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From under a rock emerges A Strategy

0 Robert Levine

The announcement on Friday of the previous weeks’ vote by the Honolulu Symphony board to file for bankruptcy included this charming piece of thinking:

“Given its current and projected financial status, the Society cannot continue to sustain a 64-piece orchestra,” Mechling said. “We cannot continue with business as usual”… “In order to do this we must be far more strategic, leaner, more efficient and willing to creatively and artistically work with a substantially smaller core group of musicians that will be the base for our sustainable future,” she said.

And how do they plan on getting to that “substantially smaller core group of musicians?” They’re going to start by ending health insurance coverage for half the orchestra:

Steve Dinion, chairman of the musicians orchestra committee, said the musicians were devastated by yesterday’s announcement….He added that about half of the symphony’s musicians were notified yesterday that their health insurance coverage would be terminated by HMSA.

That’s a pretty clear hint to their thinking about the proper size for the HSO; as was, of course, the article’s sub-headline:

Struggling orchestra to file for bankruptcy; may lay off 32 musicians.

But it’s definitely “creative”; unilaterally ending health coverage for half of an orchestra is a stunt that’s never been tried before.

They get no bonus creativity points for believing that Honolulu can support a full-time chamber orchestra, though; not only is downsizing an orchestra to a chamber group not original, but it’s not going to work. Chamber orchestras are not an easier sell to funders, or audiences, than are the full-size model; just ask the musicians in St. Paul, who took a pay cut almost as as big as did the HSO musicians last winter.

It’s this kind of thing that gives the doctrine of Hell emotional credibility.

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