Philadelphia Orchestra Files Reorganization Plan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 10:00 PM

Thirteen months after it became the first major American orchestra to file for bankruptcy, the Philadelphia Orchestra said Wednesday it has filed a reorganization plan that will bring it out of Chapter 11 by July 31.

With agreements now in place from key creditors, and a renegotiated collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, the orchestra said its blueprint for recovery will be reviewed by United States Bankruptcy Court judge Eric L. Frank in Philadelphia. 

This could be a final chapter in a protracted and difficult reorganization process.

The orchestra filed for bankruptcy on April 16, 2011, after it had amassed a yearly operating deficit of $14.5 million on a budget of $46 million. While under court protection from creditors, Philadelphia managers cut about $6 million in annual costs, partly by withdrawing from the musicians' national pension fund (which was transferred to the federally backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation). It also renegotiated the lease on its main venue at the Kimmel Center and dissolved a partnership with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

A report in the New York Times suggests a difficult road still lies ahead. A $9.5 million deficit is projected after the 2013-14 season, with a balanced budget by 2018. But that depends on optimistic predictions of ticket sales and fund-raising. The orchestra told the Times that bankruptcy court-related costs were $8.8 million, about half of that consisting of legal fees.      


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Comments [7]

Michael Meltzer

@David from Flushing: It sounds like your school was shortchanged. Others had beginning instrumental programs featuring recorder and autoharp, moving on to beginning instruction in the orchestral instruments. There were choral program. Personally, I worked for a little while in the late 1960's as a teaching assistant and conducted a summer chorus of 10-and 11-year-olds at P.S.58 in Cobble Hill.
Active participation leaves an indelible mark.

Jun. 01 2012 11:23 AM

...could it be that people can buy recordings of Ormandy or Toscanini, and feel they can hear the greatest performances, over and over, without visiting a real orchestra playing? They also can see the real thing on youtube or spotify, but with less impact....for free....

May. 26 2012 02:00 PM
David from Flushing

A number of ideas have been presented over the years to explain the declining interest in classical music. The foremost one tends to be the decline or elimination of music education.

In the 1950s, my elementary school had a music teacher that rolled in her piano for an hour each week and we sang the children's songs that were poplar in that era--"Pop goes the Weasel," "Oh Susannah," etc. There were also the dreaded "rhythm sticks" that we had to bang together while recorded music was played and the shrill "melody flutes." I do not see how any of this would inspire a love of classical music.

In grades 7 and 8, we had a music course for 1/3 of the year. This actually got into musical notation, the families of musical instruments, and a brief history of music. By grade 9, all this ended and the class period used for the foreign language study.

By the time I got to college in the mid-1960s, I was one of the very few that had any interest in classical music while I suspect my classmates had gone through the same earlier rigors. Concerts on campus would attract perhaps a few hundred when the student population was several thousand.

Obviously, one will not enjoy something to which one has never been exposed, but being exposed does not mean one will like it. I do not think I would enjoy Rap with any amount of exposure. I recall being at a noon concert on the Wanamaker Organ at Macy's, Philadelphia, when some young people walked by with their fingers in their ears as they found the sound of the classical program unbearable. Indeed, a number of malls and the PA Bus Terminal play classical music to chase away teens.

There was a time when people enjoyed group singing be it in church, around the camp fire, or in a movie theater. Today this is largely gone and modern services have eliminated hymns. Culture has changed.

May. 25 2012 08:17 AM
Michael Meltzer

I don't understand everyone's mystery about the attrition of clasical music audiences. I predicted it, quite loudly, when I was in the sheet music business in the 1970's and both New York State and New York City literally decimated the budgets for music education. There was a fiscal crisis, but that was only an excuse for executive and political indifference, the crisis passed but music never was restored. Two generations of musical idiots have grown to adulthoood, except for those who were private school students.
Restoration of quality music education in the public schools will result in the eventual restoration of audiences, in direct proprtion to the quality of the effort and the size of the budget. All the school instruments have crumbled or eroded into crap, a massive expenditure is needed to get that part of the effort going.
There is no "smart" answer. There is only a money and effort answer.

May. 25 2012 12:58 AM
David from Flushing

I am not certain the Mayan calendar dealt with this, but my prediction is that classical music as we know it will disappear in 2030. I will not be here to see it, but that is the whole point---the audience will be extinct. The same applies to the attendees of lectures at the Met Museum where the average age is about 75.

What the previous writer mentioned is absolutely true in regard to concert audience age. I used to think that the loss of so many during the early years of the AIDS epidemic accounted for disappearance of male couples at Lincoln Center. I now suspect that the younger generation has no interest in opera, ballet, and concerts as their elders did.

Culture has changed and no one has found a way to reverse the trend. I find the "From the Top" show so sad with its tone of shock and surprise that they actually found a young person interested in classical music.

May. 24 2012 05:45 PM

Unfortunately, this is the future of classical orchestras. The audience for classical music is dying off and not being replaced with new blood. I'm a NY Philharmonic subscriber and at 52 I'm one of the youngsters in the crowd. No one has been able to figure out how to attract young people to classical music. You solve that problem, and orchestras will do okay.

May. 24 2012 04:34 PM

A few points: 1) having heard them play at the Kimmel Center earlier this month, I can attest they are still a first-rate orchestra with world-class musicians; 2) no orchestra can be completely assured of its own financial stability as long as this economic turmoil continues. Let us hope this and all the other orchestras we have weather this 'storm' well.

May. 24 2012 11:11 AM

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