Before everyone starts to draw parallels between recent events at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and what is unfolding at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, I think it is worthwhile to point out one significant distinction with regard to the approach each orchestra’s respective music director has opted to pursue following a series of proposed budget cuts…
In the case of Jacksonville, their music director, Fabio Mechetti, decided to remain out of the press and public attention throughout the duration of the lockout. His reasons are detailed in a letter he composed in response to an article appearing at Sticks and Drones written by Ron Spigelman. Ron published Mr. Mechetti’s unedited letter at Sticks and Drones on 1/17/2008.
Take a moment to read Mr. Mechetti’s letter if you have not done so already and then read an article appearing in the 1/19/2008 edition of the Columbus Dispatch by Robert Vitale. In his article, Vitale recounts a proposal by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s executive board to cut the organization’s budget by approximately 25 percent, including reducing the number of full time
musicians from 53 to 31 and the number of performance weeks from 46 to 34.
Vitale then reports that Junichi Hirokami, Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s music director, offered no support for the executive committee’s proposed financial plan. According to the article, Hirokami said “Any downsizing of the orchestra would be ‘catastrophic’.” Vitale went on to report that Hirokami “placed primary blame for the symphony’s financial woes on board members, who, [Hirokami] said, have been ineffectual in raising money and community support.”
The article concludes with the following quote from Hirokami:
“If the orchestra is reduced, I have no purpose to stay here.”
According to a source inside the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Musicians, Hirokami confirmed his position by organizing a display of camaraderie with the musicians at the end of their 1/19/2008 performance. At the end of the performance, Hirokami led the entire orchestra in a long, deep traditional Japanese bow to show their respect for the audience and the greater Columbus community.
As for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Musicians, they publicly demonstrated their outlook on proposed cuts during intermission from a concert on 1/20/2008. Ten minutes before the scheduled end of intermission, the orchestra took the stage as a group save for 22 violinists. According to Douglas Fisher, American Federation of Musicians Local 103 president and second
bassoon in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the 22 violinists represented the number of musicians the board wants to cut in their proposed financial plan.
“We all sat there quietly without playing a note in front of
the audience,” said Fisher. “Five minutes before the end of the intermission,
the 22 missing violinists joined us on stage as a group and the rest of us
applauded them as they entered. After we completed [Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7]
with Hirokami the orchestra received a long standing ovation and Hirokami led the
group Japanese bow.”
When asked if the musicians will reply to the board’s proposed financial plan Fisher said “We plan to respond officially at the appropriate time.”