Some Solemn News For The Louisiana Phil

Things have been looking up for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) over the months following Katrina; they have been the recipients of two wonderful sponsored performance events in Nashville and New York City. Unfortunately, some solemn news came out of New Orleans this past week…


A New Orleans presenter who uses the same venue as the LPO recently posted a message on the LPO family group where he maintains that the owners of the Orpheum Theater, the LPO’s main venue, plan to sell the building due to the sever amount of damage caused by flooding from hurricane Katrina. In an earlier posting, the same individual relayed some first hand accounts of the theater’s condition, which included severe water damage to the stage, basement, and much of the building’s carpet. The theater will remain closed until a buyer is identified.

Throughout their ordeal, the management and musician representatives from the LPO have been maintaining an exceptional amount of optimism; a month ago, they set a target date of January 2006, for getting their concerts up and running again. If reports of the Orpheum’s impending market status are accurate then implementing long term plans for the orchestra will be decidedly more difficult. Furthermore, if the theater is purchased by a presenter who has no interest in making the LPO a primary tenant, then that could be another potentially fatal problem for the orchestra.

Nevertheless, this scenario does present a unique opportunity for the LPO. In an earlier article I suggested that what the LPO needs more now than anything is a donor, or group of donors, willing to step forward with enough financial assistance to keep the orchestra together for the 2005-2006 season (which would be $3 million to $4million). However, I believe there must be an angel out there with enough foresight to realize that there’s never been a better time to ensure a permanent orchestral presence in New Orleans. Buying and repairing the Orpheum Theater plus securing enough funds to get the LPO operational again could allow the organization to realize their goal of returning to operation by 2006.

If Jerry Frautschi can donate $205 million to build a new performing arts center in Madison, WI and an anonymous philanthropist can donate $100 million to the Yale School of Music then there must be someone of similar financial stature out there interested in the Louisiana Philharmonic.

If you or someone you know is interested in these ideas please contact the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra offices at:

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
c/o Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra

Attn: Babs Mollere

100 Lafayette St., 2nd Floor

P.O. Box 14209

Baton Rouge, LA 70898

1-225-383-0500

email: LPO@brso.org

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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