Letter to the Citizens and Leadership of Columbus

“The mission of the Columbus Symphony is to develop and foster the art of orchestral music at the highest possible artistic level. Through its concerts, outreach, and educational activities, it is a community resource that is a major component of the quality of life in Central Ohio.” -From the Columbus Symphony Management Strategic Plan

"...The board, musicians and community must work together (because) Columbus deserves and needs this orchestra,"
-Anne Melvin, Columbus Symphony Trustee, Columbus Dispatch, 1/18/08

"The foundation of the ARTS in Columbus is the Symphony. It's the treasure that supports the Opera, the Ballet, and educational programs for children in the public schools." -Joann Foucht, Women’s Association of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Dispatch, 1/28/08

“Last night’s brilliant performance by this maestro and this orchestra made believers out of everyone: The Hirokami Era has begun.”
-Barbara Zuck, Columbus Dispatch

“...In six years I can make this orchestra one of the best.” -Junichi Hirokami, NY Times, 4/12/08

“...Business leaders and artists throughout the nation (are) watching Columbus. They... hope to see a demonstration of confidence in the future of this city.” -Bruce Ridge, Chair, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Letter to Editor, Columbus Dispatch, 2/6/08

To the Citizens and Leadership of Columbus-

The world is watching Columbus as the Symphony Board of Trustees and Management request large cuts from an orchestra whose members are performing with world class quality. The orchestra took 11% pay cuts three years ago, now restored, to help shore up sagging financial support following a lengthy period without an Artistic or Executive Director. Better results were promised. Now management insists on 40% salary cuts to stabilize the organization.

A gem of cultural pride, loved by Columbus audiences, the Symphony as we know it would not survive these cuts.

The people of Greater Columbus Community know and appreciate the exemplary quality of the Symphony. A flood of supportive letters to the Dispatch has demonstrated this. Our fine Orchestra contributes to the vitality of downtown, both economically and culturally. Thousands of people attend regular concerts, enriched by the unique experience of live classical music. Thousands more benefit from the outreach and education fostered by the members of the Symphony.

In the past decade, total non-musician expenses have increased an average of 7% per year, while total musician expenses increased only 4% per year. In fact, the percentage for musician costs actually went down from 47% of the total budget in the ‘99-’00 season to 39% in ‘05-’06. Musician costs for the ‘06-’07 season were around 42%, at the low end of the national average of 40-50%. (*-source footnote)

The current total musician expenses amount to about $5.4 million out of a $12.4 million budget.* Why not maintain the heart of the orchestra, its musicians, and create a satisfactory budget built on that? Untapped gold mines of volunteers are eager to help. Grassroots organizations can generate untold support and revenue. Several burgeoning efforts are already proving their value. As a community let’s move into action and make it happen.

The Greater Columbus Community accomplishes great things with the right leadership. We all need to step forward and rescue this gem for our city.

“Across the country, exciting things are happening for symphony orchestras. ...attendance is up, downloads are rising faster than for any other musical genre, ...and the New York Times is proclaiming that this could be "the Golden Age for Classical Music.” - Bruce Ridge, Chair, ICSOM

I encourage you to be a part of the exciting things that are happening for symphony orchestras. Together we can make this happen.

Respectfully,
David H Thomas
Principal Clarinet
Columbus Symphony Orchestra

"I still want to believe there's a solution out there."
Tony Beadle, Executive Director, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Dispatch, 3/14/08

(* Sources- Total income and expense figures from audit reports provided by the CSO; Total musician expense figures from expense statements provided by the CSO)

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10 comments for “Letter to the Citizens and Leadership of Columbus

  1. April 28, 2008 at

    Thank you all for your generous and thoughtful responses. This makes our plight easier to bear.

    David Thomas

  2. Kathleen Harris
    April 28, 2008 at

    As a 40 year citizen of Central Ohio (not Columbus) I have always looked with pride at the Symphony. I have rarely been able to attend ($$) but the members of the orchestra that used to take part in the Artist-in-the-Schools Program reinforced the love of music which we tried to teach our children as they were growing up. The Brown-Bag Concerts were another source of delight for us. I would be deeply saddened if the Orchestra dies because of poor or inadequate leadership. There is nothing concrete I can do but I will do the only thing I can and pray that the RIGHT person (or persons) comes along to revive this very valuable organization.
    God’s Blessings be on you,
    Kathleen Harris

  3. fred kass
    April 27, 2008 at

    I support the orchestra. I am a pianist and have composed 60 pieces of music. However, there is such a small musicians community here and the powers to be are extremely elitist as is the Columbus Arts Council. The powers to be and structure want you to sweat blood and tears and act as if you are trying to take a person’s only kidney when seeking only a minimum of support and promotion for good original music other that the most commerical overe produced flat music that goes on the star contests.

    So as a result, the composers and musicians here have often been locked in a closet. The consequence is that when the big industries don’t pony up, and Columbus has lost a great deal of its local businesses to buyouts from out of state companies with loyalties elsewhere, there is no wealthy arts community to step up and contribute. I may have to leave Columbus to have something meaningful done with my music while I am still alive.

    Until this changes, we will always be just barely struggling.

    Fred Kass

  4. Audrey Oliphant
    April 27, 2008 at

    My husband and I have had to travel a lot in the recent past and have not kept our membership current. Now that we are not traveling as much, we are going to buy season tickets this year and attend the concerts as much as we possibly can. We will also try to encourage all of our friends to do the same. Audrey and Jim Oliphant.

  5. Donna Lyon
    April 27, 2008 at

    The Columbus Symphony Orchestra is a crucial component in the excellent quality of life that is enjoyed by residents in the Columbus metropolitan area.

  6. Bob & Pat Nichols
    April 26, 2008 at

    David,

    A very well considered thought-out post and call for action, good material!

    Hopefully we will soon recognize and be reading more about the “right leadership” so that we ALL, musicians and community alike, can benefit from their efforts.

    GO, GO, GO, CSO(for the second 50 years)!

  7. Mel Ponzi
    April 26, 2008 at

    I certainly hope the people of Columbus won’t let the Orchestra die. Back in the mid 50’s I was a member of the 7th Army Symphony, the only Symphony Orchestra the US Army ever had that was based in Germany, and never played on American soil while it existed (1952 to 1962). A call was put out to the former members, and thay responded with a sizeable contribution to try and keep this wonderful orchestra alive. Maybe this will stir the people to respond with additional monies.

  8. Nathan Long
    April 26, 2008 at

    David,

    You really orchestrated the list of quotes at the beginning of your letter to outline the issue and its urgency. You then tied it together well with your own words to create an articulate and persuasive argument.

    As one who used to live in Columbus and heard the orchestra on a number of occasions, I can only hope
    that the city rises to the occasion here and finds the
    resources to save the orchestra and the musicians.

    I hear about Columbus’ growth and economic prosperity,
    and I wonder why that success has not been extended to
    the performing arts. It’s clear that the long reaching
    negative effects of losing the orchestra would not be fully understood until it’s too late; hopefully the
    citizens of Columbus will have the foresight to avoid
    such a lose and rally together to defend their treasures.

    Nathan Long

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