Fourteen months after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and canceling the 2009-2010 season, the Honolulu Symphony's board of directors voted to abandon efforts at bankruptcy reorganization and effectively dissolve the 110-year-old organization.
Lawyers for the orchestra are set to appear in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Monday and will begin the process of selling off its assets, including its extensive music library, and distribute the proceeds among creditors.
Orchestra officials have said they hoped to come back as a leaner and more efficient operation. But the economic downturn, declining attendance for live arts events and other factors created "a perfect storm" that ultimately ran the symphony aground.
In a filing last December the symphony said that it had between 200 and 1,000 creditors, assets of between $100,000 and $500,000, and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million.
In a news release last week, the Honolulu Symphony Society cited the inability of orchestra leadership and the union representing musicians to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement as one of the reasons it was not able to finalize a plan for reorganization.
The musicians, anticipating that the symphony society would blame them for the failure, preemptively released a statement two weeks ago expressing disappointment in the society's rumored consideration of Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Honolulu's action would appear to sound the final notes for yet another American orchestra, the latest to fall prey to the dismal economic cycle and precipitous drop-offs in financial support and ticket sales. In the last two weeks, the Louisville Symphony filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra announced it's canceling four concerts and postponing three others, and the Indianapolis Symphony reported a near-record deficit.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Symphony revealed an $8.8 million deficit for fiscal year 2010, which closed in August. That orchestra’s musicians have been on strike since Oct. 4.
Founded in 1900, the Honolulu Symphony is the oldest symphony orchestra in the U.S. west of the Rocky Mountains.