The latest public word (we were going to call it a “salvo” but The Beat holds out hope the two sides will yet come together somehow) on the financial crisis facing the Columbus Symphony Orchestra comes from the musicians, who last week held a press conference to share both an independent report on the orchestra’s finances and a plan for moving forward that doesn’t involve the elimination of 22 full-time musicians from the payroll. Citing a report provided to them by local accountant Daniel LaMacchia that shows the expense side of the CSO’s ledger growing in many ways except the salaries of the musicians, in particular rent expenses, and figures from the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians showing that the CSO’s budget size and minimum annual musician salary both rank in the lower 20s among the top 49 ICSOM orchestras, the musician put forth a plan that suggests the symphony could remain solvent with a total budget reduction in the $3 million dollar neighborhood - $500,000 of which would be borne by the musicians, allowing them to retain the current 53 full-time positions. “We aren’t responsible for budget shortfalls, nor should we have to bear the brunt of cuts,” local musicians’ union representative and CSO musician Douglas Fisher told The Beat.
While the orchestra’s board and management could not be reached form comment, CAPA released a statement calling the rent figures in LaMacchia’s report (complied from IRS forms available for public inspection) “false and misleading.” “We are disappointed the musicians chose to circulate this information without first verifying its accuracy with the CSO and CAPA,” the statement read. CAPA president and CEO echoed this in an interview with The Beat, saying “his figures are just wrong. They should have called.”
According to the symphony musicians’ Web site, this proposal has been rejected by the board and management, followed by a new proposal from the musicians.
The board and management’s last official statement suggested “It is likely the CSO will suspend operations effective June 1, 2008. The CSO expects that it will have satisfied all of its obligations to its vendors, employees and musicians as of that date, with the exception of The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA).” Conner affirmed there is some back rent due to his organization from the CSO.
He also said he is concerned about the orchestra’s future both generally for the health of the central Ohio arts community and economy, but also specifically for his organization in terms of having an active renter for the Ohio Theatre and supporting the “couple hundred full- and part-time employees” of the theatre. He said CAPA has already begun the process of trying to fill dates that he can no longer count on from the CSO – although the orchestra has announced a 2008-2009 schedule, the board’s statement regarding ceasing operations combined with the fact that it has not sent out subscription renewals means “we’re moving ahead and booking the theatre.” “I’ll keep (the orchestra) in the loop and if things changes we’ll use our best efforts and be there to help,” he told The Beat.