Honolulu’s Paint Isn’t Even Dry But It’s Starting To Peel

Not even two months after the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra (HSO) appointed Majken Mechling as Executive Director and reports are already flying around that the organization may file bankruptcy as early as today. According to a report in the 11/3/09 edition of the Honolulu Adviser by Rick Daysog the “symphony’s board of directors held a special meeting [last Friday] to discuss the organization’s continued financial problems and discussed a potential bankruptcy filing and other options”…

150x150-ITA-GUY-166The HSO cancelled scheduled performances of Haydn’s Creation due to their inability to fully support the production in the current budget. Although the HSO officially claims to be rescheduling these performances, no date was provided as to when they would be programmed. According to an HSO press release from 10/21/09, refunds are not being offered although ticket holders can contact the HSO offices to “reschedule their tickets.”

According to the online HSO concert calendar, the next scheduled concert events are on 11/13/09 and 11/14/09 and although the HSO has made no announcement about the status of those concerts, HSO board chair, Peter Shaindlin, will reportedly make an announcement this week about what the board of directors have decided. According to HSO timpanist and musician spokesperson, Steve Dinion, the musicians have not been notified about any potential bankruptcy announcement. Dinion was quoted in the 11/3/09 edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin saying “I would hope [the board] would have the decency and courtesy to inform the musicians before it is announced publicly.”

If that weren’t enough, another local report from KITV.com states “city officials threatened to bar the symphony from rehearsing at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall unless symphony leaders answered questions about plans for the rest of the season and the orchestra’s financial condition.”

In the meantime, comments to one local news report are pouring in expressing opinions from disgust to disappointment.

Stay tuned…

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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1 thought on “Honolulu’s Paint Isn’t Even Dry But It’s Starting To Peel”

  1. It must be awfully difficult to be the CEO of that Orchestra walking into that situation only two months previous. Best of luck to the Honolulu Symphony as they work through this difficult time that so many Orchestras go through, not because of horrible management but because of inherent challenges within the business model of orchestras in general.

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