledge that you have a problem in the first place.

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