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September 21, 2009

Add Philadelphia Orchestra to long list of the financially troubled

Over the weekend, my colleague Peter Dobrin reported on the Philadelphia Orchestra's emergency need $15 million to held ends meet. Here's an excerpt: 

The orchestra is running a string of large deficits - $3.3 million for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, and a projected $7.5 million for the current year - and has maxed out its line of credit.

"Unless we, individually and collectively, provide critical financial support in the next several weeks, there is danger that

our effort to fix and transform the orchestra will falter," incoming board chairman Richard B. Worley wrote in a four-page memo to the board. "Without financial stability, we will continually be forced to devote our energy to triaging short-term financial crises, making long-term sustainable change more difficult. We cannot shrink our way to a better future."

Discouraging news is everywhere in the arts world, of course. It's going to be another rough season. The situation in Philadelphia drives home what's happening here, where the Baltimore Symphony has been doing the battle of the budget since the Great Recession grabbed hold, and has done so with a remarkable degree of internal cohesiveness. For more on the local picture (just in case you missed it -- and we wouldn't want that to happen, would we?), I've got a story in today's paper.

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:16 PM | | Comments (1)


The Philadelphians could read a HUGELY important lesson from the BSO's recent history (of which I am actually quite impressed, _despite_ my very vocal complaints about the programming), but I just wonder if they (or certain factions within the organization) are not too arrogant to do so. Right now, they're _still_ searching for a new music director (Dutoit is just a respectable stop-gap), and that's probably going to remain a challenge, considering how poorly those same "factions" treated Eschenbach.

(I don't believe that Venzago has even been considered -- they're looking for some young firebrand like Jurowski [or another Dudamel, even more likely], and they don't seem to be pursuing several other important candidates with anything even approaching what should be the deserved effort. They appear to be quite rudderless at the moment, but that will hopefully pass without the musicianship suffering too greatly...)

Alsop's arrival on the scene here has absolutely galvanized the organization (if Glicker did _anything_ good, even if by accident, then this choice is it!), and Meecham & Bronfein are obviously _very_ sympathetic (as well as obviously intelligent) executives.

(Though everyone knows that a 4-legged stool is even sturdier -- you just have to conceive of the fourth leg's identity and add it to the mix! Or, you could just consider everyone as being part of an anchored, rotating bar-stool, whose steel pole would require _tremendous_ effort to destroy. Oh, enough seat analogies already... ;^)

I had to sit down to read that. Thanks, as always. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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