Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saving the Symphony is not city business

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge abdul-hakim_shabazz.jpg

Believe it or not, I have an appreciation for classical music. For two rather odd reasons: First, my penchant for Looney Tunes cartoons. Second, my love of video games. There is nothing more fun than sending your troops into enemy territory while firing missiles to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," Franz von Suppe's "Light Calvary Overture," or my personal favorite, Tchaikovsky's "War of 1812 Overture." Okay, at this point you are wondering, "Okay, Abdul, what are you getting at?" My point is that as someone who appreciates classical music, and has performed the occasional Gilbert and Sullivan operetta on stage, I can sympathize with the plight of what's going on over at the Indianapolis Symphony.

In case you've been out of the loop, the ISO and the musicians' union have been at odds over trying to reach a contract. The ISO's endowment, to put mildly, has been underperforming like a bad viola player to the tune of a $10 million budget gap. And to keep the lights on and the music playing the ISO has proposed the players take a 41 percent pay cut. The two sides are at an impasse. The first two weekends of the new season have been cancelled and the players are protesting on Monument Circle. Not a pretty allegro.

There has been some talk by opinion writers in this town that the city should step in and offer the symphony a loan and do what it can to mitigate the problem. The logic is that if the city can step in and bailout sports teams then it should be willing to do something to help the Symphony. I'm not sure if that's something the city wants to step in and do. Already Indianapolis gives the arts about $1 million annually for programs. And it even managed to do that in tight budget times. Also, while the Symphony is a welcome addition to downtown, is this really the precedent city leaders want to establish?

A lot of not-for-profits organizations in town are facing money problems and shortfalls. Should the city step in and help them? I wasn't crazy about the original Pacers loan a few years back, but when I saw a lot of downtown restaurants and establishments practically empty during the NBA players' dispute and friends being sent home because there was no business, I begrudgingly accepted what had to be done. I am not sure the Symphony has that kind of impact.

Also, there are sometimes when you have to let the two parties work out their own differences.

If the city were to step in bailout the ISO, what happens the next time there is a financial problem? The only way this issue will get resolved is when the two sides decide they want to get the matter resolved. Right now we are in the early stages of negotiations and sometimes the two parties have to walk right up to the edge of the cliff before they realize they need to get serious about solving their problems. We are nowhere near that point yet.

The final score has yet to be written for this piece and hopefully it won't turn into a requiem.

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