State of the News

by Laura Ellis on November 19, 2010

We’ve made it to the end of another busy week, and it’s time to check in on what made headlines. This week we’ll talk about the Louisville Orchestra’s troubles and other arts news, check in on what else is going on around the metro, and have a segment on environmental news.

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Louisville Orchestra Musicians November 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Louisville arts critic Thomson Smillie recently made unfortunate and inaccurate comments on the air regarding the current financial situation of the Louisville Orchestra. Smillie claimed that the current business model of the Louisville Orchestra is not sustainable, that the only way to sustain an orchestra in Louisville is to have a limited, part-time orchestra made up of college students from nearby conservatories, like the Owensboro Symphony—which, it’s important to know, he currently works for. Smillie did not mention that the musicians of the Owensboro Symphony make $64.50 a service for 45 services per year (12 concerts total): an annual salary of $2902.50. The population of Owensboro is 111,000, tiny compared to Louisville’s 1.2 million. Being in a much larger city, the Louisville Orchestra understandably has a 37 week orchestra season and 71 full-time musicians with an annual salary of $34,225. It makes far more sense to compare to a city close to our size and population. Nashville, TN, with a population of 1.4 million, has the Nashville Symphony, a full-time symphony orchestra with a 44 week orchestra season and 81 musicians with an annual salary of $51,399.

The Louisville Orchestra is comprised of 71 world-class musicians who have devoted their entire careers to playing classical music at the highest level. We have all earned degrees and training from the best universities and music conservatories in the country. We live and work in the Louisville community. We don’t drive in from out of town to perform a concert. We teach children how to play an instrument, coach chamber ensembles at local schools, conduct the Louisville Youth Orchestra, teach college students at University of Louisville and Bellarmine University, perform in churches and at weddings. Our presence actually has a tremendous impact on the Louisville community in which we also live. There can be no comparison to college students driving in from out of town, as Smillie advocates.

The city of Louisville deserves, and currently has, a first-rate, full-time professional symphony orchestra. And contrary to what Smillie says, the orchestra is relevant to the citizens of Louisville. Unfortunately the Louisville Orchestra is currently facing financial challenges. They need to be met with support, by launching a major fund-raising effort in the entire community, and raise the funds necessary to continue the wonderful tradition of a full-time symphony orchestra in Louisville. Having 71 full-time musicians to help in the fund-raising effort, along with being on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Louisville Orchestra, should help that fund-raising effort, which will surprise you to know has never been attempted. Above all, the answer is not to chip away at our City’s cultural jewel and thus destroy it.

Jeffrey Reed November 24, 2010 at 11:10 am

Being the music director of a Kentucky orchestra that is part-time, I am thankful that the LO, and orchestras like it, exist in our region. Where else would we find musicians of such high caliber, than from area full-time, professional orchestras? So, LO’s demise would mean the end of great music for our entire region–not just Louisville.

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