Music News

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra struggles on

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is struggling: it's over $1 million short on cash; its musicians are seeing massive pay cuts; and twenty of its board members (read: big donors) have left. The CSO cut five programs, which totaled ten shows, from now through early-December and brought back old personnel to head the organization: Interim President and CEO Jim Copenhaver, and Board of Trustees Co-Chairs husband and wife Jerome Kern and Mary Rossick Kern. If you haven't been following the story, here's a brief rundown of what's went down where things stand now:

September 16: The Denver Post's Kyle MacMillan writes that the CSO is in trouble. "We're talking dead: a major city without a symphony orchestra," the story says. The rumbling begins.

September 21: The CSO announced that it had a $1.2 million cash short fall from the 2010-2011 season ending on June 2011, despite record ticket sales. "Even with a balanced budget for FY12 [the 2011-2012 season], the organization has forecast cash shortfalls due to normal operations by mid-November without extraordinary fundraising necessary to bridge the need to fund operations with cash," the press release said.

September 23: The 79 musicians agreed to a $530,000, or 14 percent, pay cut. Twenty board members left as well.

October 5: A shortened October-early December schedule is announced with half the performances cancelled. The Denver Musicians Association later described these measures as more about giving the orchestra time to reorganize than as an actual cost-saving measure. The Kerns became the new heads of the Board of Trustees. They'd held the position from 2001 to 2006.

October 6: The CSO Musicians Assistance Fund is created by the DMA to help musicians facing massive pay cuts. It has so far raised $36,000--much of it from CSO Board of Trustee members including the Kerns. Note: the CSO has no oversight over how the funds are used.

October 12: Former Executive Director when the Colorado Symphony was first founded in 1989 Jim Copenhaver comes back as the Interim CEO and President.

Co-chair Jerome Kern is optimistic. "The CSO isn't going anywhere, not if we can help it," he says, and he's willing to take on all the news outlets murmuring that it might. "From a performance stand point, it's in great shape," he says. Financially, the CSO is looking for a "bigger base of support." (Feeling generous? The donation page is here.)

The musicians also seem optimistic, especially in the wake of recent changes up top who Vice President of the DMA Thomas Blomster describes as being more musician-friendly. "If you'd asked me two weeks ago, I would have said I was scared," he says. Now, things at Colorado's only full-time, professional orchestra are "stabilizing," according to Blomster.

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Jenny An
Contact: Jenny An