Orchestra Digest: December 11, 2012

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This week: Talks stall in Halifax, El Sistema in Saskatoon, Syracuse's orchestral comeback, Spokane strike ends, opera sales, and a women prison orchestra in Alaska retunes lives. Here are stories we're following, in the news and on the web....

  • Symphony Nova Scotia negotiations have been stalled since October, and last week's talks with a conciliator broke down, as CBC reports. Musicians plan to leaflet performances of Messiah and other Christmas concerts; their next meetings with management will likely occur in January. 
  • An El Sistema program in Saskatoon is reaching at-risk kids, and expanding the community impact of several Saskatoon Symphony musicians, CBC reports. SSO principal violist Jim Legge said, "I think it's really the most exciting thing I can think of in the classical world right now."
  • The Syracuse New Times this week proclaims Symphony Strikes Back, as the city's resurgent symphony quickly takes shape. A holiday concert this Friday will include an announcement of the orchestra's new name (they'll retire Symphony Syracuse and Musical Associates of Central New York.) 
  • The Spokane Symphony's 4-week-long strike ended this week, the Spokesman-Review reports, just in time for the orchestra's Nutcracker performances. The two-year contract includes an 11% pay cut in the form of reduced guaranteed services. 
  • Management cancelled more St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts this week, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. Performances through February 8 are now off, and no negotiations are scheduled. 
  • The Minnesota Orchestra management announced a record $6 million deficit for 2011-12, the Star-Tribune reports. The fiscal year ended August 31st, so the current season of cancelled concerts is not included. There have been no recent negotiations, but a federal mediator is now involved. 
  • ICSOM Chairman Bruce Ridge visited the musicians of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported. Ridge spoke about positive trends and statistics in the orchestral world, which often get drowned out by pessimistic reports and opinions. 
  • The Bloomberg News reported that the Metropolitan Opera is selling $100 million in bonds for the first time in its history. The organization may be responding to recent operating deficits, or just taking advantage of low interest rates. The article cites revenue falloff in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and rising pension obligations as sources of financial strain. The New York Times reports on major technological upgrades at the Met, expected to cost $60 million over the next five to seven years. 
  • The Wall Street Journal reports another big opera sale - the New York City Opera is selling 90% of its sets, props, and costumes, including enormous Maurice Sendak creations. The online auction will help the NYCO trim its budget to $13 million from $31 million. 
  • And a women's prison orchestra in Alaska has turned inmates' lives around, the Washington Post reports. Inmates at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center say the orchestra has given them an identity and self-esteem; some have even continued playing after their release. 
Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM President. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA, as well as NPR's Deceptive Cadence blog. Our new website is now up and running!: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php


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