Local news

Executive director confident of Spokane Symphony’s vision, future

MONDAY, JULY 20, 2009

Face Time: Brenda Nienhouse

The Spokane Symphony announced significant cost-cutting measures last week, including 20 percent pay cuts for administrative staff and a number of changes in the upcoming 2009-’10 repertoire. A number of pieces have been switched, with an eye toward the budget. Also, one guest soloist, violinist Philip Quint, has been replaced with the symphony’s Mateusz Wolski. The Symphony on the Edge concerts at the Knitting Factory and the Chamber Soiree concerts in Post Falls have been canceled. Executive director Brenda Nienhouse talked recently about these developments.

Q.What has prompted the symphony to take these belt-tightening steps?

A.Our orchestra, like orchestras and nonprofits throughout the country, has seen the impacts of the economic downturn. We are fortunate in Spokane that we did not see it as quickly as the rest of the country. But we did start to feel it last year, from about February on. We’ve seen a reduction in ticket purchases and contributions, and so it has had an impact on us.

Q.How will this affect the symphony’s artistic mission?

A.It won’t. We’ve had a long, wonderful foundation of standards of excellence by the symphony and support for that. With the staff that we have, our music director Eckart Preu and resident conductor Morihiko Nakahara, we have leadership that will continue to offer outstanding programs to the community, and we have a strong commitment to artist vision and quality to all the performances.

But we are going to be making changes to the programs for next season to be proactive in terms of planning our budget for next year. So some of the repertoire will be changed in the Classics program, and there is a Casual Classics program that will have a change of subject. There are a couple of programs that we will restructure in other ways. Patrons can check out our Web site (www.spokane symphony.org) to see that information.

Some of it has to do with the rental of the music. Some of the pieces are being replaced with pieces we already have in our music library. So there’s a savings there. And we have changed works that have very large instrumentation to works that have fewer, and thus there are savings on extra musicians.

Q.How will this impact the symphony’s patrons?

A.We hope not at all. We’re committed to maintaining the excellence of what we do. For those that have subscription series, they will know about the changes through the Web site.

Q.What do you see in the future for the symphony?

A.We’re very excited right now. We have such wonderful momentum going from the move to the Fox and the wonderful acoustics in that building and the wonderful concert experience that is possible there. We’re committed to maintaining that momentum and really continuing to make sure that Spokane has this vital cultural asset.

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