Symphony hopes imitators follow after $1.175M donor
Musicians for the Honolulu Symphony praised a generous benefactor who offered a brief reprieve from its dire financial straits, but said they must address the orchestra's long-term stability.
In the past week, a donor gave $1.175 million to the orchestra, which would help pay seven of 11 weeks of unpaid wages.
Paul Barrett, chairman of the musician's orchestra committee, praised the generous gesture, but warned that "it doesn't get us out of the woods."
"It doesn't address our long-term goal, which is continued stability of the symphony," said Barrett, principal bassoonist for the orchestra. "In order to get there, we need more people in the community to also step up and contribute."
The donor wishes to remain anonymous, and symphony Executive Director Tom Gulick would confirm only that it was a woman and a longtime symphony volunteer.
"She just saw things falling behind, and came to me and said that she loves this place and she wants it to stay together," Gulick said. "So when she gave me the money, she just said, 'See that it stays together.'"
The musicians work 34 weeks out of the year. The orchestra has an average of eight performances a week, and that doesn't count time at home learning the music or maintaining their instruments.
The perception that the orchestra should be self-sufficient doesn't address the realities of the industry, Barrett said.
"Typically, ticket revenues are just 30 to 40 percent," he said. "The remainder of the income has to come from various sources, ranging from corporations, wealthy individuals to government grants."
Gulick said he hopes to raise an additional $1.5 million for the fall season. With the orchestra's Ports of Call Symphony Ball fundraiser tomorrow, Gulick said the orchestra should be able to be caught up with wages.
The orchestra also started a fundraising campaign with a three-year goal of $6 million. The operating budget for the orchestra increased from $7.2 million to $8.2 million this year.
Much of the increase is attributed to the restoration of musician wage cuts made four years ago. It also was raised because of the "The Lion King" musical taking up the Blaisdell Concert Hall for most of last year, forcing the orchestra to move around and play at smaller venues.
"Musicians' pay isn't the issue here," Gulick said. "The issue here is we don't have enough support. We're hoping this gift will spur a number of people to contribute."