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BSO Budget Deficit, Responses

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 14, 2007 08:31 AM

David Oswald, of Brookline, has this to say about the Boston Symphony Orchestra's financial issues...

What are we to make of the BSO wringing its hands over a $1.4M loss in 2006 and putting the squeeze on its volunteers for $75 each to make it up, when we read in the same article that in roughly that same time period the BSO's endowment grew more than $60M to a total of over $370M dollars, which is more than a third of a billion dollars? Should we feel sorry for the BSO and bewail the crisis in classical music, or should we rather rejoice that the BSO is so successful and genuinely wonder why they don't just reallocate their more than ample income to cover their expenses? Is it right for them to speak of a structural deficit in this case, when the structural goal of many non-profits is to have an endowment large enough to generate investment income as a dependable part of the budget? It seems to me that by creating the impression of a financial crisis in what appears to be a time of plenty, the BSO is unnecessarily risking the good will of its volunteers and the good faith of its generous public donors. At a time when many smaller music organizations are struggling just to survive, the BSO should be counting its blessings and quietly continue its good work.

As luck would have it, the BSO has sent out a statement discussing the endowment. It reads:

At the same time we're reporting a deficit for fiscal year 2006, we also are reporting significant growth in our endowment from $310.0 in August 2005 to $353.5 in August 2006. The current endowment figure is $370.7 million as of December 31, 2006.

The absolute size of the endowment is not in itself an indication of the institution's financial strength. Not-for-profit organizations, from Harvard on down to the smallest social-service agency, know that it is the relative size of their endowments, their endowment spending policy, and their ability to operate in balance, that determines the institution's present and future financial stability.

While a $350 million endowment might understandably be seen as a king's ransom for some, this actually isn't the case for an institution of the scope and complexity of the BSO, with an annual operating budget of over $75 million.

In truth, the current BSO endowment is not yet sufficient to provide the endowment interest income needed for the future financial stability of the organization in today's challenging economic and market environment.

If a not-for-profit organization were to focus too much on the change in the size of its endowment from one year to the next, it would be taking a very short-sighted view of its financial health. Endowments, by their very nature, require a long-term investment horizon, and to view a single year's strong results as somehow a windfall is akin to a family seeing their retirement assets as funds they can access whenever they feel the need to do so.

A disciplined approach to spending the interest income from an endowment is critical to ensuring that the current and future needs of an organization are kept in balance. To do otherwise is to gamble with the future of the institution.


Globe Theatre Writer, To Oregon

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 13, 2007 05:28 PM

In today's Stages column, Catherine Foster writes:

I'm leaving the Globe after April 27 to become senior editor of publications at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. I'm thrilled to return to the West Coast and to work under new artistic director Bill Rauch. I've had five great years covering theater in Boston and wish this vibrant theater community all the best.


BSO Budget Woes

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 13, 2007 06:35 AM

The Boston Symphony Orchestra's deficit has been growing - in large part becase of Tanglewood (below) - and the orchestra now looks for ways to cut costs, and raise money.

This comes after the BSO reduced the number of players at some holiday Pops concerts and cracked down on the Symphony Hall house crew's overtime system.


Imus Fired

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 12, 2007 05:42 PM

On Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 12, 2007 06:42 AM

A little known fact that Kurt Vonnegut told me in the 1990s when I interviewed him: He ran the first Saab dealership in the country. That nugget is in his obituary today.

When you're growing up and trying to understand the absurdity of the universe is there any voice more important than Vonnegut's? I've got the day off, so I think I'll go to a coffee shop and blow through "Breakfast of Champions."


Herb Ritts, Letter of Complaint

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 11, 2007 04:44 PM

I find it almost unbelievable that "the first gallery in MFA history to be exclusively dedicated to photography" will be named after Herb Ritts. I say "almost" because nothing Malcolm Rogers does surprises me, least of all his shameless courting of the Ritts family and foundation to procure the money. I think it's time that the museum itself be renamed. The Museum of Commercial Art comes to mind.

Douglas Hein
Salem, MA


Elliot Norton Awards, Nominations

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 11, 2007 12:56 PM

The Norton Awards will be given out May 21 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College.

And the nominations...

Doubt (Presented by Jon B. Platt)
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (Broadway Across America/Boston)
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Barrington Stage Company, Second Stage Theatre By Special Arrangement with Jon B. Platt)

Britannicus (American Repertory Theatre)
Love’s Labour’s Lost (Huntington Theatre Company)
Mauritius (Huntington Theatre Company)

Miss Witherspoon (Lyric Stage Company)
The Pillowman (New Repertory Theatre)
Titus Andronicus (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

King of the Jews (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Boston Theatre Works)
White People (Downstage @ New Rep)

Samurai 7.0: Under Construction (Beau Jest Moving Theatre)
Silent Night of the Lambs (The Gold Dust Orphans)
Stuff Happens (Zeitgeist Stage Company)

Caroline, or Change (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
Ragtime (New Repertory Theatre)
See What I Wanna See (Lyric Stage Company)

Curt Columbus, Cherry Orchard (Trinity Repertory Company)
Nicholas Martin, Love’s Labour’s Lost (Huntington Theatre Company)
Robert Woodruff, Britannicus, Island of Slaves (American Repertory
Scott Edmiston, Miss Witherspoon (Lyric Stage Company), The Women
(SpeakEasy Stage Company)
David R. Gammons, Titus Andronicus (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)
Paul Melone, Fat Pig (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Diego Arciniegas, White People (Downstage @ New Rep)
Jon Lipsky, Coming Up for Air: An AutoJAZZography (Alliger Arts), King of the Jews (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre)
David J. Miller, Hiding Behind Comets, Sacred Hearts, Stuff Happens
(Zeitgeist Stage Company)

Eugene Lee (set), Mauritius (Huntington Theatre Company), Wicked
(Broadway Across America/Boston)
Christine Jones (set), Justin Townsend (lighting), The Onion Cellar
(American Repertory Theatre)
John Coyne (set), Clint Ramos (costumes), The Taming of the Shrew
(Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)

Jeff Adelberg (lighting), Cam Willard (sound), Titus Andronicus
(Actors’ Shakespeare Project)
Dewey Dellay (sound), Miss Witherspoon, 9 Parts of Desire (Lyric Stage Company), The Women (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
Jon Savage (set), King of the Jews (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre)

Leigh Barrett, Ragtime (New Repertory Theatre), Souvenir (Lyric Stage
Jacqui Parker, Caroline, or Change (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
Stephanie Umoh, Ragtime (New Repertory Theatre), The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (SpeakEasy Stage Company)

Diego Arciniegas, Thom Pain (based on nothing) (Downstage @ New Rep)
Jonathan Epstein, Via Dolorosa (Brandeis Theatre Company)
Stan Strickland, Coming Up for Air: An AutoJAZZography (Alliger Arts)

Michael Aronov, Mauritius (Huntington Theatre Company)
Alfredo Narciso, Britannicus (American Repertory Theatre)
James A. Williams, Radio Golf (Huntington Theatre Company)

Marin Ireland, Mauritius (Huntington Theatre Company)
Cherry Jones, Doubt (Presented by Jon B. Platt)
Joan MacIntosh, Britannicus (American Repertory Theatre)

Larry Coen, The Plexiglass Menagerie, Silent Night of the Lambs (The
Gold Dust Orphans), Miss Witherspoon (Lyric Stage Company), The Taming of the Shrew (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), Samurai 7.0: Under Construction (Beau Jest Moving Theatre)
Will Lyman, King of the Jews (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre)
Robert Walsh, Titus Andronicus (Actors’ Shakespeare Project)

Liliane Klein, Fat Pig (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
Georgia Lyman, White People (Downstage @ New Rep)
Paula Plum, Miss Witherspoon (Lyric Stage Company)

The awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and will include performances by the three nominees for Outstanding Musical, followed by a reception on stage. Tickets: $25, $35 after May 7, available at the Cutler Majestic box office, Bostix booths, by calling 800-447-7400 or visit telecharge.com.


MFA Curator Gets Japan Society Job

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 11, 2007 11:20 AM

Joe Earle, who heads the Asian, Oceanic and African art department at the Museum of Fine Arts, has been hired by the Japan Society in New York as its gallery director and vice president.

Artnet News reports that Earle will start his new gig in the fall. We'll update with work from the MFA when it comes in.


Cambodian Opera, Injured Conductor

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 11, 2007 09:51 AM

Kay George Roberts was set to conduct the "first known contemporary Cambodian opera," known as "Where Elephants Weep," in Lowell later this month. But Roberts hurt her back, and, even with medication, found she was unable to stand yesterday.

The show will go on, only with Scot Stafford leading the way.


Denver Art Museum, Cuts

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 10, 2007 01:17 PM

Here's every museum leader's nightmare. You open a new building and a year later have to make cuts.

The Denver Art Museum's leaders will trim its staff, cut $2.5 million from the budget, and lower attendance goals.

Denver Post
Tyler Green
Rocky Mountain News


Al Roker: Imus Must Go

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 10, 2007 11:23 AM

Okay. Perhaps you're like me. You sort of forgot Don Imus was even on the air. Until this incident.

I was going to refrain from public comment, but then... Al Roker spoke. Despite his decision to spell Imus sidekick Bernard McGuirk's name as McGurk - now that's funny - Roker gets right to the point, albeit with some shaky grammar. "CBS Radio and NBC News needs to remove Don Imus from the airwaves."


New Curator At MASS MoCA

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 9, 2007 01:23 PM

No news out of MASS MoCA on the Büchel situation. And Büchel’s reps haven’t responded to a half dozen of my phone calls and e-mails.

But MASS MoCA does have a new curator. Denise Markonish, a Brandeis graduate who has taught in Boston, arrives from her most recent gig, at New Haven’s Artspace. She replaces Nato Thompson, who left earlier this year for New York’s Creative Time.


Charles Gayle, ICA's Donor Bids

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 9, 2007 11:31 AM

These two stories are unrelated. But they're each worth reading.

Here's the nut of Steve Greenlee's piece on jazz man Charles Gayle's live recording:

The date was Feb. 12, 2006. The place was a tiny jazz club in Stockholm. The concert was recorded, and the result is the Charles Gayle Trio's "Live at Glenn Miller Café," released last June on the Swedish label Ayler Records. It may have been the best jazz record of 2006, and most of us missed it. Finding it is nearly impossible. Good luck searching Borders or Amazon.com.

Now that makes me want that record.

Then there's Ken Johnson's review of "Bourgeois in Boston," an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Johnson writes about the art but saves some of his harshest questions for the institution. Is the ICA catering to its donors more than its mission?

Dudamel, To Los Angeles

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 8, 2007 06:05 PM

There's certainly no way of knowing when James Levine will step down from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. But if it's before 2114 - when Levine turns 71 - cross Gustavo Dudamel, the super-charismatic Venezuelan conductor who made his BSO debut last summer, off the list of potential replacements.

Dudamel will take over the Los Angeles Philharmonic when Esa-Pekka Salonen steps down at the end of the 2008-09 season, a move the Los Angeles Times calls "daring," and he'll be signed for five years.


Antiquities Collecting, Defense Of

Posted by Geoff Edgers April 8, 2007 05:43 PM

Access is a wonderful thing, as Rebecca Mead reminds all of those lowly reporters trying to follow the never-ending battles over antiquities.

In the April 9 New Yorker, Mead's piece, "Den Of Antiquity," gives Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Carlos Picón all sorts of space to say things like "Some archeologists only care about the dirt."

That Picón spoke to Mead is not surprising. The Leon Levy and Shelby White Court - a two story space named after the controversial collectors-slash-donors - opens at the Met this month.

Still, it's of note that Mead got an interview with White, who has virtually stopped responding to reporters. (White has also been a generous donor to the Museum of Fine Arts.) And look who else pops up in her story... a certain Cornelius Vermeule III, the retired MFA curator who has been unwilling to chat with most reporters for more than a year.


About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..

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