Columbus Symphony Weeks Away from Insolvency

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The chair of the Columbus Symphony board of directors says the orchestra will soon run out of money. Without an infusion of cash, Buzz Trafford says the orchestra could cease to function in less than 60 days.

The CSO hit an artistic peak a few days ago when they recorded several works by Tchaikovsky for the Denon label. But it comes at a time when the orchestra is on the verge of insolvency. Board chairman Buzz Trafford says the orchestra has been in and out of financial difficulty for 20 years. Jim Akins, the head of the committee representing the orchestra’s players, agrees – up to a point.

“In the past there have certainly been ups and downs,” Akins says. “There have been economic issues that come into play. But the bottom line is the artistic quality is all that we as musicians can handle. That’s all we are here to do. That’s really our mission. The mission of the board is to raise the funds to maintain the growth of the Columbus Symphony.”

That’s been increasingly difficult to do, says Trafford, especially during the past five years. He says the orchestra cannot survive as it’s presently structured.”

“The reality is that we have a structural mismatch between the ambitions of the orchestra on the scale that we have and the financial resources that are available to support it,” Trafford says.

Trafford says the orchestra’s on-going financial difficulties dissuade corporate sponsors from continuing their funding.

“They expect arts organizations to manage their finances in a way that is responsible and that is centered around financial sustainability without crises,” Trafford says.

Plans call for cuts in salaries, a shortened season, and a downsized orchestra which Akins says would turn the CSO into an “artistic nightmare.”

“The artistry level that is evidenced in the recording we just did this past weekend with Junichi Hirokami that will be very telling to show that this orchestra is a world class orchestra. And of course we want that to continue. The artistry is very high right now. It would be a real shame to see that go away,” Akins says.

Board chairman Buzz Trafford:

We’re not trying to pick a precise date on which our finances will hit rock bottom, when we will actually run out of money. But it is no more than 2 months and it could be closer to the shorter end of that period.

Management and players representatives both say they’re open to negotiations.

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