More from Bob Nichols

Here is Glenn Sheller's (Dispatch editorials page editor) letter to which Bob Nichols responds below. Mr. Nichols' gentle admonishments seem to have little effect on the outcome of the Dispatch's stance.

Dear Mr. Nichols:
Much of the opposition to the board’s plan focuses on what the board SHOULD have done before to prevent the symphony’s finances from reaching such a parlous state. But even if it’s true that the board previously failed to act effectively, nobody can travel back in time and fix things. So the question is, what would critics have the board do NOW? How do critics propose that the symphony balance its budget?

Dear Mr. Sheller,

Thank you for your response to my May 10 email. Excellent point - the problem today IS today’s problem to be solved, not yesterday’s! So let’s do PUSH for a resolution now, and NOT surrender to an "I give up – you win (or you lose, depending on where you stand) conclusion. The motivation to protect the integrity of an in-place asset, an unchallenged artistically successful institution (the CSO) SHOULD, should it not (?), provide plenty of motivation to look for solutions to protect, not destroy this orchestra. I am sure it is much cheaper, easier, and considerably more efficient to keep an orchestra, than it is to create one. This scenario assumes the board leadership is not already satisfied, even pleased, they are about to, or perhaps have, already achieved their goal – to disband the present orchestra.

Unfortunately, their actions and published comments to date have done NOTHING to dispel this very dark and I sincerely believe inaccurate, although too easily obvious, a conclusion.

"How do they balance the budget?" is asked. Perhaps it IS a smaller orchestra in terms of full time musicians, perhaps it IS a shorter season. However, it certainly is NOT resorting to abusive or inadequate compensation practices (i.e.. 40 %, or whatever it was, pay cuts). It is NOT canceling reportedly successful concert venues (i.e. Picnic With the Pops). It is NOT denigrating the input of the musicians by insincere "bargaining" sessions. (i.e. apparently ignoring a $500,000 payroll reduction reportedly offered by musicians). It is NOT conducting lack-luster fund raising campaigns that do not reach a sufficiently broad audience and do (did) not instill ANY sense of urgency.

I am not informed enough to place priorities on, or to determine the relative value of, each the above items – but I do think there is a potential balanced budget there, somewhere - maybe even w/o any personnel reductions(?), do you suppose?.

Now to matters other than "balancing budgets."

WOSU has understood the importance of broad campaigns, directed to individuals and their sense of responsibility to maintain a service that used to be, and still is would you believe free for the listening! They have done this through repetitiously reinforcing the intrinsic value of their service plus developing a public sense of urgency, ownership, and responsibility. They (WOSU) followed a very unpopular programming change with another successful campaign – actually amazing! Is there not a lesson available here to our symphony?

No one, except perhaps the politicians (?), I think, has ever "won" the battle for popular support by attacking the credibility of those individuals on the other side. Affirming relationships are much more constructive! There has certainly been too much of that unfortunate technique used here between the symphony leadership and the musicians. The January board "Strategic Plan" began this episode by producing a unilaterally created document arguably not very kind to the musicians on several levels. The musicians responded quickly and understandably questioning the integrity of the board and leadership. This sort of dialogue has continued unabated, and recently has even spread to the Maestro! This practice is very sad and totally unproductive leading to divisiveness that can last beyond the time limits of the "negotiations." Very, very sad indeed!

In conclusion, this "critic," would very much like to see the symphony board/leadership along with the musician’s leadership quickly seek the counsel of a third party mediator/consultant to enable developing an acceptable and creative resolution for everyone out of this obvious impasse. (I admittedly have no credentials to be labeled a "critic," I am only reacting to what I perceive as less than positive and not very constructive publicly displayed attitudes that sometimes even seem to be driven by mysterious(?) agendas.)

I do not see ANY indication a solution is to come from any other source or technique.

Can we not ALL easily agree that the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is worth the effort!

Incidentally, I was "amused" with the editorial comment Sunday morning that "…the loss (of the CSO) would not necessarily mean the loss of orchestral music in Columbus." We simply are evaluating this issue on totally different levels. It occurs to me and I am quite sure you will not ever hear any of the personnel of the "other" orchestras in or around Columbus express anything other than dismay at losing or the compromising of the Columbus Symphony.

The Dispatch certainly has it within their influence to garner positive community support around the symphony, to stimulate the kind of attitude that would enable the negotiation of a responsible "labor" contract, and to give confidence to a no doubt "uneasy" board, as well as to help generate a community climate for very successful 2008-2009 fund campaigns.

Wouldn’t you like to do that? A decision to not go this route will most certainly also contribute to the destruction of the CSO as a viable institution for many years.

At the risk of redundancy, the goal should not be simply to save or keep "a" symphony orchestra - the goal is for Columbus to continue to have an orchestra worthy of the true critic's ink.

Recent ticket sales and the positive community/audience response to the orchestra certainly are encouraging. Let’s build on that!

Once again, thank you for your response and taking the time to read this rather long email.

Bob Nichols

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