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We are not alone in our symphony struggle

When we sent the paper to press Tuesday morning, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra board had not yet voted to dissolve the organization and file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Just a few hours before the board made that decision, we were still hopeful that the shutdown was temporary and that the SSO would be back on stage soon. While that option has all but been eliminated by the board's decision, we think this look at how some other cities dealt with their own symphony struggles is still relevant to the future of symphony in Syracuse.

Rather than try to pick apart how things went wrong for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, we would like to share with you the story of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina.

According to thepostandcourier.com, the CSO had an especially tough year in 2010. After years of cost-cutting and desperate fundraising, the CSO, like the SSO, was burdened with millions of dollars of debt. The CSO cut its season short last March and dismissed several full-time musicians as a result of its financial distress.

The musicians fired back by filing suit against the CSO, alleging the shut-down was illegal, but dropped the suit in exchange for the immediate resignation of then-president and board bargaining committee chair.

Then, on top of its legal and labor troubles, the CSO's longtime musical director died unexpectedly, another blow to the community.

Yet on March 19, the CSO played to a full crowd, and through new, innovative fundraising initiatives established by a new executive director and fresh board members, the orchestra aims to fund its 2011-12 season entirely in advance.

When the CSO shut down temporarily last year, public forums were held by local arts leaders to gather input directly from the community on how the organization should proceed. As a result, programming for the upcoming season will include collaboration with the local college and more variety in concerts.

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