Atlanta pours cold water on maestros’ appeal

Atlanta pours cold water on maestros’ appeal


norman lebrecht

September 04, 2014

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has responded to the emotional appeal by Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles with a bland set of bromides. The two conductors had warned that the ASO management was fostering an ‘unhealthy’ situation by threatening another lock-out. This is all Stanley Romanstein’s management team could come up with by way of response:


The full statement in response from ASO management:

We fully agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter from Mr. Spano and Mr. Runnicles.

– We recognize that the musicians have made significant sacrifices in the last two years to help the ASO’s finances, as have many ASO staff members over many years. We are thankful for them all.
– We agree that the high musical standards and aspirations of the ASO are critically important and should not be compromised.
– We agree that it takes time to bring about sustainable change.
-Most of all, we agree that a work stoppage is not in the best interests of anyone associated with the ASO.

– But neither is the continuation of operating deficits that have been on-going for 12 years nor the consequences they bring. They have led to concerns from our donors and a precipitous decline in our endowment.
– Finally, we believe there are solutions that will allow the ASO management and musicians to balance the artistic and financial needs of the orchestra for the long term.

Our man on the spot adds:

If you want to find the real financial problems, investigate the umbrella organization, Woodruff Arts Center, where  the pressure to downsize the orchestra is coming from. Take a look at the Moody’s rating for the Arts Center. In November it was affirmed at “A2” but its outlook downgraded from “stable” to “negative.” There are $118 million in outstanding bonds.  The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is merely a “doing business as” name for a division of Woordruff Arts Center, which is the actual 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit institution, and which also includes d/b/a divisions “High Museum,” “Alliance Theatre,” and “Young Audiences, Woodruff ArtsCenter”.


  • Vinyl Hero says:

    Time to secede?

  • NYMike says:

    Woodruff was the fly in the ointment during the last contract debacle and continues to be.

  • Mark Francis says:

    It’s like they are tied to the Woodruff financially through their endowment and in other ways (office space,etc.) I would think it would take the promise of a large infusion of cash to break away. This may not be ideal but one need only look at the Atlanta Opera; it struggles on its own.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Looks like the ASO needs to get out of the Woodruff thing, and reinvent itself as an independent entity. Good luck with that. I am afraid it will end up as the Woodruff Ball Room Dance Orchestra or something like that. Good night Atlanta….

  • Tony Alexander says:

    WAC…..some questions:

    1) Why would extend someone’s contract when they are failing at their job?

    2) Why would you sell the land that the new symphony hall was supposed to be built on, and direct none of the proceeds to the current operating deficit?

    3) Why do you sell the 14th Street Playhouse, and basically give the money away to the community?

    4) Why when a WAC employee had embezzled upwards of 1.5 million, two years ago, you spin it in the news as if it’s not that serious a situation? Then you threaten to keep the musicians locked out over a lesser amount…1st offer, 4 million in cuts over two years, 2nd offer, 5.2 million in cuts over two years?

  • Sam says:

    The solution is for the board and donors to step up with the cash to maintain and build the organization. They’re the ones who really control whether the organization remains world class. If they want a robust and strong orchestra they have to pay for it. World-class live music costs a lot of money.

  • Momi says:

    Maybe if the management wasn’t so large, there wouldn’t be that big of a financial problem. Why would you need that many people in the management?