“Is it the beginning of the end for the American orchestra in the form we’ve come to accept?” asks Peter Dobrin in Sunday’s (4/5) Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s starting to look likely. American orchestras, like other types of arts groups, have had an enormous rug pulled out from under them. Some endowments are worth half what they were a year or two ago, but the operations they underwrite have not shrunk in proportion. The response so far—10 percent pay cuts, small concessions from musicians on work rules—is a relative nip and tuck. Unless the economy soars in the next few years, and no one is predicting that, American orchestras are going to have to invent a new business plan. And maybe that’s a good thing.” Dobrin follows the way orchestras have been able to increase their overhead by strengthening endowments, but those orchestras are now suffering as their endowments have been hit by the recession. In response, Dobrin suggests, orchestras may need to make more serious salary cuts across the board and reduce guest artist fees to lower overhead costs. “Real change happens only in times of crisis,” he concludes. “I’d say that time is here—and, if it causes some players and administrators to choose institutional reinvention over personal enrichment, not a moment too soon.”

Posted April 7, 2009