Philadelphia Orchestra Latest to File for Chapter 11

by Gabe Bullard on April 17, 2011

The Philadelphia Orchestra is the latest and largest orchestra to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The legendary ensemble follows those in Louisville, Syracuse and Honolulu, among others, in seeking court assistance and protection to reorganize finances.

As in Louisville, the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra opposed the declaration. They’ve suggested ways to preserve musician pay, ensemble size and performance schedules, despite claims from management that cuts are necessary.

From Philadelphia:

“We’re running low on cash, we’re running a deficit,” said board chair Richard Worley. “We have to put ourselves into a position that will attract investment funds that will help us begin the turnaround of this orchestra.”

John Koen doesn’t agree. The chair of the player’s committee says the musicians have offered an employment contract that would save the organization 25 million dollars in three and a half years.

“My committee made a proposal that would be more than enough to prevent this,” said Koen, a cellist in the orchestra. “They should be able to take the contract we offered and say to donors, the musicians are making a sacrifice but are willing to work with us.”

The Philadelphia orchestra’s president says audiences have declined over the last five years. Officials with several of the struggling symphonies and various other cash-strapped arts groups have cited similar woes. This is something former Fund for the Arts CEO Allan Cowen said was all but inevitable, not because of the recession, but because of increased competition for attention and money.

“I believe, frankly, that the arts scale in Louisville is probably going to be about 10% smaller going forward, maybe 15% smaller. I don’t say that through divine intervention, I think that’s just where the marketplace is taking us,” Cowen told WFPL in January.

In other orchestra news, the members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra recently ended a six-month strike.

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