Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cleveland Orchestra's deficit in perspective

As noted in the Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Orchestra has acknowledged a deficit of $2.4 million against operating costs of $52.2 million.  If only our Federal government had a deficit that was proportionally this small.

I note that music blogger Norman Lebrecht has posted this story with a typically sensationalist and misleading headline: "NEW BOSS PUTS CLEVEAND IN THE RED".  But the decisions which led to this deficit were likely made years before Andre Gremillet took over. As with any unhappy news, it's important to maintain perspective.  A one year deficit after years of surplus is hardly reason for the Chicken Littles to scream that the sky is falling.  I'm not a subscriber, but I attend at least a dozen concerts a year: Severance is usually at or near capacity.

However, I believe that orchestra management needs to rethink priorities, particularly when it comes to the Miami residency.  Miami-Dade County has more than twice the population of Cuyahoga County.  Miami should be able to support its own orchestra.  Commenters on the Plain Dealer link have noted that the Opera and Ballet companies have left the region and should be enticed to return.  But I doubt if Northeast Ohio could also support a Ballet or Opera company.  With the second largest theatre district in the United States and a continually shrinking population, there's only so much support for the arts here.  

In the final analysis, the lesson to be learned for the orchestra is the same as in life in general: Adapt or Die.

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