Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
A New Symphony Orchestra for Syracuse?
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 09:38 PM
They're getting the band back together. Well, the orchestra.
Just four months after the Syracuse Symphony filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, selling off its assets and scattering its musicians across the country, plans are now afoot to revive the defunct orchestra.
Syracuse University is leading an effort to bring a symphony back to Syracuse, with the school’s chancellor, Nancy Cantor, having committed staff and resources towards a future organization. The new group, to be called the Syracuse Philharmonic, would start small. It would start paying musicians this fall on a per-concert basis, but won’t negotiate a new union contract.
By 2013, the organizers hope to have full-time musicians and more administrative staff, including an executive director. Daniel Hege, music director of the former SSO, will continue as artistic manager, music director and conductor. The symphony had 61 core musicians, 14 contract musicians and 18 full- and part-time staffers.
While university officials haven't spoken publicly on the efforts, Onondaga county executive Joanie Mahoney told the Associated Press that the school has committed resources and staff members to building a new symphony. “I’m very optimistic because of the people that are involved,” Ms. Mahoney said.
In April, the 50-year-old orchestra, facing more than $5-million in debt and pension liabilities, laid off virtually all staff and canceled its final concerts. Patrons were not issued refunds. The SSO had been in the red since 2006, running a deficit of about $500,000 per year. Ticket sales have declined 23 percent over the last three years, according to Syracuse.com.
Many questions remain as to whether the Syracuse region can sustain an orchestra and whether a completely new fundraising model will be needed. Still, there is evidence of high-level support. County executive Mahoney told the AP that she has made it a priority to bring orchestral music back to the area, where the county-owned Mulroy Civic Center was the symphony's home and county government has historically donated taxpayer money to the cause.