Reports Of Liquidation Emerge In Honolulu, the Honolulu ABC affiliate, reports that the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra (HSO) may be planning to shift from reorganization to liquidation bankruptcy as early as next month. The HSO announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, 2009 and a full year later it looks like they may dissolve the institution and liquidate all assets…

Will the HSO liquidate?

The current HSO leadership failed to meet an October 15, 2010 deadline to present a reorganization plan but more than a month later, the plan has yet to materialize. We examined the pros and cons of Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the context of the HSO’s situation last December but what was an academic exercise is now very real.

The KITV report includes an interview with HSO musician spokesperson Jonathan Parrish, who expressed concern over what will happen to the organization’s assets. In particular, the music library which according to his statement, includes a number of one-of-a-kind compositions and arrangements by the orchestra’s long time pops conductor Matt Catingub.

Parrish indicated the musicians are hopeful that if the HSO does liquidate, it will make room for someone else to step in and create a new orchestra. This certainly isn’t an unusual result although there are no guarantees either. One of the more notable examples where that option produced favorable results was when the former Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra (CSSO) filed Chapter 7 but musicians and a faction of CSSO stakeholders worked together alongside local philanthropic leaders to form the Colorado Springs Philharmonic the very next season.

There is no word from the musicians on whether or not they are looking to that example as a contingency plan or if they are working with any local leaders to explore other options. You can watch the entire KITV television report at YouTube (sorry, no embedding allowed).

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 “Reports Of Liquidation Emerge In Honolulu”

  1. That’s sad to hear. I have a friend in the Honolulu orchestra, and I wonder if this may cause him to try to move back to the mainland to try to get a job, although the competition here would be pretty fierce. Maybe a new version of the orchestra, better run, will emerge there.

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