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SOS members: Here is YOUR ad in the
North American International Auto Show Program.
DSO Board: The world is watching!
Please Download this page to print and share! 8.5″ x 11″ page (pdf, 136 KB)
An Open Letter to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, the Detroit Business and Political Communities and the Concerned Citizens of Metropolitan Detroit
Are we really willing to lose the Detroit Symphony Orchestra? Since 1887 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been the pride of metropolitan Detroit and the people of the State of Michigan. It is one of the oldest orchestras in the United States and has earned an enviable reputation for artistic excellence on the world stage. However, as a result of the current labor dispute:
This legacy is in great jeopardy!
Accordingly, we are pleased to announce the formation of Save Our Symphony, Inc., an independent advocacy group, to represent the DSO’s many concerned constituencies: patrons, donors, subscribers, audience members, educators, and local businesses. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is more than a group of highly skilled musicians. They are educators and community leaders; our neighbors, friends and family; our customers and patrons; our public image, and our pride. They are symbols of this great city and ambassadors to the world.
These voices must be preserved!
Save Our Symphony’s mission is to promote and support the world-class artistic excellence and stature of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. To this end we must:
Hold DSO management and its Board of Directors accountable!
As fiduciaries of the public trust known as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra they are responsible for preserving and protecting this priceless resource.
Save Our Symphony
Disputes the DSO management’s claim that this orchestra cannot survive as presently constituted. We disagree with management that the current state of the DSO is primarily caused by an onerous labor contract coupled with current market and economic conditions.
Sees that, in truth, the reason for the dismal operational and financial position of the DSO is management’s failure to perform its principal responsibilities effectively, i.e. sell tickets and raise money. To mask their failure they have characterized the current crisis as a “musicians’ pay dispute”, forcing a strike in preparation for a fundamental downgrading of the essential nature and quality of the institution. Disagrees with management that the answer to the current crisis lies in changing the essential character of the orchestra by reducing the number of musicians and number of performances, demanding radical changes in work rules and draconian cuts in compensation. These measures would fatally impact the world class stature of the organization, and, at the end of the day, leave Detroit with a stripped-down, broken institution.
Wonders which members of the board, if any, would hire and assign any significant responsibility within their own companies to the current management team? Believes there is just cause here for the “clean sweep” solution. Current leadership has shown itself to be incapable of timely crisis resolution and should be replaced.
Fears that inaction by the board at this time will produce a result that is not only detrimental to the economic, business and cultural redevelopment of the region, but is completely unthinkable to all those who are counting on the musicians’ early return to the stage of Orchestra Hall and who care so passionately about the continuing excellence of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Please join us and lend your voice to Save Our Symphony.
The Board of Directors and Members of Save Our Symphony Inc.
The following editorial clippings were published December 10, 1982.
by Mike Bielski
In 1949 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra fired long-time cellist Georges Miquelle. By spring music director Karl Krueger had alienated so many musicians that President Henry Reichhold threatened to fire the entire orchestra as a show of support for Krueger. This led the Detroit Athletic Club News to report in April:
“The one-man band parading under the aegis of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra may have played its last notes. Finally, the dissension, uncertainty, and contradictions produced by the unconventional methods of operation that have characterized the orchestra for the past several years have pyramided into a situation that can mean only the end.”
Soon after both Krueger and Reichhold agreed to resign, and the orchestra closed operations.
In 1951 John B. Ford, Jr. of the “Salt Fords,” famous for founding Wyandotte Chemical Corporation, came to the rescue. Rather than looking for a handful of deep pockets to fund the orchestra, he developed what he called the “Detroit Plan.” His goal was to find hundreds of benefactors to give pledges of “$1 to $10,000, but not a penny more.” In so doing, the orchestra was revived in time for the 250th anniversary of the founding of the City of Detroit, and the Detroit Plan became the blueprint for development departments in all sorts of non-profit organizations nation wide. How times have changed.
Once again the Detroit Symphony Orchestra finds itself on the verge of ruin, and funding issues have led to rancor between management and musicians that threatens the viability of the DSO as a major US orchestra. At the time of VP for Development Paul Papich’s resignation in 1996 the DSO had a healthy base of 25,000 donors. Since then the DSO has gone through eight VPs for Development, including four in the last four years. As of 2008 the donor base had dropped to less than 5,000. The constant turnover in personnel has led to a policy of only seeking the “low-hanging fruit,” returning again and again to a few very wealthy donors who regularly give large gifts to the orchestra. Obviously, this group’s patience and finances have both reached the breaking point, and not without reason. The current talk of salvation for the orchestra hangs on the hope that a single “Angel Donor” will sweep in and solve all of the organization’s financial problems with a single huge check, which, as far as plans go, is barely one step removed from winning the lottery.
It may be time for a NEW Detroit Plan. The musicians recognize this. In July, DSO oboist Shelley Heron wrote on the Musicians’ web site:
“With the community’s help, we will do whatever it takes to maintain the DSO as one of America’s major orchestras. We are more than willing to reach out to the community in an effort to help rebuild the breadth of the DSO’s donor base.”
However, it seems that the only appetite management has for raising revenue begins and ends with salary cuts. They even missed the opportunity granted to the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Detroit Zoo by the state legislature to request support from taxpayers in Southeast Michigan.
There are a lot of reasons to preserve the orchestra, and there are a lot of people like me who are not “low-hanging fruit” that would like to help any way possible. But why would we? Why would we give money to an institution that is willing to sacrifice world class for something less without a fight? Why would we support an institution that does not support its musicians? Why would we support an institution that is not developing a Strategic Plan for moving forward, and isn’t even sticking to the one they already have? What is the motivation for me and my family, who are struggling to make it every month, to sacrifice for an organization whose leader’s total compensation has gone up 10% over the past five years, while demanding everyone else takes cuts?
When you strip it all away- strip away management, strip away unions, strip away percentages, and cuts, and donations, and Detroit Plans- here’s what is left: The Detroit Symphony Musicians are presenting concerts, and scheduling more. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is not presenting concerts, and they are canceling more. If you believe, as I do, that the Orchestra is about presenting world-class performances, the argument about whom to support becomes very clear.
Will the DSO be Michigan’s next casualty in this recession?
YES, if DSO management and board of trustees have their way.
They believe the DSO cannot survive in its current form and propose to downgrade our orchestra from its world-class stature by drastically reducing the number of musicians and performances, slashing the musicians’ compensation and benefits while imposing draconian working conditions…
We are DSO patrons, donors, subscribers, business owners and community members.
We are people who love great music and also recognize the economic value that this powerful orchestra brings to Detroit and Michigan.
We believe so strongly in preserving the essential character and tradition of this world-class orchestra that we formed the nonprofit group: Save Our Symphony (SOS).
The mission of SOS is to promote and support the world-class artistic excellence and stature of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and to hold its management and board of trustees accountable for their fiduciary responsibilities to the public trust including the preservation of this great orchestra and its future.
Join us so your voice can be heard: please register your email with us to stay sharp on the latest updates. Thank you for your patience as we establish contact information and build our website.