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Monday, February 04, 2008

Cowtown Columbus Ohio: We Can't Afford A Symphony Orchestra

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Culture now takes a back seat to college football in Ohio's state capital, which seems to be living down to its low-brow reputation. Financial problems have become so acute at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra that it is sacking nearly half the full-time musicians and may downsize to a chamber orchestra. Columbus is Ohio's largest city, having outgrown its economically troubled sisters Cleveland and Cincinnati in the past 30 years. But both Cleveland and Cincinnati still maintain excellent orchestras and have deep commitments to supporting and patronizing the arts -- and football. Columbus may be the seat of state government, but it still looks like a cultural cowtown. Or Sahara of the Bozart.

Public broadcasting's WOSU has details about the orchestra's downsizing in Columbus:

"Now the Symphony board has decided to terminate 22 of 53 full-time musicians. Doug Fisher, a long-time CSO bassoonist and president of the local musicians' union says the news is discouraging. 'There isn't a single orchestra is this country that has ever solved its problems by firing 40% of the players,' Fisher says. 'It makes absolutely no sense to me that that's what they want to do.' The orchestra ended last season with a $2.2 million deficit. That shortfall cleaned out what was left of the orchestra's financial reserves."

H/T Columbus RetroMetro, which spotted the news.


  1. When were you last at the CSO? The place feels like a morgue, 1/2 empty concerts played before an incredibly aging audience. When I go, I am one of the "kids"(At age 61). My point is, don't be shocked if this happens in Cincy also.

  2. Anon 2:54 pm --

    I don't go enough, and I do hear the place has too many empty seats. Bad marketing, lousy programs, or the fact that classical music has lost its audience and cache? Part of the problem in Cincy is that it is seen as music for aristocrats and the city's gentry. There doesn't seem to be much being done to reach out to the masses. Maybe they should advertise on WEBN, or hire Willie to be a pitchman, or play outside at Fountain Square on Valentine's Day. Or do Mardi Gras Music. Anything to show they ain't stuffy.

  3. This is just sad... As a trumpet teacher and classical music enthusiast and performer, I have to say that the downfall of the orchestra came with rapidly available recordings. Live music just isn't "on demand" enough...

    When was the last time I went to to a symphony concert? Well, I am ashamed to say that it has been a few years. And that is really sad too because I used to work for the Dayton Philharmonic off and on over spring and summer breaks when I was in college... I really miss it...

  4. I'm not sure how it is in Columbus and the reason for it but here in Cleveland the orchestra is always packed. Last time I went during x-mas break it was sold out and the orchestra actually tours around the world - then again it is ranked in the top 5 best orchestras and even Time magazine once named it the best orchestra in the nation. Perhaps they don't market enough in Columbus or it isn't recognizable. I mean I knew cincy had one but never knew Columbus did.

    Cleveland is actually big on culture however and the suburbs are very affluent. Yes Columbus is a larger city but the Metro area of Cleveland is much larger, Columbus just has more square feet in their city limits. So the larger population of Cleveland and its area also add to the fact that there are more people involved in arts and culture.

    It is surprising however that Cleveland can support all of its art and be world class in all aspects. One of the top ten Art museums in the World, Top 5 orchestras in the world, 2nd largest performing arts center outside NYC, the largest concentration of museums, and the list goes on and on with everything being supported and even expanded upon.