Friday, July 23, 2010

Shreveport Symphony Orchestra returns from limbo; musicians and board agree on a 2-year contract that preserves the core of full-time players

Shreveport Symphony Orchestra manager Leah Escude, board president Virginia Shehee, musician Rick Rowell, board member Dick Bremer and music director Michael Butterman were among those who maneuvered the once-warring SSO board and players to a compromise that yielded a 2-year contract, says Escude.

In the agreement musicians took a severe pay cut but managed to ward off the board's wish to cut the core players. The 23 musicians of the core are full-time and allow the orchestra to perform in schools and for the opera and ballet.

Michael Butterman will continue as music director, also taking a pay cut, said Escude.

The two seasons ahead will feature 5 concerts each.

Thus the orchestra, an institution that has died in many, many cities, has survived. It will resume a life in Shreveport-Bossier that began in 1948. Those who may look askance at the saving of a distinctly anachronistic institution might be reminded that 3 concerts were performed under a temporary agreement last season. And they were sell-outs.

No one is expecting business as usual from the SSO. Creative partnerships with dance troupes, pop musicians and even acrobats (Cirque du Symphonie packed the house last season) will be the order of the new day.

Fund raising will be an enormous challenge. The orchestra must raise more than two-thirds of its operating budget each season from sources other than ticket revenue, says Escude.

On the easy side, Shreveport-Bossier will retain a terrific group of musicians who constitute an excellent music faculty. The recruitment of the professional class by the medical center and other education-intensive institutions will be enhanced. There's also a possibility, too, that a pops-minded orchestra will broaden the audience base.

The first concert is scheduled for Sat, Nov 13. Hope to see you there.

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