Louisville Orchestra‘s 2011 bankruptcy recalls one of the morals from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — let down your guard, and you may get gobbled up. Back then, the ensemble had grown overly reliant on a relative handful of backers, missing signs their generosity was about to dry up amid the financial crisis.
“No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” Jorge Mester, the music director at the time, told The New York Times for a story about a string of financial crises roiling orchestras that spring.
Now, five years later, the Louisville orchestra is on far more stable footing. Contributions and grants jumped 29% in the year ended May 31, 2015, bringing total revenue to $7.2 million, according to its most recent IRS tax return. After expenses, that left a $1.3 million surplus. The endowment rose about 3% to nearly $1.6 million.
Launched in 1937, the orchestra has about 170 employees and an energetic music director, Teddy Abrams, who started in 2014 after working as assistant conductor at the Detroit Symphony. Abrams, 29, is among a new vanguard of conductors hoping to attract a younger audience and a wider donor base to guard against another sharp downtown.
Against that backdrop, management and players have started negotiations for a new contract to replace one that expired last spring, according to The Courier-Journal. They’re not alone. From coast to coast this year, other ensembles have been in contract talks, too, amid a stronger economy that’s fortified players’ resolve to claw back wages and benefits lost during the financial crisis.
The tenor of Louisville’s contract talks isn’t known because negotiators aren’t talking publicly. “The organization is still a bit fragile, and we are in the middle of planning,” Executive Director Andrew Kipe told the newspaper.
But a review of the group’s recent IRS returns, alongside contract talks at other orchestras, offers a glimpse at the fraught stakes involved. Continue reading “Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away”