Judge Approves Orchestra Reorganization Plan

by Gabe Bullard on August 15, 2011

A federal judge has approved the Louisville Orchestra’s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The ruling came this afternoon and caps a months long case that’s left the future of the ensemble in doubt. The plan calls for the orchestra to sustain itself through ticket sales, grants and donations and to begin repaying debts soon. Judge David Stosberg said the biggest advantage of the plan is that it relieves the orchestra of some $325,000 in debt.

But the management and musicians have still not come to an agreement about the next season. They remain in contract talks with the Louisville Labor Management Committee acting as mediators.

The season is set to begin on September 10th. Both sides say that’s enough time to work out a new deal.

“The only way to remedy this situation is for the Louisville Orchestra to make an offer of suitable work to the musicians. We stand ready, as always, to negotiate in good faith,” says musicians committee chair Kim Tichenor.

The musicians have previously rejected the management’s attempts to cut the number of full time players and the length of the season, which Orchestra CEO Rob Birman has said is necessary to remain solvent

But even if the scheduled concerts aren’t held, the orchestra can continue select operations.

“The orchestra has a whole array of programs and services that are not dependent upon the collective bargaining agreement: charitable gaming that we run 52 weeks a year; we have a multitude of adult education programs that don’t depend on the musicians’ involvement; we have a young artists’ competition through our ALO,” says Birman.

Before making his ruling, Stosberg heard from attorneys representing a musicians pension fund. They argued that if the season begins without a contract in place, the orchestra will owe $3 million to the fund. Stosberg did not agree with the arguments, but fund co-chair Ray Hair says if an agreement isn’t reached, the fund will explore its options for collecting the money. That could include filing suit in district court.

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