HSO announces tentative 2013 season

Mar. 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY STEVEN MARK / smark@staradvertiser.com

Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra board members announced a tentative plan for a second season on Monday, March 18, raising hopes that the fledgling symphony will survive.

Pending approval from musicians and booking the Blaisdell Concert Hall, a six-week season would begin in October with Saturday and Sunday concerts, continue through November and finish with the traditional performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony during the holidays, said Vicky Cayetano, a leading member of the board.

Other than Beethoven’s Ninth, programming for the new season has not been determined.

“We have a few bridges to cross, but they’re just over little brooks,” said Steve Monder, president of the symphony. “We’re over the huge oceans. The board and the musicians have been working very hard to put together a season that shows artistic growth and very prudent financial planning.”

The six-week season represents a scaling back compared to the 2012 season, which comprised eight classical programs. Board members said the season will continue in the spring of 2014, pending applications for various grants. The symphony was reconstituted from the Honolulu Symphony, which performed its final official performance in 2009 and folded in bankruptcy a year later.

The new symphony is trying to be “prudent” about its finances, Cayetano said, adding that was one of the reasons that it has taken so long to announce a second season.

The symphony finished last year about $500,000 in the red on an operating budget of about $3.7 million, said Cayetano. Board members, who include some of the island’s top business executives and civic leaders, covered the deficit out of their own pockets.

“I think that shows the commitment we have for this,” she said.

The budget for the planned 2013 season is $1.8 million. Mark Wong, president of the Symphony Foundation, which despite its name is a separate entity from the HSO, said he studied symphony budgets nationwide and called that figure “sustainable.”

“I came up with ranges of what I thought was sustainable and we’re clearly within that,” he said.

Although last year’s concerts were greatly appreciated by audiences — those attended by this writer all ended in long standing ovations — attendance overall was mixed. Sunday concerts attracted the most subscribers and were well-attended; repeat concerts drew sparse audiences.

Although symphony fans wondered if there would be a second season, symphony board members said the organization has remained committed to continuing, allowing Wong and musicians’ representatives to attend its meetings and provide input.

Percussionist Steve Dinion said the musicians have been kept apprised of developments through emails and conference calls, but would not predict how they would react to the planned season.

“For us, it’s been helpful that there’s been a lot of transparency with the board,” he said. “We’ve always known what the board is doing and that’s helped build trust.”

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