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Chicago: is that a $145 million black hole?

Two reporters from the Tribune have been delving into the symphony orchestra’s finances and find cause for gloom.

The CSO, they find, is still paying off the 1997 renovation of its concert hall, and the debt is getting deeper. The man who was in charge at the time, Henry Fogel, has gone all media shy and won’t take questions. Fogel was also the exec who broke the $100,000 barrier for players wages and set them at the top of the national pay tree, where they remain to this day, at minimum $144,000 a year.

Read a thoughtful piece of reporting here.

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  1. Do you have a link to this information, Norman?

  2. Nuvakwahu says:
  3. In fairness, the entire crisis since 2008 was the fault of a generation of failed leadership. Everywhere in America (and Europe) banks began gambling with things they did not understand and governments looked the other way and even encouraged it. Leaders maxed out their credit cards (Google the photos the new opera house built in the city of Valencia – a tiny example). The entire world economy was a bubble which, as bubbles do, burst. Henry Fogel was just a man of his times.

  4. It is worth noting that the Europeans spend many times over what the US spends on orchestras, but that the funds are more evenly distributed among major and regional ensembles. The US funding system by the wealthy concentrates funding in a few major financial centers and leaves the regional orchestras neglected. By contrast, the European public system spreads funding out over each country’s whole area. This is one of the major reasons that Europe has a much more widely cultured populace. A well-funded, fully professional orchestra with a 52-week season is never far away. Germany, for just one example, has 133 fifty-two week season orchestras while the USA with four times the population only has 17.

    The difference between the funding systems is especially notable with opera where the US only has three cities in the top 100 for performances per year. In addition, the ticket prices in the US are generally 4 to 5 times higher than in Europe. How can we expect Americans to appreciate the arts when so many have so little access to them?

    I’m happy to see that the collapse of so many American orchestras is causing people to think in broader terms about our anachronistic and deeply inefficient system of arts funding. Broad systemic changes are needed.

    Thanks for the valuable reporting regarding these issues. An important, if belated, dialog is developing

  5. Harry Kessler says:

    How anyone can be surprised that Henry Fogel “declines” to speak to the press about this is a mystery. He has left a trail of destruction behind him – and lots of people watched it happen in Chicago. Those who tried to tell others that he was a dangerous fraud were laughed off. Now, the chickens have come home to roost, as predicted. And it is no accident that Allison Vulgamore – who has left a similar trail of bad management behind her progress through the American symphonic commnunity – was one of Fogel’s protegees.

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