Musicians union slams the symphony's 'brass'


POSTED: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The musicians union contends that Honolulu Symphony management is off key when it comes to running the beleaguered group's bankruptcy case.

The Honolulu Symphony Society's management is “;incapable”; of reorganizing, alleges a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing yesterday by the Musicians' Association of Hawaii.

The union is asking the court to either appoint a trustee for the case, convert it to a Chapter 7 liquidation or dismiss it outright.

The symphony's lawyer, Jerrold Guben, said he will file motions to extend the period of time to file a reorganization plan and to consider whether to assume or reject the collective bargaining agreement in place.

Guben said the management plans to meet with the union before the next hearing, which bankruptcy court Judge Robert Faris scheduled for April 12. Faris held a status conference yesterday in court.

The symphony management's focus is to keep all the musicians but to restructure its schedule in a way “;the community can support,”; Guben said. The management had been studying other city symphonies and their schedules.

Last November the symphony filed for bankruptcy to reorganize after debt reached about $1 million. The 2009 schedule was canceled, health benefits were canceled and the musicians are still owed back payments.

Ticket sales for shows account for 30 percent of the symphony's income. Donations are necessary for the symphony to function.

The union alleges that ceasing fundraising and operations, then filing for bankruptcy, has undermined donor confidence “;by removing the only rationale for the organization's existence.”;

The actions were “;essentially making for a self-fulfilling prophecy and setting the stage to reduce contributions and make their 'vision' for the organization a reality,”; the union alleges.

“;While they might argue for a new business model every so many months, they did not even have a sense of how many players are required to even be considered a true symphony orchestra,”; the filing states.

Faris did not make a decision yesterday, but did call the union's statements “;troubling,”; and said there are questions on whether the case is appropriately filed as a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy.

“;All we want is a successful orchestra that serves the state,”; said Jonathan Parrish, co-vice chairman of the Orchestra Committee.

“;The musicians are surviving any way they can.”;