What about the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra audiences?

September 19, 2012
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When the ISO returns to the Hilbert Circle Theatre (and I'm hopeful that they will, soon), they will be counting on audiences to be there.

But will they? Will you?

Whether you are an ISO regular, an occasional sampler, or a chronic no-show, are you now more or less likely to attend concerts this season? Is there something you are looking for but aren't getting from your symphony? Is there something you want to make sure doesn't get lost? And what does this battle look like from the audience?

 While the musicians and management try to sort out the contract, share your hopes and fears about the next iteration of the ISO.

Your thoughts?

    DO WE NEED A FULL ORCHESTRA TO TRUMPET OUR STATUS? How vital is maintaining a full-strength, year-round symphony orchestra to the overall image of Indianapolis as a world-class city? Absolutely necessary - 4,312 votes. Important - 313 votes. A nice amenity but not essential - 128 votes. I'll bet even the ISO board and their mis-management team can do THIS arithmetic. If you need further proof, ticket distribution for Saturday's free ISO Musicians' concert at Second Presbyterian Church had to be wait-listed after one day because the tickets "sold-out."
    • ISO
      As a young person years ago I gained an appreciation for music when the McGinty and Palmer families brought music to Cathedral HS. My son played the drums so we got tickets which over looked the drum section, he learned, we benefited. I enjoy music and side venues with music, such as Circus de Solay. All this leds to money, who has it, who is willing to invest it, so that we all can be enriched. It has taken many years to develope what we have, let us not waste the efforts of those who came before us. To all parties please think and act accordingly. We all can gain and we all can lose. Could someone who wanted their name on the building also now be our benefactor when we really need them? This is when the rubber meets the road.
    • too much competition
      There seems to be way too much competition for entertainment dollars these days. How many venues, or shows, can a person go to? We have the Murat, Clowes, IRT, the Symphony, and that terrible drain on traditional Indy venues, the Palladium. I have no doubt, that some of these other venues are drawing attendance away from the ISO. Personally, I think Indy should do whatever it can to boost up the Symphony. If we can give tax breaks, and sales taxes to support the Pacers and Colts, surely we can figure out a way to funnel some to the ISO. After all, soon the citizens of Carmel (of which I am one) will end up being taxed to pay for the Palladium and City center.
    • Dismay
      I have been sad and shocked for the last two weeks. How could things have gotten to this point without us knowing? For many years now we have been series ticket holders, annual fund donors and we have included a gift to the ISO in our estate plan. How is it that no one let us know that the ISO Board was considering the drastic step of eliminating our full-time symphony? It seems that it would have been a good idea to have a conversation with the fuller symphony community before we came to a crisis point. As a devoted community volunteer and symphony lover, I don't know what I will do. We still have our tickets, but our faith in this institution is shaken. There are many other arts organizations in our community who would like our attention. It could be that we begin to give them more of our time and our treasure.
    • 'Terrible drain'
      "and that terrible drain on traditional Indy venues, the Palladium." Couldn't have said it any better or more clearly myself.
    • Who is Behind this
      We know just by definition that the players in the Orchestra are people of the arts. Is there public information available regarding the management and board of the ISO available. The question I have is how can you raise 89 million of the 100 million dollars, and not have enough to keep the Symphony going. These are tough economic times, and presumably down the road, it will be easier to raise the rest of the money, but once you take the Symphony to a part time status, putting it back together again will be much harder, and perhaps impossible. The ISO is no less of an asset to Indianapolis than the Colts or the Pacers. People who are potential employees for Lilly's and other companies look at these types of assets as part of their decision process for accepting a job here. Is the management and board of the ISO made up of people mostly looking at the bottom line, or are they arts people as well. Another question I haven't heard asked is do any of these folks have ties to Carmel where they have a competiting, not I think as good, but competiting orchestra? Taking the ISO to a part time status would make talented people less likely to want to come here to be in a symphony. It would also make the choice less clear when trying to decide where to go for for an evening of classical music, where there are world class performers and conductors, or the new guys trying to be Indianapolis. It would be a plus for the Carmel Orchestra. Maybe I am just being cynical, but I think when a community asset is at stake, the details of who is trying to devaluate it needs to be part of the public information.
      • ISO is Vital
        The people who feel strongly that the ISO is a vital community asset need to begin making annual charitable contributions to the ISO. The musicians have reported that over 5,000 people have signed a petition in support of their cause. If every person in support sent the ISO a $250 check, the additional $1.2 million in cash would go a long way to closing the reported $10 million financial gap. Now we see another 4,000+ concerned citizens have voted for the importance of the ISO - they too should send at least $250 to the ISO to assist (must be an annual commitment). The musicians rely on at least 40% of the ISO budget to come from the generosity of citizens in Indy. The financial gap can only be made up by action with gifts. It's nice to see so much support - I love it as an arts patron. But words and feelings need to be supported by cash contributions to make this work for generations to come.
      • ISO Endowment
        Jim, the $89 million is the current reported balance of the ISO endowment. The $100 million was a campaign that did not succeed, as reported in the press. In essence, the way I see it, the ISO needs nearly $200 million in its endowment to make this work without significant budget cuts. There is a $10 million financial gap - $200 million would generate $10 million in annual grants to help the ISO.
      • Looking forward
        I always enjoy getting to 2 or 3 concerts a season and that certainly won't change in light of the negotiation struggle. The ISO is a wonderful asset and a delightful way to spend an evening. Their programming offers options to suit all sorts of tastes, which I really appreciate. They're a wonderful organization full of talented musicians and staff - once this all gets worked out I'm sure they'll be back to business with another robust albeit shorter season.
      • A major civic asset
        You can't fund an organization on ticket sales alone. The fundraising efforts for the ISO were beyond pitiful - every non-profit in the world has a fundraising team coordinating major gifts, who was running the ISO's, Laurel & Hardy? As far as being a drain, until the 1st 2 weeks of the season were axed, we were going to attend the TF3 show at the Palladium. Coming from Muncie, Carmel is much more covenient for us than hacking our way downtown. They need more collaboration, not less.
        • Art Sales Tax
          In Denver, there is a 1% art fee applied to ticket purchases for the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos and the Denver Nuggets. The $40 million raised each year is then split between the cities arts organizations. Since the city spends so much on the Colts and Pacers, why not apply an art tax that kicks 1% to the city to support other "teams" that are important to the city, too? Just a thought.
        • a major civic asset
          Gwynny, from the ISO website, the ISO raises over $6.5 million in annual gifts each and every year. They may be the largest annual fund campaign for one arts institutiona in the entire state. Fund raising has not been pitiful for annual fund gifts. The true pitty is that there aren't any endowment gifts of major significance coming to the ISO. I think that may be due to the lack of a sustainable business model. Fixing the problem will likely make the largest arts patrons feel better about investing in the institution because it will be around long term. Even if it is diminished in size, it will still be a major asset to the community.
        • Still attending
          I will still be attending concerts, but fear that if some very talentesd leadership with arts experience is not put in place soon, we could see continued problems. Don't skimp on talent at the helm! Also, FUND RAISING and creative programming are essential.
        • Still supporting
          As an ISO supporter, I am utterly dismayed at these recent events. You cannot devalue the very foundation of your product to such an extent & expect to get the same result we as the audience have expected and have indeed seen strengthen over the years. I will continue to support the ISO by coming to their concerts, because I want it to continue to produce the high quality music this city loves and deserves. Granted, some do not care about having a world class orchestra, neither do others care about having a top sports team, representing our city. But we need to appreciate all of these elements that make up our city's culture as a whole, because we are diverse, and not one-dimensional. My loyalty to my favourite team (sports or otherwise) is primarily based on their performance, not on profit and loss. Please do not throw away what has taken decades to build up.
          Our esteemed Mayor and our mini Governor sure had a great time blowing our money on their glad-handing, back slapping Super Bowl party. Where are they when something really important - like the loss of our symphony orchestra - is going on? Surely the meetings to build an even bigger stadium we don't need for yet another Super Bowl party we don't need can't possibly take them that long. Or are they still trying to figure out how to SEEM like they care and still help their "Citizens United" buddies with their union-busting initiatives? Mayors like Lugar and Peterson would have weighed in by now, understood the gravity of the situation and looked to see how they might help intervene with the city and the state facing the loss of a true institutional treasure. Maybe not as much fun as the Super Bowl parties with the Easter European hookers...but man, a lot more important to this city and its citizens.
          • Mayor and Gov
            In response to "Guest", our mayor and mini-gov are part of the reason the ISO is in this situation to begin with. Their cuts of arts funding both at the state and local levels have contributed to our present conflict.
          • ISO
            We purchased season tickets annually when I worked downtown and loved our nights out at the Circle Theater. I very much agree with those who say we need to protect and support the Symphony. I feel guilty at not getting around to purchasing season tickets the last several years. I certainly plan to do so this year. It certainly appears that there has been a severe lack of fiduciary responsibility by management and the Board. Again I agree with the person who said "how could we have gotten this far?" I think it is very appropriate to consider an Arts Tax on tickets to the Pacers and Colts games. The taxpayers have put large sums of money into the venues for these teams but not nearly as much into the Arts. In addition, if the City can pay $10 million in support of the Pacers then surely we can find a way to similarly support the Symphony. I know this will generate hate thoughts but those of you in Carmel who supported the Palladium, which can not pay for itself without City of Carmel tax support, should be ashamed. A thriving Indianapolis is key to thriving suburbs surrounding the city. Your effort to suck away the arts from Indianapolis will hurt not only the city but eventually all of the areas surrounding Indianapolis, including yours. Jim Brainard has done great things for Carmel – but think globally and consider what the effects of your projects have on the greater Indianapolis area. Mayor Ballard – make the public aware of the needs of Indianapolis and what it takes to keep it vibrant. Stop the effort to move businesses and the Arts, among other things to Carmel, Fishers, and Hamilton County - take a stand for Indianapolis!!
          • Not a Surprise
            I've read many comments about how surprised people are about ISO's financial woes. Each year, the ISO, along with all nonprofits, files financial repoprts with the government. Additionally, nonprofits normally have annual meetings at which financial conditions are reported. The ISO has reported multi-million dollar deficits in recent years. The musician contract settled three years ago was a concessionary contract based on the significant cuts in the first year (I recall an 11% pay cut for musicians). That doesn't sound like this problem just came upon the ISO. It's been in the works for years. The current $10 million gap appears to be based on several facets - the ISO endowmnent apparently no longer wants to drain its resources covering ISO annual deficits, there have nbeen reported big increases in artists costs over the years, and I recently learned there was a 7.8% INCREASE in the musician pay last yar which was negotiated in the prior contract three years ago. Sounds like the musicians negotiated too good of a deal in the last year of the contract and the ISO simply can't afford their demands without major community support. Did the average arts patron get an almost 8% raise last year? So, this appears to be an issue that has been brewing for years and it finally came to a head in the last year of a contract that made the organization hit its limits. I'm hopeful that the ISO can come to an agreement, but I fear they can't unless the community steps up big time. I also fear that all the harm and bad comments made by musicians about the ISO will make the community run the other way. It's strange that they are shooting themselves by saying the ISO will be a poor quality institution but yet they rely on the genrosity of the community to make their payroll.
            • In addition
              So great to hear all the support for our fabulous ISO. Many have already stated my thoughts about what the ISO gives to our city in culture and attracting business. In addition, we need to keep in mind what the musicians give to our future of great music. These folks work tireless and some endless to bring their knowledge of music to the children of our city. The support local high school programs, organize recitals for performance experiences for our children, nurturing their love of music. Along they way they have educated the parents of these young musicians and bring to the families a love for orchestral music and live performances. I have missed out on the tickets for the performance Saturday, but will gladly stand to hear the ISO perform.
            • Meet A Musician.
              Open letter to the ISO board and its mis-management team: meet Jennifer, the new Principal Oboe for the ISO. Read this interview and look your city in the eye and tell us, honestly, if you think the ISO will be able to attract talent like this with the idiotic demands you're making on this orchestra: http://www.isomusicians.com/AboutUs/InformationalArticles/tabid/67/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/13/Meet-Our-Newest-Musician--Jennifer-Christen-Principal-Oboe.aspx
            • dare to be transparent
              If the ISS really wants (or rather "dares") to make its case, it should open the books wide. How much of this short-term money grab is really necessary at all? Given the clear signs of an incipient economic recovery, they should be content to be slightly in the red for a couple more years. If the shortfall truly is 11 million of a 100 million dollar budget, as someone else has posted, then this entire powerplay/lockout is woefully misguided. Downsizing the season's length and the stature of the orchestra (by reducing its numbers) will only lead to SMALLER revenues in the future. This is asinine behavior at its height.
              • Numbers.
                It's basically a shortfall of $11 million on an approximate $26 million budget...meaning the symphony revenues are about $14 - $15 million a year. The musicians have offered a short-term plan to reduce that shortfall to $6 million while the ISO looks to fill ALL of its key management posts. Let me reiterate - ALL OF ITS KEY MANAGEMENT POSTS. There is no CEO, no director of marketing and no fundraising director. Yet the board is expecting 5 years of draconian cuts from the musicians. Since management is the problem, seems to me that that has to be fixed first before any type of cost cutting measures can be responsibly looked at. Now back to the numbers. The symphony has about $85 million in its endowment. About half that...let's call it $45 million...is available for operating funds (the other funds are conditional and earmarked for specific events and concerts and etc.). OK...so divide $45 million by the $6 million draw the musicians are proposing for their short term contract. You get 7.5. In other words, the musicians proposed deal would allow the symphony to operate - given current revenues and assuming that management and marketing and fundraising isn't going to be fixed any time soon - for another 7.5 years. What does it all add up to? A clueless board and a mismanagement team that don't understand the non-profit space, don't understand the market, don't understand the importance of this symphony to this city and should not - SHOULD NOT - be involved in the stewardship of this Indiana treasure. Short term. Or long term. It's time they accept the short term deal offered by the musicians and then step aside so the society can get grownups in charge.
                • One Additional Thought.
                  These numbers are probably conservative. Assuming that the board and the mismanagement team aren't screwing up the investment of the endowment - which I wouldn't put past them mind you – they're probably earning upwards of $4 million/year on that investment...meaning that really, the proposed deal offered by the musicians really only costs the endowment $2 million a year. Now that I think about it, I'll bet the current numbers the board is serving up doesn't take into account investment earnings by the endowment...meaning that the $11 million they're spewing is probably closer to $7 million. Still not good - but real arts administrators will be able to fix that once these tools are gone, the musicians are back to work, and smarter people than me start addressing the problems and not the symptoms.
                  • Apologies, one more one more thought.
                    There are a few other numbers the board is throwing around to make things look worse than they are. First, the line of credit is maxed out at $8 million. Welcome to business in George Bush's economy. Unless they're really screwed up, payments on this line should be factored into the balance sheet numbers they're providing re: overall revenues/earnings/losses. So it's not an additional $8 million/associated loan payments, it's part of the $26 million budget. The other number they like to play with is the $15 million under-funding of the pension. Again, welcome to George Bush's economy (sometimes I think George Bush is running the symphony board). This underfunding is only really a problem if every musician and employee decides to retire tomorrow. Granted, it's a long term problem that has to be addressed but it is just that...a long term problem that won't be fixed by gutting the symphony today. Or tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that. And please, if I'm somehow off base on this (I only have the numbers the board is providing the media to work with), please someone correct me. If not, get a short-term deal done that lets the ISO fix its problems and then work long-term to preserve what is truly an Indiana treasure.
                  • Inaccurate comments cannot be left unaddressed
                    Bravo for such a sane post Mr Evans! There are, however, been so many other posts/assumptions here that people have made based on a small piece of information taken out of context. So to address one such financial piece, the "7.8% INCREASE in the musician pay last yar (sic)" nearly brought them back up to the level they had been paid prior to the last concessionary contract they accepted 3 years ago in order to help the management restructure and regain footing. Believe me, the musicians are not asking for the moon, but they are asking for community support. Any musician who speaks critically of the management is doing so out of fear and frustration as they see their life's work potentially slip away. Read Mr. Evans' posts. They are spot on!
                  • 8% pay raise?
                    You mentioned an 11% decrease in salary early in your comment. Then complain that they received an 8% increase this year. That looks like a 3% pay cut overall if your numbers are accurate.

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                  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

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