July 23, 2010 in City

Symphony cancels Labor Day concert

Move saves organization $36,000
By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

People hang out with friends and family as the Spokane Symphony warms up for its Labor Day concert in 2005.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane Symphony announced Thursday that it is canceling its annual Labor Day concert at Comstock Park this year as part of a series of budget cuts prompted by a slow economy.

Crowds of 5,000 people or more have attended the popular free concert annually over the past 25 years.

“This was a tough decision to make. This is a concert everybody loves, including us,” said Brenda Nienhouse, executive director of the symphony.

Corporate sponsorships for the concert, which at one time were numerous, dwindled to a single sponsor this year. At the same time, the concert was expected to cost the symphony $36,000.

That sponsor agreed to shift support to another event, symphony spokeswoman Annie Matlow said.

The symphony board hopes to restore the Labor Day concert in 2011.

A concert on Saturday, Sept. 4, at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake remains on the symphony schedule. That 6 p.m. show is underwritten by Friends of Pavillion Park.

In addition to the suspension of the Labor Day concert, the symphony also has postponed until the 2011-’12 season a concert featuring Frank Sinatra Jr. That concert had been set for Oct. 4 and was one of six concerts in the symphony’s pop-concert lineup.

Subscribers who already have pop-concert ticket packages will be able to exchange that ticket for any of the symphony’s other concerts.

The new cuts come in the wake of reductions earlier this year that saw four full-time staff positions eliminated – 20 percent of the staff.

Nienhouse said the symphony board is looking at making $300,000 in cuts to an annual budget of about $4 million, including the staff reductions.

The Spokane Symphony Endowment had tried to stave off cuts by making a one-time distribution of $350,000 for the 2009-’10 season.

Other cost-cutting measures include consolidation of office space in the Lincoln Building.

A final budget for the coming season has not been set yet.

Members of the public and corporations can help by attending events and making sponsorship donations, Nienhouse said.

“This is a time when we need that support even more,” she said.

The symphony board and staff are developing a long-range vision and multiyear budget to deal with the money problems.

But the symphony is intent on maintaining the quality of the orchestra, as well as community outreach programs such as some 400 school appearances by symphony musicians each year.

Nienhouse said the cuts being made in Spokane are consistent with what’s occurring with arts organizations elsewhere in the country given the current economy.

In addition to the symphony cuts, staff reductions have been made at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, which operates under a separate organization and board.

However, the Fox continues under its original business plan of providing a venue for symphony concerts, other stage shows, community events and private gatherings.

“The Spokane Symphony has a long history of fiscally balanced budgets,” Nienhouse said.


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