Feb 03, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Last year the deepening recession shook the world of classical music as regional orchestras found themselves drowning in a flood of red ink. Many, including our own Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, cancelled concerts.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra gave up the ghost after 75 seasons. The Honolulu Symphony went bankrupt. A contentious musicians’ strike idled the Detroit Symphony, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra was demoralized by its shortened season and 13.5 percent pay cuts.
Now the Syracuse Symphony also appears to be teetering on its last legs.
Cultural myth vs. cultural asset
One of the more forward-thinking ideas about how to save the financially strapped Syracuse Symphony Orchestra comes from Alan Isserlis of DeWitt.
A longtime observer of the ups and downs of downtown Syracuse, Isserlis suggests, “Divert public funds allocated to the Connective Corridor (a cultural myth) to a real cultural asset of socio-economic importance, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. The ‘corridor’ will not be missed; the orchestra would be.”
Like a lot of locals, Isserlis expresses a healthy pessimism about Syracuse University’s so-called Connective Corridor, but he wisely applauds the university’s efforts to interact with the city. Nothing is more important to Syracuse’s cultural status than the continuation of the SSO, which requested $200,000 from the Onondaga County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Jan. 25. Unless that money is raised by Feb. 4, SSO executives said, the symphony will cancel the balance of its 50th anniversary concert season.
But the county, which is itself financially overburdened, already gave the SSO $404,465 for 2011. So a desperate public fund-raising effort is underway to save the symphony by collecting $1.7 million in donations. Good luck…
Here’s another idea:
Syracuse University should take over the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.
Last May, SU and the SSO entered into an expanded partnership which included the appointment of SSO Music Director Daniel Hege as a professor of practice in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts; an increase in the number of SU-SSO co-presented concerts and increased opportunities for the university community to collaborate with SSO musicians and guest artists.
So the foundation has been laid for SU to take the next step and fully absorb the SSO’s operations.
After all, SU is Syracuse’s wealthiest and most culturally concerned institution. SU has endowment assets worth $1,031.6 million, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
That’s $1 billion plus $31 million!
The SSO’s annual budget is about $7 million, a mere drop in SU’s golden bucket.
Cantor: ‘SSO an absolute gem’
An SU-SSO merger would provide opportunities for students enrolled in the prestigious Setnor School of Music to perform with the SSO, as well as forge interaction between the SSO and students and faculty in VPA, the School of Education and the Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Last May, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor praised the SSO as “an absolute gem, one of the key cultural anchors of Syracuse and Central New York.”
Now Cantor has a chance to back up her words with action.
“Expanding our relationship just makes sense in so many ways, opening up new creative avenues for both the symphony’s profoundly talented professionals and SU’s bright, entrepreneurial students from a range of academic programs,” she said eight months ago.
Dan Hege, who has helmed the SSO for 12 years now, agreed.
“The increased collaboration between the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and Syracuse University seems natural,” he said in May.
Now that the bills are due, who should save the SSO? To use Cantor’s and Hege’s own words, SU sure makes sense. SU sure seems natural.