In Columbus, Why Read When You Can Watch?

On Tuesday, May 20, 2008 the musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) held a press conference to release a proposed financial plan prepared by Wachovia Securities Vice-President, Daniel R. LaMacchia. The musicians assert that this plan will allow the organization to move forward with an uninterrupted 2008/09 season as well as produce financial stability the CSO board has been seeking. According to an article in the 5/21/2008 edition of the Columbus Dispatch, CSO board president Robert "Buzz" Trafford accepted the musician’s invitation to resume negotiations but took the opportunity to deride LaMacchia’s credentials.

"Mr. LaMacchia is a stockbroker and I’m not sure how much he knows about the operations of a symphony orchestra," Trafford said.

At the heart of the musician’s plan is LaMacchia’s determination
that the root of skyrocketing expenses in recent years is related to
non-musician costs. According to the musicians, the solution is for the
CSO to adopt improved operational practices along with player
concessions during the 2008/09 season that are on par with their
earlier proposals.

As a novel approach to educating the local Columbus community
and the cultural consciousness at-large, the CSO musicians released an
unedited video of their May 20 press conference, including question and
answer session with local media. The video is available in five
segments, each of which are embedded below and given the length of each
segment along with the quality and quantity of the media Q&A
session, this is an excellent way to get up to speed on most of the
details surrounding this ongoing situation.

Part 1 – Introduction and opening remarks from Bruce Ridge;
Chair, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (8min
33sec)

Part 2 – Statement from Dan LaMacchia and media Q&A (9min 11sec)

Part 3 – CSO negotiation chair James Akins and CSO spokesperson
Doug Fisher introduce the musician’s proposed financial plan and media
Q&A (9min 57sec)

Part 4 – Akins and Fisher continue media Q&A (9min 58sec)

Part 5 – Akins and Fisher continue media Q&A and closing statements (3min 50sec)

Additional Material

Download Symphony_De_Novo.pdf – Dan LaMacchia’s report

Download CSO_Fact_sheet.pdf – as prepared by Dan LaMacchia

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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5 thoughts on “In Columbus, Why Read When You Can Watch?

  1. Just to clarify the situation, Dan LaMacchia did not prepare the financial plan we proposed at the press conference. That was done by Doug Fisher, President of Local 103, and the members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Committee (CSOC). Dan’s reports, which are linked at the bottom of the page, were distributed at the press conference as informational supplements to show where the problems have been, and were prepared purely voluntarily.

    Thanks for the added info and clarification Cynthia. ~ Drew McManus

    Cynthia Stolba
    Member, CSOC

  2. Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    In response to the article

    Symphony musicians propose salary cut

    I suspect that I am not the only person who sees the irony in Columbus Symphony Orchestra Board Chair Buzz Trafford’s questioning the credentials and knowledge of Daniel R. LaMacchia, When Mr. Trafford states,

    Mr. LaMacchia is a stockbroker and I’m not sure how much he knows about the operations of a symphony orchestra

    he is simply engaging in the time-honored practice of a smear campaign. Mr. Trafford who is a managing partner in the law firm of Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur, knows full well that Mr. LaMacchia is in fact a financial planner with a degree from the Wharton School of Business, but by lumping him with a professional group that is held in very low public esteem, he is trying to shape public perception with guilt by association. It is interesting to point out that Mr. Trafford (who is a member of a profession that also is held in very low public esteem) does not question Mr. LaMacchia’s numbers, or the specifics asserting that the Symphony is (over) spending far too much money on non-artistic items. And Mr. Trafford shows his own ignorance about running a non-profit organization, when he criticizes Mr. LaMacchia’s insistence that in-kind (donated) services be included when talking about overall budget size.

    Definition: In-kind services are those goods and or services that are donated to non-profit organizations (and for the most part are tax deductible) that have specific monetary value, and in most cases would have to be purchased or hired by the organization if they were not donated.

    Certainly, with Mr. Trafford’s experience of being the board chair for the past two years (let’s put aside his leadership qualifications – given that there has been a multi-million dollar deficit during his tenure), he is fully aware that most funding organizations to non-profits require statements of in-kind goods and services and their monetary values. They require this information because these donations not only save the organization real money, but also demonstrate community support. Given that Columbus Symphony in-kind services amount to a very impressive $1.600,000 can we speculate that Mr. Trafford is really trying to gloss over the true nature of the orchestra’s community support? And while we are speculating, shouldn’t we all wonder why the payments to CAPA (which manages the Ohio theater and rents office space to the Symphony) have increased from $468,641 in 2005 to $1,080,235 this past year, even though the Symphony has the same amount of office space, and plays fewer concerts in the Theater? And while we are questioning, why, if Mr. Trafford and the Board insist that the Symphony budget be cut by 20%, would they not simply suggest a 20% cut across the board, including the musicians’ salaries? Instead they insist on draconian cuts of 40% for the musicians alone, only 10% cuts for management, and one can only imagine what kind of future increases for payments to CAPA? There are many questions that Mr. Trafford and his associates need to answer before they can start questioning others.

    Jay Fishman

  3. Drew,

    Thank you for linking to the press conference video and text.

    Today on WOSU 820 and hour-long talk show was held discussing “The Future of the Columbus Symphony” where, during the first half-hour, the discussion was held with “Buzz” Trafford, Chairman of the Board of CSO and Tony Beadle, Executive Director. The second half hour was with Doug Fisher, President of Local 103 and Charles Weatherbee, concertmaster of the CSO. The link is here: http://www.wosu.org/radio-local-programs/radio-open-line/ and it’s the second entry under the Thursday, May 22.

    I intend to scan the IRS990s showing the line item “Occupancy” increases year over year, and will forward them to you promptly. I would be appreciative if you would post them somehow.

    These numbers are not mine. They are the IRS filings by the board and the CSO’s audited financial statements. Simply, if “Occupancy” is not rent please explain what is included in this category and why did it increase 130% in two seasons?

    Thank you,

    Dan LaMacchia

  4. The recent discussions of the increased rent that the Columbus Symphony orchestra has paid to CAPA (non-profit operator of the Ohio Theatre) has spurred some interesting comments to the latest post from Robert Levine’s blog. The link is below.

    http://theafmobserver.typepad.com/abu_bratsche/2008/05/the-answer-to-t.html

    I cannot vouch for the veracity of the information in the discussion, but having seen firsthand the way major tenants are experiencing growing difficulty in scheduling in a day and age of increasingly profitable rental to touring broadway shows, I know it is a real issue. Given that these comments were made on Robert’s blog – who’s orchestra plays in such a facility (Marcus Center in Milwaukee) should provide some interesting discussion to follow.

    The relationship between CAPA and the CSO is one that I am sure will receive increased scrutiny in the days to come – from the cost of stagehands, ticket handling, and perhaps most importantly, if other CAPA tenants such as Opera Columbus and Ballet Met Columbus, have seen similar increases in the ability to schedule and cost of using CAPA facilities.

  5. There’s a lot of discussion about CAPA’s rent to the CSO. In the WOSU segmant Mr. LaMacchia links to above, it’s stated that CAPA has issued a press release in response. Has anyone seen it?

    Thanks Mic, I was not aware that any such press release has been issued and won’t have time today to follow-up on the matter. However, if any readers are able to locate the document, I would be grateful if you could send me a copy via email and/or post a comment here with a link to an online source. ~ Drew McManus

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