Cecilia Benner’s address to the General Annual Meeting of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Dec. 9, 2010
Ceclia Benner, December 9, 2010.
My name is Cecilia Benner. I am committed to this orchestra. I have been a subscriber for 48 years and a donor for 24. I also served on the Board and the Executive Board for about 5 years until last January. The past few years I have donated more than half my income to the DSO. I am a person whose soul NEEDS to hear excellent live classical music at least once a week or you don’t want to be around me.
I have donated the proceeds of my 2 season tickets to the annual fund so far this season under the mistaken notion that perhaps it would serve as some seed money to help get the orchestra back on the stage. However, I now realize that money is probably being used to pay the management which is NOT producing the concerts as it is entrusted to do.
I believe that the American Symphony Orchestra League which I assumed was formed to help orchestra managements find innovative ways to lure new audiences is invested in this management’s bringing the symphony musicians to their knees to set a precedent and warning to symphony musicians across the country that they are next.
Next to my own family, these musicians are my family. My late husband was the assistant principal bass. The monies I donate do not come as a widow of a DSO musician! His pension amounts to $700 a month after 24 years service. Thank God we had a small business which I ran. These musicians are hard working, highly trained gifted artists dedicated to bringing the utmost of their god-given talent to move, inspire and delight their audiences. They work extremely hard and are prone to suffer a multitude ofjob related injuries from overuse just as the pro ball players who get paid millions to catch throw and kick also suffer. That they are being treated as though they are day laborers with no exceptional abilities is a travesty.
With the elimination of music in the schools and the general “dumbing down” of our society we are in deep trouble. All the cultural arts are being attacked. The education program run under the DSO banner which introduces hundreds of young people to classical music is an extremely valuable asset to the future of this orchestra and this city.
Detroit must not lose this cultural gem, the DSO. If it is lost or decays into a third-rate pick-up band it will be like a spike, not a nail, in Detroit’s coffrn. This orchestra and its hall are at the heart of the strived-for revitalization of this city.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all know the financial situation is dire but the audience must demand a management with a true passion for music, honesty and integrity. Do not accept smoke and mirrors.