Monthly Archives: November 2011
Governing Members Orientation and Town Hall Meeting
November 17, 2011
Governing members (GMs), 2 musician representatives Randy Hawes and Vicki King, DSO staff and management including President and CEO Anne Parsons and Executive Vice President Paul Hogle mingled from 7 a.m. until 8 a.m. over breakfast.
SOS/DSO Governing members in attendance were David Assemany, David Kuziemko, David Faulkner and Denise Neville. Judy Doyle was unable to attend.
Welcome and Opening Remarks:
Jan Bernick, GM Vice-Chair Philanthropy, gave the opening remarks. The Governing members concept was patterned primarily after what was done by the Chicago Symphony. Other symphonies such as Atlanta and Baltimore had influence as well. The intention of the group is to present opportunities for leadership on behalf of the DSO. Active participation is a “huge part” of the concept behind the Governing members. GMs also are voting members. The DSO’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for December 8th, 2011.
The Governing members had over 50 new members last May and added another 34 this season.
Jan asked everyone present to introduce themselves and give a brief statement regarding their connection to the DSO. While this did take some time, it became very clear that this group is comprised of enthusiastic supporters of the DSO with a long history of involvement who were glad to be there in spite of the very early start time of 7 a.m.
Introduction of GM Committees:
Several committees comprise the GMs with Arthur T. O’ Reilly serving as the Chairperson. The committees and their corresponding Vice Chairs are as follows:
Communications – Frederick (Fritz) J. Morsches Build awareness of GMs, assist with DSO website and other written materials; in development is the GM newsletter High Notes
Membership – Maureen D’Avanzo Bring new members into the fold, look for prospective hosts for future GM functions
Engagement – Bonnie Larson Offer different events and opportunities for governing members to come together
Outreach – James Farber Outreach with musicians and the community; Dave Assemany is Chair of musician outreach
Philanthropy – Janice Bernick
Governance – Mary Mansfield This will help establish ways for GMs to communicate ideas to the board possibly through quarterly town meetings, for example. Since it is new, the scope and responsibilities are still being developed.
Each Vice Chair gave brief overviews of their respective areas of responsibilities and invited GM participation on their committees.
Special Presentation by Vince Ford, DSO Digital Consultant
DSO Consultant Vince Ford also worked this past year as Executive Director for Media Development for the New York Philharmonic. He restated the goal announced at the DSO’s December 2010 Annual Meeting which is “to make the DSO the most accessible orchestra on the the planet.”
During the past year, this goal was accomplished through patron engagement, digital distribution and culture change that includes, for example, lowering the price of ticket sales, the DSO Sound Card for students, Detroit’s Rush ticket program.
Under “Digital Distribution,” the DSO accomplished the following:
1. Upgrades to the website to make it more professional, user friendly
2. New Email Program: DSO Concert Insider sends out program notes and other concert announcements via email prior to upcoming concerts.
3. DSO YouTube channel
4. Mobile phone application: DSO To Go
5. Webcasts “Live From Orchestra Hall” Latest numbers show that these webcasts have been watched by 3,000 viewers and 30 countries world-wide
Remarks by Anne Parsons:
Anne Parsons spoke briefly about the how exciting, rapidly changing and fast-paced these times are for the DSO. Along with other issues facing the DSO, she stressed that “retention and attraction of top talent is most important.”
Due to lack of time, she was unable to address questions, but promised that all questions were important and would be answered at a later time. She turned the floor over to Paul Hogle.
Breakout Discussions – Paul Hogle
Paul cited some statistics about the recent successes of the DSO: Concert attendance is up 40 percent over 2009-10 pre-strike levels; 16 percent increase in classical subscriptions; the community concerts netted 1000 subscriptions in 30 days with an 80 percent of these subscribers having no former history of subscribing.
Paul Hogle organized the tables into groups of four and assigned each table a topic to be discussed amongst the GMS who were given 15 minutes.
These topics were as follows:
Goal No. 1: Artistically & educationally vital while becoming financially viable, resulting in being vigorously celebrated
(Cultivate DSO’s artistry/sound, build music education programs, articulate blueprint for financial viability, attract and retain outstanding artistic, volunteer and executive talent, capitalize on the DSO’s existing/emerging critical acclaim)
Goal No. 2: A Community Supported Orchestra
(Engage in activities that increase the value of the DSO to Detroit and community, grow DSO patron base, become patron-centric institution)
Goal No. 3: The most accessible orchestra on the planet
(Launch neighborhood series across suburban Detroit and reach a worldwide network through media, webcasts and other digital outlets)
Goal No. 4: Playing our part as a community gathering place sounding brightly from the Woodward Corridor
(Realize vision of the Max M. Fisher Music Center and optimize Orchestra Hall)
Each table met, discussed ideas regarding these goals and then presented those ideas to the group.
The meeting adjourned on schedule at 9:30 a.m.
This article first appeared in the 4th quarter 2011 edition of Keynote, the official publication of the Detroit Federation of Musicians. It is reprinted here with permission.
by Doug Cornelsen
In an article last September 23rd titled Debt Threatens DSO Turnaround, Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press rehashed the problem of the flawed financing of “The Max,” the lavish 2003 addition to Orchestra Hall which has imposed an annual three-million dollar cost over-run on the DSO’s operating budget. Mr. Stryker’s article tendentiously presents “The Max” money problem – a consortium of five banks holding a $54 million loan on which DSO management has long defaulted – as a new hurdle facing the DSO organization. In reality, the overwhelming finance debts on “The Max” are at least eight years old. Nearly two years ago, this column pointed out that, in the face of their self-created debt, management appeared alarmingly willing to cut orchestra costs as a means of saving money, thereby risking artistic standards. In view of subsequent events, this Symphony Corner observation has assumed the understatement proportions of Noah saying, “It looks like rain.”
The 2010-11 DSO strike was terribly destructive artistically, a fact unmentioned in Mr. Strykers article. Taking severe hits in the strike-ending contract were not only salary but also the size of the orchestra and length of season. From a pre-strike contractually-required size of 95 musicians, the orchestra is now down to no more than 70. Auditions are planned this season to fill only several of these positions. (The world’s finest orchestras usually number slightly over 100 musicians.) The DSO’s historic 52-week season will be 40 weeks this contract year. The events surrounding the strike have caused some wonderful DSO musicians to leave for positions with 52-week orchestras — there are at least fifteen in America — and there has been a precipitous number of retirements. The supreme irony is that for several million dollars, a mere fraction of the cumulative budget loss on “The Max,” the contract could have been settled with no strike and no musical damage to the orchestra. When, during the strike, picketing DSO musicians chanted, “Built the Max, on our backs!” they were not kidding.
Michael Kaiser could be accurately called Dean of American Arts Managers. His stellar career rests on dramatic rescues of a number of arts organizations that were floundering when he took over. President of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. since 2001, last year Mr. Kaiser founded an Arts Management Institute to train arts administrators. A Kaiser precept for arts boards experiencing financial trouble is that they must not cut costs in a manner which damages their product nor their public reputation. This frequent mistake, he says, precipitates more of a downward spiral, making ticket sales and fund raising even more difficult. Mr. Kaiser also dislikes the tendency of arts boards to blame unions for their problems: “It is impossible to blame unions for the lack of revenue for arts organizations when so many are doing such a poor job of managing themselves.”
Seen from a Kaiser perspective, DSO management’s post-strike thinking, as described in Mr. Stryker’s article, is eye-brow-raising to say the least. DSO leaders, wrote Mr. Stryker, had three goals in mind as a means of “fixing the troubled finances for good…the musicians’ contract, the real estate debt and the endowment.” Management considers the musicians’ contract successfully completed, but is now concerned about their ability to successfully fund raise with a $54 million unpaid loan hanging over their heads. A Kaiser consultant might point out that six months of negative strike publicity culminating in a musically denigrative orchestra contract, followed up with a prominent news article trumpeting the DSO’s massive bank indebtedness, is not an optimal way for management to achieve their third goal, substantially rebuilding the sadly depleted endowment. It must also be mentioned (though Mr. Stryker doesn’t) that the DSO board’s reappointment of the manager who led the strike does nothing to inspire musician confidence in turnaround success.
In spite of the front office, however, the orchestra is back to work for the winter season and, with a little effort, it’s possible to take a glass-half-full approach to the post-strike DSO. As the old saying goes, it could be worse.* Even with many DSO musicians gone the orchestra sounds thoroughly professional, partially due to the excellent skills of the host of subs now on stage.** And there are few venues anywhere more sonically gratifying, for both performers and audience, than Orchestra Hall. So listeners at DSO concerts will predictably hear creditable performances.
For musicians, if — IF! — management can keep the post-strike contract going, Detroit will still have an orchestra which offers a livable wage. Though no longer upper echelon, it will remain an appealing opportunity for musicians direct from college or from smaller orchestras. Especially in these times of shrinking employment, musicians who join the DSO during the next several years will be happy to have a decent job and will not be embittered by pre-strike memories. For them, unpaid summers off, for example, will not represent management’s long-term failure to rebuild a quality summer season, but a time to play festivals elsewhere, or, with careful budgeting, to relax, travel, pursue hobbies — or practice for 52-week orchestra auditions.
And as far as that horrible Max debt is concerned, there is already a backstage rumor that the board is going to attempt some decisive action before year’s end. But glass-half-full or not, it’s impossible to feel very good about the DSO these days. To try to do that, we need to look farther into the future, when some of the DSO leaders, to use Mr. Stryker’s term, take actions which set the Detroit Symphony back on a road of significant recovery and finally recreate an organization of which all can be proud. Accompanying this vision of the future is Emily Dickinson’s famous poetic description of hope, which perches in the soul, and sings the song without the words, and never stops at all.
* It could have been worse indeed. Management’s most noxious proposals were deflected at the settlement negotiations by the DSO musicians negotiating committee along with Local 5 President Gordon Stump and Attorney Leonard Leibowitz.
** Some of the substitute musicians are Syracuse Symphony members, whose board of directors demolished their orchestra with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy last April.
On October 5, the DSO Governing Members were invited to a reception at the home of DSO Board Member and Volunteer Council President Janet Ankers and her husband Norm Ankers. SOS/DSO Governing Members Judy Doyle, David Assemany, David Kuziemko, and Cornelia Pokrzywa were in attendance. David Faulkner, Melissa McBrien and Denise Neville were not able to attend due to scheduling conflicts. When Denise called the DSO to decline the invitation, she was surprised to find out there was a wait list due to limited space. We hope that Governing Members meetings are as well attended as the parties.
So far there is nothing to report regarding Governing Members activity. The first meeting is on Thursday November 17th. We are looking forward to engaging in dialogue with the other Governing Members. At the meeting we will address the concerns and questions you have brought to us, and report back to you. SOS is prepared to participate fully once the Governing members have decided how to best support the DSO.
In the meantime, SOS continues to meet with DSO board members, management and staff, and musicians. As a result, SOS is developing a better understanding of the inner workings of the DSO as an organization.
Please stay tuned. SOS has faith in the DSO’s vision for the Governing members. We will report on future developments as they unfold.
Your SOS/DSO Governing Members
Thanks to the wonderful generosity of our members, SOS has met its first fundraising goal. Your combined donations have allowed SOS to sponsor seven seats among the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s brand-new leadership group, the Governing Members.
We are eager to get to work with the other Governing Members in the “substantive, hands-on” way that is the DSO’s intention for this group.
As an SOS member, you are encouraged to give us your input, ideas and feedback so that we can take it to the DSO via this new group.
Come back to this page for information on Governing Member activities. We will post updates as soon as we have any information to share. You can still donate to support our effort. Remember, all donations will go directly to the DSO through SOS, giving our members a voice in the future of the orchestra.
DSO ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL COMMUNITY SUPPORT MONTH
(DETROIT, November 1, 2011) — The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has announced November, 2011 as its inaugural Community Support Month, which will kick off with the opening of the DSO’s Paradise Jazz Series on Thursday, Nov. 3. This effort marks the first concert-based fundraiser in DSO history.
As the DSO establishes its identity as a community-supported orchestra, Community Support Month is aimed at greatly expanding the Annual Fund donor base and providing each ticket buyer with more meaningful opportunities to make Annual Fund gifts to the DSO.
“I think everyone understands that ticket sales account for a smaller and smaller portion of our annual operating costs and the DSO’s vitality and sustainability relies heavily on the engaged support of individual members from our community,” said Anne Parsons, DSO president and CEO. “Investment in the DSO through participation in our Annual Fund validates that what we do for music, musicians and audiences alike truly matters. This regular support also helps keep the lights on and our education programs running throughout the year and for years to come.”
Concert goers can make a contribution via envelope, pledge card, by phone, or even by text from anywhere, including right from Orchestra Hall. Each donor will receive access to the Herman and Sharon Frankel Donor Lounge, on the evening of their gift and a parking voucher. November is the first of two Community Support Months this season. The second will take place in May, 2012.
Videos of board members, donors and Detroit moguls will open each concert during Community Support Month, with the featured patron explaining why they support the DSO and what role the organization plays in the future of Detroit.
Community Support Month festivities are scheduled the following concerts.
November 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27
May 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19
About the DSO
The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the fourth-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an unwavering commitment to Detroit. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the 12th Music Director of the DSO during the 2008-09 season. The DSO offers a performance schedule that includes Classical, Pops, Jazz, Young People’s, Neighborhood concerts and festivals. The DSO makes its home in historic Orchestra Hall, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, and actively pursues a mission to impact and serve the community through music. For more information visit www.dso.org.
The Musicians. . . Orchestra Roster
These links are taken from, and will direct you to, the webpage of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Musicians. Check out their excellent webpage at http://www.detroitsymphonymusicians.org
Interview with Detroit Symphony violinist: “We went on strike because we didn’t want the orchestra to be destroyed”
By Shannon Jones
10 October 2011
One year ago, on October 5, 2010, the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) struck against massive concession demands, including a more than 30 percent pay cut and drastic changes in work rules. The strike ended in April of this year, with musicians forced to accept a large pay cut and other concessions.
DSO musicians picketing on the first day of the strike
On the anniversary of the walkout, this reporter and WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh interviewed DSO violinist Marian Tanau at Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit. The Romanian-born musician, a member of the negotiating committee for the striking musicians, reflected on the strike and the current situation facing the orchestra.
The DSO strike took place under conditions of a general and ongoing attack on arts funding in the US and internationally. Faced with declining ticket sales and falling private and corporate donations orchestras and opera companies are continuing to impose deep cuts.
Since the end of the DSO strike, the world famous Philadelphia Orchestra has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and musicians at Colorado Symphony have been forced to accept an effective 14 percent pay cut in the face of a financial crisis at that orchestra. In June, members of the Pittsburgh Symphony agreed to a new three-year contract containing a 9.7 reduction in wages.
Meanwhile, management of the DSO seems determined to pursue the same reckless course that provoked the strike last year. In June, the DSO Board of Directors announced the renewal of the contract of DSO President Anne Parsons for three-years. The management team headed by Parsons spearheaded the attack on musicians. While demanding drastic cuts from the musicians, Parsons received some $400,000 in pay and expenses in 2009.
CLICK HERE to see the entire article and interview with DSO violinist Marian Tanau…